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Where to find St. Louis winter festivals, Santa visits and other holiday attractions

From the Holiday arts guide: Where to find concerts, theater, lights and other festive events in the St. Louis area series
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It’s beginning to feel a lot like — dare we say it? — a normal Christmas. Santa arrives once again for parades in St. Louis, Belleville and Granite City, all of which were canceled or went virtual last year. Historic homes will open their doors again for tours and Santa celebrations. And the Polar Express train returns for a ride from St. Louis Union Station to the “North Pole.” Some pandemic-friendly adaptations from last year live on, such as the outdoor winter wonderland at the Magic House, which will also host Santa and more fun inside.

Belleville Christkindlmarkt

When Nov. 26-Dec. 23 • Where Downtown Belleville • How much Free; fees for some events • More info

The Christkindlmarkt returns to the streets of downtown Belleville, along with a parade that welcomes Santa to town (10 a.m. Nov. 26) and the chance to visit him at his house on the square. Gingerbread creations are on display in the windows of area businesses Nov. 24-Jan. 4. Other events include a Gingerbread 5K (Dec. 4), a Gingerbread Cookie Walk and Historic Luminary Walk (Dec. 11), and a Diva’s Night Out (Dec. 16).

Central West End Window Walk

Kelvin Edmonds carves an ice sculpture as part of the Central West End Window Walk in 2018. 

Christmas Open House & Parade

When 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Nov. 20 • Where Kimmswick • How much Free • More info 636-464-6464;

The historic river town of Kimmswick gives shoppers a head-start on holiday shopping. The parade steps off at 11 a.m., Santa stops by for visits 1-8 p.m., free horse-drawn carriage rides are available 2-8 p.m. and a tree-lighting ceremony is at 4:45 p.m. Other events include Small Business Saturday (Nov. 27), the Christmas Festival and Cookie Walk (Dec. 3-5) and Elf on the Shelf Weekends (Dec. 11-12, Dec. 18-19).

Magic House in Kirkwood

Santa will return to his sleigh for socially distant visits at the Magic House.

Holiday Magic

When Dec. 1-31 • Where Magic House, 516 South Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood • How much $12, fees for some events • More info

The Magic House transforms into a winter wonderland with an outdoor gingerbread village, snowball carnival and maze as well as storytime with Mrs. Claus, a snowman scavenger hunt and a snowflake art studio. Visitors can also visit Santa for breakfast, on an outdoor sleigh or with Mrs. Claus at special nighttime events.

Holiday Toy Train Display

When Nov. 27-Jan. 2 (closed holidays) • Where St. Charles County Heritage Museum, 1630 Heritage Landing, St. Peters • How much Free • More info

The popular St. Charles County Heritage Museum features new county landmark buildings and several trains, including a new Winter Wonderland Express. The wintry scenes showcase miniature versions of the historic Boone Village, the Hays Home, the Heritage Museum, the 1860s Homestead at Towne Park and more. Through Dec. 9, drop off a new, unwrapped toy in the Toys for Tots boxes.

Jingle: Holiday Pop-Up

When Nov. 19-Jan. 2 (closed holidays) • Where World Chess Hall of Fame, 4652 Maryland Avenue • How much $5-$10 • More info

The World Chess Hall of Fame has transformed into a winter wonderland holiday pop-up. During the day, bring the kids for “nice” hours, with hands-on projects, hot chocolate, cookies and other treats. For “naughty” hours at night, the place turns into an adult cocktail lounge with chess-inspired drinks and small bites from Kingside Diner.

Famous-Barr train display at the National Museum of Transportation

Judy Marth and grandson Maxen Onstott, 4, watch model trains Nov. 20, 2020, at the National Museum of Transportation in Kirkwood. The setup spent many holiday seasons on display in Famous-Barr's downtown window.

National Museum of Transportation

When Nov. 26-Jan. 2 • Where National Museum of Transportation, 2933 Barrett Station Road, Kirkwood • How much $5-$15, fees for some activities • More info

The National Museum of Transportation gets festive by showing off the region’s largest holiday train display, plus the train display from downtown’s former Famous-Barr/Macy’s store. The Holiday Town display is new this year. Santa and the reindeer visit on specific dates (he arrives by helicopter at 10 a.m. Nov. 27), and guests can ride a decorated trolley or mini-train.

Polar Express Train Ride

Santa Claus greets young fans on board the Polar Express Train Ride in 2015.

Polar Express and Joy Winter Wonderland

When Nov. 19-Dec. 30 • Where St. Louis Union Station, 1820 Market Street • How much $35-$96 • More info 314-942-6942;

Put on your Christmas jammies: It’s time to board the Polar Express, which returns as a ride to the “North Pole” and includes interactions with Polar Express characters and Santa and hot chocolate and cookies. The experience is based on Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book that became a movie. Through Dec. 24, visitors to the Purina Performance Plaza can experience the new Joy Winter Wonderland, with games, crafts, vendors and pictures with Santa. Reservations are also available for Pancakes With Santa in the Grand Hall.

Riverboats at the Gateway Arch

When Various dates • Where Riverboats at the Gateway Arch, 50 South Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard • How much $20-$50, free for age 2 and under; reservations required • More info

All aboard the Becky Thatcher or Tom Sawyer paddlewheeler to celebrate the holidays with your choice of cruises: a Holiday Blues Cruise, a Jingle and Mingle Holiday Dinner Cruise, and a PJs and Pancakes Cruise that includes crafts, games and a visit from Santa.

Scenes from the 45th annual Saint Charles Christmas Traditions

The Chestnut Roasters pedal down Main Street during the Santa Parade as part of St. Charles Christmas Traditions in 2019. 

St. Charles Christmas Traditions

When Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays; Nov. 26-Dec. 24 • Where Main Street in St. Charles • How much Free • More info

During the monthlong Christmas Traditions festival in St. Charles, costumed characters and Santas from around the world spread cheer in the streets, as they have for nearly 50 years. Don’t miss the Santa parade at noon Saturdays and Sundays. New this year is a Christmas Carol stroll on Wednesday nights.

Santa’s Wonderland

When Through Dec. 24 • Where Bass Pro Shops, 1365 South Fifth Street, St. Charles; Cabela’s, 5555 St. Louis Mills Boulevard #167, Hazelwood • How much Free • More info;

Make a free reservation for a contactless visit and free photo with Santa at Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s. The Santa’s Wonderland experience at both stores includes games, crafts and a letter box where kids can drop a message to the North Pole.

Winter Jewels: An Enchanted Celebration

When 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; Nov. 23-Dec. 31 (closed Nov. 24, Dec. 24-25) • Where Butterfly House, 15193 Olive Boulevard, Chesterfield • How much Included with $5-8 admission; advance tickets required • More info

The always-temperate Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield reimagines itself for the holiday season as it presents Winter Jewels, an enchanted world of fairy gardens, a jewel mine, a gnome forest and jewel-toned butterflies. The Butterfly House also hosts Supper with Santa on select nights.

Editor's note: This list has been updated to remove events that have already happened.

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