Beloved Christmas Displays at Museums (and a Zoo)

Merry Christmas! We hope your day is merry and bright. (Or, if you’re not into that sort of thing, at least have a great Thursday!) Some of our favorite museums and zoos around the country are celebrating in style, from holiday light displays to special exhibits. Relax, grab a slice of Yule log, and take a gander.

Grand Central Train Show

The New York Transit Museum at Grand Central Station (where we love to hunt) is chugging along with the 13th annual Holiday Train Show. Vintage Lionel trains course tirelessly through a sparkling diorama of lights, countryside, and New York cityscape as they travel 34 feet of winding tracks to and from the North Pole. This wildly popular event really is a spectacular sight to see—and it’s open until Feb. 22, 2015, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch these trains!

Christmas Around the World

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry puts on a show you have to see to believe. The 73rd annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibits feature more than 50 (!) trees and displays, spanning cultures from all over the globe, from Armenia to Wales. Dance and musical groups perform in the museum throughout the holiday season, and you might even find yourself caught in a faux snow flurry.

Neapolitan Baroque Créche

Leave it to The Met to get super swank with its Christmas decorations. For nearly 40 years, New York’s grande dame of art museums has crafted a lush, intricate créche, or nativity scene, from the late Loretta Hines Howard’s collection of Baroque Neapolitan créche figures. Also, there’s an enormous Christmas tree festooned with flying angels.

Christmas Story in Art

You’ll shoot your eye out, ki– wait, what? Oh, they don’t mean that Christmas story. Each year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art (another place we loveprovides guided tours of pieces that illuminate the history and traditions of Christmas. And on top of that, they run card-making stations, holiday performances, and even caroling through the galleries. How cool is that?

Origami Tree

Dinosaurs (probably) didn’t celebrate Christmas, but the American Museum of Natural History sure does. The centerpiece of their holiday spirit, the annual origami tree displays more than 800 folded-paper ornaments created by artists from around the world.

Holiday Thorne Rooms

Not throne rooms, Thorne Rooms. Explore the Art Institute of Chicago during the holidays and you’ll discover the Holiday Thorne Rooms, in which the museum’s beloved miniature exhibits have been heaped with holiday cheer. This year’s standouts include the glamourous Art Deco decorations in the 1930s French Library and the unveiling of a new exhibit, a miniature of the Frank Lloyd Wright’s William Martin House.

Zoo Lights

And now for something a little different, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., erupts in luminous colors during its annual ZooLights extravaganza. Punctuated by performances of all stripes, yummy treats, and holiday shopping, ZooLights shines with more than 500,00 environmentally friendly LED lights. They’ve got trains and orangutans and bears (oh my), plus a light show set to music. Now that’s how you holiday! (And if that’s up your alley, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo also breaks out an epic, animal-themed holiday ZooLights display!)