Every family has those little quirks and traditions without which it just wouldn't feel like the holidays.
For mine, they were my grandfather's annual Christmas Eve reading of the "Polar Express," with all of the grandchildren gathered around him beside the fireplace and our yearly holiday lights tour.
One night before Christmas, we would pack the whole family into my parents' bus-like van, crank up the carols and simply drive around scoping out our neighbors' holiday handiwork. Since I left home and relocated to Summit County, I've missed that tradition, so this year I decided to resurrect it and found there's much in the way of sparkling seasonal expression to be seen around here as well.
For families or couples looking for a warm and inexpensive Christmas excursion this week, it's the perfect adventure.
If you hadn't noticed yet, Summit County is a festive place.
Breckenridge seems bent on giving the North Pole a run for its money when it comes to holiday spirit and has helpfully condensed some of the best of its holiday spirit onto the downtown shopping district. For those settled in the south side of the county, I'd recommend a stroll down Main Street.
Bundle up, grab a hot chocolate from one of the local coffee shops and set off in one direction or another. Be prepared to admire some beautiful and adventurous displays. The town has illuminated its living Christmas tree, situated in the Blue River Plaza halfway down Main, with thousands of tiny white lights and made it the center of a square brought to life by twinkling bulbs. Just a block down and to the east on Ridge, Fatty's Pizzeria has taken a bolder approach, housing a giant inflatable snowman and Santa Claus on its roof. Further north are the iconic wrapped blue trees and a welcome outdoor public fireplace, where observers can stop and warm up.
Dillon, not to be outdone, is again hosting a holiday decorating contest this year, put on by the business association. While lights aren't a must, the winners frequently use them liberally. Wander through the little lake-side town and admire the contenders handiwork, then head home and jump online to vote for your favorites (dillondba.org). Be sure not to miss Pug Ryan's Steakhouse and Brewery's elaborate set up.
For some good old-fashioned residential light viewing, cruise over to Summit Cove, just off of Highway 6 on the way to Keystone from Dillon. Make a right on Swan Mountain Road and then a left into the neighborhood labeled Summit Cove. Follow the central road up into a series of local neighborhoods harboring a treasure trove of beautifully decorated homes. One home looks like a life-sized gingerbread house, it's so decked out in colored lights and surrounded by glowing trees illuminating the snow-covered yard. Residents of another, farther up, took a more classic route, edging the home in white lights and trimming trees in wrappings of red, reminiscent of giant candy canes. Families will have fun discovering their own gems, while couples will enjoy the quiet, festive escape of exploring the county's quiet back roads.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the sparkling spots in Summit this Christmas, but it's enough to get you started. Have fun out there.