“Christmas Lights Strung with Love” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

There are a few homes in my immediate residential area in and around Snellville and Lilburn, Georgia, of which the owners have decked out their residences with amazing and breath-taking displays of Christmas lights.  In past years, there have been two homes, in particular, at which the Christmas lights have been extremely impressive and enjoyable.  Just this year, I located another home that has an outstanding display of Christmas lights, and it tops my list for my immediate residential area. 

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

I have taken opportunities this year – as in past years – to tour parts of my area to scout out, view, and enjoy homes with Christmas light displays.  Before Christmas, I was able to take my son and family on an outing to enjoy one such Christmas Light Tour.  It was great to view the displays, express our “Ooh” and “Ahhs,” and identify the parts of the displays that we liked the best. 

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

That was also an opportunity for my dad to tell my son about the Christmas light displays he fashioned, painted, and made in his younger years when I was just a baby or toddler.  It was good for my dad – and for me and my mom – to tell my son of what we remembered about my dad’s own festive and creative Christmas lights displays.  My dad recalled that for three consecutive years in our small town in Western New York State that he earned the winning cash award for his displays.  He also remembered that the competition was discontinued when it was realized that no one could defeat his artistic craftsmanship.  For that, he is very proud, and he was able to share that pride with my son.

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

Similarly, I can imagine the pride and joy that is felt by those home-owners who adorn their own houses and yards with 100s of Christmas lights.  There are so many lights that fill the darkness that one can see their glow before even arriving in view of the homes.  I have been able to personally express my gratitude and appreciation to two of the three home-owners at which my favorite three Christmas lights displays can be viewed.  The third home-owner is a professional contractor whom I have not yet met, though a number of photos of his displays are included within this article.

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

While my family has our own small display of Christmas lights that we can view in our back yard from our dining room picture window, we very much appreciate and enjoy everyone’s festive and decorative Christmas lights for the holiday season.  Most especially, we appreciate all of the time, effort, creativity, expense, and love that is invested into the most impressive of all of the Christmas lights displays.  I take the opportunity whenever I can during the holidays to view and enjoy these displays with my son and family.

“The Polar Express and Other Train Rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Our First Ride on the Polar Express with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Our First Ride on the Polar Express with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

For the past seven years, my family has enjoyed many rides on the trains of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (“GSMR”).  During those years, my family has ridden the trains for different events on approximately seven occasions.  Each occasion has been wonderful and memorable, and our enjoyment of each event, as well as the consistently friendly service, kindness, and professionalism of the GSMR staff keeps us coming back for more! 

My Son Happily Meeting Santa Claus on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

My Son Happily Meeting Santa Claus on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Our previous rides with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad have included several to the Halloween Pumpkin Patch to visit Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy, as well as a couple of rides on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, about which I will describe further on in this article.  This time, during the current month of December, my family experienced The Polar Express for the first time!  And, what a wonderful and exciting ride it was, indeed.  It was especially memorable; and we have the GSMR Vice President/General Manager to personally thank for our great experience on this ride.

Santa Claus Speaking with Children on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Santa Claus Speaking with Children on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

On our Polar Express ride, we were served chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate by the friendly chefs; the children met and spoke with Santa Claus, who was accompanied by his #1 Elf, Brandon; and everyone sang Christmas carols on the way back to Bryson City from our stop to board Santa Claus at the North Pole.  An audio storytelling of The Polar Express book was read to children.  And, children also had the opportunity to march back and forth in the aisles with the chefs as they all pretended to be a train.  My son immediately jumped at the chance to participate in the imaginary train, and all those children who took part had a wonderful time.

My Son with his Silver Jingle Bell and Roundtrip Ticket on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

My Son with his Silver Jingle Bell and Roundtrip Ticket on The Polar Express, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, December 2012

Each child on the train personally received a special “silver” jingle bell from Santa Claus; and they also had their unique Polar Express Roundtrip tickets humorously hole-punched many times by the Conductor.  My son held onto that special roundtrip ticket for his entire ride, not even setting it down for a moment.  Once he received the silver jingle bell from Santa Claus, he also maintained that on his person for quite some time.  The Polar Express was a wonderful experience for my family, and made quite a happy, memorable impression upon my son, who, no doubt, will ride it again in the future.

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2012

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2012

On four occasions throughout the years, my family has ridden on the GSMR Halloween Pumpkin Patch Train Ride.  Each experience has been happy, wonderful, and memorable, particularly due to the fun Halloween atmosphere that the rail company creates for it’s riders.  On the ride to the Pumpkin Patch, an audio storytelling of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is played for the children.  Once the train arrives at the Pumpkin Patch, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy are waiting to great the children. 

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2010

My Son at the Halloween Pumpkin Patch in Whittier, North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, October 2010

Then, the kids have the opportunity to participate in many activities, such as going on a hay ride, roasting marshmallows, jumping on inflatables, using a bobber to get an apple, playing fun Halloween games, eating Halloween cookies, playing checkers, going Trick-or-Treating in a makeshift neighborhood, and other memorable experiences.  Again, every ride and event is sure to remain in one’s memory as a wonderful and lasting experience.

About to Enjoy a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

About to Enjoy a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

Two of the GSMR train rides that my family has enjoyed have also included those on the Thomas the Tank Engine Train.  The first of these rides for my son was when he was three years old – and this was also our very first of many outstanding rides and events enjoyed with the GSMR throughout the past seven years.

My Son with Sir Topham Hat, Day Out With Thomas, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

My Son with Sir Topham Hat, Day Out With Thomas, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Bryson City, North Carolina, July 2010

Of course, I had to buy a train whistle for my son, as well as a “Day Out With Thomas” pennant, and a couple of other souvenirs.  We were also able to get pictures with Sir Topham Hat, Thomas’ railway manager.  That was a real treat, especially because it was an extremely hot day, and Sir Topham Hat was roasting, even while getting photographed in a shady spot.

We are so thankful to have happened upon the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad many years ago, and that we have been able to experience and enjoy the many train rides and events offered by the railroad, with those included in this article being only a few.  All of the trains are well-maintained and are staffed by caring, professional people, making it a joy to ride every time.  Bryson City is also a pleasant and beautiful locale with breath-taking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smokies.  The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad can be found online at www.gsmr.com.  Check out and experience their outstanding train rides today!