Gifts all open, now what do you do? Six ways to spend Christmas Day

News-DemocratDecember 24, 2013 

The kids demolished the carefully wrapped gifts in 15 minutes flat. Or the close-knit family is getting a little too close. Or friends and family have scattered for the week.

Regardless of the last few hours, the question on your mind may well be, "Now what?"

Here are half a dozen possible things to do on Christmas Day, after the wrapping paper settles:

1. Take a drive, ride a camel

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows' annual Way of Lights is still open, and all of the outdoor activities are open on Christmas Day. The light display officially turns on at 5 p.m. and shuts down at 10 p.m. The petting zoo, camel rides and Lego Nativity display in the hotel lobby are available, too.

2. Go for a hike

Today is expected to be warmer than the last few days, with a high in the low 40s. Bryan Werner, of the Metro East Park and Recreation District, says the Willoughby Heritage Farm Trail has nature trails and several play areas for the kids. The district works with municipal parks departments and parks districts to promote the recreational amenities throughout Madison and St. Clair.

The Edwardsville Nature Center Trail and Cahokia Mounds are also options in Madison and St. Clair. Werner says, "Cahokia Mounds is one of my favorites because of the abundance of deer and wildlife."

If you're ready for a harder hike, head for Salt Lick Point Preserve in Valmeyer. Dennis Valentine, village manager, says there are three trails in the area, one fairly flat and the others more strenuous.

"The Salt Lick Trail is 1.8 miles and takes you from the kiosk at the base of the bluffs up to the highest point, which is Salt Lick Point. ... It's from the river bottom up to one of the highest points on the bluff." He says turkey, deer and birds are in the area, and "it is very pretty; this time of year you can really see a great distance."

Valentine says the trails are very accessible, "if maybe a little muddy this time of year."

Go to http://www.meprd.org/trail-map.html for trail maps in St. Clair and Madison counties; the bottom of that page has a link to a parks map.

3. Make a new friend

Call ahead, but many nursing homes welcome extra visitors on Christmas Day.

"We have quite a few residents here who don't get many visitors, so they love it when someone comes to say hello," says Danielle McCracken, of Rosewood Care Center in Swansea. Call ahead at 236-1391 to ensure someone is ready to meet you. "Many (of the residents) like to play Bingo, that's the big one they love," McCracken said.

Pam Berberich, activities director at St. Paul's Home and Shelter Care in Belleville, said, "We have several people here who don't get visitors." St. Paul's residents enjoy playing rummy cards and dominos, and also enjoy being read to. Berberich also asked that new visitors call ahead in the morning at 233-2095.

4. Did the dog eat your turkey?

There are plenty of restaurants open on Christmas Day for just this scenario. Here are a few:

*Most IHOP restaurants are open 24/7, including the ones at 1208 W. U.S. 50 in O'Fallon and 4233 Illinois 159 in Glen Carbon. The IHOP at 601 Carlyle Ave. in Belleville will be open Christmas Day.

* Red Apple Family Restaurant at 2625 N. Center St. in Maryville will be open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

*TGI Friday's, 6910 N. Illinois St., Fairview Heights, will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

*The Waffle House at 505 N. Bluff Road in Collinsville and 3244 W. Chain of Rocks Road in Granite City are open 24 hours.

* China King, 5720 North Belt West, has its regular hours of 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

* But sometimes you just want a nice Peking Duck so you can pretend to be with Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" -- for $23, try one at the Royal Chinese BBQ at 8406 Olive Blvd, St. Louis, 314-991-1888.

5. See a flick

Most major movie houses will be open Christmas Day and evening to show those Christmas movies that Hollywood spent all year working on. But sorry, drive-in fans, you'll have to wait until spring.

If you decide to stay home, "A Christmas Story" turns 30 this year and TBS will again play Ralphie's angst for a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock -- ending a 24-hour run tonight.

6. Get crafty

If you're in a bind and don't have any craft supplies on hand, go online to search for "wrapping paper crafts". The crafter's paradises of Pinterest and Martha Stewart.com are obvious choices, but check out apartmenttherapy.com for directions on how to use empty tubes and wrapping paper to make Japanese Flying Carp and Chinese Paper Yo-Yos. The folks at Releve Design's website give video and written instructions on origami spheres, which they say wrapping paper is perfect for.

Sue Foster, craft guru at Ben's Crafts and Floral in Belleville, once used a stack of Christmas Cards to make a holder for yet more cards. She and her children used a hole punch, cards, and curling ribbon. They cut the two cards for the side of the house at an angle to shape the roof, and punched holes all along the cards for the sides, front and back to tie together with curling ribbon. For the roof, they tied the front card only to the back roof piece, "so that you can open the lid to put Christmas cards into it."

This year, her plans are a little different. Christmas will again be with the family, but she'll be too busy playing with her toddler grandson to make any crafts.

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