The holidays often bring with it the hustle and the bustle that signals Christmas. In between all the busy weekends and holiday parties, there’s just something about this time of year that makes spending time with family and friends extra special. We’ve thrown together a few ideas to shake up your holiday plans with some intrigue, adventure and cheer.

Unfolding drama

Christmas gifts aren’t the only things that need unwrapping. A good story, like any present, offers surprises and suspense, unfolding right before one’s eyes. The Christmas break provides options aplenty for capturing the imaginations of children and adults. As in years past, Prairie Theatre Exchange will host its much-loved Munsch series with this year’s MunschBusters! The Manitoba Theatre for Young People takes you on Mowgli’s journey with his new-found friends Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the panther in Jungle Book. The Nutcracker promises to enchant with new characters and traditional ballet, while Christmas at Dalnavert sees the return of A Christmas Story and the advent of A Victorian Child’s Christmas. For those with vivid imaginations who prefer to conjure up their own stories, Eaton’s Fairytale Vignettes and Festival des Crèches present visuals for retelling old favourites like Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood, or envisioning how countries around the world celebrate Christmas through their nativity displays.

Be dazzled

If you’ve ever been drawn in by Portage Avenue’s Christmas lights, you will, no doubt, be mesmerized by the city’s other fascinating displays. A quick detour from Portage Avenue to Broadway’s Legislative Building will not disappoint, neither will a drive to the Electrical Museum & Education Centre for its annual exhibit of holiday lighting, All that Glows: Then and Now. The Manitoba Agricultural Museum’s Winter Wonderland in Austin, Manitoba also possesses its own luminous wonders with a fire pit, refreshments and horse-drawn sleigh rides. For those with maybe just enough time for only one attraction, the Canad Inns Winter Wonderland is your one-stop destination for everything merry and bright. With over a million lights and 26 different themes, there will be no shortage of displays to leave you awestruck.

Riddle me this

If solving riddles puts a glimmer in your eyes and turns a light bulb on in your head, then Codebreakers might just be your idea of the best Christmas ever. For those 6 years and up, the hour-long mystery promises laughs and a fun time with family or friends where you’re locked in a room and must find hidden clues and solve puzzles if you ever hope to escape. For those 12 and older, Enigma Escapes extends much the same thrill in a somewhat different setting, where sleuths journey to times past and even venture into other worlds.

Take it outside

Did someone say winter? If words like blizzard and subzero leave you unfazed, and outdoor adventure is what you endlessly seek, FortWhyte Alive has a calendar chock-full of activities just for you. From snowshoeing to ice fishing, to curling and ice bowling, there’s more than enough to keep everyone engaged and having fun. For the more daring among us, The Forks’ Arctic Glacier Winter Park, Springhill Winter Sports Park and Adrenaline Adventures are right up the thrill seeker’s alley with skating, snowboarding, skiing and snow tubing. For those in search of a more quiet experience, Birds Hill Park has wagon rides, sleigh rides and a fire pit for getting warmed up.

Adventure minus the chill

The indoors can be equally appealing to the outdoors, more so on colder days. For those wanting to let off some steam minus the chill, Sky Zone’s free-jump zone includes 10,000 foam cubes and multiple trampolines. With names like SkySlam and SkyRobics, you’re sure to find an activity to get your heart pumping and adrenaline up. For the aspiring archer or bow hunter, Heartland Archery provides a family friendly zone for improving your aim and putting your skills to the test. You can bring your own bow, or rent one on site. And for those with a Christmas bug that has really bitten deep, if you’re on the lookout for St. Nick, Portage la Prairie offers not one, but two opportunities to Skate with Santa. Selkirk and Thompson will also see visits from jolly old Kris Kringle.

Shop till you drop

Shopping…what would the season be without it? For those still in search of that elusive Christmas gift, Osborne Village is never a letdown with offerings that are sure to be a hit among the fashionistas and foodies in your life. Academy Road is more than a worthy alternative to Osborne, possessing its own unique charms and gourmet indulgences. A walk through the Exchange District, or along Main Street also serve up lots of gift ideas in time for Christmas and under your tree. For those who have knocked off their Christmas shopping lists and are simply looking for that feel-good vibe of a farmers’ market, Manitoba Hydro’s Holiday Farmers’ Market offers the best of both worlds: an indoor marketplace and wholesome eats. And if you’re looking to escape the city for just a bit, a drive to the Portage la Prairie Farmers’ Market entices with its very own local produce.