Somerville, Mass – The twins are crazy about Christmas lights. What 4-year-old isn’t? And really, what better time to embrace your inner 4-year-old, suspend your judgment, and just soak up some sparkly, high-wattage holiday spirit?
It’s one of the things I have come to love about this town: the old-timers know how to put up a good Christmas display.
The way to see the best of the Christmas lights has always been the Illuminations Tour, put on by the always-awesome Somerville Arts Council. A trolley tours the streets of Somerville, stopping at the brightest homes, where residents wave from their porches and spar with the tour guides. Down a couple of drinks beforehand, and you’re in for some wicked good Somerville fun.
We have not done the Illuminations Tour in several years (mainly due to travel) but this year we decided to check it out with the twins. Which changes everything, of course.
First of all, the early tours sold out immediately. By the time we got around to buying tickets, the only available tour was at 9:30pm. So that obviously was not happening.
So, we had the brainstorm to show up at City Hall at the designated time of departure of an earlier tour, and follow the trolley in our own car. This worked, in that we found out which way to go. But it caused some frustration. The trolleys are on a very tight schedule, so they do not linger in front of the houses. And we needed to know where to go next, so we could not linger either. This was particularly aggravating because there is a lot of traffic on a Saturday afternoon in Somerville. So we spent about 90% of our “tour” sitting in traffic, and only a minute or two on each light-filled street. Stuck in their car seats in the back, the twins were cranky.
We actually cut out a little early. We ended up going back to the best street we had seen on the tour. We parked our car, and the twins got out and they went nuts. There were half a dozen, over-the-top, lit-up houses on that street, and the twins stared long and hard at each and every one. They pointed out every manger scene, Santa Claus, and polar animal. They compared lights, posed for pictures , and debated whether Santa really has a helicopter (it was left undecided).
Stopping the car and getting out. Suddenly, moods were shifting and spirits were lifting. Our light tour went from flop to hit. And it sparked one of the best dinnertime conversations we have had in some time (Which house did you like the best?).
The Somerville Arts Council has a good thing going, and they should keep it up. But with kids, you’re better off buying their map and doing your own tour–preferably a walking tour.
As always, travel with children teaches us to slow down. See less stuff, but see it better.