Travel

Ski free in Gaylord this weekend or visit the Toledo Zoo's 'Lights Before Christmas' event

Live reindeer are among the attractions at the Toledo Zoo's "Lights Before Christmas" event through Jan. 4. (photo credit: Kandace York)

Live reindeer are among the attractions at the Toledo Zoo’s “Lights Before Christmas” event through Jan. 4. (photo credit: Kandace York)

An ice slide with three lanes is a new attraction at the Toledo Zoo's annual "Lights Before Christmas" event that runs through Jan. 4. (Photo credit: Casey Cook)

An ice slide with three lanes is a new attraction at the Toledo Zoo’s annual “Lights Before Christmas” event that runs through Jan. 4. (Photo credit: Casey Cook)

Need a break from holiday shopping, cleaning, errands and parties? Spend some relaxing time with your family — and perhaps create some new holiday traditions — at these December activities:

Head north of Detroit to Gaylord this weekend and take advantage of free skiing at Treetops, the four-season resort that remains  open for business after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month. You can get free lift tickets when you check in to any of a half-dozen Gaylord properties, including Treetops, this Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Check details at Gaylord Ski Free Weekend here: http://www.gaylordmichigan.net/free-ski-weekend-113/

Or, head south of Detroit to Toledo for the Toledo Zoo’s annual “Lights Before Christmas” event starting at 3 p.m. daily through Jan. 4 (except for Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day).

In addition to basking in the glow of one million lights, including 35,000 — or three miles’ worth — on the zoo’s nearly 70-year-old, 85-foot-tall Norway spruce, visitors may check out live reindeer in Winter Village, meet Santa in the museum, admire a Dancing Lights display near Cheetah Valley, ogle model trains, listen to carolers and commune with the animals that remain on display in winter.

And this year, for the first time, visitors also may share laughs and an occasional scream on the Ice Slide, which made its debut last month at the zoo’s amphitheater.

Riders must be at least 42 inches tall to try the ice slide, which has three lanes. Best bet is a seven-ride pass for $10; three-ride passes are $5. The passes also are good for other zoo rides, including the zoo’s two carousels and the Safari Railway in Africa through Jan. 4. Admission to the zoo is extra.

Be sure to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, some of the 6,800 gallons served during the annual lights festival, a Toledo tradition that began in 1986. And save one dollar off admission tickets by purchasing in advance online at https://tickets.toledozoo.org/Webstore/shop/ViewItems.aspx?M=TZWS&CG=POSE&C=LBC14

For more information, check https://www.toledozoo.org or call (419) 385-4040.

Susan R. Pollack

Globetrotting journalist and former Detroit News staff writer Susan R. Pollack has covered travel since 1985, visiting scores of countries on five continents, 49 states, six Canadian provinces and hundreds of cities, islands and outposts along the way. From Alaska, the Galapagos and New Zealand to South Africa, Thailand and Wales, she has suffered the occasional lost luggage, jetlag and Montezuma’s revenge but still delights in sharing travel adventures with readers. In addition to The Detroit News, her award-winning stories and photos have appeared in major newspapers including the Dallas News, Toronto Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chicago Sun Times; and magazines including Delta Sky, Midwest Living, Long Weekends, Experience Michigan, Jetsetter, Home & Away, Hour Detroit, Prevue Meetings and Group Tour. She has contributed to several books including “Rand McNally 2008 Ultimate NASCAR Road Trip Guide,” and is the copy editor for secondchancetravels.com. She also has written for websites including gardendestinations.com and travelingmom.com.