Santa, gingerbread and more: Top holiday events for kids in Centre County

Entries in the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Gingerbread House Contest will be on display Dec. 18-31.
Entries in the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Gingerbread House Contest will be on display Dec. 18-31. Centre Daily Times, file

So you didn’t get a chance to grab your tickets for the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society’s Santa Express before the hugely popular ride sold out in just more than an hour earlier this month. While you’ll definitely want to set an alarm next year when the tickets go on sale, there’s still plenty for kids to do this holiday season across Centre County. Here’s what not to miss.

Elves’ Gift Shop

Because kids know it’s even better to give than to receive, the Elves’ Gift Shop lets them shop for inexpensive gifts for parents, teachers, siblings and pets with the local Girl Scouts playing the part of Elves. Held 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Park Forest Middle School in State College, the event is a long-running fundraiser held by the Junior Woman’s Club of State College. It also includes a snack bar, holiday raffle and cookie sale. Visit www.jwcsc.com/Elves for more information.

Polar Express

The first stop on this free annual event is the children’s department at Schlow Centre Region Library, where Chris Van Allsburg’s classic story is read by one of Santa’s helpers. Then it’s all aboard the Polar Express — a trolley that ushers families to Santa’s Workshop. There, every child has a coin to spend in the shop and gets a picture with Santa himself.

Polar Express rides are in time slots from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8 and 2-4:20 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9. Pre-registration begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Stop by the children’s department or call 237-6236.

Gingerbread House Contest

It’s not the holiday season without gingerbread, and why not get a little competitive while you’re at it? The Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Gingerbread House Contest has categories for children, teens, adults and senior citizens. All entries will be on display from Dec. 18-31 in the Diamond Deli windows at 103 N. Allegheny St.

Entry forms can be picked by the Diamond Deli, Centre County Library, Pappy Chuck’s Candy Store and the Train Station or at www.bellefontevictorianchristmas.com/gingerbread-house-contest. Monday is the deadline to mail or email an entry form. Gingerbread houses must be dropped off at Diamond Deli on Thursday, Nov. 30 or Dec. 1.

Santa in Bellefonte

The big man in red will make many appearances around Centre County in the coming weeks, but there’s one place you’re guaranteed to find him: the small hut that gets set up outside the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte every year.

It’s no charge for parents to take photos of their kids with Santa, and they can take as many as they’d like.

During Bellefonte Victorian Christmas — the busiest time for the Bellefonte Santa — kids can see him from noon-4 p.m. Dec. 8-9.

Friday Night Slides

OK, this isn’t a holiday event exactly, but this new event sounds like a ton of fun. Friday Night Slides will make its debut on Dec. 7 at Slab Cabin Park. Hosted by Centre Region Parks and Recreation, there will be organized sledding/sliding competitions, campfires and tasty snacks and music. The free event is open to all ages. Visit www.crpr.org to learn more.