December brings a season of great food, busy schedules and seasonal entertainment. I’d love to say that I watch White Christmas every year, but the truth is that my family’s holiday ritual is watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on DVD several times through the holiday season. Yep, we really do! It’s our family’s timeless holiday tradition!

We also enjoy sharing the holiday spirit with our community by taking advantage of free local events. If you want a more personal feel, ask friends and family what their child is involved with during the holidays. Here are some great tips to help you find free and local holiday activities in your community!

1. Attend a local high school event.

Our local high school features a free winter choral concert in December that’s open to the general public. Even if you don’t have a kid in school, you can enjoy school events that are open to the public. Enjoy traditional and holiday songs and support the kids from your local community.

2. Visit your city's visitors website.

As different area businesses and organizations post their holiday events, most cities will create a one-page overview of everything to see and do during the holidays (here’s an example).

3. Contact your local arts council.

My city’s local arts council transforms our downtown streets into a scene out of a Dickens novel every holiday. There’s Christmas caroling, carriage rides, candle lighting at dusk, period costumes and apple cider. Because this is a local event, admission is free to anyone. If you’re not sure how to contact your local arts council, try finding the details in your town’s free weekly magazine.

4. Look to your local technical or state college.

What better practice for drama students than a live production of White Christmas? And who better to watch it than the local folks looking for a night of free entertainment? Contact your local technical or state college to see what they have planned for the holiday season. I googled my local college’s Christmas events and found a free Christmas concert that I’ll definitely be attending!

5. Check out kid-specific websites.

Certain event websites are geared towards kids and families—these give you a fast-track to events suitable for the whole family to attend together.

Examples:

6. Don't forget about the local city parks and shopping malls.

Many city parks will schedule free holiday concerts, movies, ice skating, fairs and productions—and shopping malls are famous for their "Get Your Picture Taken with Santa" booths. So be sure to check out offerings at local parks, community centers and malls.

7. Seek out events on social media.

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find the most entertaining options. If an event is popular, the word spreads! Ask your friends on Facebook what events they are attending or are involved in. They won’t only have the dates and time, but will be able to tell you the best place to sit, the best time to avoid traffic, and/or what events you cannot miss!

8. Check with your neighborhood church.

When I was growing up, the church youth would perform a short production the Sunday night before Christmas. These plays are priceless because they aren’t professional productions and anything can happen. My favorite is when a kid forgets a line and you can hear the director prompting him from behind the curtains. That’s free entertainment at its finest. Most churches feature a Christmas production; call the local pastor and make an inquiry.

9. Get on email lists for your family's favorite organizations.

In Houston, there’s the Space Center, the Houston Zoo, the Children's Museum and many other awesome attractions. Each has their own holiday festivities planned—and each has an email subscriber database that gets alerted when a new activity is announced. Sign up for the email lists (use a different email address if you like so as not to clutter your main inbox) so you can add new holiday events to your calendar.

10. Keep your eye on group deal sites like Groupon and Living Social.

For holiday events that do require a fee, you can often snag great deals on crowdsourcing deal sites. (Pressed for time? Try Yipit if you want to search across all deal sites at once).

 

10 Ways to Find Free and Low-Cost Holiday Productions in Your Community