Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Lady of the Snows Way of Lights, Belleville, IL

Location: 442 S DeMazenod Dr, Belleville, IL 62223

Dates/Hours: See Website, generally late December thru the beginning of January, nightly.

Amenities: Light Displays, Children's Village play room, Laser Show, Wreath Display, Tree Room, Community Choirs, Animal Rides/Petting Zoo, Carriage Rides

Website: http://wayoflights.org

Unlike many of the other holiday light displays in the St. Louis Metro Area, the Way of Lights at Our Lady of the Snows is religious based, with the light displays depicting the Journey to Bethlehem and birth of Jesus. The light displays are mostly white lights, with color reserved for accents in various displays. The manger scene at the end of the route is in a grotto cave, which is a neat finish. I do have to say that I really don't understand why they had all 4 advent candles "lit" when we visited during the first week of advent. It's free to drive through and see the lights. At the very end of the drive, they ask for donations, and if you donate at least a certain amount you get a stuffed toy. This year it was an elephant with the year and the Our Lady of the Snows logo embroidered on it.

When you reach the center of the property, there's a tent in a parking lot with the petting zoo and animals to ride. You had to purchase a token to ride each animal. There were ponies, a donkey and camels. Of course my animal loving 3.5 year old just HAD to ride each of them, and loved every second she was on them. The place was pretty empty when we visited on a Tuesday night in early December, and as a result, we got right on the animals. After riding all 3, we visited each and every animal in the petting zoo - mostly various types of goats. You could buy food to feed the animals, and they were quite aggressive in getting to the food! I'm glad it wasn't more crowded the night we were there, it would have been hard to get in and feed the animals. They also had concessions for sale by the animal tent.

Farther down the road in the main building there was a wreath display, a Christmas tree display room, a Children's room and an area where you can dress up like angels for a souvenir photo. Some nights there are community choirs singing for the guests. The Our Lady of the Snows gift shop and restrooms are also located in this building.

The Christmas trees are elaborately decorated with the theme of a particular Christmas carol. It was really fun to see how each designer chose to bring out their theme in the decorations.

The theme of these two trees are Peace on Earth and Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
The theme of these trees are: Mele Kalikamaka,
Angels We Have Heard on High and Jolly Ol' St. Nicholas
Besides riding the animals, my daughter's next favorite part was the "Children's Village" room, which was set up to be a birthday party for Jesus and featured a lego corner, chalk boards, a board to pin up a picture or note of what present you'd give Jesus for his birthday, a corner devoted just to Fisher Price nativity figures (this cracked me up to see a bin full of Mary figures), and there was a volunteer doing elaborate balloon creations. My only complaint was that all the children did not get a balloon because they closed at 9 pm and even though we waited in line for quite a while, he was doing such elaborate balloon creations that it took him awhile to make something for each kid. He would have made all the kids happy if he'd just stuck with something simple so they all could have had one to take home. The Children's Village is free and you can spend as long as you like in the room (until the entire place closes for the evening). They also have puppet shows a couple times each evening but we didn't make it to the Children's Village in time to catch one.

There's also a laser show and restaurant at the Way of Lights, but we didn't have time to check out either of these activities.

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