By Sheridan Wimmer on November 12, 2015

Have a Holly, Historic Holiday

Visit Abilene and Salina to celebrate a special Kansas Christmas

Excitement is in the air as the holidays approach. But with so much hustle and bustle that comes with the season — decorating, cooking, buying gifts, and traveling to visit loved ones — it can be a bit difficult to keep that festive feeling intact.

To revive your holiday spirit, plan to visit the vibrant towns of Abilene and Salina. Grab your winter coats and take a trip to these historic Kansas towns for traditions the entire family will enjoy.

All Aboard the Christmas Trolley

The Chisholm Trail was the driving force in creating the permanent town of Abilene in the 1860s and 1870s. More than three million head of cattle made the journey to Abilene from Texas between 1867 and 1871. The Abilene Historic Trolley Tour encourages passengers to imagine what it was like when cattle were driven down the streets of the town. The tour lasts one hour and shares the historic sites of the town at the end of the Chisholm Trail.

“We love what the trolley tour offers to visitors,” says Glenda Purkis, director of the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a way to experience an in-depth look at the vibrant history, culture and traditions of our wonderful town. The Trolley Tours during the holidays are especially captivating. Businesses and homes get in the holiday spirit and display lights you can see from the trolley.”

The “Christmas Traditions Trolley Tours” are offered Dec. 11–13 and Dec. 18–20 at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Cost is $6 for adults and $2 for children aged 4–12 years old.

Families don’t need to worry about getting cold during the tours. The trolley is heated and handicap accessible.

Visit for more information.

Christmas Festival and Parade of Lights

On Nov. 21, attend the annual Christmas Festival and Parade of Lights in downtown Salina. The day starts with the Frosty 5k Fun Run. Proceeds from the registration fees benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Salina. The race includes a Merry Mile, a 100-yard dash for kids called “Santa Sprint” and the Frosty 5k, making it an event for all ages.

The Parade of Lights is a one-mile evening parade with hundreds of floats decorated in Christmas lights. You even get to see Santa, but the reindeer rest while he makes his early stop in Salina.

“Last year we had more than 100 floats,” says Penny Bettles, events and marketing director of Salina Downtown, Inc. “It’s so fun to see all the different dancers, twirlers, motorcycles, horses, bicycle clubs and much more. The parade always ends with Santa waving to the crowd of spectators in a horse-drawn carriage.”

“The nighttime parade is outstanding,” says Michelle Peck from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Salina. “Seeing downtown Salina lit up for the holidays is a wonderful reminder to be thankful for our community.”

Other activities throughout the day include a cookie decorating event, free antique fire engine rides, horsedrawn carriage rides, cocoa with Mrs. Claus at Ad Astra Books and Coffee House, pictures with Santa and dance performances at the Stiefel Theatre.

“This is a fun, free event for the whole family to take part in,” Bettles says. “It’s the best time of year to visit Salina.”

For more information, visit

Cookies with Santa

Visit Salina again on Dec. 6 for the Cookies with Santa event at the Wildlife Museum at Rolling Hills Zoo. This event has become a tradition for many families.

“Children decorate giant sugar cookies, meet Santa and enjoy an animal-themed story,” says Kathy Tolbert, assistant director of Rolling Hills Zoo. “In addition to the Wildlife Museum, guests will also enjoy the temporary exhibit Dinosaur Revolution. This fun and interactive exhibit is sure to thrill all the dinosaur lovers in your family.”

For non-member families attending Cookies with Santa, admission to the Wildlife Museum is just $10 per family on Dec. 6. For more information or to make your reservation, contact Tracy at (785) 827-9488, ext. 114.