You can almost hear those sleigh bells in the distance, and with such a lovely sound comes also the realization that there is much shopping and planning to be done. What do I get for my sister’s newborn? Where do I get the best tree? Can my kids meet Santa in person? Where are the best holiday events in Portland? Don’t fret, because we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of holiday tips, activities, and information that will keep you and the kids entertained throughout the holiday break.

1. Nothing announces the holiday season with such grace as the twinkling glow of white and colorful lights frosting houses, bushes, and trees throughout the neighborhood. Gather up the family this year and either walk or drive through some of these amazing areas to see Six Dazzling Christmas Light Displays in Portland.

2. Your kids with swirl and twirl for this wonderful holiday activity: ice skating! We’ve compiled a list of the Four Best Ice Skating Rinks in town so your familly can glide happily into the new year.

3. The Christmas Ships are a fun way to see holiday light displays without having to sit in gridlocked traffic through busy neighborhoods. We’ve got the best place to see these festive floats, and you won’t even need to bring a jacket.

4. It can’t get better than this: Brunch and Santa, one for you and one for the kids. This year check out one of the many Sweet Santa Brunches taking place all over Portland. You’ll all leave filled to the brim with holiday cheer.

5. Santa is proving his existence this year by making stops all over town. Check out Where to Take Photos With Santa… your kids will be ecstatic to meet him in person!

6. Decorating and gathering around the tree is a timeless family tradition. Don’t let this year roll by without the fresh spell of pine needles and the lovely twinkle of ornaments. Read about Five Fantastic Christmas Tree Farms that will make tree shopping into a wonderful holiday experience.

7. Green is the theme of this year’s holiday season, with ideas on everything from saving electricity to sending electronic greeting cards, there are plenty of easy (and fun) ways you can have an eco-friendly holiday.

8. It’s no coincidence Santa chooses cookies as his snack of choice… they’re the holiday best! Here are the Best Places to Get Gluten-Free Holiday Baked Goodies in Portland. Santa will eat ’em right up!

9. Don’t know the latest trends and gadgets for newborns? Can’t decide which educational toy is a better fit for a toddler? Look through our awesome 2012 Gift Guide that has all the current necessities for parents and thrills for the youngsters.

— Jessica Abelson

Photo credit: The Grotto website