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A peek at Christmas in Oklahoma and Kansas destinations

Wichita, Kan., has me under its spell once again. Festive lights, singing cowboys, bulging shopping bags and ballet dancers are a sampling of what goes on during December in Kansas' largest city.

The Wichita Gardens celebrates nature beautifully. Their annual holiday gift to us is "Illuminations--a Sparkling Wonderland of Light"; thousands of brilliant luminarias and shimmering holiday lights setting the garden paths aglow while seasonal music fills the air.

Rather stay in the car? Get in a joyous mood by taking the family on a drive through the sensational Lights on St. Paul and the Lights on the Lake at Heartspring. For more information go to www.VisitWichita.com or call the Greater Wichita Convention & Visitor Bureau at 800-288-9424.

Topeka, Kan., is a city for all seasons known for its many art galleries and museums. A tour through those captivating collections is soothing and relaxing. Don't miss the Kansas State Capitol. The distinctive architectural features on the Senate Chambers make it one of the most elaborate in the country. For the adventurous, take in the 296-step guided tour through the amazing marble and glass paneled Capitol Dome to the balcony overlooking the city.

The holidays bring out the finest and shiniest so find out more about how Topeka celebrates by checking out www.VisitTopeka.org.

Ardmore, Okla., off I-35 near the Texas line, is a favorite for the holidays, too. Downtown sidewalks overflow with sensational window displays and sensory stimuli such as the aroma of fresh ground coffee, the fragrance of cut flowers and treats for the bath, the clatter of clothes hangers and the tinkle of wind chimes set the mood.

Ardmore has its share in arts and entertainment, too. The Charles B. Goddard Center is the repository of western and contemporary art and home of several theater groups. The Washington and Tivoli theaters as well as Heritage Hall provide unique atmospheres for everything from ballet to Red Dirt bands. The drive-through Christmas lights around the park are one of Oklahoma's best. For more information visit www.ardmore.org or call 580-223-7765.

Lined with lovely old buildings on bricked streets and filled with small town friendliness, Pauls Valley Okla., is "not your ordinary small town." See the fascinating shops, the Action Figure Museum, a showcase of thousands of colorful action figures, a hands-on play area for kids of all ages and a behind-the-scenes tribute to those who make it all happen.

Pauls Valley takes advantage of every opportunity have an event and Christmas is a wonderful time to make beautiful music and light the town up like the North Pole. For more information on lodging and holiday events--including the monthly Fly-In--contact 405-238-6491 or visit www.paulsvalley.com.

Our last peek is in Purcell, Okla., another small town that has a great drive-through Christmas light display around their lake and, of course, a Christmas parade. What makes Christmas in Purcell special is the many antique shops in downtown who are open year round, and dress up special for the holidays to share the beautiful and whimsical merchandise from our past. For more visit www.theheartofoklahomachamber.com.

To all my readers, thank you for being so loyal; and here's a wish that your Christmas season is built solidly on the real reason for its existence.

Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Pecan Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Pauls Valley, Okla. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at www.greatersuccess.com or call 580-622-5408.

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