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An Enchanting Christmas Walk by Naples Canals

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To walk along the canals of the Naples area of Long Beach during the holidays is to enter an enchanted storybook land of gabled houses and swaying palms beside inky waterways, sparkling with the reflection of twinkling colored lights.

On Rivo Alto Canal, the main circular channel just off Alamitos Bay, huge picture windows frame mechanical Christmas fantasies. In one, holiday bunny rabbits roll out dough for cookies; in another, a toy train circles a perfectly coiffed pine tree, hauling freight cars full of presents--including two mini Mercedes.

This is Christmas Naples-style. Hundreds of people living along the canals decorate their homes with lights, reindeer, Santas in sailboats, snow bunnies skiing. Just about every holiday scene imaginable is on view for free in one of Long Beach’s most expensive neighborhoods.

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Suzanne Nosworthy spent two weeks arranging hundreds of stuffed teddy bears in holiday habits, holding balloons, hauling presents, humming carols. The scene plays out in the picture window, where most of the bears are gathered under a huge, expertly decorated pine tree. On the lawn, life-size reindeer stand in frozen earnest, attached to a sled filled with--what else?--teddy bears.

“I just love Christmas!” Nosworthy said as she plumped one of several dozen bears seated around her living room.

She started serious Christmas decorating 17 years ago when the family moved to Naples, she said, as a way to buy ornaments for her young children. Today, Nosworthy, a full-time mother and part-time puppeteer, has only her youngest teen-age son at home. “Now when Thanksgiving comes, I think, ‘Oh no! Christmas! I better get going!’ ” she said, groaning at the memory of how much work is involved. “My husband and son get all the decorations out of the attic and then they take to the hills, so I’m left here like the Little Red Hen! It’s a lot of really late nights.”

But worth it.

“Once I pull out the boxes and I see all the ornaments, the memories come flooding back. I think it’s like that for everyone. Christmas is full of memories.” She paused.

“It sounds corny, huh? But Christmas is a way of sharing with people.”

To share Christmas with Nosworthy and her neighbors in Naples, take 2nd Street to Naples Plaza and turn right on Loreta, Cordova or Syracuse walks. It is a congested area, so be polite when choosing a parking place. Park the car and walk straight ahead to the canal.

Another route is to turn off 2nd Street toward the ocean on Ravenna Drive, which becomes The Colonnade and crosses a bridge over Rivo Alto Canal to an island within an island. Other bridges are on The Toledo Street, which stretches nearly the full length of Naples.

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Streets along Rivo Alto Canal are shaped like a horseshoe. Walk all the way around, reach the end, cross a bridge and return on the other side to your car. Walking briskly, the trip through winter wonderland takes about an hour.

Nosworthy’s teddy bear collection can be seen along Naples Canal, a shorter waterway that connects Rivo Alto Canal with the bay. Many other beautifully decorated homes face Alamitos Bay, and there is a walkway in front of them that leads to the east end of Naples with views of Long Beach Marina.

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