Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
Aurora Festival of Lights
Through Dec. 26, Sun.-Thu. 5-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 10 p.m. Witness more than 200 displays at the largest outdoor holiday light display in northern Illinois. Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Dr., Aurora, (630) 408-5381, auorafestivaloflights.com.
Santa Cruise on Lake Geneva
Through Dec. 31, Wed.-Sun. 4:30-8:30 p.m. No tours on Dec. 24-25. Families who come aboard the boat cruise have a prime view of the twinkling lights along the Geneva Lake shoreline. Mixed drinks, beer, wine, soft drinks and hot chocolate will be available on the boat, and several activities will keep the kids engaged. Departs from Gage Marine, 1 Liechty Dr., Williams Bay, Wis., (262) 248-6206, CruiseLakeGeneva.com.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
Through Jan. 2, 5-9:30 p.m. This annual display transforms a Chicago-area wintertime walk in the woods into a colorful, inspiring experience like no other. Morton Arboretum, 4100 Ill. Rt. 53, Lisle, (630) 968-0074, mortonarb.org.
Dec. 10, 1:30-3:30 p.m. Stop by the wagon shed to see a blacksmith demonstrate the tools and techniques of the trade. Registration is not required. Kline Creek Farm, 1N600 Country Farm Road, West Chicago, (630) 876-5900, dupageforest.com.
Night of the Luminaria/Living Windows
Dec. 10, 6-9 p.m. The streets, steps and sidewalks of downtown Galena are lined with nearly 5,000 candle-lit luminarias. Guests can stroll, drive, take a trolly or enjoy a carriage ride and take in the festive sights. Guests can stroll down Main Street and watch dozens of storefronts literally come to life during Living Windows. Various locations, downtown Galena, (815) 776-9200, visitgalena.org.
Mistletoe Stroll Holiday House Tour
Dec. 10-17, 2-5 p.m. Galena’s finest bed-and-breakfasts join forces and open their doors for guests. Visit the parlors and dining rooms of each location, which have been decked out for the holidays, and enjoy some tasty treats along the way. Check website for locations in Galena. Info: (815) 776-9200, visitgalena.org.
Eagles of Illinois Presentation
Dec. 10, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. See the power and beauty of these birds up close and personal when you meet a live bald eagle and golden eagle. Visitors can also view other birds of prey that are often misidentified as eagles. Prairie View Education Center, 2112 Behan Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 479-5779, mccdistrict.org.
Jingle and Mingle
Dec. 15, 7:30-10 p.m. Kick off your holiday celebration at this Morton Arboretum event, which features an open bar, cookie decorating and a visit from Santa, among other things. Thornhill Education Center, Morton Arboretum, Lisle, (630) 968-0074, mortonarb.org.
Winter Solstice Sunrise Hike
Dec. 21, 7:15-9:15 a.m. Enjoy a sunrise hike with a naturalist on the shortest day of the year. Thornhill Education Center, Morton Arboretum, Lisle, (630) 968-0074, mortonarb.org.
Noon Year’s Eve Party
Dec. 29, 10 a.m.-noon. Raise a toast of sparkling juice and ring in the upcoming new year with good friends and good entertainment. Brunch will be catered by Colonial Cafe, with entertainment by Larry Breidenbach. Grand Oaks Recreation Center, 1401 Ill. Rt. 176, Crystal Lake, (815) 459-0680, visitmchenrycounty.com.
Wild New Year’s Eve Celebration
Dec. 31, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Who is awake to celebrate and who is hibernating? Celebrate New Year’s Eve early as visitors meet the animals who are awake. Share a toast at noon. Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles, (630) 513-4393, stcnature.org.
Winter on the Farm
Jan. 1, noon-5 p.m. Venture out into an agricultural winter wonderland. Help with winter livestock chores, stomp around the lantern-lit farmyard in snowshoes and warm your hands over a bonfire barrel. Primrose Farm, 5N726 Crane Road, St. Charles, (630) 513-6200, primrosefarmpark.com.
Walk with a Naturalist: Sun Lake
Jan. 7, 9-10:30 a.m. Discover the diversity of plant and animal life in nature preserves on this naturalist-guided walk. Dress appropriately for weather conditions. Sun Lake conservation area, 22925 West Grass Lake Road, Lake Villa, (847) 367-6640, lcfpd.org.
Jan. 7, noon-3 p.m. Families can visit different stations to play in the snow and look for tracks, among other things. Hot chocolate provided. Marengo Ridge Conservation Area, 2411 Ill. Rt. 23, Marengo, (815) 338-6223, mccdistrict.org.
Exploring the Botanical Arts at Brushwood Center
Jan. 8, 1-3 p.m. Discover the steps that are taken to create a work of art. Each piece in the exhibition has been selected by teacher and botanical artist Heeyoung Kim. Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area, 21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods, (847) 367-6640, lcfpd.org.
Intro to Ice Fishing
Jan. 9, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This program introduces you to the basics of ice fishing, what gear to bring and how to remain safe. The Nature Center, 330 N. Main St., Crystal Lake, (815) 455-1763, crystallakeparks.org.
Bald Eagle Bus Tour
Jan. 21, Feb. 11 & Feb. 25, 8 a.m. A four-hour exploration of various bald eagle wintering communities. Guests in previous years have seen between 30 and 450 bald eagles during a bus tour. Eagle Nature Foundation, 300 E. Hickory St., Apple River, (815) 594-2306, eaglenature.com.
Coyotes in Winter
Jan. 21, 10-11 a.m. Coyotes are abundant in Kane County. On this guided hike, visitors search for coyote tracks, scat and other evidence of their activity. Guests also learn about coyote behavior and their role in ecology. Pingree Grove Forest Preserve, 14N187, U.S. Route 20, Hampshire, (630) 444-3190, kaneforest.com.
Winter Bird Hike
Jan. 28, 9 a.m. Take a short hike to see what birds may visit Glacial Park in the wintertime. Bring field guides and binoculars. Lost Valley Visitor Center, Glacial Park, 6313 Harts Road, Ringwood, (815) 678-4532, mccdistrict.org.
Jan. 28-29, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Watch demonstrations of husky sled pulling and skijoring, a winter sport where a dog team pulls a human riding skis. Families can also meet the dogs and sled teams, inspect equipment and have their pictures taken with the rigs. Visitor Center and on nearby hills, Morton Arboretum, Lisle, (630) 968-0074, mortonarb.org.
Winterfest & U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 28-Feb. 12, events daily. Lake Geneva’s Annual Winterfest weekend features the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition from Feb. 1-4, music, refreshments, activities, helicopter rides, shopping and dining. The first, second, third and Peoples’ Choice awards are also announced. Riviera Park, 330 Broad St., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-4416, visitlakegeneva.com/winterfest.
Abominable Snow Race
Jan. 28, 8 a.m. This race features a 3.5-mile course of 24 obstacles, making it the premier race to start off your obstacle racing season. Grand Geneva Ski Resort, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva. Info/Sign-up: abominablesnowrace.com.
Woodstock Groundhog Days
Feb. 1-5, events daily. Celebrate with daily events including groundhog trivia, a showing of the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” and a chili cook-off. Historic Woodstock Square, (815) 334-2620, woodstockgroundhog.com.
Paint & Sip Party
Feb. 10, 7-9 p.m. Join a local artist from Muse Art as you capture the image of a live owl on canvas. Event begins with a presentation about the bird, followed by the artist-guided painting experience. Prairie View Education Center, Crystal Lake, (815) 479-5779, mccdistrict.org.
Nature at Night Pajama Party
Feb. 18, 7-9 p.m. Get into some comfortable pajamas and join an evening of games, stories and activities relating to nocturnal animals. Find out who is out and about on cold, snowy nights. For ages 5-13. Prairie View Education Center, Crystal Lake, (815) 479-5779, mccdistrict.org.
The Gross, the Bad and the Yucky
Feb. 19, 10-11 a.m. Sometimes, the yuckiest things in nature are the coolest. Some spiders make milkshakes from the guts of their prey and other critters walk on their snot. This also includes a short hike outdoors. Dress appropriately for the weather. The Barbara Belding Lodge, Brewster Creek Forest Preserve, 6N921 Ill. Rt. 25, St. Charles, (630) 444-3190, kaneforest.com.
In Good Taste Restaurant Week Kick-Off Reception
Feb. 23, 5-8 p.m. Guests are treated to a night of wining and dining from the best restaurants in downtown Wheaton. Live entertainment and cash bar are also featured. 303 E. Front St., Wheaton, (630) 682-0633, downtownwheaton.com.
Winter Woods Walk
Feb. 25, 2:30 p.m. A walk in the cool, crisp air to watch for winter wonders. Dress for the weather and for walking through snow. Pleasant Valley Conservation Area, 13315 Pleasant Valley Road, Woodstock, (815) 338-6223, mccdistrict.org.
Tracks and Trails
Feb. 25, 10-11 a.m. Many animals are active in winter and they leave tell-tale signs of their presence. Visitors participate in a guided hike and look for animal signs. You can also learn about the habits and behaviors of native wildlife by the signs they leave. Dress appropriately for a hike outdoors. Creek Bend Nature Center, LeRoy Oaks Forest Preserve, 37W700 Dean St., St. Charles, (630) 444-3190, kaneforest.com.
Festival of the Sugar Maples
March 4-5 & March 11-12, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Discover how maple trees produce sap each spring and learn how sap is collected from trees. Coral Woods Conservation Area, 7400 Somerset, Marengo, (815) 338-6223, mccdistrict.org.
Kane County Flea Market
March 4-5, Sat. noon-5 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Up to 1,000 dealers display, sell antiques, collectibles, Fancy Junque. A country breakfast is served on Sundays. Kane County Fairgrounds, St. Charles, (630) 377-2252, kanecountyfleamarket.com