Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
100 Years Ago on the Homefront
Nov. 12, 4-5 p.m. Travel back to 1917 and experience how American families faced “the war to end all wars.” Learn the history; experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the early 20th century. Century Memorial Chapel, Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville, (630) 420-6010, napersettlement.org.
Shades of Crimson
Nov. 17, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. A sea of more than 3,000 poinsettias on display throughout the estate buildings, to admire and to purchase. Cantigny, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, (630) 668-5161, cantigny.org.
Illumination at Morton Arboretum
Nov. 17-Jan. 1, see website for times. Dazzling projections add to an interactive experience where trees lit with vivid, electric colors respond to touch and voice. Morton Arboretum, 4400 Ill. Rt. 53, Lisle, (630) 968-0074, mortonarb.org.
Nov. 24-Dec. 31, see website for times. Tour Geneva Lake by boat and experience the brilliant light displays at area lake homes. Each boat is climate-controlled and decked out in Christmas gear. Activities for children, snack bar, beverages for adults and children. Departs from Gage Marine, 1 Liechty Dr., Williams Bay, Wis. Info: Gage Marine, (262) 248-6206, santacruiselakegeneva.com.
Lighting of the Square
Nov. 24, 5-9 p.m. Thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the Historic Woodstock Square beginning at 7 p.m. Carolers, street musicians, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Opera House Christmas Tree Walk and a candyland of gingerbread houses. Location: Historic Woodstock Square, Woodstock. Info: woodstockil.gov.
Festival of Lights
Nov. 24-Dec. 26, Fri.-Sat. 5-10 p.m., Sun.-Thu. to 9 p.m. Drive through one of the largest lighted displays in northern Illinois, covering more than a mile with displays such as a 20-foot-tall “singing” Christmas tree. 1000 Ray Moses Dr., Aurora, (630) 408-5381, aurorafestivaloflights.com.
Dickens of a Christmas Celebration
Nov. 24, 6 p.m. Ring in the holiday with this time-honored tradition, including the tree lighting ceremony, lighted holiday parade, carriage rides, visits with Santa and more. Front Street, downtown Wheaton, (630) 682-0633, downtownwheaton.com.
Festival of Lights Parade
Nov. 24, 7 p.m. Decorated floats, marchers, music and Santa’s arrival. More than 50 parade entries in this lighted nighttime parade. Downtown Crystal Lake, (815) 479-0835, downtowncl.org.
Nov. 24-25, events daily. Lights come on at First Street Plaza Fri. at 5 p.m. Family activities Sat. include the movie “Elf” at 10 a.m. at the Arcada Theatre, horse-drawn sleigh rides, Santa’s house and the Holiday Electric Parade at 5:30 p.m. Downtown St. Charles, (630) 443-3967, downtownstcharles.org.
Nov. 24-Dec. 22, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 23-Jan. 7, to 7 p.m. Enjoy caroling and see model trains, including Thomas the Tank Engine, magical indoor snow, more than 80 meticulously crafted Chicago landmarks in miniature and intricate ice carvings. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org.
Festival of Lights
Nov. 24-Dec. 29, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Cosley Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland with 20,000 twinkling lights adorning beautiful displays. Find Christmas trees to purchase, hot chocolate to take the chill off, and holiday gifts to browse. Cosley Zoo, 1356 N. Gary Ave., Wheaton, (630) 665-5534, wheatonparkdistrict.com.
Chicago Pop Culture Convention
Nov. 25-26, Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. to 3 p.m. A multi-genre convention of comics, gaming, anime, horror films, TV/movie memorabilia, steampunk, cosplay, superheroes, anything fan-related. Pheasant Run Resort & Spa, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles, (603) 584-6342, pheasantrun.com.
Happy Holiday Railway
Nov. 25-Dec. 17, Sat.-Sun. hourly 2-6 p.m. Take a magical train ride with Santa Claus; those on Santa’s “good” list receive a gift. Tickets online. Illinois Railway Museum, 7000 Olson Road, Union, (815) 923-4000, irm.org.
Celebration of Lights
Nov. 26, 4-7 p.m. Hayrides, hot food and drinks, community sing-along, photos with Santa, story hour and ceremonial tree lighting at 5:30 p.m. Batavia Riverwalk and Peg Bond Pavilion, 151 N. Island Ave., Batavia, (630) 879-5235, bataviaparks.org.
Winter Wonderland Dinner Party
Dec. 1, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Join your friends for a delicious dinner and Edizon Dayao’s Big Band variety show. Reg. by Nov. 17. Pottawatomie Community Center, 8 North Ave., St. Charles, (630) 513-6200, stcparks.org.
Walk with Santa
Dec. 1, 6 p.m. Parade with Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves through downtown Sycamore to the courthouse lawn, where Santa will light the holiday tree and listen to children’s wish lists. Movie at the State Street Theater, 4:30 p.m. Various locations in downtown Sycamore, discoversycamore.com.
Christmas Walk & Holiday House Tour
Dec. 1, 6-9:30 p.m. Welcome Santa Lucia; see Santa lighting the great tree; take a carriage ride; enjoy roasted chestnuts, strolling carolers and a live nativity. Join the house tour to see five distinctively decorated homes. Downtown Geneva, Geneva Chamber of Commerce, 100 S. 3rd St., Geneva, (630) 232-6060, genevachamber.com.
Kane County Flea Market
Dec. 2-3, Sat. noon-5 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Hundreds of dealers comprise one of the longest-running antique markets around. Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles, (630) 584-6926, kanecountyfair.com.
Dec. 2, 1-7 p.m. Enjoy shopping for special gifts created by local crafters. Cantigny, Wheaton, (630) 668-5161, cantigny.org.
Dec. 2, 4-7 p.m. Celebrate the season in the decorated park with sleigh rides; carolers; live reindeer; crafts; story time with Mrs. Claus, Santa and Jack Frost. Cantigny, Wheaton, (630) 668-5161, cantigny.org.
Polar Express Storytime Train
Dec. 2-3, 9:30 a.m.-noon, 1:30-4 p.m. Kids travel to the North Pole to pick up Santa and his friends, return to Geneva for lunch or dinner, then pose for photos with Santa. Festive pajamas encouraged. Reg. req. Train departs Geneva train station, 328 Crescent Pl., Geneva. Info: (630) 232-0852, genevaparks.org.
Dec. 2-3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Vendors offer products such as locally made jams, soaps and spice blends. Burnstein Hall, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org.
Candlelight Reception at the Inn
Dec. 2-3, 3-7 p.m. Go back in time to experience tavern hospitality as it would have been at the Garfield Inn during the 1840s, when a brightly lit home full of travelers and neighbors was a luxury on a winter’s night. Enjoy refreshments, music of the period and a bake sale in the Burr House. Garfield Farm Museum, 3N016 Garfield Road, LaFox, (630) 584-8485, garfieldfarm.org
Family Class: Joyful Gingerbread
Dec. 2, 10, 17, 9:30 a.m. & 1 p.m. Discover the different plants required to make this sweet winter treat; make, decorate and bake your own gingerbread cookie. Reg. req. Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org.
Woodlands Santa Workshop
Dec. 3, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Watch Santa arrive, pulled by his dashing huskies; write a letter for Santa, have your picture taken with him and make an ornament to take home. Reg. online. Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles, (630) 513-4399, stcparks.org.
Merry Cary Holiday Parade & Festival
Dec. 3, noon-3:30 p.m. Let the holiday magic whisk you away as a parade travels through downtown Cary. Afterwards, enjoy holiday activities. Downtown Cary, (847) 639-2800, carygrovechamber.com.
Dec. 3, 2-4 p.m. Visit Santa’s workshop and join his elfs in making special holiday crafts, playing reindeer games and enjoying sweets. Reg. req. Ages 3-10. Grand Oaks Recreation, 1401 W. Ill. Rt. 176, Crystal Lake, (847) 459-0680, crystallakeparks.org.
Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m. Taste local spirits, wine and winter brews while enjoying the Wonderland Express exhibition, featuring model railroads and more than 80 Chicago landmarks in miniature. Age 21 and up. Burnstein Hall, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org.
Engineering with Legos
Dec. 9, noon-3 p.m. Celebrate some of Col. McCormick’s feats of engineering that helped to make Chicago’s great skyline. Create one of your own using Lego bricks. Robert McCormick Museum Gold Theatre, Cantigny, Wheaton, (630) 668-5161, cantigny.org.
Breakfast with Santa
Dec. 9-10, hourly 8-11 a.m. Enjoy a breakfast buffet, visit with Santa and see the Wonderland Express train exhibit. Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org.
Victorian Holiday Tea
Dec. 10, 12:30-2 p.m. & 3-4:30 p.m. Relax in seasonally decorated parlors while enjoying traditional holiday music played on the hammer dulcimer and a full luncheon tea served by costumed staff. Reg. req. Colonel Palmer House, 660 E. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake, (815) 477-5873, crystallakeparks.org.
An Old-Fashioned Christmas
Dec. 10, 4-5 p.m. Delight in the spirit of bygone holidays as author Rochelle Pennington shares vintage items such as bubble lights, tinsel and angel hair, as well as her antique toy collections, including Rockford’s sock monkey, Evanston’s Tinkertoys and Chicago’s Lincoln Logs. Meeting House, Naper Settlement, Naperville, (630) 420-6010, napersettlement.org.
Audubon Christmas Bird Count
Dec. 16, dawn to dusk. Help with this 100-year-old tradition to catalog American bird numbers by observing bird habitat in Bull Valley. Location: Bull Valley and Cold Springs Roads, Bull Valley. Info: McHenry Audubon Society, [email protected], mchenryaudubon.org.
Trim the Kitchen
Dec. 16, 3-5 p.m. Help the Primrose farmers decorate the summer kitchen with strung popcorn, decorated pine cones and paper ornaments. Decorate holiday cookies and sip hot cocoa. Prepare the farm’s sleigh and take it on its first jaunt of the season. Reg. req. Primrose Farm, 5N726 Crane Road, St. Charles, (630) 513-6200, st-charlesparks.org.
Family Noon Year’s Eve
Dec. 30, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Ring in the “Noon Year” with noisemakers, sparkling cider and other refreshments. Reg. online. Grand Oaks Recreation, Crystal Lake, (847) 459-0680, crystallakeparks.org.
Wild New Year’s Eve Celebration
Dec. 31, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Who’s awake to celebrate and who’s hibernating? Celebrate New Year’s Eve early as you meet the animals and share a toast at noon. Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, St. Charles, (630) 513-4399, stcparks.org.
Winter on the Farm
Jan. 6, 1-5 p.m. Venture out into a winter wonderland as you greet the animals and visit with the farm staff. Help with winter livestock chores, tromp around the lantern-lit farmyard in snowshoes and drop into the kitchen for hot chocolate, cookies and festive music. Reg. req. Primrose Farm, St. Charles, (630) 513-6200, stcparks.org.
Family Class: Loco for Cocoa
Jan. 20 & 28, 9:30 a.m. & 1 p.m. Discover how chocolate goes from a bitter bean to a delicious dessert; taste test different types and practice dipping fruits and snacks into melted chocolates to make special treats. Reg. req. Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org.
Abominable Snow Race
Jan. 27. The Midwest’s premier winter obstacle race challenges participants with 4-6 miles of snowy terrain, more than 20 winter-themed obstacles and potentially abominable winter weather. Blends fitness, family and fun, with lots to do before and after the race. Reg. online. Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, grandgeneva.com.
Jan. 27-28, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Watch demonstrations of sled-pulling and skijoring, a winter sport where the dogs pull a person on skis. Visit the teams, inspect the equipment and have your picture taken with the rigs. Information available about husky adoption. Please leave pets at home. Morton Arboretum, Lisle, (630) 968-0074, mortonarb.org.