Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
Through 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.
All Aglow Express
Through Dec. 9, Sat. hourly 4-7 p.m. Trolley Car 36 is aglow for the holidays. Rides begin at the south end of the garden grounds. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
All Aglow Holiday Display
Through Jan. 7, 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m., except Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Conservatory is decorated inside and out, with sparkling lights and beautiful floral displays. Sinnissippi Station model garden train display starting Dec. 2. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org.
Goodness Gracious-Great Balls of Fire!
Through Jan. 14, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Go on an astronomical adventure to the asteroid belt and Jupiter on a mission to gather data about asteroids and comets. Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St., Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Guided Winter Hikes
Through March, Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Head out for a 4.5-mile hike (round-trip) to perhaps see eagles and frozen waterfalls. Traction cleats recommended. Included are backpack, snack and hot beverage. Res. req. Starved Rock Lodge, Ill. Rts. 178 & 71, Utica, Ill., (815) 220-7386, starvedrocklodge.com.
Dixon Christmas Walk
Dec. 1, 6-9 p.m. Start the evening with the tree lighting at KSB Hospital, then continue down Main Street, where businesses will offer food and treats for children. See amazing ice sculptures on the riverfront. Downtown Dixon, Ill., (815) 284-3361, dixonillinoischamber.com.
An 1847 Christmas
Dec. 2, noon-3 p.m. Experience Christmas at the earliest settlement site in Winnebago County. Re-enactors take visitors back in time, to when Christmas was celebrated with small gifts and kind gestures. Macktown Living History Center, 2221 Freeport Road, Rockton, Ill., (815) 624-4200, macktownlivinghistory.com.
Dec. 2, 1-4 p.m. Enjoy an old-fashioned afternoon at the decorated historical Taylor mansion, with holiday music, homemade cookies, tea and holiday punch. Stephenson County Historical Museum, 1440 S. Carroll Avenue, Freeport, (815) 232-8419, stephcohs.org.
Victorian Holiday Tea
Dec. 2, 2-4 p.m. Dine in style at the Village’s Chamberlain hotel, sampling goodies popular in the 1800s including savories, sandwiches, sweets and holiday tea. Reg. req. Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Adult Night at the Museum
Dec. 2, 7 p.m. Don your most comfortable clothes (or ugly sweater), connect with friends for cocktails and watch a silly holiday film. Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center, 426 N. Jackson St., Janesville, (608) 756-4509, rchs.us.
Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m. Travel back in time for a glimpse of holidays in days gone by. Luminaria light the way to log cabins where pioneer families celebrate Christmas. Festival Grounds, Spencer Conservation Area, 603 N. Appleton Road, Belvidere, (815) 547-7939, bccdil.org.
Holiday Light Show
Dec. 8-31, except Dec. 24 & 25, daily 4:30-8:30 p.m. Featuring 100 beautifully decorated trees, 2,500 luminaria and 500 icicle lights hanging from trees in the garden. Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Dr., Janesville, (608) 752-3885, rotarybotanicalgardens.org.
Christmas Truce in the Trenches
Dec. 9, 10-11:30 a.m. Participate in a re-enactment of the 1914 World War I Christmas truce. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Dec. 9, 4-9 p.m. Stroll along Main Street and see more than a dozen shop windows come to life. The city glows with more than 5,000 luminaria. Galena Downtown Business Association, Galena, Ill., (815) 776-9200, visitgalena.org.
Victorian Holiday Celebration
Dec. 9-10, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Enjoy dancing at the Fezziwig Ball, making holiday cards at the print shop, story time at Mrs. Cratchit’s dinner table, caroling by 2nd City Chorus and a visit from Father Christmas. Midway Village Museum, Rockford, (815) 397-9112, midwayvillage.com.
Dec. 10, 1-4 p.m. Visit Tinker Swiss Cottage, the Erlander Home Museum and the Ethnic Heritage Park and learn about various ethnic Christmas celebrations. Tinker Swiss Cottage, 411 Kent St., Rockford, (815) 964-2424, tinkercottage.com. Erlander Home, 404 S. 3rd St., Rockford, (815) 963-5559, swedishhistorical.org. Ethnic Heritage Museum, 1129 S. Main St., Rockford, (815) 962-7402, ethnicheritagemuseum.org.
Dec. 16, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Celebrate Ullr, the Nordic god of snow and winter, with festivities including a best skiing and riding contest, Viking costume contest, bonfire, beer tent and a toy drive. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, grandgeneva.com.
Christmas Lights Trolley Tour
Dec. 16-23, 6-8 p.m. Hop aboard an enclosed trolley to enjoy light displays in the LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby and Utica area. Res. req. at (815) 220-7386. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Dec. 26-30, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Merge hands-on arts and crafts with science, math and engineering; invent ornaments and toys, solve puzzles, discover hidden shapes, more. Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Winter Day Camp
Dec. 27-29, see website for info. Play and explore, look for animal tracks, study snowflakes, do cold-weather science experiments or make snow cream. Severson Dells Nature Center, 8502 Montague Road, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 335-2915, seversondells.com.
Dec. 30, 2 p.m. Incredible athleticism and non-stop amazing moves continue to entertain families around the globe. BMO Harris Bank Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford, (815) 968-5222, thebmoharrisbankcenter.com.
“The Great Gatsby” New Year’s Eve
Dec. 31, 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Dress in 1920s style and ring in the new year with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the Historic Drill Hall. Live music by the The Gatsby Gang Jazz Band, performing vintage favorites and today’s hits. The Armory, Janesville, (608) 741-7400, janesvillearmory.com.
Old Year’s Night Celebration
Dec. 31, 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Usher out the old year with Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen, snacks, a glass of champagne, party favors and a midnight balloon drop. Grand Hall, Turner Hall of Monroe, 1217 17th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-3461, turnerhallofmonroe.org.
Mornings at the Hoard Museum
Jan. 5, 8:30-10 a.m. The museum opens early to allow younger kids to experience it at their own pace. Held the first Monday of the month through May, this program includes special activities for Pre-K children. Hoard Historical Museum, 401 Whitewater Ave., Fort Atkinson, Wis., (920) 563-7769, hoardmuseum.org.
Jan. 5, Feb. 2. Enjoy art, music, food and shopping in downtown Rockford when galleries, shops, music and theater venues stay open late. Visit website for complete schedule. Downtown Rockford, (779) 537-5319, firstfridaysrockford.com.
Winter Farmers Market
Jan. 6, Feb. 3, & March 3, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Stock up on local produce, eggs, honey, cheese, baked goods and artisans’ works. St. John’s Lutheran Church, 302 N. Parker Dr., Janesville, (608) 289-9292, janesvillefarmersmarket.com.
Mid-Winter Antique Show & Sale
Jan. 6-7, Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thirty-six vendors offer antique, vintage and decor items in all areas of collecting and in all price ranges. Items include mid-century and retro, toys, fine linens and quilts, pottery and glass, coins, prints and sports collectibles. Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Dr., Janesville, (608) 385-3598, pontiaccc.com.
Sled Dog Demos
Jan. 14 & Feb. 18, 9:30 a.m., noon, & 3 p.m. Free Spirit Siberian Rescue demonstrates dog sledding. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Illinois Snow Sculpting Contest
Jan. 17-20, sunrise until 10:30 p.m. As many as 70,000 visitors view these massive works of snow art each year. Teams from around the state compete for the right to represent Illinois in the 2018 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition. Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8800, ilsnowsculpting.com.
Jan. 19-21, see website for details. This three-day festival features sleigh rides, music, snow golf, ice skating, ice sculpting, euchre and volleyball tournaments, more. Various locations in Beloit, (608) 364-2890, beloitrecreation.com.
Winter Mega Hike
Jan. 20 & 21, 8:30 & 9:30 a.m. Gear up for a guided 13.4-mile trek to see all 18 canyons, frozen waterfalls and 6 overlooks with possible bald eagle sightings. Additional traction footwear is mandatory, as terrain is extremely icy. Lunch and a shirt included. Res. req. Starved Rock Lodge, Utica, Ill., (815) 220-7386, starvedrocklodge.com.
Star Wars Sunday
Jan. 21, 1-4 p.m. The Force will be with you as you navigate an X-wing through an asteroid field, re-compile a droid, create your own lightsaber, practice Jedi skills and evade stormtroopers. Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
The Abominable Snow Race
Jan. 27, all day. Follow a 4-6 mile course that includes 20 or more obstacles at the Mountain Top ski hill. Kids 4-11 can take on the “lil-yeti” course with scaled-down obstacles. After the race, head into the lodge for fun, food and music. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, (800) 558-3417, abominablesnowrace.com.
Lake Geneva Winterfest
Jan. 27-Feb. 4. During this two-week festival, watch 15 teams of sculptors and artists compete in the national snow sculpting competition; enjoy live music, food, a human dog sled race, special performances and many more activities. Lake Geneva, visitlakegeneva.com/winterfest.
Cross-Country Ski Weekend
Feb. 3-4, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Meet at the Matthiessen State Park Dells Area for basic instruction and some fun in the snow. Take a guided hike through the park if there isn’t snow. Matthiessen State Park, 2500 Ill. Rt. 178, Oglesby, Ill., (800) 868-7625, starvedrocklodge.com.
Wine & Chocolate Obsession
Feb. 9-11, Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. to 4 p.m. Visit a small family winery housed in an 1850 building, and enjoy guided wine and chocolate pairings. Res. req. Northleaf Winery, 232 S. Janesville St., Milton, Wis., (608) 580-0575, northleafwinery.com.
Mardi Gras Celebration
Feb. 10, 2-4 p.m. Enjoy food, music and fun as you learn how this tradition is celebrated in France, Canada and the United States. Hedberg Public Library, 316 S. Main St., Janesville, (608) 758-6600, hedbergpubliclibrary.org.
Chocolate Sundae Sunday
Feb. 11, 2-4 p.m. Make a sundae and listen to Auburn’s Jazz Band; then create a Valentine card or craft. Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, (815) 963-6769, discoverycentermuseum.org.
Boat, Vacation & Fishing Show
Feb. 16-18, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Meet nationally known anglers at seminars, see the newest lures in action in a 3,500-gallon aquarium filled with fish, fish in the trout pond; kids can practice casting techniques and compete in minnow racing. Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 987-8890, mercyhealthsportscore.com.
Sky Circus on Ice
Feb. 16-18, see website for details. This three-day event promises family fun with a blizzard run snow slide, expert ice and snow sculptors, hands-on snow carving and kite making workshops, kite flying lessons, and gigantic kite displays over Delavan Lake. Connor Doran from “America’s Got Talent” provides evening entertainment. Lake Lawn Resort, 2400 E. Geneva St., Delavan, Wis., (262) 728-7950, lakelawnresort.com.
Feb. 23-25, Fri. 3-8 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. See what’s new in the home and garden market, talk with experts, attend clinics on home and lawn care; entertainment for kids and adults. Mercyhealth Indoor Sports Center, 8800 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., (815) 987-8890, mercyhealthsportscore.com.