Recreation opportunities abound in our region! Here are a few of the best our area has to offer.
Grand Geneva Christmas in the Country
Nov. 24-Dec. 30, events daily. Five-week long holiday celebration with two million lights on the slopes; holiday teas; live entertainment; mechanical holiday displays; more. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-8811, grandgeneva.com.
Lighted Holiday Parade
Nov. 29, 5-8 p.m. Tree lighting 6 p.m., parade 6:30 p.m. See Santa light the tree; floats from businesses, civic organizations and families. Starts at West Grand Avenue, ends at Horace White Park-Beloit. Beloit, Wis., (608) 365-0150, visitbeloit.com.
Lighting of Community Christmas Tree
Nov. 29, 6:30 p.m. This Old World tradition is marked with Alpine horns, Kinderchor and more. New Glarus, Wis., swisstown.com.
Nov. 29-30, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Traditional German Christmas market, with select vendors: Swiss artisans in scissor cutting, chip carving, wood carving, Swiss baked goods, Swiss Samichlaus (Swiss Santa Claus). Turner Hall, 1217 17th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-3461, turnerhallofmonroe.org.
Festival of Lights-Lake Geneva
Nov. 29-Dec. 1, dusk. A weekend holiday celebration. Tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment including the arrival of reindeer and Father Christmas. Activities throughout Lake Geneva’s retail shops and restaurants. Downtown Main St., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-4416, lakegenevawis.com.
Christmas Carol Dinner
Nov. 29-Dec. 27, Fri. 5:30 p.m. cocktails, 6 p.m. dinner. A five-course traditional English meal including prime rib, Cornish hens, bread pudding and songs of the season from staff and others. Goldmoor Inn, 9001 N. Sand Road, Galena, Ill., (815) 777-3925, goldmoorinn.com.
Oregon & Conover Square Candlelight Walk
Nov. 30, 4-8 p.m. This year celebrating 27 years with open horse-drawn rides, live reindeer, luminaries, Christmas lights, costumed characters, refreshments, the Holiday Gift Fair, Santa and more. oregonil.com.
Picture Day at Midway Village Museum
Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Four different locations in the Victorian-era Village will be decorated for the holidays to create beautiful photo opportunities for families and groups, with scenic backdrops and props. Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford, (815) 397-9112 ext. 110, midwayvillage.com
Stroll on State
Nov. 30, 4-10 p.m. Tree lighting 6:15 p.m. Begins with a candlelight stroll from Rockford City Hall, across the Rock River, to the PNC Bank Plaza for the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree. Carolers, roaming musicians, food vendors, holiday shopping, Santa & his reindeer, ice skating, more. Free. Downtown Rockford along East State Street, gorockford.com/strollonstate.
Nov. 30, 1-2 p.m. Diane Sipiera of the Planetary Studies Foundation will introduce attendees to Orion the Great Hunter, Taurus the Bull, Canis Major and Gemini the Twins. $3. PSF Earth & Space Science Museum, 115 N. Main St., Elizabeth, Ill., (815) 858-2014.
Christmas Express Train
Nov. 30-Dec. 15, Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Ride decorated heated Pullman cars, with carolers and a visit by Santa, from East Troy to Mukwonago. East Troy Electric Railroad Museum, 2002 Church St., East Troy, Wis., (262) 642-3263, easttroyrr.org.
Holiday Tree Lighting
Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m.; tree lighting 5 p.m. Holiday-themed family outdoor activities pictures with Santa. Special $2 admission for Nicholas Conservatory. Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd St., Rockford, (815) 987-8858, rockfordparkdistrict.org/ncg.
Annual Christmas Tea
Dec. 1, 1-4 p.m. at the Museum. The Oscar Taylor home decorated in Victorian Christmas splendor. Coffee, tea, cookies. Bake sale. Free admission. Stephenson County Historical Museum, 1440 S. Carroll Ave., Freeport, (815) 232-8419, stephcohs.org
Gingerbread House Display
Dec. 2-5, Mon.-Thur. 9 a.m-8 p.m., Fri. 9 a.m-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m-5 p.m. View entries in contest sponsored by Freeport Downtown Development Foundation, vote for People’s Choice, bid on favorites in Silent Auction. Freeport Public Library, 100 E. Douglas St., Freeport. (815) 232-9000, (815) 233-0013.
Dec. 4, 7-9pm Comet ISON should be peaking December of this year. Free. Weiskopf Observatory, Byron Forest Preserve, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Dec. 6, 6 p.m. Lighted holiday parade and arrival of Santa. Downtown Historic Courthouse Square, 1016 16th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 328-4023.
Tree Lighting & Miracle on 2nd Street
Dec. 6, 8:30 p.m. Tree lighting ceremony followed by horse-drawn trolley rides, live nativity, entertainment, refreshments, Santa. Downtown Byron, Ill., (815) 234-5500, byronchamber.org.
Dec. 6, 6 p.m. Lighted Christmas Parade. Downtown Historic Courthouse Square, Monroe, Wis., downtownmonroewisconsin.com.
29th Rockton Christmas Walk Weekend
Dec. 6-8, events daily. Lighting of luminaries surrounding Village Green Park, lighted parade, wandering carolers, elves and snowmen, Candy Cane Craft Show, horse-drawn carriage rides. Downtown Rockton, Ill. Info: Rockton Chamber of Commerce, (815) 624-7625, rocktonchristmaswalk.com.
Fire & Ice Festival
Dec. 6-7, events daily. Holiday parade Friday evening, horse-drawn carriage rides, extended shopping hours, ice sculpting, fire rings for roasting s’mores, marshmallows, hot dogs and warming. Food stands, carolers. Downtown Brodhead, Wis., (608) 897-8411, brodheadchamber.org.
Dec. 6-7, Fri 5-9 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Holiday lights and music, fine arts and crafts for sale, refreshments, trolley rides, visits with Santa. Downtown Beloit, Wis., (608) 365-4838, visitbeloit.com.
25th Annual Dixon Christmas Walk
Dec. 6-7, all day. Carriage rides, Tree Lighting Ceremony, breakfast with Santa Saturday, refreshments, entertainment. Downtown Dixon, Ill., (815) 288-2308, dixonil.com/mainstreet.
Alpine Carol Sing and Tree Lighting
Dec. 6-7, 7 p.m. Help light more than 100 candles on a freshly cut evergreen tree, and enjoy informal carol singing while basking in their glow. Turner Hall, 1217 17th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-3461.
25th Annual Festival of Lights Viewing
Dec. 6-Dec. 31, 5-10 p.m. Fri-Sun only through Dec. 15; nightly Dec. 20-31. Rockford’s annual holiday light display in Sinnissippi Park. Donations accepted. Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. 2nd St., Rockford, rockfordfireandice.com.
Living History and Christmas Celebration
Dec. 7, noon-3 p.m. Costumed interpreters recreate Christmas at the Apple River Settlement, with carols and poems. Visit Downtown Elizabeth for Christmas tree lighting, strolling carolers, holiday treats. Apple River Fort State Historic Site, 311 E. Myrtle St., Elizabeth, Ill., (815) 858-2221, appleriverfort.org.
Mt. Carroll Christmas Walk/House Tour
Dec. 7, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dickens characters stroll about downtown, and old-fashioned dray rides (weather permitting) take you back in time along our brick streets. Fine and casual dining and unique shopping. Downtown Mt. Carroll, Ill., (815) 244-9495, mtcarrollil.org
First Annual Reindeer Run
Dec. 7, registration 8 a.m.; race 9:30 a.m. 5K or two-mile walk/run. $25/$30 day of race. All participants get race t-shirt, goodie bag, refreshments. Runners/spectators encouraged to dress for holidays. Proceeds go toward new equipment for local parks. Sunset Park, 200 Devendorf St., Elkhorn (262) 741-5114, cityofelkhorn.org
32nd Annual Christmas Card Town Parade
Dec. 7, 1:30 p.m. Up to 100 entries of floats and marching bands from Southeast Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, media personalities, unique novelty acts and Santa & Mrs. Claus. Downtown Elkhorn, Wis., (262) 723-5788, elkhornchamber.com.
Milton Annual Christmas Walk
Dec. 7, 3 p.m. Historic homes decorated for the holidays with other activities around town. $6 children/ under 12 free. Various Locations, Milton, Wis., (608) 868-6222, miedc.org.
Outdoor Winter Sports Primer
Dec. 7, 10 a.m. Learn cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking, then head out to the trails. Welty Environmental Center, 8606 County Road H, Beloit, (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.
Great Electric Children’s Christmas Parade
Dec. 7, 5 p.m. Parade; local businesses and organizations light up the streets; holiday shopping, dining specials. Downtown Main St., Lake Geneva, (262) 248-4416, lakegenevawi.com.
Downton Abbey Style Holiday Tea
Dec. 8, 2-4 p.m. An afternoon tea in the tradition of Downton Abbey, with tea, sweets & savories, entertainment, party favor. Victorian attire encouraged. $35/reservations req. Chamberlain Hotel, Midway Village, Rockford, midwayvillage.com.
Galena Twilight Snowshoe Hike
Dec. 13, Jan. 3-Feb. 7, Fri. 4:30-5:30 p.m. Leisurely 1.5 hour snowshoe hike along the Galena River Trail to Buehler wilderness preserve. Reservations req. Fee includes snowshoes. Fever River Outfitters, 525 S. Main St. Galena, (815) 776-9425, feverriveroutfitters.com.
RBG: Holiday Light Show
Dec. 13-29, 4:30-9 p.m. Fri-Sun. Annual attraction of 330,000 lights, 90 specialty displays, animated displays, Santa visits, live reindeer, local musicians, large-scale model train display with more than 200 feet of track, activities, holiday shopping, more. $5/$3 ages 3-15. Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Dr., Janesville, (608) 752-3885, rotarybotanicalgardens.org.
“Hike the Vines”
Dec. 14, 28, noon-2 p.m. Afternoon snowshoe hike through Galena Cellars vineyard, followed by wine tasting. $45 incl. snowshoe rental, wine tasting, shuttle ride to and from the vineyard. BYO snowshoes: $25. Reservations req. Fever River Outfitters, Galena, feverriveroutfitters.com.
Mistletoe Stroll Holiday House Tour
Dec. 14, 3-5 p.m. Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Galena invite you to tour historic inns all lavishly decorated for Christmas. From traditions of the past to current-day decor, each inn is unique. Fran Onak, 900 3rd St., Galena, (815) 777-3323.
Chestnut Twilight Snowshoe Hike
Dec. 14, Jan. 4-Feb. 8, Sat. 4:30-6 p.m. Leisurely 1.5-hour snowshoe hike through the Trails at Chestnut Mountain, bonfire overlooking the Mississippi. Reservations req. Fee incl. snowshoe rental. Fever River Outfitters, Galena, feverriveroutfitters.com.
Night of Luminaria
Dec. 14, 6-9 p.m. From Main Street to the hills overlooking the park, all of Galena will be glowing with more than 5,000 candle-lit luminaries on streets, steps and sidewalks. Extended shop hours. Downtown Galena, galenachamber.com.
Luminaria Progressive Dinner
Dec. 14, 6 p.m. See Galena’s bautiful luminaria while enjoying a three-course dinner, each served at a different fine-dining restaurant. Reservations recommended. Galena, (815) 777-3925.
A Dark Winter’s Night Full Moon Hike
Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. Hike, cross-country ski or snowshoe, depending on trail conditions. Beckman Mill County Park, 8606 S. County Road H, Beloit, Wis., (608) 361-1377, weltycenter.org.
Winter Solstice Cross-Country Skiing
Dec. 19, 6-9 p.m. Ski on the trails just before the longest night of the year. Beginners welcome. Skis provided. Hot cocoa afterwards. $2/$5 per family. Jarrett Center, Byron Forest Preserve, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, Ill., (815) 234-8535, byronforestpreserve.com.
Dec. 28, 7 p.m. For 87 years, this team has entertained with hilarious hijinks and amazing basketball skills. BMO Harris Bank Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford, (815) 968-5222, thebmoharrisbankcenter.com.
Southern Wis. Mid-Winter Antiques Show & Sale
Jan. 4-5, Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fine furniture, jewelry, glassware, primitives, pottery, books, advertising, postcards, cameras, stoneware, more. Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Dr., Janesville, Wis., (608) 531-0284, pontiaccc.com.
Bald Eagle Bus Tour
Jan. 11, Feb. 8 & 27, 8 a.m. A four-hour bus tour of five bald eagle wintering communities. View bald eagles feeding, roosting and/or nesting. $70/$50 age 17 & under. Reservations req. (815) 594-2306, eaglenature.com. Departs from Stoney Creek Inn, 940 Galena Square Dr., Galena.
28th Annual Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 15-18, daily to 11 p.m. Up to 30 teams from around the state shape 5-ton blocks of snow into works of art; winners compete in the U.S. National contest. Sinnissippi Park, Rockford, (815) 987-1636.
Backwoods and Homestead Cooking
Jan. 25, 1-4 p.m. Learn to make Flat Apple Pie, homemade noodles and a simple rustic loaf of Irish Soda Bread. Ingredients provided. $35/$40 with apron. Big Hill Park Cabin, Afton & Big Hill roads, Beloit, Wis., weltycenter.org.
Luminary Night Hike
Jan. 25, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Luminary-lit trails, hot cocoa, bonfire, views of the Mississippi River. Includes visit to Native American thunderbird effigy mound. Showshoes/skis available for rental through Fever River Outfitters, Galena, Ill. Event at Casper Bluff Land and Water Reserve, 870 S. Pilot Knob Road, Galena. Info/registration: [email protected], (815) 858-9100.
Candlelight Snowshoe Hike & Cross-Country Ski
Jan. 25, 4:30-8:30 p.m. Hike or ski through the luminary-lit trails overlooking the Mississippi. It’s fun for all ages and abilities. Hike will take place with or without snow. Enjoy marshmallow roasting, and sipping cocoa around a bonfire. Fee is a minimum Rental snowshoes and skis available. Fever River Outfitters 525 S. Main St. Galena, IL 61036 815-776-9425, feverriveroutfitters.com.
Bald Eagle Days
Jan. 25-26, 8 a.m.-noon, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. View eagles using powerful scopes along the Mississippi River outdoors in the morning; attend educational programs all day at Cassville High School. Riverside Park Observatory, 100 W. Amelia St., Cassville, Wis. (608) 725-5855, cassville.org.
Winterfest & U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition
Jan. 29-Feb. 2, daily. In its 19th year, this competition brings together the nation’s best snow artists. Also music, magic, refreshments. Riviera Park, Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-4416, usnationals.org.
Bald Eagle Days
Jan. 28-29, eagle spotting 8 a.m.-noon, educational programs 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Assisted by volunteers, view eagles with powerful scopes along the Mississippi River outdoors in the morning; attend educational programs all day at Cassville High School. Riverside Park Observatory, 100 W. Amelia St., Cassville, Wis. (608) 725-5855, cassville.org.
Jan. 31-Feb. 1, Fri. 7:30 p.m., Sat 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. These giant four-wheelers, which can be 12 feet tall and weigh 10,000 pounds, race and rip up a custom-designed track filled with obstacles. Fun for the entire family. $5 kids 2-12/$36 adult. BMO Harris Bank Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford, Ill. Box Office: (815) 968-5222, thebmoharrisbankcenter.com.
Feb. 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Skiing, snowboarding and fun snow activities, including ski school, ski patrol demonstrations, snowboarding/downhill ski competitions, children’s games. Fireworks display begins at 8 p.m. The Mountain Top at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, Wis. (800) 558-3417, grandgeneva.com.
Eagle Tours at Lost Mound
Feb. 8, 15, 22, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Get up-close and personal with these majestic birds during a narrated two-hour tour. Reservations req. Space fills quickly. Begins at Lost Mound Fish and Wildlife Refuge, 3159 Crim Dr., Hanover, Ill., (815) 273-2732.
Primitive Jar Fixin’s
Feb. 15, 1-4 p.m. Part of the rustic art series, includes lessons on making a lemon balm tincture and decorating a canning jar for home decor. $35. Big Hill Park Cabin, Afton & Big Hill roads, Beloit, Wis., weltycenter.org.
Mardi Gras in Galena
Feb. 28-March 1. Ring in Fat Tuesday with snow and ice sculpting, downtown parade, pub crawl, live music and beads – lots and lots of beads. Downtown Galena, Ill. Info: (888) 942-5362, [email protected].
Eagle Tours at Lost Mound
March 1, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Get up-close and personal with these majestic birds during a narrated two-hour tour. Reservations req. Space fills quickly. Begins at Lost Mound Fish and Wildlife Refuge, 3159 Crim Dr., Hanover, Ill., (815) 273-2732.
Buttons, Beads & Bangles
March 22, 1-4 p.m. Part of the rustic arts series, includes lessons on creating retro-style jewelry using feathers, repurposed jewelry, zippers, beads and buttons. $35 incl. materials. Big Hill Park Cabin, Afton & Big Hill roads, Beloit, Wis., weltycenter.org.