Winnetka, Community

Record Roundup: Tree lightings and holiday fun back in force for New Trier communities

All will once again be merry and bright throughout New Trier Township as holiday events are returning after a year of delays, adjustments and cancelations.

Wilmette, Glencoe, Winnetka, Kenilworth and Northfield have all scheduled their tree lightings and plenty more to celebrate the season.

We rounded up the listings of local events to keep you in the holiday spirit. But we surely didn’t catch everything. If you have another event you’d like to add to this list, please email

One of the features at the botanic garden’s Lightscape.

When: 4:30 p.m.-close Nov. 12-Jan. 2
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
Details: Enjoy an after-dark, illuminated trail through the gardens with festive sounds coming from the trees. A new path and features were added for this year. Tickets are $24 for adult members, $26 for nonmembers, and $12/$14 for children over 3 years old. Kids under 3 are free. The garden encourages guests to purchase tickets ahead of time.

Holiday House Decorating Competition
When: Throughout season
Where: Winnetka
Details: Register your house to compete for a plaque and a gift card to a local restaurant. Registration ($10) ends Dec. 9, and voting takes place Dec. 10-17.

Holiday Open House: Sip & Shop
When: 5-8 p.m. Nov. 18
Where: Plaza del Lago, 1515 Sheridan Road, Wilmette; and Village Center, Wilmette and Central avenues, Wilmette
Details: Businesses in two Wilmette shopping districts will have festive specials and amenities. Click here for a list of participants.

Reindeer Visit and Happy Hours
When: 4-6 p.m. Nov. 18-Dec. 19 and Nov. 19 and Dec. 10
Where: Chalet Nursery, 3132 Lake Ave., Wilmette
Details: Visit with Comet and Cupid for two special dates featuring holiday music, hot coco, wine, beer and holiday cookies. Signup is free. You can say hello to the reindeer during regular visits to the Chalet through the season.

Santa’s Mailbox Wilmette
When: Nov. 19-Dec. 3
Where: Mallinckrodt Park Gazebo, 1041 Ridge Road, Wilmette
Details: Children are urged to bring their letter to Santa to the special mailbox that delivers straight to the North Pole. Include a return envelope so Santa can write back.

Snoopy Thanksgiving
When: 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Nov. 20
Where: Takiff Center,
Details: The holiday movie will play on the big screen, and guests can enjoy a re-creation of Snoopy’s meal: popcorn, toast, pretzels and jelly beans. Children must be accompanied by a guardian and registration is $10/$12.

Game of Gnomes
When: Starts Nov. 22
Where: Downtown Wilmette and Plaza del Lago
Details: Set out in the community to find 12 gnomes hidden in holiday storefronts in the two Wilmette business districts. Write their names down and drop off your game card (available here on Nov. 22) at Wild Child Toy Shop, 1114, Central Ave.

Santa’s Mailbox Winnetka
When: Nov. 24-Dec. 19
Where: Winnetka Park District, 540 Hibbard Road
Details: This magical mailbox will make sure your letter gets to Santa Claus, but make sure you include a return envelope for a message from the big man.

Turkey Day Skate
When: 10:30 a.m-2 p.m. Nov. 25
Where: Winnetka Ice Arena, 490 Hibbard Road
Details: Enjoy a morning skate before the big dinner. Fee is $2 per skater, and skates are $4 to rent.

Light the Lights
When: 5-7 p.m. Nov. 26
Where: Downtown Glencoe, Park and Vernon avenues
Details: The Glencoe tradition returns and will feature a holiday lighting ceremony at 5:15 p.m. followed by photos with Santa, live reindeer, trackless train rides, shopping specials, caroling and more.

Gingerbread House Workshops
When: Throughout December
Where: Community Recreation Center, 3000 Glenview Road, Wilmette
Details: Build a gingerbread house using materials from the Wilmette Park District. Registration fee is $50 per house for residents and $63 for nonresidents.

Find Buddy the Elf
When: December
Where: Throughout Winnetka
Details: Buddy will be hiding in a different park district location each week, and a new clue to Buddy’s location will be posted on the district’s Facebook page at noon. Buddy will then pack up and find a new park the following week. Snap a photo of Buddy and send them to the park district via Facebook for your chance to win a $10 gift card to a local business.

Northfield Tree Lighting
When: 5:30-7 p.m. Dec. 1
Where: Clarkson Park, 1950 New Willow Road, Northfield
Details: Santa will be on hand to witness the tree lighting, as well as enjoy music, food and family activities.

Winnetka Tree Lighting
When: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Dec. 3
Where: Dwyer Park, 856 Elm St., Winnetka
Details: Join the community for a tradition with carols, treats and lighting of the tree at 6 p.m.

‘The Nutcracker’
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 3, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 4, 2 p.m. Dec. 5
Where: Community Recreation Center, 3000 Glenview Road, Wilmette
Details: From the Wilmette Center for the Arts, the classic holiday play hits the Wilmette stage for four shows. Tickets are $11 and available Nov. 16.

Fireside Photos with Santa
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Crow Island Woods Park, 1140 Willow Road, Winnetka
Details: Santa Claus will swing by Winnetka, where families can enjoy a socially distant photo and holiday greeting. Masks must be worn at the event but may be removed during the photo. Registration is required and is $20/$25

Holiday Happenings and Wilmette Tree Lighting
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Downtown Wilmette, Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave.
Details: A day of festivities ends with a tree lighting. Local businesses will host promotions and refreshments throughout the day. Take photos with Santa (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) or near a giant snow globe at Village Hall. At 3 p.m., the Wilmette Theatre will screen “Elf” and those with a local-business receipt receive a free ticket. New Trier High School carolers will perform at 4 p.m. leading up to the tree lighting at 5 p.m.

Holiday Market and Kenilworth Tree and Menorah Lighting
When: 4-8:30 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Kenilworth Assembly Hall, 410 Kenilworth Ave.
Details: Enjoy a unique shopping experience, cash bar, snacks, kids crafts, live music and more leading up to the annual tree lighting at the town fountain. A large 6-foot menorah will also be a part of the ceremony for the first time.

Rabbi Moshe Teldon lights the menorah during a 2020 ceremony.

Menorah Lighting Wilmette
When: noon Dec. 5
Where: Village Hall, 1200 Wilmette Ave.
Details: Wilmette will host a community gathering where chocolate gelt and dreidel pop-its will fall from the sky with the Great Gelt Drop, the Wilmette Junior High choir will perform and a 9-foot menorah will be lit.

Holiday Charcuterie Board Workshop
When: 7-8:30 p.m. Dec. 8
Where: Wilmette Public Library
Details: A virtual workshop led by Kristyn Slick of Mealtime Memories to learn how to create a festive charcuterie board.

Adult Gingerbread House Workshop
When: 6:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9
Where: Lakeview Center, 800 Gillson Park Drive, Wilmette
Details: In this grownup version of the Wilmette Park District program, participants can build a gingerbread house amid festive music. They can also bring their own beverages and snacks. Registration is $50 or residents and $63 for nonresidents.

Winnetka Winter Express
When: 5-7 p.m. Dec. 10
Where: Winnetka Golf Club, 1300 Oak St.
Details: Watch the “Polar Express” from your car starting at 5 p.m. Each child will receive hot chocolate, a cookie, popcorn and a letter they can write to Santa. The fee is $50 per car and cars are asked to arrive an hour early.

Ugly Holiday Sweater Skate
When: 1:40-2:55 p.m. Dec. 11
Where: Winnetka Ice Arena, 490 Hibbard Road
Details: Enjoy a festive skate with a $2 admission fee and $4 skate rental.

Holiday Skating Exhibition (Winnetka)
When: 3:05-4:04 p.m. Dec. 11
Where: Winnetka Ice Arena, 490 Hibbard Road
Details: The annual exhibition features all age groups for the park district skating program.

Holiday Skating Exhibition
When: 1-2:30 p.m. Dec. 12
Where: Centennial Ice Rink, 2300 Old Glenview Road, Wilmette
Details: The annual skating show is a local tradition in Wilmette. It is free to attend.

Gingerbread House Decorating Party
When: 3-5 p.m. Dec. 12
Where: Kenilworth Park District
Details: Purchase a kit and build your own gingerbread house. For more information, visit the park district’s website.

Gingerbread House Building
When: 5-6 p.m. Dec. 15
Where: Winnetka Park District, 540 Hibbard Road
Details: Children (age 4-10; 3 and under with adult) can design a one-of-a-kind gingerbread house, and parents are encouraged to enjoy the experience as well. Space is limited. Registration is $30/$35

Visit With Santa
When: Noon-3 p.m. Dec. 18
Where: Watts Ice Center,
Details: Santa Claus will be on hand to take photos with guests, who can also enjoy holiday treats and activities. Sessions occur every 10 minutes and registration is required for $10/$12.

Skate With the Grinch: Family Skate Night
When: 5-6:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. Dec. 17
Where: Watts Ice Center
Details: Throw on an ugly sweater and join the Grinch for a skate. The event is free and limited to Watts season pass-holders.

Virtual Story Time Series
When: 6-7 p.m. on Dec. 20-23
Where: Online
Details: Enjoy a classic holiday tale told by a classic holiday voice. Dec. 20 and 23: Santa; Dec. 21: Grinch; Dec. 22: Conductor from Polar Express. Registration is required and is $25.

Holiday Sing
When: 6-6:30 p.m. Dec. 24
Where: Village Green, 553 Maple Ave., Winnetka
Details: Winnetka neighbors will gather on the village green for the 25th annual event. Guests are welcome to bring candles or flashlights and sing holiday favorites.

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This article was developed using publicly available information, such as press releases, municipal records and social media posts.

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