We know that Halloween is barely a memory, but it’s time to start thinking turkey, tree trimmings, even Santa! We’ve got the lowdown on all the family-friendly Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday events in and around Champaign-Urbana. We will list these chronologically by start date. Have we missed any events? Let us know – and check back often to see what we’ve added. We are just getting started – this article focuses on November events; we will roll out December in good time.
Enjoy the season!
Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch: Reindeer tours, Christmas trees, and more. Open daily through Dec. 29 (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
Santa’s Secret Star Film: Learn about the day and night sky and how the stars seem to make pictures in the sky in our holiday show for young stargazers. Head to the Staerkel Planetarium to learn how YOU, too, can find Santa’s secret star! Every Saturday night from Nov. 5 through Dec. 17, at 7 p.m.
Santa Arrives at Marketplace Mall: Santa comes to Champaign-Urbana starting on Nov. 19 and will be in town through Dec. 24. Free Hugs, Free Smiles, Free Wishes and of course Free HO HO HOs! Santa has made his way from the North Pole and is ready to greet children of all ages. Holiday photo packages are also available.
Wednesday, Nov. 23
Thanksgiving Toddler Story Time: It’s time to talk turkey at the Urbana Free Library Thanksgiving story time from 10:30-11 a.m. In addition to fun stories and songs, there will be a special craft to take home.
Thursday, Nov. 24
Turkey Trot: Free for all ages – pets welcome too! Join your neighbors, family and friends for Urbana’s longest running special event–a free one-mile fun run/walk through Crystal Lake Park. Please park in the paved parking lot off Broadway Ave. Registration starts at 8am and the run/walk begins at 9.
40th Annual Urbana High School Thanksgiving Dinner: Every year the Urbana High School Student Senate hosts a dinner with all the trimmings for those who are in need of a warm, comfortable environment to spend their Thanksgiving. FREE! All are welcome. They will even provide rides. Call 384-3505 or contact Ms. Alvarez-Cortes (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info.
Friday, Nov. 25
Turkey Skate: Head to the UI Ice Arena, 406 E. Armory, Champaign, and work off some of that pumpkin pie. An annual tradition. UI Student or Campus Rec Member (with valid i-card): Free; Children (under 3): Free; Youth (4-12): $4; Adult (13 & older): $5; Skate Rental: UI Student or Campus Rec Member: $1; Public $2
Annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony and Storytime at the Firehouse: Head to downtown Paxton for a tree-lighting ceremony at 7 p.m.; children will be able to meet some of the whimsical characters that will be in the parade the following day. At Story Time, which begins at 7:45 p.m. at the firehouse, Christmas stories will be read to the kids attending. Hot cocoa and cookies will be served.
Saturday, Nov. 26
Shop Local Saturday: Head to Champaign for a day long shopping and celebrating event called “Shop Local Saturday” — Downtown, Midtown and Campustown. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. merchants will have special deals. Drop off the kids for holiday-themed fun so you can shop; head over to Class Act from 1 to 5 p.m. ($10 fee per child). Also, free photo opportunity with Santa from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Sponsored by the Champaign Center Partnership.
Holiday Market in Lincoln Square: Every Saturday starting Nov. 12 until Dec. 17, 8am – 1 p.m. Come out to enjoy the festivities, music, Santa and gift wrapping. The market will feature merchants from Champaign-Urbana, and the surrounding area, selling products made or grown in Illinois, including fresh produce, baked goods, and tons of arts and crafts.
Nostalgic Santa Day: At the Dewitt County Museum in Clinton. Story Time with Mrs. Claus 12:30 p.m.; Santa arrives by Sleigh at 1:00 p.m.; Sleigh Rides 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. Visit Santa’s House at the C.H. Moore Homestead Nov. 26, 2011 and delight in the joy of the holiday. Professional photography is optional. Hours will be 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; live nativity will be ongoing as well.
Paxton Christmas Parade and Santa Appearance: Head over to downtown Paxton at 1:30 p.m. for an old-fashioned holiday parade, featuring whimsical characters, school bands, color guards, firetrucks, floats, Shriners clowns, area dignitaries, old cars, tractors and, of course, Santa himself. The theme for the parade is a “Snow White Christmas” Children may visit with Santa immediately following the parade in downtown Paxton as he strolls through the downtown business district.
Gibson City Holiday Parade and Tree-Lighting Ceremony: The downtown events start with the tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. at the giant live Christmas tree that will be placed in the center of Sangamon Avenue. At 6:30 p.m., the parade starts on South Wood Street near County Market, making its way along First Street to Sangamon Avenue, where it turns north and moves down Tenth Street. Following the parade, Santa will visit with children near Insurance Providers Group.
Parade of Lights:
An annual tradition in downtown Champaign. Features an appearance by Santa himself at the end. The theme this year is Jingle Bell Rock. Starts at 6 p.m.; 7
PM – Tree Lighting in One Main Plaza. Sponsored by the Champaign Center Partnership.
Snow Globe at the Orpheum Children’s Museum in Champaign: After the Parade of Lights, spend an enchanted time in a winter wonderland featuring indoor sledding, snowman making, snow ball throwing, and ice fishing. After a couple of runs down the sledding hill, enjoy hot chocolate, treats, and crafts throughout the Museum. $5 admission.
Santa’s Secret Star Film: What? Santa has lost his compass and can’t find his way home? Sounds like a disaster in the making! Can the stars help? Learn about the day and night sky and how the stars seem to make pictures in the sky in our holiday show for young stargazers. Head to the Staerkel Planetarium to learn how YOU, too, can find Santa’s secret star! Every Saturday night through Dec. 17 at 7 p.m
Sunday, Nov. 27
Messiah Sing-Along: 4:00 p.m. at St. John the Divine Episcopal Chapel, 1011 S. Wright St., Champaign. BACH continues to offer this unique encounter with Handel’s masterpiece, specifically designed to let the audience become the performer in the choruses of the beloved “Christmas portion”, along with a quartet of wonderful soloists and organ accompaniment. Tickets are $10, available online or at the door.
Monday, Nov. 28
St. Nick’s Pet Pics: Get your pets (dog or cats only) portrait taken with the man in the big red suit. Bring your favorite tail wagger for a portrait with Santa on the following three Monday nights: November 28, December 5, December 12. Starting at 6 p.m. until close at Marketplace Mall, Champaign.
Wednesday, Nov. 30
IUBazaar Annual Winter Craft Sale: Wednesday, November 30 (10-8) and Thursday December 1 (10-5). Show opens at 10 am each day and features vendors from across the midwest. Special After Hours event from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on Wednesday featuring live music, snacks, and giveaways. Sponsored by the Illini Union Board.