January-February Events at The Morton Arboretum

People crouch toward the floor to look at a giant model railroad
The Enchanted Railroad returns to the Arboretum in January.
November 8, 2017

In the new year, find a slate of special events, classes and offerings for all ages as we celebrate a season of snow-covered branches and serenity at The Morton Arboretum.

In January, the 10 miniature trains of our Enchanted Railroad will pull back into the Arboretum. Also in January, we welcome back our Husky Heroes. Visit with trained sled dogs and watch them in action. February brings our Chocolate Weekend, with specialty chocolate vendors and the chance to buy artisanal treats and learn about chocolate’s connection to trees. This season also welcomes dining favorites like the Whiskey Dinner, which includes whiskey-inspired courses and pairings, and our romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner.

Visitors can enjoy the tranquility of this season at the Arboretum with forest therapy walks, evening hikes that explore nature when night falls, and by traveling our extensive grounds on cross-country skis and snowshoes, available for rent on-site.

A complete list of January and February events is below. For more information, visit mortonarb.org/events

January-February Highlights

Enchanted Railroad
Saturday, January 14 through Monday, February 19
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Included in Arboretum admission
The popular Enchanted Railroad pulls into The Morton Arboretum this January.  Children and families can experience trees and trains as they enjoy our intricate model railroad.  Watch as more than 10 model trains wind through a two-level display of tree collections from around the world.

Husky Heroes
Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, January 28, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free with Arboretum admission
See Siberian husky sled pulling, skijoring, and speed demonstrations. Visit with the dogs and sled team, inspect the equipment, and have your photo taken with the rig during this yearly event.  Attendees are asked to please leave pets at home.

Dog Admission Day
Saturday, February 3, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Included in Arboretum admission, $5 per dog
Hit the Arboretum trails with your furry friend. Fee includes a stylish Arboretum bandana for your pup.

Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Rentals
Daily in January and February, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Visit mortonarb.org for pricing information
This winter embrace the snowy season and trek through the 1,700 acres of The Morton Arboretum’s winter wonderland. Seasonal rentals of cross-country skis and snowshoes are available at the Visitor Center. Visitors can also bring their own equipment. The opportunity to cross-country ski or snowshoe is available when there is more than four inches of snow on the ground.

Dining Events

Whiskey Dinner
Friday, January 12 or Saturday, January 13, 6 p.m.
Warm up this winter with whiskey in our beautiful Ginkgo Restaurant. Enjoy a delicious whiskey-inspired dinner paired with whiskey tastings. All guests receive a souvenir tasting glass.

Chocolate Weekend
Saturday, February 10 and Sunday, February 11, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Included in  Arboretum admission
Celebrate chocolate and its connection to the natural world at this annual event. Visit, taste, and buy specialty chocolates and treats from a variety of vendors.

Valentine’s Dinner
Sunday, February 11 or Wednesday, February 14, 6 p.m.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend with a delectable dinner overlooking the Arboretum’s Meadow Lake.

The Arboretum Store

Semi-Annual Clearance Sale
Daily, through January 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Shoppers can get great deals on holiday merchandise, home décor, clothing, books, jewelry, and more. Shop early for the best selection of merchandise at discounts of up to 60 percent. Members receive a 10 percent discount on top of sale prices. Membership card is required for member discount.

Children’s Garden Programs

Winter Play
Daily in January and February, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Free with Arboretum admission
Join us in the Children's Garden for winter time fun.  We'll set out activities to complement the day such as painting snow or building a fort. This self-guided hands-on activity is available weather-permitting. Please note that Wonder Pond in the Children’s Garden is under construction. The space will re-open in spring with a new walkway and additional seating and shade for children and caregivers.

Gnome Hunt
Daily in January and February, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free with Arboretum admission
The animals may be hibernating, but we still have gnomes.  Children and families are encouraged to find all of the gnomes hiding in the Children’s Garden in this drop-in activity.

Family Programs and Classes

Arbor Reading Adventures
Wednesdays and Fridays in January and February, 11-11:45 a.m.
Join us in the Sterling Morton Library for this popular and interactive story time. We’ll read stories, make a craft and then head out on the grounds for an adventure walk.

Winter Explorers
18-35 months
Tuesdays, January 9 through January 30, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
3-5 years
Thursdays, January 11 through February 1, 9:30-11 a.m.
$78 for 18-35 months class, $83 for 3-5 years class
Join us for this four-week outdoor adventure among the trees.  Kids will connect with nature in this sensory-based winter program.  Each day we will hike, read stories, and make a nature-related craft.  Adults will receive tips to continue exploration at home.   

The Chocolate Tree
18-35 months
Tuesday, February 13, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
3-5 years
Wednesday, February 14 or Thursday, February 15, 9:30-11 a.m.
$22 for 18-35 months class, $25 for 3-5 years class
We’ll take a hike, sing songs, listen to stories and even sample some treats in this sensory-based program all about the trees that give us chocolate.    

Birdhouse Workshop
Saturday, February 24, 10-11:30 a.m. or 2-3:30 p.m.
$13, $7 per birdhouse
Learn about birds and decorate a wooden birdhouse to take home. Discover the perfect place for your bird house and explore some winter birds that live here at the Arboretum on a short walk through the woods

Adult Classes and Programs

Wellness Programs

Forest Therapy Walks
Select Saturdays in January and February, 9:30-11:15 a.m.
$20 per class
Experience the healing and wellness promoting effects of Shinrin-yoku, the practice of bathing the senses in the atmosphere of the forest. Take a mindful walk with a Certified Forest Therapy Guide on a trail at the Morton Arboretum as you awaken your senses and reconnect with nature. The walks will visit different locations at the Arboretum and will include a variety of awareness-raising exercises. The sessions will conclude with tea made from edible plants foraged along the trail. 

Full & New Moon Yoga
Full Moon Yoga: Monday, January 1 or Tuesday, January 30, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
New Moon Yoga: Tuesday, January 16 or February 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Explore your lunar energy while connecting the mind and body in this peaceful yoga class in honor of the full and new moons each month.

Arboretum Yoga
Wednesdays, January 10 through February 7, 6-7 p.m., or Thursdays, January 11 through February 8, 10:30-11:30 a.m.
$18 per class or $80 for a series
Improve your health and well-being with yoga. We will practice poses, breathing and meditation in the tranquil setting of The Morton Arboretum.

NEW! Stretch and Sip
Thursday, January 11 or Friday, February 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
For ultimate relaxation, join us for one hour of peaceful yoga stretches, then enjoy sipping your beverage of choice while looking upon the tranquil setting of the Morton Arboretum.

Winter Hike and Yoga 
Wednesday, February 21, 6-7:30 p.m. or Wednesday, February 28, 10-11:30 a.m.
Feel your best and focus on total body health and well-being with a short hike outdoors, followed by a warming indoor yoga class.

Botanical Art

Rocks, Minerals, and Bones in Colored Pencil
Fridays, January 26 through February 9, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Capture the color, glimmer, and mottling of rocks and minerals using colored pencil. Learn to set up a still life and take reference photos you can work from later. Watch demonstrations of colored pencil technique and then work under the guidance of your instructor.

Jewelry Making: Winter Berries Necklace
Thursdays, February 8 through February 22, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Create a necklace inspired by the beautiful winterberry bush.  Using polymer clay, wire, beads and your own imagination, class participants will work with simple materials to make something unique to wear.

Winter Arrangement: Succulents 
Saturday, February 10, 1-3 p.m.
Tuck a variety of succulents into a clear glass container to create a modern and delightful arrangement that will warm up any home. The Arboretum’s botanical instructors will teach you how to work with succulents and care for your arrangement so it thrives.

Linoleum Block Printing Workshop
Saturdays, February 10 and March 10, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Learn to create your own unique collection of linoleum block prints. We will use specimens collected from the grounds of the Morton Arboretum for inspiration, then create one or two original designs as well as print using several inks and papers to create a mini portfolio. Easy methods will be introduced and no prior art experience is necessary.

Advanced Textures in Graphite and Watercolor
Saturday, February 17, and Sunday, February 18, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Tackle nature’s most prickly textures with this watercolor workshop. From thorns and prickles to wrinkles and puckers, we will explore the extreme textures of the botanical world and practice how to apply watercolor to a graphite drawing and which surface to use.

Winter Foliage in Graphite
Saturday, February 24, or Sunday, February 25, 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.
Warm up by the fire in The Morton Arboretum’s Thornhill Education Center and create a drawing of winter foliage using graphite pencils. Learn basic strokes and how to use shading to add dimension.

Upcycled Wall Art
Sunday, February 25, 2018, 11 a.m.-4  p.m.
Learn how to turn dress pattern paper, old magazine pages, found objects and even some organic objects into a beautiful piece of upcycled mixed media art for your home. Supplies are provided, but feel free to bring your own used paper material, dried leaves or flowers, or other items you’d like to incorporate into your artwork.

Nature Photography

Out of the Box: You and Your New Camera
Saturday, January 27, 9 a.m.-noon
Learn the basics of how to use your new DSLR camera. Learn the basic features and while practicing under the guidance of an instructor. Gain the confidence you need to begin your journey as a nature photographer.

Basic Nature Photography
Saturdays, February 3 through February 24, 8-11 a.m.
Move beyond shooting in automatic; learn how to adjust your camera’s manual settings to get the shot you want. Learn basic composition and editing techniques. Apply your new skills on the grounds of The Arboretum, where there’s no shortage of natural beauty to capture. The course includes classroom instruction, in-field shooting, and a critique session.

Black and White Nature Photography
Thursdays, February 15, 22, and March 1, 6:30-9:30 p.m., and Saturdays, February 17 and 24, 7-10 a.m.
Develop an eye for form, light and patterns to compose dramatic black-and-white nature photographs.  Learn several methods of converting your images to black and white, and get hands-on time with the instructors to apply those methods to your images.  


Bird Walks
Saturdays, January 20 or February 17, 8-10:30 a.m.
Search the woods, fields, and edges of the Arboretum for birds. Walk with an expert guide, who will help you locate and identify species spotted along the way. See how things change each month and season. No prior experience is necessary. 

Field Study: Birds of Winter
Sundays, January 28 through February 25, 8-11:30 a.m.
Learn techniques for accurately identifying Illinois' winter birds, spot species that are in the area this winter, and meet the migratory species that overwinter in our region. In addition to outdoor exploration, some class time will be spent indoors developing field identification skills, discussing, choosing, and using birding equipment, reviewing daily checklists, and learning calls and field identification marks.

NEW! Tales of a Birder: Lessons from Around the Globe
Wednesday, February 21, 7-9 p.m.
In his decades of world travel, birder Denis Kania has cultivated an intimate knowledge of bird species around the world as well an insightful understanding of global conservation efforts and what we can do at home. Kania will share tales of his journeys from the Amazon to Africa, searching the world for rare and vanishing species. While on these adventures, he learned how citizens across the globe are fighting threats to habitat to preserve some of the planet’s most unique bird species. He’ll share tales of success and struggles as well as discuss how the choices we make at home can contribute to the global effort to protect endangered birds.

Green Living

Winter Foods to Boost Your Mood
Thursday, January 18, 7-9 p.m.
Ward off winter blues with a diet rich in seasonal, plant-based foods. Learn how healthy eating can boost your mood naturally and improve your health, too. Enjoy demos and tastings of seasonal produce and discover how certain foods support mood.  

Essential Oils for Your Home
Saturday, February 3, 1-3 p.m.
Learn the benefits of essential oils and make your own essential-oil products to take home with you. Find out how to identify ingredients you may want to avoid and swap out some common products, from personal care items, to cleaning, to air fresheners, with greener, at-home versions infused with healthy essential oils. Then get hands on and make two products you can take home and use. The class will also include recipes and giveaways.


Winter Pruning (Blended learning format)
Online component available beginning January 11 or February 1
In-person component: Friday, January 19 or Saturday, February 10, 9-11 a.m.
Practice correct pruning techniques and learn which plants to prune now and more importantly, which to prune later. Known as “dormant” pruning, thoughtful removal of branches in winter is easy and encourages proper spring growth. Complete a short online component at your convenience before the in-person session. In-person class time will be spent in the field with an expert, who will demonstrate what to prune and how to do it. Then put on your gloves, grab some pruners, and try it yourself.

Seed Saving Workshop
Saturday, January 27, 9-11 a.m.
Learn how and why to save your own seeds. Watch demonstrations and get hands-on practice saving seeds from both ornamental and edible plants. Learn how to store seeds for future use and how to test the viability of seeds before planting as well as tips on seed starting. 

Seed Swap 
Saturday, January 27, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Included with Arboretum admission
Browse a selection of seeds, and take home a variety to plant this spring. Bring your leftover seed packets or self-saved seeds to share. If you don’t have seeds to offer, come anyway. All are welcome to attend. The Arboretum will provide supplies such as envelopes, labels, and pens. Experts will be on hand to help with your gardening questions.

Brighten Your Winter Landscape
Thursdays, February 1 and 8, 6:30-9 p.m.
Brighten your winter landscape with plants and combinations that add color and texture. In this two-day workshop, learn design practices and stellar plants to create a garden that is warm and inviting even on the coldest days. Work with an experienced landscape designer to create a custom plan for your space.

Design a Memorable Front Garden 
Friday, February 9, 9 a.m.-noon
Design a stunning front garden that integrates seamlessly with your house and neighborhood. Work with an experienced landscape designer to create a custom drawing for your new front garden, and go home with the information you need to successfully transform your landscape.

Seed-Starting for the Edible Garden
Saturday, February 17, 9-11 a.m. or Thursday, February 22, 7-9 p.m.
Discover techniques for and benefits of growing your vegetables from seed started indoors. Explore lighting, soil types, containers, sowing schedules, and plant selection with an Arboretum gardening expert. Class participants will learn to avoid common pitfalls, improve seed starting success, and take home a tray of seeds ready to germinate.

Lawn-Free Design Workshop
Saturdays, February 24, March 3 and March 10, 9 a.m.-noon
One-day session: $46
Three-day session: $99
Take the leap toward a lawn-free yard. Lawns are labor - and resource-intensive. Learn ways to reduce the amount of lawn in your home landscape and replace it with an attractive, more sustainable design. Whether you’re looking for less mowing and maintenance, reducing chemical use, achieving a more informal look, or enriching habitat for wildlife, a landscape architect will share inspiring examples and a step-by-step guide for you need to know to get started. Participants can sign up for the full workshop for the opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional landscape architect and go home with a custom design, cost estimate and a project plan. Or opt to attend the informational section on February 24 to learn what it means to lose the lawn and go “green” in a whole new way.

Learn about Nature

Winter Tree ID (Blended learning format)
Online component available beginning January 19 or January 26
In-person: Saturdays, January 27 or February 3, 1-4 p.m.
Learn to identify trees after they shed their leaves for the winter. Develop the skills to identify winter trees on your own using clues found in buds, fruits, leaf scars, bark, and branching patterns. Before your in-person class, get basic skills and terminology with a short, online lesson. Then spend your time at the Arboretum in the field with an expert, learning to identify trees on the grounds. The first session will focus on common trees planted in urban settings, such as streetways and parks.

Winter Wildlife ID and Tracking
Saturday, January 27, 9-11:30 a.m.
Meet the animals that prowl our woods and ponds all winter long. We rarely see them—mink, beaver, coyote, and deer—but they are here. Learn the names and habits of the mammals that call northern Illinois home in the winter and follow them around the Arboretum and learn to read the messages they leave behind: tracks, scat, gnawings, tunnels, and burrows.

Nature at Night Hike
Thursday, February 1, 7-9 p.m.
Discover what happens at the Arboretum at night when no one is around. With the moon shining through the trees and reflecting off the snow, a winter evening reveals a captivating symphony of sounds and mysterious spaces as we hope to spot wildlife darting through the darkness. During our hike we will find out how animals are adapted for the night and enjoy the magic of hiking through the silent woods. The hike will end with a warm fire and s’mores.

Plant Families
Saturday, February 3, 8 a.m.- noon
Improve your plant identification skills by learning characteristics of plant families. With a regional flora of more than 2,500 species, the ability to recognize common plant families on sight is a big step toward plant identification. In this class, you will study flower structure and other diagnostic characters of common plant families of the Midwest. The class will be useful to naturalists, gardeners, stewards, and botanical artists.

Beginning Beekeeping
Thursdays, February 8 through March 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Learn the basics of beekeeping. Curious about honey bees?  Interested in starting your own hive and harvesting your own honey? Already have a hive and want to learn more about managing it? Join our experienced beekeeper and explore the history of beekeeping, bee anatomy, starting up a colony and managing it through the year, equipment basics, honey bee pests and diseases, harvesting honey, and more.

Cocoa in the Conifers
Saturday, February 10 or February 17, 10-noon
Join an Arboretum expert for a cup of hot cocoa and a winter stroll through the conifer collection. Admire the variety of textures and colors and learn interesting facts about the members of this incredibly diverse collection.

The History of Trees
Thursdays, February 15 and February 22, 7-9 p.m.
Discover and delight in the many ways trees have shaped the history of the United States, from industry and economics, to politics and war, to culture and literature. Trees are an indispensable part of America; they were critical components of ships, railroads, rifles, wagons, and planes. Trees were symbols of liberty and resistance. They inspired and continue to inspire literature, art, and American poetry.  Learn about orange groves, the American chestnut tree, and the ginkgo—the Arboretum's symbolic tree.  Enjoy a lively discussion as you see American history through its trees.

Tracking Changes Through the Seasons
Saturday, February 24, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Gain a new appreciation of the Arboretum and further scientific research by learning how to observe and record changes in nature throughout the seasons. The study of seasonal changes—the emergence of flowers, coloring of leaves, calling of frogs, migration of birds, and more—is called phenology.  Tracking these changes helps scientists understand natural phenomena, and will help you gain a greater understanding of the natural world. After completing this course, you will be qualified to join the Arboretum Phenology Observers team to aid in research on our grounds as well share observations at your own home with a national network of fellow observers. This course is great for naturalists, teachers, artists, photographers, and anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the natural rhythm of nature.

Woodland Stewardship Program

The Woodland Stewardship Program is an in-depth training and certification program in natural areas restoration. Classes are easy to fit into a busy lifestyle, and include online, classroom, and field components. The Woodland Stewardship Program is open to anyone involved or interested in the stewardship of our natural heritage, regardless of prior experience.

Woodland Stewardship Program Orientation
Tuesday, January 23, 6:30-8 p.m. 
Class registration for in-person session includes admission to the Arboretum
Join us for a free orientation to the Woodland Stewardship Program in ecological restoration. Get information on how you can volunteer to help make a difference in the woodlands, prairies, and wetlands in your community and at the Arboretum, and how our classes that include learning online and in the field can help you get started.

Chicago Wilderness Burn Crew Training
Saturday, February 24, and Sunday, February 25, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
Chicago Wilderness will offer a winter session of the Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Crew Member Training class. Based on the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s (NWCG) S-130 and S-190 courses, this training covers the basics of such topics as fire behavior, controlled burn techniques, and smoke management. The objective is to provide participants with the background necessary to safely participate on the crew of a controlled burn. This class can be taken as a component of the Woodland Stewardship Program in natural areas management.

Basic Plant ID (Online only)
Registration closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, January 25
Online component begins: January 26
Get the botany basics you need to identify plants. Whether you are a gardener, naturalist, artist, or natural resources specialist or volunteer, this class provides the fundamentals you need to get started. This class is open to all and is not dependent on enrollment in the Woodland Stewardship Program to participate.

Volunteer Leadership (Blended learning format)
Registration closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, February 1
Online component begins: Friday, February 2
In person component: Saturday, February 10, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Strengthen your skills leading volunteers in natural areas management with this interactive primer for volunteer stewardship activity planning, group dynamics, safety, and volunteer empowerment. Learn how to plan and run a productive volunteer workday for activities such as invasive brush removal and seed collection that inspire volunteers to keep coming back. Discover some methods of bringing volunteers together with social media, mailing lists, and in-person meetings. Gain skills to recruit, retain, and empower volunteers to lead others with community organizing fundamentals.

Ecosystem Concepts (Blended learning format)
Registration closes 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, February 8
Online component begins: Friday, February 9
In person component: Sunday, February 18, 1-5 p.m.
Explore the interactions that drive ecosystem function and learn to identify plants, animals, and fungi in relation to ecological habitats. By developing knowledge of ecological food webs and species interdependence you will have a better understanding of how to manage natural areas to support biodiversity. An emphasis on the cyclical nature of the seasons and life history of native species will allow insights for short-term and long-term natural areas management. This class can be taken as a component of the Woodland Stewardship Program in natural areas management.