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December Events, Programs and Classes at The Morton Arboretum

Lighted orbs adorn the hillside
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum takes place throughout December.
October 21, 2019

This December at The Morton Arboretum will include festive events, classes and fun family programs for all ages. All of December, visitors will once again be awed by the interactive lighting and sensory experience of  Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum. The color-filled exhibition will include family favorite features such as Symphony Woods as well as new experiences. 

During this time of year, the Arboretum offers fun ways to connect and enjoy the season with activities such as the daily Gnome Hunt in the Children’s Garden and the Winter Solstice Family Hike as well as themed classes such as Cocoa in the Conifers. And there is no shortage of holiday offerings in December including Breakfast with Santa, Supper with St. Nick, and the Gingerbread House Workshop.

A complete list of December events is below. For more information, visit mortonarb.org/events. All prices listed are for the general public.  Information is accurate as of the date of this release. Please check the Arboretum’s website prior to publication as times and dates may change.

December Highlights

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
Saturday, November 23, 2019 through Sunday, January 5, 2020
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum features a one-mile paved path amid immersive lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter. Visitors can enjoy seasonal music, marvel at ever-changing, interactive lighting designs, and warm up by a crackling fire with a cozy drink or roast marshmallows for s’mores. Illumination will highlight the many gifts of trees: natural beauty, increased feelings of peace and calm, homes for wildlife, and the air we breathe. This year’s event will debut a new route with a more spacious pathway as well as new experiences such as Tree Fascination, which mixes art and science to showcase the color and pattern of trees with video projection. Illumination is generously supported by Invesco QQQ and ComEd.

Breakfast with Santa
December 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, and 23
9 to 11 a.m.
$43 for adults, $36 for children 3-12
Enjoy a special breakfast buffet in The Morton Arboretum's scenic Ginkgo Restaurant and a visit from Santa! Children can interact with Santa and his helpers and leave with some sweet treats to take home. Children under the age of 3 are free.

Holiday Favorites

Wonderful Winter Containers
Thursday, December 5, 7 to 9 p.m. or Saturday, December 7, 1 to 3 p.m.
Celebrate the winter season with a wonderful winter container filled with seasonal branches, berries, and colorful twigs. Learn the principles of container design in this hands-on workshop. Your instructor will demonstrate the principles of container design and correct potting strategies.

Holiday Swags
Saturday, December 7, 10 a.m. to noon
Just in time for the holiday season, find out how to incorporate evergreen branches and boughs into elegant holiday swags. Discover the methods used to create swags, and learn insider tips and tricks for a professional-looking finish.

Gingerbread House Workshop
Saturday, December 14 or Sunday December 15,  10 to 11:30 a.m. or 2 to 3:30 p.m. 
$7 per gingerbread home
Hike in nature and hear stories about how gingerbread people relate to woodland animals. Explore gingerbread spices then decorate a keepsake, light-up, chipboard gingerbread house with natural materials to take home. This unique, crafty experience is fun for a pair or the whole family.

Holiday Table Arrangement
Thursday, December 19, 7 to 9 p.m.
Create a festive, long-lasting botanical arrangement to display in your home during the holidays, using a wintery mix of greenery and flowers. Learn design concepts and skills you can apply to any arrangement, and take home a seasonal arrangement that will brighten your table.

Supper with St. Nick
December 20, 21, 22 and 23
$95 for adults, $80 for those 12-20, $65 for those 3 to 12
Make this holiday season special in the historic Thornhill Mansion for an elegant family supper. Enjoy a decadent buffet dinner and then head over to the Founders Room for a special visit with Santa in front of the fireplace.  After your dinner, enjoy the Illumination exhibit, included in the ticket price.

The Arboretum Store

Winter Clearance Sale
Monday, December 30 through Sunday, January 26, 2020, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or while supplies last
Discounts of 30 to 60 percent will be taken on select holiday merchandise, including home decor, jewelry, books, desktop, apparel, and more. Arboretum members receive a 10 percent discount on top of sale pricing when they present their member card at checkout.

Children’s Garden Programs

Winter Play
Daily in December, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Included in Arboretum admission
This self-guided hands-on discovery activity may include painting snow or building a fort. Whatever it may be, visitors will find all the tools needed to have some frosty fun. Winter Play is offered weather permitting. 

Gnome Hunt
Daily in December, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Included with Arboretum admission
The animals may be hibernating, but gnomes can be discovered throughout our garden. Can you find all of the hidden gnomes in the Children's Garden? 

Arbor Reading Adventures
Wednesdays and Fridays in December, 11 to 11:45 a.m.
This interactive story time held in the Sterling Morton Library will include a craft before heading out to the grounds for an adventure walk. This program is best suited for children ages 3 to 5 with an adult.

Youth and Family Programs

Winter Solstice Family Hike
Saturday, December 21, 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Celebrate the shortest day of the year and the return of the sun as you explore the wintry scene along the trails on this fun-filled, guided family hike. End your adventure with a cozy fire and marshmallow roasting.

Adult Classes and Programs


Bird Walks
Saturday, December 21, 8 to 10:30 a.m.
Search the woods, fields and edges of the Arboretum for birds. Walk with an expert guide who will help locate and identify species spotted along the way. See how things change each month and season.

Learn about Nature

Cocoa in the Conifers
Saturday, December 7, or Saturday, December 14, 1 to 3 p.m.
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 of evergreen trees, from the frequently seen to the rare and endangered. Learn how to tell the difference between pines, spruces, and firs. Look at cones up close and enjoy interesting facts about the members of this incredibly diverse collection. Learn which conifers are used for Christmas trees and a bit about how they are grown.

Sterling Stories from The Arboretum Stacks
Saturday, December 7, 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Uncover hidden treasures and learn secrets found in the stacks in this special program at the Sterling Morton Library. Sip a warm beverage as author Cindy Crosby and library collections manager Rita Hassert trade off stories of the rich collection hidden in the library's archives.

Full Moon Troll Hike
Wednesday, December 11 or Thursday, December 12, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
This adults-only hike, under the light of a full moon, is designed for troll hunting. The Arboretum closes at dusk, so enjoy this special opportunity to see the mysterious forest protectors under the light of a full moon. As you navigate the west side trails, your guide will entertain you with stories about the trolls’ origins, their message of conservation, full moon lore and what the trees and wildlife are up to during the long dark nights when no one else is around. 

Nature Photography

Beginning Smartphone Photography
Saturday, November 16, or Saturday, December 7, 9 a.m. to noon
Whether new to photography or new to smartphones, discover techniques for getting great nature images with a smartphone. This class will cover the basics of using a smartphone to capture attractive images, provide tips and tricks, and recommend a selection of good starter apps for basic photo editing.

Wellness Programs

Arboretum Yoga
Wednesdays, November 20 through December 18 (5 weeks) 6 to 7 p.m.
Mondays, November 25 through December 23 (5 weeks) 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
$18 per class or $80 for a series
Practice poses, breathing and meditation in the tranquil setting of The Morton Arboretum.

Meditation with Essential Oils
Thursday, December 12, 6 to 7 p.m.
$20 per class
Explore meditative and self-nurturing yoga poses with the use of plant-based essential oils to restore and rebalance the mind and body in the tranquil setting of The Morton Arboretum.  

Arboretum Yoga with Live Soundscape
December 19, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Practice yoga aided by the powerful resonance of the gong to support re-harmonizing the body. 

Natural Areas Conservation Training
The Natural Areas Conservation Training (N-ACT) Program provides 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 program is open to anyone involved or interested in the stewardship of our natural heritage, regardless of prior experience.

Site Planning for Invasive Species Management (Online Only)
Registration closes: Tuesday, December 3
Online materials available Wednesday, December 4
Learn to assess the invasive species issues at a site and set priorities for efficiently and effectively managing invasive species in this online class. Explore how to prioritize management activities, learn the importance of seasonal timing of invasive species control and discuss how to develop a plan of action for stewardship at an example site.