Top Midwest Events in November and December | Midwest Living

Top Midwest Events in November and December

This winter, watch musical performances, hunt for wine samples in a corn maze or complete a 30-mile mountain bike race. Check out our other top events for November and December.


Rockford Arts and Crafts Holiday Spectacular ROCKFORD November 17–18 Cross everything off your holiday shopping list in one spot when 125 crafters fill the Indoor Sports Center. Hop from one booth to the next for home decor, toys, jewelry and seasonal items.

Bicentennial and Beyond! The Illinois Legacy Collection SPRINGFIELD Through February 3 Uniforms worn by WWI soldiers. A 400-million-year-old fossil. And a wedding dress made from a father’s parachute. To wrap up Illinois’ 200th birthday celebration, the Illinois State Museum is bringing out rarely seen artifacts from its collection of 13.5 million objects.

Frederick Douglass: Agitator CHICAGO Through april 30 Encounter essays, poems and other writings from one of the most powerful voices of the abolitionist movement. At the American Writers Museum, listen to recordings of the writer’s famous speeches, see artifacts and view a mosaic made from dozens of Douglass’ portraits.


Chocolate Walk NASHVILLE November 10 How do you make holiday shopping even better? Add chocolate. Buy a ticket to score treats inside 30 participating stores and restaurants throughout downtown Nashville. Proceeds benefit the local humane society.

Purdue Christmas Show WEST LAFAYETTE December 1–2 An 85-year-old tradition, this production at the Elliott Hall of Music features six university ensembles, with carols from the All Campus and Community Chorale and dance numbers from the award-winning Varsity Glee Club.

Ten Cars that Changed the World SOUTH BEND Through January 6 The Studebaker National Museum’s newest exhibit delves into the history behind some of the world’s most influential and nostalgic vehicles. Auto fans can get up close with some original models.


Dubuque Symphony Orchestra DUBUQUE November 17–18 Award-winning Korean violinist YooJin Jang makes her Dubuque debut for the performances of “Autumn” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons at the Five Flags Theater. Seasonal songs from Mendelssohn, Strauss and Wagner round out the program.

Julefest ELK HORN and Kimballton November 23–24 The Danish town of Elk Horn serves up warm glogg and fresh Danish cheese beneath its 170-year-old windmill. The structure marks the finish line of the Naughty or Nisse 5K Polar Run, which starts in Kimballton. Find decorated streets in both towns and a market of handcrafted home goods in Elk Horn.

Small Business Saturday Iowa City November 24 Iowa City’s version of this nationwide initiative is especially active. Visit Santa for complimentary photos, find great gift ideas at locally owned businesses, hitch a carriage ride or encourage kids to hunt for hidden elves in shops.


Find the Wine BURNS November 3 At last, a corn maze you don’t want to leave. In this adults-only competition, teams hunt for samples from Grace Hill Winery in a 5-acre maze. Afterward, grab a snack and enjoy a jumping pillow and other festivities.

Monty Python’s Spamalot MANHATTAN November 5 Join King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table on their quest for the Holy Grail, fighting flying cows and killer rabbits along the way. See the Tony Award-winning Best Musical at K-State’s McCain Auditorium.

Christmas Market LEAVENWORTH December 1 No Bavarian-style Christmas is complete without bratwurst, mulled Glühwein and live polka music. Check out the crafts area, where vendors sell jewelry, woodwork and homemade cookies.


Bell’s Iceman Cometh Challenge KALKASKA and TRAVERSE CITY November 3 Amateur athletes ride next to pros from around the world in this snowy, 30-mile mountain bike race from Kalkaska to Traverse City. The first male and female finishers each win $6,000 and sponsors award prizes to runners-up.

Merry and Bright Weekend ST. JOSEPH December 7–8 On Dasher, on Dancer, on Fido! Formerly known as the Live Mannequins and Reindog Parade, the event still invites visitors and their dressed-up pups to compete in a holiday-inspired costume contest. Others come for the twinkling lights that transform Lake Bluff Park into a winter wonderland.

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop LUDINGTON December 31 No tickets to Times Square? No problem. Ring in 2019 by watching one of Michigan’s biggest balls—adorned in 6,000 LED lights—fall to the ground at midnight, followed by fireworks. The preshow celebration features a beer garden and live music.


George Morrison: Surrealist Forms and Other Drawings GRAND MARAIS Through November 4 Paintings from the Minnesota native’s private family collection are on display and available for purchase at the JHP Art Gallery. Art fans can view Morrison’s abstract work and Great Lakes landscapes—against the backdrop of Lake Superior’s North Shore.

Ina Garten: The Barefoot Contessa MINNEAPOLIS November 28 Who hasn’t wished for an invite to dinner at the Barefoot Contessa’s dreamy estate in the Hamptons? The award-winning chef, TV host and cookbook author offers the next best thing at the State Theatre, where she’ll share stories and cooking secrets before a Q&A with the audience.

The Santaland Diaries DULUTH December 6–8 Based on the essays of David Sedaris, this production tells the story of an out-of-work writer forced to work as a department store elf during weeks leading up to Christmas. Expect satirical asides and raunchy quips during this holiday show for adults at the Duluth Playhouse’s satellite theatre, The Underground.


For Home and Country: World War I Propaganda on the American Homefront JEFFERSON CITY November 7 After-hours in the Missouri State Museum, get an unobstructed view of rare WWI artifacts. You’ll learn from a local expert how everyday items, such as cookbooks, sheet music and children’s literature, inspired Americans to help out with the war effort.

Celebration of Lights O’FALLON November 23–December 30 Glimpse a million twinkling lights by train, sleigh, horse-drawn carriage or your own car. Or, walk the scenes December 10 and 11. Pit stops during the Old-Fashioned Holiday Stroll include Santa visits, holiday crafts and hot meals at Fort Zumwalt Park.

The Book of Mormon KANSAS CITY December 26–30 The winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, comes to the Kansas City Music Hall. Follow an unconventional pair of missionaries sent across the world to spread the “good news,” set to the tune of hits such as “Tomorrow is a Latter Day” and “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.”


Holiday Poinsettia Show OMAHA November 23–January 6 More than 5,000 poinsettias in a variety of shapes and colors deck the halls of the Lauritzen Gardens. Model trains whir through the exhibit, around a 20-foot poinsettia tree and past mini replicas of area landmarks.

More than 5,000 poinsettias in a variety of shapes and colors deck the halls of the Lauritzen Gardens. Model trains whir through the exhibit, around a 20-foot poinsettia tree and past mini replicas of area landmarks.

 Lauritzen Gardens. Photo: Courtesy of Lauritzen Gardens

Twenty One Pilots LINCOLN November 20 The pop-rock duo from Columbus, Ohio, makes an anticipated return to the music scene after a one-year hiatus. Catch The Bandito Tour at the Pinnacle Bank Arena to hear new songs like “Jumpsuit” and old favorites such as “Stressed Out” and “Heathens.”

Christmas on the Hill SCHUYLER December 9 This art fair at the St. Benedict Center offers unique crafts and gifts from area artists. The lineup changes each year, with past wares including rare prints, wreaths and collectible books. Find new ways to decorate among nativity displays from around the world.

North Dakota

Badlands Art Show DICKINSON November 9–11 Amateurs and pros show off works, including pottery, oil paintings, water colors and sketches. Judges award ribbons, and proceeds from sales benefit local charities.

Moscow Ballet Great Russian Nutcracker BISMARCK November 24 The Bismarck Event Center hosts a twist on Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic. This year’s version features an additional character, the Dove of Peace, along with the same world-class performers, hand-painted sets and award-winning rendition of The Nutcracker Suite.

Bold St. Nick’s MEDORA December 15 Santa leads the way in this fat-bike race along North Dakota’s Badlands Maah Daah Hey trail. After a day tackling snow-covered hills, drops and loops, bikers warm up with a homemade dinner around a giant fire pit.


First Capital Bourbon Dinner CHILLICOTHE November 9 An Executive Bourbon Steward (often compared to a bourbon sommelier) teaches how to swirl, smell and sip a variety of whiskeys during a tasting event at the Christopher Conference Center. To cleanse the palate, area chefs prepare dishes that pair with each liquor.

North Pole Express FINDLAY November 23–December 30 Grab a seat aboard this quarter-scale Lionel locomotive that takes families through twinkling winter scenery. The trip starts and ends at the Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation Museum, where train fans can see model engines set up in festive displays.

Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion TOLEDO Through January 6 Get a rare look at the five family portraits by the renowned Dutch portraitist Frans Hals, along with other works from the Dutch Golden Age. The Toledo Museum of Art exhibit unites for the first time paintings normally housed across Europe and the U.S.

South Dakota

Mountain West Beer Fest RAPID CITY November 10 Breweries from around the country bring their A-list drafts to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. Between sampling the 200 craft beers, visitors can buy snacks or participate in beer yoga classes and rounds of human foosball.

Cirque Musica Holiday presents Wonderland DEADWOOD November 25 The circus meets Christmas at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. Cirque Musica’s acrobats and aerialists perform daring stunts while the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra plays a carol soundtrack.

Aberdeen Living Christmas Tree ABERDEEN December 1–2 At the Aberdeen Civic Arena, a full orchestra and two choirs perform carols from the steps of a pyramid that forms South Dakota’s largest Christmas tree. Between tunes, narrators read passages from Christmas stories.


Driftless Film Festival MINERAL POINT November 1–4 The Mineral Point Opera House screens award-winning indie flicks, as well as breakout productions from Wisconsin-based producers. Audience members are invited to linger after showings for Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.

Burlington Ice Festival BURLINGTON December 15–16 Armed with hand tools, artists transform 300-pound blocks of ice into intricate sculptures. Viewers can watch the action on foot or from a horse-drawn wagon ride around Wehmhoff Square Park.

Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame APPLETON Through January 6 The Hall’s largest exhibit has traveled to the History Museum at the Castle. The display features hundreds of artifacts, award-winning photos and rare footage of NFL greats. Cheeseheads will get a kick out of the special Packers tribute.

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