Fall is arguably the most beautiful time of year for America’s heartland — the leaves change, the hiking opportunities are endless, and outdoor concerts, brew fests and arts festivals are held seemingly every weekend.

It can be sad to say farewell to many of these things for the year; however, winter brings it’s own magic to the area.

While the weather outside may be frightful, the Carbondale area is hosting many events and activities that are sure to chase away all dreary thoughts and replace them with tons of winter cheer!

It’s time to start marking your calendar folks! Here are just a few winter fun activities to enjoy with the whole family.

Kick off the winter season

In its 27th year, the Lights Fantastic Parade in Carbondale is not to be missed! The parade will take place on December 2 and follow its timeless path from Mill Street, up Illinois Avenue to Town Square.

To maximize your parade experience, view the parade from Town Square, where you can enjoy pre-parade activities, and purchase hot cocoa from the Longbranch Café to keep you nice and toasty! Just be sure to arrive early to avoid the road closures for the parade path!

The next weekend (December 7-11), head over to Rent One Park for their Winter Wonderland. Thousands of people across Southern Illinois came to the park last year for the event, and the Minor’s are determined that their holiday festival this year be even better.

Be prepared for a spectacular fireworks display (on Friday, December 8th), ice skating, and a massive polar slide among many other attractions! Whatever suits your holiday pleasure — Winter Wonderland is sure to provide it.

Also note: This holiday cheer is not exclusive to family fun! Companies and school groups will have the opportunity this year to book events during the day on Thursday, December 7th and Monday, December 11.

If you are looking for a little indoor cheer, don’t miss the 6th annual Blues Christmas with Ivas John concert held at the Varsity Theater in Carbondale on December 9. You can purchase your tickets ahead of time for $15 at the LIFE Community Center, or at the door for $17.

Visit with Santa

Don’t miss any of these opportunities for the youngest in your life to meet with Santa Claus!

The African American Museum of Southern Illinois is hosting Santa’s visits to four Carbondale parks during the first week of December (the 4th through the 7th) — Evergreen Park on Monday, Turley Park on Tuesday, Attucks Park on Wednesday and the Carol Mosley Braun Center at Lake Heights on Thursday.

Santa will arrive at 6:30 p.m. at each location with a sack full of hats, gloves and treats for good little boys and girls. There will also be plenty of hot chocolate, apple cider, and cookies to fuel everyone’s holiday cheer.

Pictures with Santa are encouraged, but you will need to bring your own camera!

Santa Claus will also be visiting Walker’s Bluff in Carterville. Take your family to have breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 9 or Saturday, December 23 at the Legends Restaurant.

Menus are set and space is limited, so be sure to call 618-956-9900 and make your reservation ASAP.

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