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Is it TRAVELER'S imagination, or are Wisconsinites getting a little lightheaded these days?
It's understandable, given our annual descent into the depths of winter's gloom. When the sun says goodbye at 4:30 p.m., who among us has not gripped the windowsill with vague unease as the heavy shadows coalesce into an enormous black hole of nothingness? Yikes!
Perhaps that's why December, dark as it may be, is also the brightest month in Wisconsin: It's the time of year when we take every opportunity to illuminate our homes and cities, simply for the sheer joy a beam of light can bring. Across the state, scores of communities host events to lighten the spirits of residents and visitors alike. Why not take part in one or several, and let the darkness be lifted for a time?
You might, for example, wander over to West Allis – specifically, the neighborhood at 92nd-96th Street, Oklahoma to Montana Avenue S., where you're invited to "Share Christmas on Candy Cane Lane" every evening from 6-10 p.m. throughout the entire month of December. The streets will be transformed into a wonderland of de-light-ful holiday displays by neighbors and the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. Reach them at MACC or call 1-800-248-8735.
The sun may be loafing this time of year, but other stars will rise to the occasion at the Barlow Planetarium – the state's largest – located on the University of Wisconsin – Fox Valley campus in Menasha. The planetarium boasts a 50-foot projection dome, seats 98, and is wheelchair accessible. A rotating schedule of shows shed light on what's happening in Wisconsin's skies. Admission: $5 adults, $3 children. Visit Barlow Planetarium or call 920/832-2848 for the opening hours. (By the way, if you need to lighten your holiday shopping list, for a donation you can "buy a star" at the Barlow and have it named after your recipient.)
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker: Mineral Point's historic business district welcomes all to take a step back in time, when shops were illuminated only by the soft glow of candlelight. From dusk to 8 p.m. on December 4, the merchants of this Iowa County community will shun fluorescent glare and sell their wares by the flicker of wax and wick. (608) 987-3201.
Let the Milwaukee Public Museum shine a light on our better selves in a celebration of "The Giving Tradition," a look at giving in cultures from around the world, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on December 18-20. Enjoy dancing, music, workshops, ornament making and craft demonstrations. Admission: $5.50 adults; $4.50 seniors 60+; $3.50 students ages 4-17; children 3 and under, free. Visit Milwaukee Public Museum or call (414) 278-2700.
Enjoy one of winter's brightest events at a Wisconsin State Park near you. Many state parks offer candlelight skis and walks, a perfect way to keep darkness at bay. Here's one: On December 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Council Grounds State Park in Merrill lights two routes – one of a half-mile; the other 2 1/2 miles – with 400 candles. Stop at the park shelter house after your tour to savor warm beverages, snacks, and the heat and light of warming fires. Admission sticker required. (715) 536-8773. For information on candlelight events at other Wisconsin State Parks, see Coming Events at Wisconsin State Parks, Forests and Trails.
And, to banish the darkness of the 20th Century for once and for all, the folks at the Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort in White Lake, Langlade County, invite you to ring in the millenium on New Year's Eve with a "Y2K Snowshoe Torchwalk." The torches are guaranteed to light – so they say! Rent snowshoes at the resort. Visit them at bearpawinn.com or call (715) 882-3502.