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It's only natural that as we approach and pass the winter solstice, we look forward to events that are uplifting and illuminating. Every culture's got 'em. Whether celebrated with fires, candles, twinkle lights or LEDs, a little sparkle warms our spirits and spreads a little cheer. Traveler is in the mood to share the warm glow of a little light on a dark night.
Take a downtown stroll along Second Street in the heart of Hudson, for instance, on Friday, December 5 and you'll find the streets aglow with luminaria candles, the odor of roasting chestnuts wafting down the alleys and carriage rides past the festive shops. 1-800-657-6775. Similar events will light up communities across the state that weekend including the Festival of the Trees in Whitehall, Trempealeau County, the Lakeside Park Holiday Lights in Fond du Lac and the Avenue of Trees at the Mayville Pavilion in Mayville, Dodge County.
For us nature buffs, winter weather provides ample reasons to follow a flame down a favored path. Enjoy a Winter Solstice Night Hike on Friday, December 19 at the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit in Campbellsport. A mile of one of the ski trails winding Nights and lights through the woods will be lined with luminaria. Come join us from 7-8:30 p.m. for a hike that culminates with a bonfire, some hot cider and fresh cookies. Recommended for anyone six years or older due to the length and undulating terrain. Vehicles parked at the trailhead need valid state parks stickers. (920) 533-8322.
If you warm up to the idea of candlelight strolls, skiing or snowshoe tromps but you are already booked for the 19th, check out Canlelight Hike and Ski Events at DNR managed parks and forests. The listings are updated throughout the year so you can move from the bracing chill of shuffling through crystalline snow on a moonlit night, to the earthy odors of a spring hike, a sultry amble along a sandy beach or the crispy crunch of an evening hike through falling leaves.
Start the New Year with a bang and sizzle at the midnight Skyrockers Fireworks at the Bluff from Grandad Bluff on Dec. 31 in La Crosse. Depending on your point of view, you can take in the show along the river valley from the bluff, on a sledding hill, a ski trail or even while ice-fishing the Mississippi River. If you just can't keep your lids open to ring in 2009, there's a 6 p.m. show for kids and the young at heart. Details at (608) 782-2366.
Kitty-corner across the state you could make a reservation in Egg Harbor for a candlelight horseback ride on the afternoon of New Year's Eve from 4-6 p.m. through the woods of Door County. Hit the trails, then warm up with some warm cider or a stiffer libation around the fireplace. Contact Kurtz Corral Riding Stable, County Road I in Egg Harbor, (920)743-6742.
Had enough of the dim lit mood and want to get back to the bright lights? How about doing some high flying New Year's Day at the Cool Fool Kite Festival at Veteran's Park in Milwaukee? Buggy rides and an ice sculpture demonstration join the tight strings near the Lake Michigan shoreline. (414) 305-3145, Gift of Wings.