Arboretum News

19 Things to do in December 2021

Experience the subtle beauty of early winter, light up your winter nights and finish up your holiday shopping at the Arboretum this month.

Winter Lights 2021. Photo by Jason Boudreau-Landis.

By Liz Potasek

Even without a blanket of snow, the beauty of winter is on full display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Rest your eyes on the muted tones of the season during the day. Shades of green, brown and gold — with pops of color from crabapples and berries — have taken over the landscape. Take advantage of the long nights of winter by enjoying our gardens lit up with Winter Lights.

Holiday shoppers will be delighted by the Arboretum’s AppleHouse Holiday Boutique and Gift & Garden Store, as well as pop-up sales, including the Auxiliary Holiday Sale (Dec. 3-5), Minnesota Herb Society Sale (Dec. 3-4) and December Gift Market (Dec. 10-11). [If you’re reading this in November, Arboretum members get a double discount at the AppleHouse Holiday Boutique and the Gift & Garden Store through Nov. 30.]

Winter Lights 2021. Photo by Aldo Abelleira.

1. Winter Lights

Stroll through light displays featuring flowers, nature and winter fun at our annual Winter Lights display. Warm up with dinner or dessert in the Arboretum Cafe, which is open during Winter Lights. Take the Southwest Transit shuttle bus from Chaska on Friday, Saturday or Sunday evenings, and you’ll be dropped off right outside the Oswald Visitor Center.

In addition to general admission Winter Lights nights, check out the child-friendly Family Nights on Dec. 2 and 9, the photographer-friendly Photography Night on Dec. 1 and 8, the adults-only Date Night on Dec. 16 and the family-friendly New Year’s Eve Party on Dec. 31.

2. Winter Walking

Enjoy a brisk walk on more than 12 miles of walking trails throughout Arboretum grounds. Once the snow flies, Three-Mile Walk and the Farm Trail will be plowed and maintained for walking throughout the winter. Find updates on trail conditions at the Arboretum.

3. Three-Mile Drive

Get easy year-round access to some of your favorite Arboretum gardens using Three-Mile Drive. The drive will be plowed and open for vehicles (weather permitting) throughout the winter. Find updates on road conditions.

4. AppleHouse Holiday Boutique

Pick up apples, as well as holiday home decor and gifts for everyone on your list. The AppleHouse Holiday Boutique is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through Dec. 20 and stocked with gourmet goodies, gnomes, toys, puzzles, ornaments and more. The Holiday Boutique is located at 7485 Rolling Acres Rd., Victoria (about 1.5 miles west of the Arboretum on Hwy 5), and is open to the public — no reservations are needed!

“Layers with Hoarfrost,” by Mark Paulson, is one of the photos featured in the Arboretum Photographers Society 14th annual juried show and sale in the Cafe Gallery.

5. Arboretum Photographers Society: Patterns in Nature

Enjoy the stunning images in the Arboretum Photographers Society 14th annual juried show and sale, opening Dec. 4 in the Cafe Gallery. This year’s theme is patterns in nature, highlighting visible regularities of form found in the natural world. Each photographer worked to find these patterns and express them in an artistic manner. The show will be on display in the Cafe Gallery through Jan. 24, 2022.

6. Auxiliary Holiday Sale

Shop for beautiful handmade crafts made by members of the Arboretum Auxiliary at the annual Auxiliary Holiday Sale in the Snyder Building. You’ll find knitwear, ornaments, wooden games, bird houses, cards, seasonal decor and more. The sale is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4 and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 5.

7. Minnesota Herb Society Sale

Buy hand-crafted kitchen, gift and personal care items with an herbal theme made by the Minnesota Herb Society. The sale is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4 in the Oswald Visitor Center balcony.

“Winter Warmth,” by Greg Lecker, who is a Minnesota Master Naturalist and longtime contributor to Nature Notes.

8. Winter Through an Artist’s Eye

Appreciate winter in a new way at this show opening Dec. 7 in the Reedy Gallery. Four talented artists reveal aspects of winter that others may overlook. Join featured artists – Charlotte Laxen Helfritz, Greg Lecker, Jim Meyer and Neil Sherman – as they immerse you in the spectacular scenery that winter has to offer. The show will be on display through Jan. 31.

9. December Gift Market

Find inspiration for even the most hard-to-shop-for recipients at the December Gift Market, featuring more than 40 local artisans. The market is noon-9 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11, so shoppers can plan to shop during the day or during Winter Lights.

10. Winter Music Series

Enjoy live music from local performers and community groups throughout the month of December as a part of our Winter Music Series. Concerts are included with your Arboretum admission.

11. Gift & Garden Store

Stocked with holiday decor, Arboretum-branded apparel, hats and gloves, snacks, jewelry, horticulture and gardening books and more, the Arboretum’s Gift & Garden Store is a perfect place to find a gift for yourself or someone special. The store is open 9-4 p.m. daily, as well as evenings during the Winter Lights display.

12. Snowshoe & Ski 

Once the snow cooperates, we’ll officially open our cross-country ski and snowshoe trails for the season. The Arboretum maintains about 8 miles of ski trails and 8 miles of snowshoe trails.

The trailhead for cross-country ski trails is at the Farm at the Arb. Enter using the gate at 3210 W. 82nd St. Trails are labeled easy, intermediate and difficult. We need a six-inch base of snow to start grooming cross-country ski trails.

The trailhead for snowshoe trails is behind the Oswald Visitor Center next to the Japanese Garden. Snowshoe rentals will be available in the balcony of the Oswald Visitor Center. Snowshoe rental is $7 for the first hour, and $5 for each additional hour. Find updates on trail conditions at the Arboretum.

13. Forever Green: Conifers from The Genus Pinus

Study exquisitely depicted cone-bearing trees from the Andersen Horticultural Library’s rare 1842 edition of “A Description of the Genus Pinus” on display in the Skyway Gallery. Many of the images were created by renowned Austrian artist Ferdinand Bauer. Scan the QR code below each illustration to locate that species on the Arboretum grounds, and compare the living trees to the historical artists’ renditions. The images will be on display through March 19, 2022.

14. Gift of Membership

Bring the nature lovers in your life year-round joy with the gift of membership to the Arboretum. Memberships start at $60, and include free admission to access the Arboretum’s 1,200 acres of gardens, natural areas and hiking trails. A beautiful 2022 Arboretum calendar is yours free when you update your current membership or purchase a new or gift membership before Dec. 31. Stop by the membership desk, call 612-301-1257 or visit our member webpage to take advantage of this offer.

15. Learn more about horticulture

Register for the 2022 Extension ProHort online class series, and gain the knowledge to transform your garden. The at-your-own pace series starts Jan. 6, and features the same online classes offered for the Master Gardener Volunteer Core Course, developed and created by University of Minnesota Extension. Receive the same instruction at the same time as the Master Gardener Interns.

16. Arboretum Cafe

Warm up in the Arboretum Cafe with soup, sandwiches, salads and baked goods on your next visit to the Arboretum. On evenings of the Winter Lights display, the cafe also features a hot menu item, as well as sweet treats, like mini donuts, sugar cookies and cupcakes. The cafe is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and evenings during the Winter Lights display. The cafe closes 30 minutes before the display closes for the night.

17. Stretch yourself at a yoga class

The popular Yoga in the Gardens series has moved indoors for the winter. Register for classes on Dec. 16 or 26.

18. Beyond the Catalog: Seed & Nursery Artifacts

Take a glimpse into gardening history. Explore artifacts from the Andersen Horticultural Library’s Historic Seed & Nursery Catalog Collection – including wooden seedboxes, colorful seed packets, belt buckles, toy trucks, seed testers and more – on display through March 19, 2022 in the library.

Winter Lights 2021. Photo by Jason Boudreau-Landis.

19. Celebrate a new year at the Arboretum

Bring the whole family to bid farewell to 2021 at the Arboretum. Stroll through the Winter Lights display from 5-10:30 p.m., play family-friendly games, make luminaries and share your wishes for the new year, commemorate the night at a photo booth, enjoy live music from Traveled Ground from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and celebrate the coming year with countdowns at 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. The final 10 p.m. countdown will include a sparkling apple juice toast, and all guests will take home party favors. New Year’s Eve party tickets are $15 for Arboretum members, $30 for non-members and $5 for children ages 2-15.

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