Winter is such a wonderful time of year. The Hudson Valley and Berkshire region are quintessential places to celebrate all the sparkle of the season. Beyond the serenity of the nature that abounds in the region and the possibility of snowfall sprinkling our country roads and mountain tops, there are lots of quaint towns, which get decked out in holiday attire at this time of year.

Over the last few years, we’ve all enjoyed more subdued celebrations such as small gatherings at home and even remote events via Zoom. However, this holiday season there’s more of a return to the merriment of years past. There will be lots of holiday magic to inspire us all to celebrate together in style. From Pittsfield to Stockbridge, Poughkeepsie, and beyond, there’s so much to experience. Plan a road trip with the family or some friends and create some new memories.

Here are some ideas that will help you embrace all the joy of the season.

Star Light, Star Bright

This year, Berkshire Museum returns to its holiday tradition, which dates back to the 1980s. Historically, the museum always held its annual Festival of Trees celebration onsite in the museum’s galleries. During the height of the pandemic, this event was re-envisioned and held in various locations throughout the greater Pittsfield area.

For Winter 2022/2023, this magical festival was reimagined once again and renamed Winter Festival: Solstice Celebration. A culmination of exhibitions and events, Winter Festival: Solstice Celebration will be held through January 8.

This tree exhibit, which will be held exclusively at the museum again, invited local businesses and institutions to sponsor and then embellish their own trees. An opening celebration kicked off on November 12 with musical artist Paul Winter – a seven time-Grammy winner whose body of work chronicles his wide-ranging experiences in the musical traditions and natural environments of the Earth.

One of the stars of this special solstice exhibit is the remarkable 15-foot holiday-themed tree, which is decorated seasonally and surrounded by the Santa Classics exhibit. Philadelphia-based artist Ed Wheeler placed Kris Kringle into this classic holiday scene. Another solstice-themed exhibit will feature a dramatic moonlit forest that twinkles with lights.

There are a host of other events, which will be held throughout the festival. On Saturday, December 3, Wingmasters’ World of Owls will be on site from 11:30am to 12:15pm. Curious guests have an opportunity to meet live owls in the Berkshire Museum’s theater.

Featuring a variety of live owls, this captivating and informative program shows how owls use their specialized powers of sight, hearing, and flight to survive and thrive. A wealth of facts and folklore about these masters of the dark will explain the natural and unnatural history of owls.

This educational program is presented by Wingmasters – a partnership of two licensed raptor rehabilitators dedicated to increasing public understanding and appreciation of North American birds of prey. A ticket for this program includes admission to the new exhibition Hoot’s Holiday: A Solstice Tale. Recommended for ages 5 and up $17 adult, $10 child (includes museum admission); museum members $7 adult, $5 child.

Hoot’s Holiday; A Solstice Tale is a living storybook, which will also run through January 8. Guests have an opportunity to follow Hoot, the adorable owl through the exhibition as they travel through time, collecting artifacts historic to the Berkshires as they plan a Solstice Party. The end of Hoot’s Holiday arrives when guests find themselves immersed in a forest under the light of Museum of the Moon, which was created by UK artist Luke Jerram. “Hoot’s Holiday; A Solstice Tale is a reimagined celebration of winter in the Berkshires. I had so much fun writing and learning more about Berkshire’s history throughout time. It is so exciting to see pieces of the museum collection come to life in this story. I feel that anyone with a connection to the Berkshires will have a deep appreciation for the research and historic context that went into creating this exhibition. I’m thrilled to see the story come to life and to share it with the public,” said Charlie Catacalos, exhibitions research and content editor, Berkshire Museum.

At 11am on New Year’s Eve, December 31, there’s another special event being held at the Berkshire Museum. It is entitled “Magic By George.” It invites you and the wee ones to join award-winning, Boston-based magician George Saterial as he performs magic and creates astonishing illusions. This fast-paced, fan-favorite show combines Saterial’s playful persona with magic, lighthearted humor, and plenty of audience participation for the young and young at heart. All ages are welcome.

Sponsors include The Feigenbaum Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, The Berkshire Eagle, Mill Town Capital, and Berkshire Bank.

Exhibitions are on view through January 8, entry is granted through regular admission ($15 for adults; $8 for children ages 4 to 17, free for children ages 3 and under).

Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge was once home to Norman Rockwell – the iconic painter and illustrator. Although Rockwell is often regarded for paintings that addressed significant issues that were occurring during the time period in which they were created, his work also reflected his sense of humor and playfulness.

In the spirit of Rockwell, the museum is encouraging the art of play. On December 26, the Norman Rockwell Museum will host Kids & Families Activities – Prime Time Me! These activities were inspired by Eloise in Hollywood, illustrator Hilary Knight’s Broadway posters, fashion designs, and beyond.

At the event, attendees have an opportunity to create their very own passports and self-portraits. Each guest is also encouraged to create their own story with poster, costumes, and props. Using colored paper cutouts and glue sticks, they can dream up their favorite character for an “I am ME! ME! ME!” photo shoot. The group will have a sweet opportunity to celebrate in style with Eloise-style “Room Service,” which includes yummy holiday treats. This event will be held on December 26, 27, 29, and 30 at 11am and 2pm. The event is free for kids, teens; and members, and is included with museum admission. RSVPs are required, walk-ups will be accommodated as space permits.

To learn more about the Norman Rockwell Museum, it is located at 9 Glendale Rd/Rte 183, Stockbridge, MA. You can call them at (413) 298-4100 or visit them online at www.nrm.org.

Shine on: The Wonderland of Lights

Create a new family tradition by enjoying a magical evening of lights. The Wonderland of Lights is being held at Rhinebeck’s Dutchess County Fairgrounds through December 25. Dazzling light displays will brighten and dance along the nighttime sky. This magical, festive show is ideal for parents, kids, grandparents, and even furry friends. Tickets may be purchased online via the website or at the Fairgrounds gate. Browse the website for prices and check the calendar for availability: thewonderlandoflights.com/twol-rhinebeck-ny/

The Dutchess County Fairgrounds are located at 6636 U.S. 9, Rhinebeck, NY, or visit online at www. thewonderlandoflights.com.

Locust Grove Estate

Set on a hill overlooking the scenic Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, NY, the non-profit Locust Grove Estate includes a historic mansion, which is open for tours. It also boasts 200 acres of landscaped grounds with five miles of hiking trails. On the impressive site, there are also art galleries, classrooms for educational programs, a museum shop, and visitor welcome center.

The main house at Locust Grove is the stunning villa designed in the Italianate style in 1850 for artist and inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse. Architect Alexander Jackson Davis was at the helm of this project.

Fifty years later, the house was renovated and expanded for the mansion’s new owners, William and Martha Young. Their daughter, Annette Innis Young, eventually created the non-profit educational foundation that preserves the estate as a museum today.

Initially, Morse had very clear ideas about what he yearned to have in this summer home. He and his family spent their winters in New York City, in a townhouse on 22nd Street near Fifth Avenue. For inspiration, Morse recalled the elegant villas that he had visited years earlier in the Italian countryside and he sketched towers, windows, and floor plans on scraps of paper to give to his architect for direction. Construction on the villa, sited on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Hudson River, began in 1851 and was completed the following year.

The estate opened to the public in 1979 and currently features the Young family’s 15,000 piece collection of furniture, paintings, and decorative arts just as they were used in the early years of the 20th century.

Holidays at the Villa

Tis’ the season for mansion tours, which will be held on weekends in December and daily from December 26 through 31. Guests have a coveted opportunity to tour the historic mansion while it is decked out in its holiday finest. While there, you’ll witness trees festooned with antique ornaments in the mansion’s Drawing Room and Dining Room. You can also browse a few of the special exhibits. The tours last about an hour; the cost is $15 per person. The first tour of the day kicks off at 10:15am and the last is one starts at 3:15pm daily.

The Locust Grove Estate will also host a family-friendly Holiday Hunt on Sunday, December 11 and Sunday, December 18. The theme for 2022 is “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Scavenger hunt attendees will scout the mansion’s holiday-themed rooms for sugar plums and other treats and trinkets. While there, they’ll learn how the Young family celebrated the holidays years ago. They’ll also have an opportunity to marvel at the 18 decorated trees on display. The scavenger hunt tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and includes rooms on three different floors, so get ready to climb a few flights of stairs. This special Holiday Hunt is most suitable for children ages four and older and their caregivers. Tickets are required for all who are age four and up. Tickets are $10 per person; timed entrance tickets will be offered between 12pm and 4pm.

For tickets, visit eventbrite.com/o/locust-grove-estate-30347364870. Otherwise, Locust Grove Estate is located at 2683 South Road, Poughkeepsie, NY. You can call (845) 454-4500 or visit online www.lgny.org.

These are just a small sampling of events happening in our area this upcoming holiday season. There is sure to be something for everyone! Happy holidays and enjoy all that our wonderful area has to offer.