The 43rd annual Way of Lights Christmas display will open Friday and will remain open through Dec. 31 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.
Also, they'll be flipping the switch on Christmas lighting displays this weekend in downtown Lebanon, Lebanon's Hoerner Park and in downtown Alton.
At the shrine, more than 1 million white lights are featured along a 1.5-mile route depicting the holy family's journey to Bethlehem. Also outdoors, there will be camel, donkey and pony rides, a petting zoo and kettle corn.
Carriage rides will be available; call 618-397-6700 for prices and reservations.
The Visitors Center will have a Children's Village with free, hands-on activities; puppet show; souvenir photos; a Christmas tree display; a designer wreath display and silent auction, and music by community choirs.
A laser show will be presented in the Guild Center. Two shows will share the story of the birth of Jesus in different ways -- on featuring Christmas remakes of hit pop songs and a classic show featuring traditional Christmas music. Tickets are $3 per person for one show or $5 per person for both. Ages 4 and under are free with a paid adult.
A life-size nativity created with Legos is on display in the Shrine Hotel lobby.
Tuesdays are family nights with discounts on activities and horse-drawn wagon rides around the lights ($5 per person). There will also be discounts on kettle corn, the laser show, camel rides, photos and gifts from the gift shop.
Victorian Holiday Festival
Historic Lebanon, where may buildings date back to the early to mid-1800s, will celebrate the holiday season with its 20th annual Victorian Holiday Festival Friday through Sunday.
The event pays tribute to the city's most famous visitor, author Charles Dickens, who stayed overnight at the Mermaid House Inn in 1842. The Lebanon Historical Society will offer guided tours of the nationally registered landmark all three days.
A unique tradition starts the festival on Friday evening as store windows and streetlights temporarily go dark and horse-drawn carriages replace vehicles on brick-paved St. Louis Street. The Old Lamplighter, accompanied by a violinist and small chorus, will draw a crowd of followers as he taps on the store fronts and their display windows illuminate one by one. A special guest will pull a switch to light the park's Christmas tree and illuminate the rooflines of downtown buildings.
Throughout the evening, musicians, actors and dances will perform in the street.
A Victorian Father Christmas is available to pose with families and pets for photographs.
Horse-drawn carriage rides are available; purchase tickets at the Visitors Center.
Street vendors, restaurants and taverns will serve food and beverages on Friday and Saturday. Homemade desserts will be sold at the Visitors Center.
Saturday afternoon will feature children and family events, storytelling and crafts.
Merchants and restaurants in the historic district will be open until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Lebanon's Winter Wonderland, with more than a mile of lights and victorian scenes, will open at 5 p.m. Friday at Hoerner Park, 11119 Widicus Road (One mile north of Lebanon on Illinois 4, turn west on Acorn Way and right on Monroe St. to park). It's open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. Donations will be accepted at the entrance to the park.
Alton will holds its 18th annual tree lighting Friday between 6 and 8 p.m. Friday at Lincoln-Douglas Square, Broadway and Landmarks Boulevard.
Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive by trolley at 6 p.m. Free festivities include caroling, candy, cookies, hot cocoa until 6:45 p.m., when Mayor Tom Hoechst turns on the tree lights.
Girl Scouts and the Main Street United Methodist Church Youth Choir will sing carols. The public is invited to bring cans of food, which will be built into a giant Castle of Cans to benefit the Salvation Army food pantry.
From 5:30 to 7:30, free trolley transportation will run between Lincoln-Douglas Square and Riverbender.com Community Center, 200 W. 3rd St. At the center, visitors can do crafts, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and warm up with refreshments until 9 p.m.