While it may be a forgotten holiday by some, Thanksgiving is finally here.
With Thanksgiving comes the unofficial start to the holiday season.
There are several holiday events this weekend, including Stroll on State, Festival of Lights, Small Business Saturday and much more.
Here are 23 things to do Thanksgiving weekend in the Rockford area.
11th Annual Stroll on State
What: Stroll on State is the Rockford region’s kickoff to the holiday season. The free community event in downtown Rockford features a parade, fireworks, a tree lighting, musical performances, surprise visits from Santa and more.
When: 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: Downtown Rockford
Cost: Free admission
For more: 815-963-8111
All Aglow Holiday Display
What: Celebrate the holidays by seeing the sparkling holiday lights in the outdoor gardens. The outdoor display features familiar favorites, light-wrapped trees and shrubs, as well as surprises to discover. View elegant illuminated stars and 50 jumbo lighted candy canes, all hand-made by staff. The outdoor grounds will have 300,000 lights, including many “glistening” lights, adding extra sparkle to the displays. Lights are on dusk to dawn.
When: Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, through Jan. 7, 2024
Where: Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N. Second St., Rockford
Cost: Free admission
For more: 815-987-8858
2023 Festival of Lights
What: Drive through Sinnissippi Park and enjoy dozens of holiday light displays. Festival of Lights has been a stateline family tradition since 1989. See website for days and times.
When: Friday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023
Where: Sinnissippi Park, 1401 N. Second St., Rockford
Cost: Free; donations encouraged
For more: 4thandlights.com
Small Business Saturday
What: Start your Christmas shopping at a locally owned business the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
When Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: Rockford region
Annual Thanksgiving Ride
What: Meet at the Rock Cut State Park Boat ramp. Raffle prizes will be provided by Kegel’s bike shop.
When: 7:45 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 23
Where: Rock Cut State Park, 7318 Harlem Road, Loves Park
Turkey Twist Yoga
What: Get away from the hustle and bustle of Black Friday with a yoga class full of twists and some tea, to help digest all of that delicious Thanksgiving food.
When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24
Where: Severson Dells Nature Center, 8786 Montague Road, Rockford
Cost: $15; $12 for members
For more: 815-335-2915
An Evening with Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts
What: Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts return for their annual Black Friday show. This event is open to the public.
When: 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24
Where: The Verdi Club, 782 N. Madison St., Rockford
For more: Miles Nielsen on Facebook
All-Star Comedy Show
What: Chris Barnes and Sonya White headline. Barnes can be best described as a high-energy comic that will take an audience and keep them laughing as he interprets his experiences of life. White’s observational comedy is enhanced by dead-on impersonations and appropriate sound effects. Her comedy show is based on real-life experiences and her fond-but irreverent-interactions with friends, family and the world at large.
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24
Where: Franchesco’s, 7128 Spring Creek Road, Rockford
Cost: $30-$50For more: Franchesco’s Ristorante on Facebook
What: The Ice Hogs take on the Milwaukee Admirals.
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24
Where: BMO Center, 300 Elm St., Rockford
For more: 815-968-5222
What: The Jimmys are an award winning, 7-piece funky blues band that combines the seasoned keyboard and Hammond B-3 organ talents of Jimmy Voegeli, blues guitarist Perry Weber on six-strings and vocals, drummer Chris Sandoval, bass guitarist John Wartenweiler and a 3-piece horn section featuring Pete Ross, Joe Goltz and Mike Boman.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24
Where: Grand Avenue Pub, 136 W. Grand Ave., Beloit, Wis.
For more: The Jimmys on Facebook
Annual Holiday Handmade Market
What: Support artists while getting one-of-a-kind gifts and trinkets at annual handmade market.
When: Noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26
Where: 317 Art Collaborative, 317 Market St., Rockford
For more: 815-272-0411
Gifts in the Greenhouse
What: Visit several crafters for gifts and holiday crafts at this craft show. Many unique items to see in a warm greenhouse. You can also get greens, poinsettias, house plants, bird seed, hydroponic supplies and more.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: Rock Valley Garden Center, 785 N. Bell School Road, Rockford
For more: 815-398-1937
Friendship Bracelet Making
What: Celebrate shopping small and shopping local. Make a “Rockton Roadies” friendship bracelet. Fun for all ages and all people. Pick up your starter kit at DeeDee’s Main St. Coffee starting as soon as 9 a.m. Then visit any or all participating locations to pick up unique beads and charms.
Where: Downtown Rockton
For more: Friendship Bracelet Making on Facebook
Experience the Holidays
What: Enjoy live Christmas music by Reed and Waddy and free hot cider by the fireside in the cozy Hearth Rock Cafe. Every year, Kim Benson transforms the historic Benson Stone Co. building into a winter wonderland. Bring the kiddos, ride the glass elevator and enjoy the festivities around the towering Christmas tree.
When: 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays Nov. 25 through Dec. 16
Where: Benson Stone Co., 1555 Railroad Ave., Rockford
For more: 815-227-2000
Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland
What: “Wonderland” is an all-new musical journey that will transport audiences to a magical land far away for a fun-filled, unforgettable holiday-themed show experience. Featuring the cast of Cirque Musica, acrobats and aerialists will display hilarious hijinks and holiday cheer. The show blends the spellbinding grace and daredevil athleticism of today’s greatest circus performers with a musical mix of timeless seasonal favorites. Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland is an unforgettable experience for the entire family to enjoy a world-class circus experience infused with the holiday classics we all love.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: Coronado Performing Arts Center, 314 N. Main St., Rockford
For more: 815-968-5222
Seventh Annual Advocates Club
What: Enjoy a family friendly night during Stroll on State. Dive into an atmosphere enriched with a parade, fireworks, musical acts and surprise Santa appearances. Our doors remain open throughout the night, welcoming guests to come and go as they wish. Proceeds benefit Winnebago County CASA, a local non-profit that advocates for children in the juvenile court system who have experienced abuse or neglect.
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: The Standard, 214 E. State St., Rockford
Cost: $60; $20 for ages 7-14; free for children 6 and younger
For more: 815-319-6880
The Return of Turkey Bowling
What: After taking several years off, turkey bowling is back. With a donation, each bowler gets three chances to show off their skills with a frozen turkey on our showroom alley; 1st and 2nd place winners will receive a prize. Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m.
When: Noon Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: Kegel Harley-Davidson, 7125 Harrison Ave., Rockford
Cost: $10 donation or 10 canned goods for the Rock River Valley Pantry
For more: 815-332-7125
Contemporary Egyptologist: Jhaz Elayne Print Showing
What: Dive into the heart of Cairo’s urban tapestry through Jhaz Elayne’s lens, where architecture intertwines with humanity. This immersive collection captures the essence of the city while occasionally featuring its inhabitants, adding depth and emotion to each composition. Photographer Jhaz Elayne is based in Rockford.
When: 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: The 815 Collective, 130 N. 1st St., Rockford
For more: The 815 Collective on Facebook
Holiday Merry Market
What: This Merry Market is during Stroll on State. Enjoy vendors, live music and holiday cheer.
When: 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25
Where: Indoor City Market, 116 N. Market St., Rockford
Cost: Free admission
For more: 815-977-5124
RCU’s Performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah”
What: The “Messiah” represents the quintessential classical music highpoint of the Christmas season. With the exception of 2020, RCU has presented these concerts every year since 1945. Singers represent some 30 church organizations from many denominations and many communities in the Northern Illinois-Southern Wisconsin region.
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26
Where: Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 920 Third Ave., Rockford
For more: rockfordchoralunion.com
Wine & Weave Chunky Knit Blanket Workshop
What: Experience is not needed for this knit blanket woodshop, though certain styles are more advanced and may require extended time to complete. You will choose your yarn colors onsite.
When: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26
Where: DC Estate Winery, 8877 State Line Road, South Beloit
Cost: From $85 and up
For more: 608-481-1565
Soup, there it is! Pop-Up
What: Big Jon’s created its latest pop-up around the love of soup and want to bring some of their favorite family recipes to you. Choose to buy quarts ($16) or join on the day of and have a soup flight ($10) and maybe a grilled cheese. You can always carry out, too.
When: Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26
Where: Big Jon’s, 105 Buchanan St., Belvidere
For more: 815-985-2693
Cherry Valley Christmas Market
What: Come for Cherry Valley’s first festive Christmas Market. You will find a wide variety of small businesses offering products including permanent jewelry, accessories, gifts and food. In addition to the shopping experience. Santa Claus will make a special appearance after the market at The Grainery down by Village Hall.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26
Where: Savvy Event Co., 125 E. State St., Suite A, Cherry Valley
For more: 815- 505-1061
Kathi Edwards is a freelance correspondent.