In the middle of summer, officials with Wichita’s Botanica Gardens decided the city’s premier holiday light display would include a new socially distanced option this year.
“We had lots of discussions, and we just knew we had to have Illuminations and were determined to make it work,” said Kathy Spillman, Botanica’s director of special events.
At the very least, the garden’s staff and volunteers would put together a drive-through option, it was decided back in July. Illuminations, which in the past has made top 10 nationwide lists of light displays, is Botanica’s major fundraiser.
On Nov. 14, Illuminations at Botanica will open for the holiday season with two display options for visitors to enjoy, more lights and a longer run.
In addition to the traditional display of 2 million lights, more than 800 lighted trees and 8,000 luminaries inside the 17-acre gardens, visitors have the option of a new, half-mile drive-through display set up outside of the gardens in the main parking lot.
While the walk-through option inside the gardens will remain available into the first days of January as usual, the drive-through option will be lit until the end of January.
And with the addition of 300,000 new lights that had to be ordered for the new drive-through option, Illuminations has gotten even bigger. The last of the new lights arrived in late October, Spillman said.
While COVID didn’t cancel Illuminations, it has changed or put some local traditional holiday events on hiatus. For example, Exploration Place’s popular marathon gingerbread house-making event, Gingerbread Village, isn’t happening, and neither the city of Wichita nor Bradley Fair is holding tree lighting ceremonies this year.
Theaters are limiting seating at live performances and some events are happening virtually this year. Some attractions, like Botanica, are requiring advanced online ticketing or are making other changes to accommodate social distancing or less contact among holiday revelers.
Here is a list of more than 20 holiday events planned in the Wichita area.
Holiday Wright Style, 4-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. Wichita’s only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed residence —the Allen House, 255 N. Roosevelt — will be decorated in 1918’s style, when Henry Allen and his wife, Elsie, lived in the home. A newspaper publisher, Henry Allen later become a Kansas governor and senator. Visitors can take self-guided tours of the main floor, garden house and gardens. Holiday shopping available, with silent auction items in the garden house and items in the Gilded Garage Gift Shop. Timed entry tickets required and sold only online. Face masks and social distancing required. Cost: $20. More information: flwrightwichita.org
“The Kyle and Monte Christmas Musical 4,” Friday, Nov. 13, through Wednesday, Dec. 23, Roxy’s Downtown, 412 ½ Douglas Ave. This comedy and music production has become a perennial tradition, four years running, at Roxy’s. Weekends only in November with added Wednesday and Thursday shows in December. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Admission: show only is $25 standard seating and $30 premium seating with discounts for military and students; dinner upgrade option available. More information: 316-265-4400 or roxysdowntown.com
Illuminations, opens Nov. 14, Botanica, 701 N. Amidon. Inside the gardens, visitors will once again find displays of 2 million lights, more than 300 lighted trees, 8,000 luminaries and 18 themed gardens. Allow about 60-90 minutes for the walk-through option, with face masks required and one-way signage. The carousel will be open with limited numbers of rides per time slot; carousel ride tickets must be purchased when buying admission tickets online. The half-mile, drive-through light show in the main parking lot will feature Santa’s village, a 240-foot-plus lit tunnel and more than 50 decorated trees — including some that will “dance to music” and one decorated with more than 15,000 lights. The walk-through option closes Jan. 9 and the drive-through option closes Jan. 30; both options will not be open Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 24-25. Timed entry tickets required and sold only online. Walk-through admission: $13 adults, $9 children ages 3-12 and members, free for ages 2 and younger; drive-through admission per carload: $20 Sundays through Thursdays, $25 Fridays and Saturdays. More information: botanica.org/illuminations
37th Annual Wreath Festival, Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 18-21, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main. If you’re wanting some holiday nostalgia, visit the museum to see the 1960s’-era automatronic Santa that used to wave to passersby in Wichita’s downtown Macy’s store. The museum’s Victorian Cottage will be decorated for the holidays; also displayed will be select pieces of the museum’s vintage plush Santa Claus figurines culled from an extended Wichita family’s collection and artisan Sylvia Jackson’s miniature Christmas trees that were originally displayed in a local church. Regular museum hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. Saturday Admission $5 adults, $2 children ages 6-12, free for ages 6 and under. It’s recommended to call or email for a reservation. More information: 316-265-9314, [email protected] or wichitahistory.org
6th Annual Feztival of Trees, Friday-Tuesday, Nov. 20- 24, Friday- Sunday, Nov. 27-29, Midian Shrine Center, 130 N. Topeka. Fridays 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 5-8 p.m. More than 35 decorated, themed trees will be on display. The trees are decorated and donated by local businesses, organizations and individuals and are up for raffle at the conclusion of the event. Winners get the tree and all the trimmings along with the items under the tree. The annual event also includes handmade holiday candies for sale, a marketplace with local vendors and selfies with Santa. Lunch and dinner specials are also available, plus breakfast on Saturday mornings. Proceeds help the Midian Shrine Center in its mission to provide medical care for children at Shriner Hospitals. Admission: $5 per person at the door, free for kids 10 and younger. Raffle tickets for the decorated trees and gift baskets are $1 each or $20 for 25 tickets. More information: facebook.com/Midian-Shrine-Feztival-of-Trees-2192105097503528
“The Tinsel Tale of Tori,” Nov. 20-Dec. 26 (no shows Nov. 22, Nov. 27, Dec. 24-25), Mosley Street Melodrama, 234 N. Mosley St. The melodrama features catty cheerleaders, evil twins and whacky teachers and is followed by the Swingin’ Snowfall Musical Comedy Revue. Rated PG-13. Times: 6 p.m. dinner and show option, 7:30 p.m. show only Thursdays-Saturdays; noon dinner and show option, 1:30 p.m. show only Sundays. Tickets: $25 show only, $36 dinner and show. Group packages available. More information: 316-263-0222 or mosleystreet.com
Holiday Stroll event series, 1-7 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 22-Dec. 20, Bradley Fair, 21st and Rock Road. This family-friendly holiday event series features complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides, live musical performances, activities for kids, photo ops and of course, holiday shopping. More information: bradleyfair.com/events
“Elf” virtual viewing party. The Wichita Art Museum is offering “Elf” viewing goodie bags with a set of audience participation instructions and other essentials that will make viewing of this 2003 holiday comedy about a human raised by Santa’s elves a little more fun. The bags, which cost $10 and $15 (the additional $5 for the $15 bag is a donation to WAM), can be picked up during regular museum hours starting Tuesday, Dec. 1. Orders are due by Wednesday, Nov. 25. You choose the time you want to watch the film through DVD, a streaming service or any other way. More information and to purchase bags: wichitaartmuseum.org/elf
Celebrate — a Christmas Thrill Ride Show, Friday through Sunday, Nov. 27-29, Kansas Star Casino, 777 Kansas Star Drive, Mulvane. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27 and 28, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 28 and 29. Billed as an equestrian-based thrill show, Celebrate will feature horse stunt performers, an aerialist, magicians, comedians, singers and a living nativity that includes camels. The show is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Make Life Better Together, a residential program that is sponsored by the Augusta-based Hope Grown Ranch. Tickets: $25 or $50 for the limited VIP seats that include a backstage experience. More information and tickets: kansasstarcasino.com/events/a-christmas-thrill-show
Winter Art Mania, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27 and 28, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 26 and 27, Wichita Art Museum, 1400 Museum Blvd. This annual family-friendly event includes learning activities and entertainment, along with self-guided gallery tours of the several exhibitions on display. Free. More information: wichitaartmuseum.org
Watson’s Christmas Express, Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 27-Dec. 19, and Sunday, Dec. 20, O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd. The miniature train at Watson Park is transformed into Wichita’s take on the Polar Express, a fictional train in the book of the same name by author Chris Van Allsburg. The event includes a reading of the book, enjoying s’mores and hot chocolate around a campfire circle and other activities. Suitable for ages 2 and older; kids are encouraged to wear pajamas, just like the characters in the book. The event is sponsored by Wichita Park and Recreation. Registration must be done online at wichita.gov/ParkandRec and three time slots for each day of the event are available. Tickets: $16 per person. More information: 316-268-4361
Winter Holiday Laser Adventure show, Saturday, Nov. 28, through Saturday, Jan. 2, in the Boeing Dome Theater, Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean. Showtimes through Dec. 17 are 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a bonus show 6 p.m. Thursday; the schedule will be updated for shows after Dec. 18. (The science center is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas days and will close at 5 p.m. Dec. 24.) Get into the holiday spirit with this 40-minute, colorful laser show experience. Featured songs include “Let it Snow,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and” Sleigh Ride,” as well as a handful of other themed current pop songs. Cost: $5 ages 12-64, $4 ages 65 and up, $3 ages 3-11, free for ages 2 and under and members. More information: 316-660-0600 or exploration.org
“The Runaway Snowman” by Wichita Children’s Theatre and Dance Center, 10 and 11:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, Mary Jane Teall Theatre, Century II, 225 W. Douglas. This production stars Happy the talking snowman and his friend Robin and a con man who takes all the fun out of Happy being a local celebrity. Part of the WCT&DC’s Once Upon a Time Series. Tickets: $8 for ages 2 and older. Tickets: wichitatix.com. More information: 316-262-2282
“Short & Suite Nutcracker” by Midwest Dance Mechanix, 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 2 & 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, Center for Performing Arts, 9112 E. Central Ave. More than 90 dancers from three performance companies and guest artists put together an abbreviated version of this holiday ballet. This is Midwest Dance Mechanix’s third annual “Short and Suite Nutcracker” production. Choreography is by company founder Jana Owen and longtime former Friends ballet instructor Stan Rogers. Limited seating so online advance purchase recommended at dancemechanix.biz/nutcracker. Tickets: $25, $18 for ages 14 and under.
Victorian Christmas, 6-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 4 and 5, 11 and 12, Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd. Another Wichita traditional event that features 1870s period decorations, dance performances, caroling, crafts and gifts for sale. Admission: $9 adults, $8 ages 65 and up, $7 youth ages 12-17, $6 ages 5-11, free for ages 4 and under and Cowtown members. More information: oldcowtown.org
Christmas Candlelight virtual concert by Friends University choral groups, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4. The concert will feature music by the university’s Singing Quakers, concert choir, chamber choir, jazz vocal ensemble and combined ensembles. The university’s flute choir will perform some numbers before the livestream. Free. To view, go to facebook.com/FriendsFineArts.
“Cool Yule” by Forum Theatre, Dec. 4-20, Wilke Center in First United Methodist Church, 330 N. Broadway. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. This is an original Forum production of “really hip Christmas songs, holiday songs from the past,” according to artistic director Kathy Page Hauptman. The show features seven singers and a live five-piece band. Tickets: $25 Thursdays and Sundays, $27 Fridays and Saturdays. Seating limited to 75 per performance, face masks required. For ticket purchases or more information: 316-618-0444 or forumwichita.com
“Inverno: The Great Holiday Circus,” Dec. 4-26, Crown Uptown Theatre, 3207 E. Douglas. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays. (No shows Dec. 24 and 25.) A cirque-inspired holiday production that involves visuals and circus and theatrical talents set to an original score that mixes traditional, classic and modern holiday songs. Tickets: $25 to $45. More information: 316-612-7696 or crownuptown.com
Wichita Art Museum holiday open house, 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, WAM, 1400 Museum Blvd. The Friends of the Wichita Art Museum have invited Santa and his reindeer (yes, live reindeer) for this open house that will include an outdoor holiday dance performance by the Wichita Children’s Theatre and Dance Center in the museum’s amphitheater and the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum used book sale. Free. More information: wichitaartmuseum.org/openhouse
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” 7-9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, Crown Uptown, 3702 E. Douglas. In this classic 1989 family comedy movie, Clark Griswold invites the parents and other relatives to celebrate Christmas, and the celebration goes a bit askew with one particular illuminating event. Tickets: $8. More information: 316-612-7696 or crownuptown.com
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Wichita Children’s Theatre and Dance Center, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12. A 60-minute production featuring an outrageous family of children who learn the true meaning of Christmas. Part of the WCT&DC’s Main Stage Series. Tickets: $8 for ages 2 and older, 316-303-8100 or wichitatix.com. More information: 316-262-2282
“A Kansas Christmas” by Wichita Grand Opera, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11 and 12, Center for Performing Arts, 9112 E. Central Ave. The evening will include several favorite carols and stories. Limited seating. Tickets: $20-40, with discounts for seniors and military. More information: 316-683-3444 or wichitagrandopera.org
“Jim Brickman, Comfort and Joy at Home” virtual concert benefiting the Orpheum Theatre at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Grammy-nominated songwriter and pianist Jim Brickman performs traditional holiday carols plus some of his own songs in this concert. Tickets: $40, with upgraded packages that include virtual live interaction with Brickman and other activities. More information: wichitaorpheum.com
“The Nutcracker” by the Metropolitan Ballet of Wichita, 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, Century II Concert Hall, 225 W. Douglas. The Metropolitan Ballet is planning to have one of the performances livestreamed, as well. This year’s third annual production of the holiday classic by the Metropolitan Ballet features three guest artists. Brandon Ramey and Eileen Fisher from Ballet Memphis will perform as the Cavalier and Sugar Plum Fairy, respectively. Broadway performer Taurean Everett will return to his hometown to perform as Herr Drosselmeyer and Mother Ginger. Everett is a Wichita State alum whose Broadway credits include “The Cher Show,” “Miss Saigon” and “Mamma Mia.” He also was featured in season 18 of “Project Runway.” Limited in-person seating with social distancing and face mask requirements. Live performance tickets: $15 to $45; streaming option: $20 per household. Tickets are expected to go on sale through wichitatix.com in mid-November.