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DAY TRIP: Winter stroll, Noon Year – Quad Cities lights up for the holidays

December 14, 2018 GMT

When it comes to jotting down where you’d like to go for Christmas, a botanical center and a museum might not be the first place you think of when you’re making a list and checking it twice.

But think again. There are a pair of spots in the Quad Cities that’ll not only make your spirits bright, but give you a place to ring in the new year when the clock strikes 12 – noon, that is.

While the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island has plenty of bulbs that blossom into flowers for much of the year, it brings out some different bulbs during the winter: the dazzling light display of the second Winter Nights Winter Lights, which runs running through Jan. 6.

The first step to this garden walk is to dress warmly to ward off the outside chill. Then you can enjoy the dazzling light displays outside at night, as well as inside. Don’t miss the hot chocolate bar that will serve up hot drinks to keep the cold away.

This Saturday and Sunday is a special time at the garden, Santa Time Lights and the Winter Nights Garden Stroll. Guests can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

Inside, the Tropical Sun Garden will keep you toasty and warm as you’re surrounded by tropical plants that aren’t big fans of Illinois’ winter weather. You’ll also see a 14-foot-high waterfall, and Japanese Koi out for a swim. For the fun of it, see if you can find the banana, coffee, cocoa and coconut trees.

Noon Year’s Eve

Moving across the Mississippi River, the Family Museum in Bettendorf, Iowa, has a way for families to celebrate the New Year without having to be out late at night. Noon Year’s Eve is Dec. 31. This is focused on kids having their own countdown to the magic hour of 12.

Part of that noon celebration will include music, noisemakers, wearing hats, music and confetti - lots and lots of confetti is promised by the museum’s advertisement of the event. Colorful and numerous it’s in the air when the clock strikes 12 and the cheers begin. And after the event, lots of confetti is fun on its own.

The cost of Noon Year’s Eve is included in the admission charge of the museum.

The Family Museum has a lot to offer besides celebrating the Noon Year. It has an entire town to explore, complete with interactive artwork – the Kinetic Sculpture Clock Tower in Fox Hollow.

Also in town are a shoe store, post office, market, fire department and a pizza parlor. Each of these locations and others are excellent playgrounds and learning places for kids.

Once you’ve had enough of the big city, you can head on out to George’s Farm, and then on to the other exhibits. Kids always will find something to do in this very hands-on museum.

With Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays fast approaching, those who want to combine the holidays with a day trip can discover plenty of opportunities around the Sauk Valley. Happy Noon Year to all of you.

If you go …

What: Winter Nights Winter Lights

When: 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday through Jan. 6; Santa Time Dec. 15 and 16

Where: Quad City Botanical Center, 2525 Fourth Ave., Rock Island

Cost: $8 adults (16 and older), $4 youth (2 to 15) and free for those 2 and younger

Distance: About 62 miles from Dixon

Accessibility: Some areas accessible to wheelchairs; call for details

Information: qcgardens.com or 309-794-0991

Closures: Dec. 25 and 31 and Jan. 1

What: Noon Year’s Eve

When: 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 31

Where: Family Museum, 2900 Learning Campus Drive, Bettendorf, Iowa

Cost: $9 for 1 to 59, $5 for 60 and older and active military personnel, spouse and children in the household; $3 for those with Electronic Benefits Transfer card and valid photo identification; and free for those younger than 1

Distance: About 79 miles from Dixon

Accessible: Accessible to wheelchairs

Information: familymuseum.org or 563-344-4106

Closures: Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1