Creative Ways of Keeping the Spirit Alive

This will be a very different holiday season for most. The number of those travelling to be with family will be reduced. Gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas will be limited. And, for many, committing the usual financial resources for celebrations will require serious deliberation.

‘Tis the season during COVID-19.

Fortunately, we live in an area that offers an abundance of unique options to keep the holiday spirit alive—all while adhering to the current safety protocols. Following are a few suggestions from the Out & About team.

An Illuminating Experience

This world-class horticulture center is a draw any time of year, but this holiday season the ability to experience Longwood Garden’s elaborate outdoor light display will be in especially high demand. A Longwood Christmas kicks off Nov. 20 and continues through Jan. 10. Outdoors, more than a half-million lights will be used to decorate Longwood’s 100 trees and special displays. Special features include dancing lights that simulate the fountain jets in the Main Fountain Garden, mimicking the iconic illuminated fountain performances. The towering trees bordering the Large Lake are the backdrop for an illuminated light show set to holiday music classics. In the Meadow Garden, you can stroll through a 140-ft tunnel of light in the winter landscape and discover a grove of glowing orbs that pulse and change color. The Wildlife Tree is bedecked with hundreds of handmade ornaments and the 25-foot tall Gardener’s Tree is lit with warm white and blue accents adorned with sugar cones and gourds. There is also Longwood’s outdoor model train display and three giant fire pits to enjoy on chilly nights. That’s just outside. Longwood’s approach to holiday horticulture will be on full display throughout its four-acre Conservatory with thousands of poinsettias, amaryllis, fragrant paperwhites, and other seasonal crops. Membership and/or tickets are required. Visit

Gingerbread Heroes

Photo courtesy Hagley Museum & Library

Hagley Museum is hosting a gingerbread house contest with hometown heroes as the theme. Participants are encouraged to create their own gingerbread house in celebration of essential personnel on the front lines or someone they feel has been a hero during these challenging times. Acclaimed pastry Chef Michele Mitchell will provide creative inspiration by designing a gingerbread house that will be on display in Hagley’s Millwright Shop. Prizes of a $100 Amazon gift card and Hagley membership are up for grabs in three categories: Adult/Families, Youth, and Facebook People’s Choice. Entries will be on display from December 4 through January 3, 2021. For registration details visit

Camping Out for Coats

The Delaware KIDS Fund and Harvey, Hanna & Associates is full speed ahead with its annual challenge-based fundraising campaign designed to provide coats for students at select schools ahead of the winter season. Operation: Warm Newport—Delaware KIDS Fund Camping out For Coats has operated since 2017 and delivered more than 6,000 coats to 6,000 local children at 12 different area schools experiencing high poverty rates. Operation Warm is a non-profit coat manufacturer.

To help accelerate monetary donations and strengthen awareness for local children in need, several members from the community traditionally camp out overnight in the middle of Newport. This year the annual campout will be hosted remotely in a safe and socially distant format to help meet current CDC guidelines regarding live events. Those interested in camping out for coats are encouraged to camp out from their own backyard on Friday, November 13.

“Camping outside for a night represents a community-wide commitment to warming up local children in need, inspiring confidence, boosting self-esteem, and improving peer acceptance,” said Ryan Kennedy, Executive Director of The Delaware KIDS Fund.

All coats (brand new) will be purchased through Operation Warm and delivered to local elementary schools through a participating sponsor coat delivery parade. Schools will be announced this month. Online donations are accepted at Checks may be made payable to: The Delaware KIDS Fund and mailed to 405 E. Marsh Lane, Suite 1, Newport, DE 19804. Camp registration is at

Dining Downtown for Deals

Le Cavalier at the Green Room. Photo by Neal Santos

Here’s a way to enjoy some of the city’s best cuisine and get credit back towards your holiday shopping spree. Downtown Visions has launched its Dine Downtown Deal to encourage patrons to keep supporting their favorite eateries downtown—and reward them for it. Dine in or take out at any of the eligible eateries five times (until 12/31) and receive a gift card in the amount of 20% of the total meals purchased (before tip) to the downtown business of your choice. For details visit the Initiatives page at

Holiday Classes at Mt. Cuba Center

In addition to its wide range of nature-study courses, Mt. Cuba Center offers several holiday-themed classes to help brighten the season. Create a nature-inspired floral arrangement to serve as the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table this year (“Thanksgiving Table Centerpiece,” November 21). Enjoy a glass of wassail (spiced cider punch) as you combine magnolia leaves with native evergreen boughs, creating a festive, long-lasting wreath to enhance your home’s holiday spirit (“Wassail & Wreath Making,” Thursday, December 3). Or learn to make bayberry candles, elegant winter containers, and natural holiday arrangements. For registration details visit

Light Show at the Riverfront

The Grand continues to adjust to COVID-19 with creative programming. Its latest endeavor is a partnership with the Riverfront Development Corporation to present the Winter in Wilmington Drive-Thru Holiday Show. The concept comes on the heels of The Grand’s successful drive-in concerts and movies.

The Holiday Show will open on Black Friday (Nov. 27) and continue through Jan. 3. Guests will drive through a trail illuminated with thousands of lights and enjoy animated installations and interactive music.

Photo courtesy of The Grand

“The lights have to be out in our three theaters for the time being as we continue to weather the challenges of the coronavirus,” said The Grand Executive Director Mark Fields. “We see this light show as a way that The Grand can still be a bright light for the entire community,”

“When we made the difficult decision to postpone the Riverfront ice rink for the 2020 season, it was important for us to bring in another family-friendly holiday activity that was safe for all” said RDC Executive Director Megan McGlinchey. “That’s why we are thrilled to partner with The Grand on this exciting project. The Winter in Wilmington Light Show will provide area families with a fun holiday activity that brings many to the Riverfront while ensuring the safety of our guests.”

Tickets are now on sale for $25 per car and available at Pre-purchased admission is required.

Outdoors at the Orchard

Milburn Orchards is a great way to experience the spirit of the season safely. With outdoor group options such as Nighttime Bonfires, BarnYard Parties or couple retreats to their Big BackYard and petting zoo, Milburn offers safe seasonal open-air attractions. Seasonal farm-to-table goodies are available inside Milburn’s Farm Market and Bake Shoppe and you can pre-purchase for curbside pickup if you choose. Reservations are required for most attractions and because of COVID-19 procedures can quickly change. Call (410) 398-1349 for latest updates or visit

Tree Tradition

Since 1970, Schmidt’s Christmas Tree Farm has attracted families from around the Greater Wilmington area to find their perfect tree. This magical experience comes complete with live reindeer, tractor rides and a large play area for the kids. There’s also a gift shop with holiday decorations. With more than 30 acres of trees, you’ll have plenty of options. They officially open for the season on November 27. For location, hours and details visit

Making Macaroons

Acclaimed pastry chef Michele Mitchell returns to Tonic after teaching a successful “Halloween Cookie Class” last month. This time it’s her “Christmas Class” (December 5) where participants will learn to make macaroons while enjoying complimentary holiday cocktails.

Many readers may remember we wrote about Mitchell’s new pastry business, Michele Mitchell’s Pastry Designs, when she left the Hotel du Pont after nearly 20 years. You can read more about Mitchell’s macaroons and her history at the Hotel du Pont in our Dining Dynasty feature on page 26. For more on her Christmas Class, visit

Food For Thought

Preparing the Thanksgiving feast is a tall order. And while some thoroughly enjoy the kitchen time, many find it stressful and a hindrance to sharing quality time with guests—even if that guest count is down this year. Having your holiday meal catered, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas, is an appetizing alternative. Here are a few options:

Deerfield (Newark) is offering take-home Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings and each package comes ready to cook and serve (with detailed instructions) for four guests. To accommodate larger parties, families may choose two or more packages and/or add some additional portions of their most popular items. Orders must be placed by 5 p.m. on Friday, November 20. For Deerfield’s full menu and to place an order, visit

Delaware Park’s At the Rail is featuring a Thanksgiving To Go menu prepared by chefs at its White Clay Country Club. Orders will be taken until Nov. 21 at 5 p.m.. Visit

Maison X Le Cav (Wilmington) is the latest innovation from the Hotel du Pont’s Le Cavalier at The Green Room. The name translates as “home by Le Cav” and Maison X is making its debut with Thanksgiving meals. The menu features a Thanksgiving package sold in increments of two with choices of mains, sides and, of course, dessert. The at-home menu will also feature a la carte options sized to feed four to six per order, plus the option of adding on fresh bread and a jar of Duke’s Mayo to keep the celebrations going with leftover sandwiches the next day. Guests can place orders through 11/18 on

Janssen’s Market (Greenville) is a popular choice for catered holidays meals, so don’t delay in making your reservation. The family-operated market offers complete holiday packages featuring tenderloin, turkey or ham for two people, six-eight, and 10-12. You can also order just a course, from appetizer to vegetables to store-made desserts.Visit

Yuletide at Winterthur

One of the Brandywine Valley’s most spectacular holiday traditions has more to offer than in years past—the biggest addition being “Yuletide in Lights,” a magical outdoor Christmas show featuring 3D images, video, lights and sound with the Winterthur house serving as a background (December 1-12). Other Yuletide events and activities include the “Christmas Tree Tram,” a holiday-themed hayride (Every Sunday during Yuletide except December 6); “S’mores Around the Fire”(Every weekend during Yuletide, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.) and “Yuletide Jazz” (Wednesday nights in December, 5:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m.). All that plus ice-sculpting, choir performances. house tours and more. More information available at

A Twist on a Greenville Tradition

The annual Holiday Open House has been a 10-year tradition for the shops at Greenville Crossing. This year, Ellie Boutique, The Enchanted Owl, Houppette and Wilmington Country Store are including local artisans (bakers, florists, pop-up makers) for a special celebration on Thursday, Nov. 19 (11 a.m.-7 p.m.) to emphasize the need to support small local businesses. Instead of offering their normal hors d’oeuvres spread, the shops will treat guests to complimentary pre-wrapped baked goods. Each shop will also be giving away unique floral arrangements as well as offering special pricing and giveaways throughout the day. For more visit any of these websites:, or

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