For the first time, the Morton Arboretum gets in on the holiday lights game with a new and, it says, novel way to display bulbs in the Thanksgiving-to-New Year's interlude. "Illumination: Tree Lights" sounds, we must admit, pretty cool. Hug trees, and they glow; sing to them, and they'll grow brighter. The milelong path around the central Meadow Lake and conifer trail will also feature a touch panel that controls the light colors, and there'll be fire pits, hot chocolate and s'mores.
Lincoln Park Zoo amps up its popular holiday festival this year by adding something new: An ice-skating rink will open with ZooLights on the day after Thanksgiving. Is this happening because the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup? It's a possibility. Is it because nearby Lake Michigan refuses to freeze? Also possible. Will the winter give us enough chilly days to make the rink worthwhile? Consult your "Old Farmer's Almanac." The rink will be at Farm-in-the-Zoo at the southern end of the zoo. Ice skating is $5 per person, $5 for skate rental. The free ZooLights shut down Jan. 5; the rink stays open to March 2.
Opening Nov. 29 at the Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Drive; 312-742-2000 or lpzoo.org
Read it, don't weep
In a well-conceived fall programming blast, three new exhibits at the Kohl Children's Museum will push literacy on young children, a noble act in the texting era. The theory, apparently, is to get them hooked on books before the cellphones arrive. "Storyland: A Trip Through Childhood Favorites" is a touring exhibit that allows children to roam through life-size versions of the worlds offered in seven classics, including "The Snowy Day" and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." "Sheridan's Books and Crannies" is a new permanent exhibit that is the reinvention of the Glenview museum's Play Library as a pretend bookstore with reading loft, writing-related activities and no competition from Amazon. And Storywalk is an outdoor walk on a read-along trail featuring pages from David Ezra Stein's storybook "Leaves"; it was developed in conjunction with the Glenview Park District and Public Library after their previous Storywalk successes.
All opening Oct. 1 at the Kohl Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview; 847-832-6600 or kohlchildrensmuseum.org
The Morton Arboretum is celebrating a honeybee weekend: Events include a honey competition, a honeybee hike and visit to the Arboretum's hives, and a Honey & Mead Dinner featuring the ancient intoxicant (6 p.m. Sept. 5; $50-$55). University of Illinois insect expert May Berenbaum will give a talk as well.
Sept. 7-8 at the Morton Arboretum
It's no secret that few of us know as much as we could about our fellow creatures. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum tries to boost the knowledge quotient with the new exhibit "Animal Secrets." The exhibition is organized around the idea of hidden habitats and secret lives of forest animals and will feature live animals from the museum's collections, including salamanders and snakes, and specimens from the collection of the institution's parent, the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
Opening Sept. 21 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive; 773-755-5100 or naturemuseum.org
Disney under glass
Each fall in recent years, the Museum of Science and Industry has presented a special exhibition featuring an American pop-culture icon renowned for work that inspires children and not a few adults: Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz. This year, the head of the Disney empire takes a turn in one of the temporary exhibit spaces. "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives" will look at the Chicago native son and his dominion, with the help of almost 300 artifacts and (let's hear it for objectivity) show presenters D23: The Official Disney Fan Club. There's a rich stash of material to draw upon, from Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom to Jack Sparrow. But it'll be interesting to see if the exhibition tries to make the case for greatness, rather than mere popularity.
Oct. 16 to Feb. 17, 2014, at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive; 773-684-1414 or msichicago.org
Call of the wild
A good chance to hear from Lincoln Park Zoo's field scientists comes with the "Rescuing Rhinos" edition of the ongoing "Wine & Wildlife" series. Speakers include zoo epidemiologist Rachel Santymire, who has worked in South Africa with Eastern black rhinos, among the planet's most endangered animals.