No one enjoys the holiday season more than I do. I actually try to do something fun and festive every day, even if that means just visiting a beautifully decorated community and embracing the holiday spirit. I do think, however, that part of what makes this time memorable is how we engage with our family and friends. In the midst of our favorite, and sometimes frantic, time of year, taking a break from shopping and parties to take an art class or craft workshop gives us pause and allows us to slip away and express the joy and abundance December brings. It’s the ideal multi-generational experience; everyone can participate. This is just one way that our family stops and recharges. And maybe it can be an opportunity to create the anecdotal nostalgia you will enjoy for years to come.
Here are several of my favorite diversions that should be on your calendar this month:
Arts & Nature School of Ridgefield
280 Ethan Allen Highway, Route 7
Arts & Nature School of Ridgefield is brand new but already attracts a robust following. The studio/event space/art center features art classes, musical theater, circus class, “Mommy & Me” classes, pop-in art classes, paint and sips, Glow Parties, “Splatterday Saturday” and more. It is bright and creative, offers great programming for kids and provides a fun place for adults to hang out, with plenty of opportunities for them to participate, as well. The open house in November was chock-full of well-managed and innovative activities. A sampling of December events includes:
• Pictures, Cookies and Crafts with Santa: 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 10;
• “Soul Sisters Swag Night” where you and your “soul sisters” sip wine and create your own wreath, or front door “swag,” while enjoying music and holiday cheer. 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8;
• Paint n’ Sip: Paint a winter cardinal. 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15.
Why I love it:
Because artist/entertainer/writer/creator/musician/producer Wendy Leahy Mitchell, the owner, doesn’t leave any detail unattended. She adds new programs and classes weekly and the vibe is really warm and friendly. Because it’s the perfect spot, near the best shopping in Ridgefield and Danbury, to stop in and take a breather with your kids and enjoy some much-needed creative restoration.
16 Columbus Avenue
Pinot’s Palette has many locations but I really like the Tuckahoe studio. It is intimate and bright and the staff is friendly, talented, patient and funny. What is there not to like about paint-and-sip events, honestly? But during this season, there is a full calendar of family friendly events featuring paintings with winter themes, ornament painting and Sunday Family Days where you create four mini canvases to hang on your tree. There are programs for kids, “Little Brushes,” and, of course, you can host your own party or fundraiser at Pinot’s Palette throughout the year. A wonderful place to connect creatively with your kids this month.
Why I love it:
Because as the daughter of an art teacher, I am the all-time worst painter. But at Pinot’s Palette, even I was able to create something that looked halfway decent under their instruction. Because when my 5-year-old daughter saw it she thought it was a masterpiece. Hope springs eternal.
The Hudson River Museum
511 Warburton Ave.
Whether or not you’ve been to the Hudson River Museum, I recommend you run—don’t walk—back there this month (and maybe every month thereafter). Located in Trevor Park, this has to be one of Westchester County’s best cultural and educational gems. Its collections and exhibits are amazing, the planetarium shows are legendary and the 1876 Glenview Mansion, where it all began, offers a unique view of the connection between history and art. There are programs for all ages throughout the year but during the holiday season the mansion is exquisitely decorated and there are fabulous drop-in art programs for kids. You can also do some of your holiday shopping in their well-stocked gift shop.
Why I love it:
Because growing up two towns away I spent plenty of time at this museum when it was all housed in the mansion and even took one of my first art classes there as a child. Because those classes gave me the confidence to think I could paint (which you now know I can’t). Because it has an extensive collection of art from the Hudson River School and I don’t know of any other museum nearby that so successfully blends history, world and local, science and art.