A Treat Now, A Memory Forever

The editors at ArtGeek curated this wonder-filled list of holiday-themed exhibitions and displays to get you started. These host-museums are sprinkled throughout the country -- East, West and in-between -- so you may well find one near you. But even if none of these suggestions is close by, there are sure to be festive community displays and activities in your area -- both sacred and secular.

Block out the time in your busy schedule to share in a gift that will be warmly remembered, forever.

Some of the best gifts don't come in a box. 

For busy families, there's nothing quite like taking time together to do something special. And there's no time like the holidays to find something special to do!   

All across the nation museums, historic houses, and botanic gardens go all-out to create seasonal fantasy worlds for the community to enjoy. Plug into the annual holiday goings-on in your hometown, to start or continue a family tradition with an event that embraces you, spiritually or socially.  

Holiday Displays To Delight One and All

Whether as a tradition -- or simply a one-time event -- a special holiday outing with loved ones of any generation can create lasting happy memories, in a way that this year's must-have "stuff" simply can't match.

Time together. What could be better?

Starting an annual holiday tradition

Winterlights at Newfields, Nov 19 2017 - Jan 7 2018

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis IN

Image courtesy of Newfields

September 28 - December 31, 2017

McNay Art Museum, San Antonio TX

This 1993 tour de force of stop-action animation has been a cult favorite for two generations. Jack attempts to make his gloomy, gothic-towered world brighter; the result is a mash-up of holidays, complete with tombstones and tinsel. Full of human warmth, verbal and visual wit, and technical virtuosity, the exhibit offers a rare opportunity to discover how camera crews shot 24 stills for each second of film.

Tim Burton (American, born 1958)

 Jack Skellington and his dog, Zero, in Jack's Tower from The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993.

Painted wood, metal, plastic, glass, paper, and styrofoam, with fabric and found objects. Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.

 THEATRE PRODUCTION INFORMATION: 1993 stop-motion animated film. © Disney © Tim Burton


Nov 24 2017 - Jan 7 2018 

 Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn PA


The figures in this Presepio, or Nativity scene, (late 19th & early 20th centuries) were collected over 30 years by Elizabeth Anne Evans on annual trips to Naples, Italy. On loan from the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, South Philadelphia.

Set in the medieval-style Great Hall, nativities from countries and cultures around the world are displayed with information about provenance, materials, artists and the religious beliefs inherent in the design. 

Also at the Glencairn, Do You See What I See? Imagery in Nativity Scenes is an exhibit of the symbolic traditions often included in nativity scenes.

Dec 8 2017 - Jan 7 2018 

Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin TX

The tradition of Nacimientos survives in present-day Mexico as a visual blend of indigenous pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial representations of the Nativity. The exhibition features a rich tradition of handmade Nacimientos. Many of the nativity scenes, made in a variety of materials, depict a reflection of Mexico’s landscape, such as cacti, turkeys, and market scenes.

Popular Nativity Scene/Nacimiento Típico—Mexico City, Mexico. Ceramic and plaster of Paris.

Donated by Edwin R. Jordan. Photo by Edwin Jordan.


 Nov 24 2017 - Jan 14 2018

Cheekwood Museum of Art, Nashville TN

Holiday LIGHTS returns with one million lights illuminating the gardens for a delightful winter stroll. Plus, Snowbound highlights the sculptural work of artists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz. The duo’s contemporary snow globes and large-scale photographs present surreal scenes and vignettes that create a mysterious world of wonder.

Snow globe by Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz


Nov 3 2017 - Jan 7 2018

Taft Museum, Cincinnati OH

Antique ornaments, decorations, and toys that Santa might have left in years gone by: a jack-in-the-box display, a vintage Lionel toy train set, and dancing antique dolls. See trees with cotton fruit, and a display of vintage dime store memories. Festive greenery will deck the halls, and the Dining Room will be set for the holidays with sparkling china, crystal, and silver.

Handmade Angel Ornament, about 1860–1900

chromolithographic “scrap” paper, and metal tinsel. Private collection


Nov 24 2017 - Jan 7 2018

Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford PA

A Brandywine Christmas

Boy Looking at Trains

Photo by Carlos Alejandro

A Brandywine Christmas features an extensive model train display, an eleven-room Victorian dollhouse, and Christmas trees decorated for the season with Critter ornaments.

With more than 1,000 pieces—including locomotives, passenger and freight trains, and trolleys—and 2,000 feet of track passing through a small town, a farm, factories and even a carnival, the model train display offers something for everyone with a dazzling array of both toy and scale model trains.


Nov 22 2017 - Jan 7 2018

Rahr West Art Museum, Manitowoc WI


Photo: Yi-Chin Lee/HTR Media

Herald Times Reporter, Manitowoc WI

This Queen Anne style Victorian mansion with its eclectic assemblage of turrets, dormers, bay windows is decked out for an old-fashioned  holiday. Trees and ribbons and lights and packages and frivolities resound with Christmases past. 

Nov 21 2017 - Jan 7 2018

Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids MI


Indoors and out, trees sparkle with more than 300,000 white lights. 42 Christmas trees and holiday displays represent countries and cultures around the world, including Hanukkah Menorahs and a Eid ul-Fitr display, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. The enchanting wonderland Railway Garden winds its way through three lush indoor garden spaces.

Christmas trees part of Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World

photo by Dean Van Dis

Nov 9 2017 - Jan 8 2018

The Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco CA  

Company Christmas card, 1937

Walt Disney Family Foundation

Ward Kimball Collection  ©Disney

Celebrate Walt’s love of family and trains.

A three-dimensional model of the Disney family home in LA features Walt’s personal scale model steam locomotive, the Lilly Belle, chugging along, decorated with seasonal lights. Also, screenings of Christmas with Walt Disney.


Nov 18 2017 - Jan 11 2018

Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center, Anaheim CA

Celebrate the holiday season with model trains, miniature scenes and hands-on activities.

Complete with historical relics showcasing the history of trains in Southern California, Muzeo Express is sure to be a holiday favorite for children and grown-up train enthusiasts alike.

Muzeo Express: Holiday Model Trains

Photo credit: Peter Olsen


Nov 18 2017 - Jan 15 2018

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art, Indianapolis IN

Model trains in dioramas made of all-natural materials depicting miniature landmarks of the American West and Indianapolis. Photo: Courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum.

An enchanting holiday attraction, featuring model trains that crisscross miniature replicas of famous landscapes -- from the skyline of Indianapolis to the impressive sights of the American West -- that visitors can walk through, around and under. New this year are the iconic landmarks of Hollywood.


Nov 18 2017 - Jan 14 2018

Museum of the Southwest, Midland TX

Mary Cochran, I Hate To Bug You, c. 2000

Photograph Courtesy of Blair-Murrah Exhibitions

The custom of sending holiday greeting cards dates back to the 19th century. Many photographers have embraced the custom, using the holidays as an opportunity to create imaginative and personalized interpretations of their own.

Season’s Greetings: Photographers Holiday Cards includes traditional religious and inspirational themes for both Christmas and Hanukkah, as well as light-hearted and contemporary photographs.


And there you have it … 

12 holiday exhibitions and displays, East, West, and in-between.

There are sure to be seasonal festivities in your community, too!



Our editors have curated numerous lists of gift ideas that have art at their heart.   No matter who you're shopping for -- from tots to grand-parents, from budding young creatives to accomplished artists -- you'll find some terrific suggestions for art-related gifts on these lists. 

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