Three decorated Christmas trees in the middle of an art display at the Everson Museum in Syracuse
Holiday Travel,  Syracuse,  Upstate New York

The Everson’s Festival of Trees in Syracuse Opens this Weekend

Every city you visit has its own way of celebrating the holidays at the end of the calendar year. Christmas tree lightings, holiday lights and decorations, seasonal food, and festive activities are on everyone’s calendar. A sense of nostalgia fills family and friends. And it is no different in Syracuse, New York. Just after the opening of the Gingerbread Gallery and the lighting of the Christmas tree, the Everson kicks off their holiday celebrations. This year marks the 38th anniversary of the Festival of Trees in Syracuse — and it is bigger and better than ever.

A special thank you to Jeff Macharyas, Director of Communications at the Everson, for giving me a sneak preview tour of this year’s festival.

The Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse

The Everson Museum of Art is a true gem in the world of art museums, and one we are incredibly lucky to have in Syracuse. You may be surprised to learn that the Everson was the FIRST museum to…

… be dedicated to American art.

… have a permanent ceramics collection.

… collect video art.

… create a docent program.

Designed by world-renowned architect I. M. Pei, the Everson Museum of Art first opened in 1968. Today it remains a cornerstone of Syracuse, and the epicenter of art and culture.

The Everson’s Festival of Trees & Light

Every December the Everson opens its doors to an influx of visitors eager to celebrate the holidays. First held in 1985, the Festival of Trees quickly became a holiday tradition for local Syracusans. Every year for the past 38 years local businesses, organizations, and individuals have decorated beautiful trees to donate for the museum’s biggest fundraiser.

Alternatively, some people choose to decorate wreaths or create other hand-crafted items for display – including those themed around Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other winter holidays. All of the trees, wreaths, and large craft items are available for purchase, with the proceeds going directly to support the museum.

This year, over 50 trees and wreaths were donated to the museum. Some of the businesses and organizations who donated trees include Rain Lounge, Stickley Furniture, Vicino’s Brick & Brew, Prevention Network CNY, and multiple scout troops.

When attending the festival, make sure to visit all three floors of the museum. While the majority of the displays are in the lobby area and the basement, there are trees spread through many of the galleries as well.

Activities during the Festival of Trees

Of course, the trees aren’t the only things drawing visitors. Over 40 live musical performances are on the schedule for this year – more than ever before. Most notably, Syracuse native and Broadway star Carrie Manolakos will be performing on opening night.

There are between 600 and 700 holiday items from local artisans for sale. Guests can enjoy light refreshments from the café area. Kids can get in on the fun in the Winter Art Studio, included for free with admission. Adults can purchase a ticket to a wreath-making workshop. Families can take their photos among the festive Santa’s workshop photo booth. And folks can enter to win a variety of raffle baskets.

Festival of Trees Hours & Admission

The festival officially opens on Saturday, December 2 and runs through December 16. Anyone visiting the museum during this time will pay festival admission:

$14 for adults / $10 for members
$5 for children under 12
Free for children under 3

Adults can save on $2 admission by purchasing tickets online.

The hours for the festival are the same as the museum hours for its duration:

Wednesday: 11am – 5pm
Thursday: 11am – 8pm
Friday: 11am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 5pm

Speaking of Christmas trees, check out these Christmas tree farms in Central New York where you can find the perfect tree for your home.

Other Current Exhibitions at the Everson

While you’re at the Everson for the Festival of Trees and Light, take the opportunity to visit the museum’s current exhibitions as well. Let’s dive a little deeper into my three favorites from the rotating galleries.

A Little Bit of Syracuse

Something you may not know about me is that I absolutely love miniature replicas. I’ve always had an admiration for intricate dollhouses and model trains. So when I see some of my favorite buildings scaled down into miniature versions of themselves, I instantly fall in love. And that’s exactly what happened when I stepped foot into the “A Little Bit of Syracuse” exhibition.

Drawing on the styles of Japanese graphic novels and Chinese landscape architecture, this gallery was created by architecture students at Syracuse University. Led by visiting professors Li Han and Hu Yan, this temporary exhibition features 70+ replicas of famous buildings in Syracuse, both past and present. Locals will recognize some of their favorites, including the Palace Theatre, Varsity Pizza, XO Taco, former restaurants Melo Velo and The Mission, the infamous house on the roof, and several others.

“A Little Bit of Syracuse” is on display until December 31, 2023.

Off the Rack

Referred to as a ‘happy by-product of a major renovation’, “Off the Rack” is such an incredible gallery to explore. Spread across two rooms – and several walls – the exhibit features a wide variety of pieces never before seen at the museum. The collection includes some newly acquired pieces alongside some pieces that were ‘collecting dust’ in storage. I love the juxtaposition of the classic styles mixed with more modern pieces.

Some of my favorite highlights include a portrait of George Washington, a beautiful landscape of the Adirondack mountains, and some boldly-colored hyper-realistic still life.

“Off the Rack” is on display until December 31, 2023.

Pepe Mar: Magic Vessel

The current artist showcase at the Everson is Pepe Mar: Magic Vessel. The Mexican-American artist is known for his more eccentric work. The two galleries for this exhibition are in stark contrast to each other. The first is a typical art gallery room – very minimalistic with the focus on a few pieces of art on each wall. But the second gallery is a show-stopper. Camouflaged by curtains at either entrance, this gallery features green carpeting and floor-to-ceiling replicas of Mar’s work. It feels as if you’ve stepped inside one of the Magic Eye puzzles from the old Sunday paper. It’s definitely something to be experienced first-hand.

“Pepe Mar: Magic Vessel” is on display until December 31, 2023.

Looking for more holiday activities? Check out these other Christmas and seasonal activities in Syracuse.

Tell me your thoughts!