Each week Hoopla and the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance team up to showcase the top arts and culture events in Eastern Iowa. Here are five hidden gems: “Es weihnachtet sehr” comes to mind when it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Amanas. The Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau invites you to kick off your holidays with a Prelude to Christmas this weekend. Enjoy extended shopping hours on candlelit streets in the village of Amana. Follow the gingerbread trail. Fill the season with a visit to the Tannenbaum Forest, catch a Glimpse of Christmas past, consume yourself in the Cookie Walk and Holiday Bazaar. Enjoy live music, refreshments, demonstrations and all the other seasonal activities offered throughout the weekend. Friday, November 30 – Sunday, December 2. Hours are 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Sunday. Nolte Academy of Dance and The Englert Theatre are proud to present a unique and highly entertaining version of the beloved Christmas classic, The Nutcracker. No holiday is complete without a visit to Clara's house where her beloved Uncle Drosselmeyer presents the magical gift of The Nutcracker. Take a journey with Clara and her hero as they defeat the evil Mouse King. Travel with them through the magical Land of Snow and delight in their arrival in the Kingdom of Sweets. This holiday classic comes to life with performances by dancers from Nolte Academy of Dance. The production features a live orchestra, consisting of local musicians conducted by Carey Bostian. Don't miss the wonder and enchantment of this Christmas tale! Tickets are $24 Adults, $18 Students & Seniors, $14 Youth (12 and under). Performances: November 30 at 7:30 p.m.; December 1 at 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; December 2 at 2:00 p.m. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site invites you to experience A Christmas Past. West Branch, Iowa, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States, hosts a weekend of music, horse-drawn rides, shopping and holiday entertainment. Bring your family November 30 – December 2 for an Art Market, live nativity, children’s crafts, traditional holiday tea and more. Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, participate in the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony and 21st Annual Cookie Walk. Warm yourself by a bon fire with free hot dog roasting. Event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Main Street West Branch at 319.643.7100. Iowa Artisans Gallery will participate in the Celebrate the Season, November 30 & December 1, in downtown Iowa City, with a Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 1, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at multiple locations. The Iowa City Downtown District is sponsoring a wide range of activities during Celebrate the Season. Grab a buggy ride, have some cocoa, listen to music and shop at all your favorite downtown Iowa City shops! A full listing is available at http://downtowniowacity.com/. Iowa Artisans Gallery opens its annual Handmade for the Holidays exhibit November 11- December 31, 2012. Ornaments in blown glass, ceramic, wood and paper take center stage during this time. The Gallery’s 200 artists from across the country supply affordable handmade pieces in various media: ceramics, glass, wood, metal, fiber, as well paintings, original prints and holiday cards. These include colorful, functional Blenko glass, Moonspoons tea strainers, Metallic Evolution’s cheese knives, Amelia Stamps’ ceramic brie dishes with recipe included. Affordable and more one-of-a-kind jewelry options are numerous, including Shari Dixon cuffs, and local artist Kim Sun Designs, jewelry and accessories in leather. The Gallery offers free gift boxing and holiday hours. The Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival is teaming up with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to host a spectacular day of events during this year’s Fire & Ice Festival, happening in downtown Cedar Rapids on Saturday, December 1. Bring the family for a day of holiday activities beginning at 1:00 p.m. A new twist to this annual festival will be several North Pole Activities in Greene Square Park from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Turkey Bowling, a Holiday Toss, Ice Sculpting and other activities will be held. People will be able to take a ride through downtown in carriages, or hop on the North Pole Express Train. Santa will be on hand and the City Tree Lighting Ceremony will all be in Greene Square Park. The ever-popular Chili Challenge will be hosted in the Armstrong Centre Food Court before the 29th Annual Holiday DeLight Parade begins at 6 p.m. End the fun-filled day by attending the Ugly Holiday Sweater Party & Contest at Dublin City Pub from 7:00 – 11:00 p.m.