Our best family activities for winter in Chicago


Oh sure, squatting at home in your pajamas and bake cookies It sounds tempting, but there is a lot of winter activity in Chicago. So much so that you’ll want to slip into those clothes and get out of STAT. From light shows to skating and exploring new neighborhoods, a winter adventure awaits. Read on for events, exhibits and activities to add to your winter reading list.


photo: Morton Arboretum

Illumination: Tree lights at Morton Arboretum dazzles us with lights, sights and sounds to transform a winter walk in the woods in the Chicago area into a colorful and inspiring experience like no other, from November 20 to January 20. 2.

photo: Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the only free entry zoos in the country flips the holiday switch with ZooLights, from November 19 to January 2. With the light shows throughout the park, your family can stroll through the glistening winter wonderland created by over 2 million lights for a festive vacation experience right in the heart of the city.

photo: City of Chicago

Millennium Park Christmas tree stands tall and sparkles brightly to help families enjoy the holidays. Be sure to plan a visit to take advantage of the holiday programming and ice skating.

photo: Naper Lights

Located on the beautiful Naperville River Walk, you will find the Naper lights display bringing joy and holiday festivities.

photo: Brookfield Zoo

Zoogoers can safely enjoy Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic as you stroll along the many trails, lit by over a million twinkling LED lights, including through a 600-foot-long tunnel brightly lit with thousands of colorful lights all in sync with the music.


Is he the real Santa Claus? How can he be in so many places at once? How does it fit in a fireplace? Why does he like hanging out at the mall? Yep, the season of wonders is back (prepare your answers!) And it wouldn’t be complete without a visit with Mr. Claus. Whether you want a few quick Instagram-worthy photos and hear a ho-ho-ho token or you’re more comfortable with a virtual gab session, we’ll tell you where Santa’s sleigh is parked for the season.

photo: iStock

Lumberjack in season visiting a local cut Christmas tree farm.


The Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon is one of the best spots in town for roller skating. The railing that lines the loop is the perfect lift for wobbly skaters.

Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you need to do is transport your crew to Starved Rock State Park for a hike with a stellar view. From mid-January, thousands of eagles migrate to Starved Rock State Park and stay until March. They are easy to spot when they soar in the sky or perch in the treetops. Bring binoculars!

We’ll admit that a winter in Chicago can be tough. But, a dose of fresh air, unforgettable landscapes and a chance to spy on animals in their natural habitat is a guaranteed day of winter fun with the family. There are beautiful trails all around town It will have you lace up your boots, tie a baby to your back, and explore.

Show your kids the cool of their hometown with this idea of ​​a treasure hunt. It will take you to the top of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and stroll down the Chicago River to see the movable bridges. Best part? You can do all of this in a completely safe and socially distanced way that will keep Covid-19 far, far away. Mask yourself, hop in the car (or two-wheeled on your bikes) to seek out these Insta-worthy Chicago landmarks. You can download this treasure hunt for kids here.


photo: Goodman Theater

There are always a few thought-provoking versions of Marley’s capers across town during the holidays. Whoever is eternal (and truly heartbreaking) is at The Goodman Theater. There is something about this timeless story, combined with the world class actors of The Goodman, that keeps the “bah-humbugs” away. Due to COVID, A Christmas Carol will be available for free audio streaming. Hear the voices you love and the signature soundscape surrounded by family love at home.

photo: Commodity market

With the cancellation of Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker, a new animated digital display will be presented as part of Chicago’s Art on theMART, the world’s largest digital art projection. Nutcracker The presentation projected onto MART’s 2.5-acre waterfront can be viewed nightly.

photo: PlayMakers Laboratory

From Christmas and Kwanzaa to Hanukkah and New Years, PlayMakers Laboratory is ringing in the holidays with all-new performances of its popular online magazine It’s weird, grandma. This creative series of stories written by elementary school students, adapted and performed by professional PML comedians will bring lots of laughs to the season.

photo: Replay Lincoln Park

Chicagoans are invited to share in the holiday spirit at Chicago’s biggest and most festive film experiences: Miracle on West Madison and Holly Jolly Drive-In with Replay Lincoln Park. In an effort to create magical experiences for families during a non-traditional holiday season, guests will experience a holiday-style cinematic experience, enhanced by glittering decor and appearances from the Grinch, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, reindeer and other favorite characters.

Start loading the calendar with shows that fill your home with a holiday spirit. Many have moved to an online format this year, which just means you can stay comfortable. Pajamas and sip Hot chocolate while you watch. Watching a play, ballet or musical performance is an unforgettable experience for children, and this season Chicago Christmas Shows are true creators of memory.


We all know 2020 hasn’t been easy for small businesses. This Christmas, think about granting the wishes of your little ones, local toy stores. Or, find a new game or puzzle and throw a family games night by the fireplace in your pajamas at home.

photo: Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce

The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce is back with its Holiday Window program, Window Wonderland. Dozens of businesses across Wicker Park and Bucktown decorate their storefronts with holiday themes, and shoppers can vote for the best storefronts for a chance to win raffle prizes using the hashtag # WPBWindowWonderland2020.

photo: iStock

Drinking glühwein from mugs at Christkindlmarket was an annual holiday tradition for Chicagoans, but has moved to a strictly virtual market for 2020. The newsroom seeks to save (safely) the experience and spread a little holiday cheer with their first annual Christmas market. , Miracle on Washington Street., 28 Nov-Dec 23. You will find an immersive holiday market experience with local vendors and unique gifts and a seasonal menu will feature iconic items traditionally available at Christkindlmarket.

Christkindlmarkt brings the cherished German and European tradition to the famous German market in Chicago and adds heaps of local charm. Dates have not been announced for 2021, but locations are planned in their usual locations in downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville.

photo: iStock

Historic downtown Long Grove invites revelers to take a break from their online shopping and rediscover the magic of the holiday season. Directory Vintage Vacation in Long Grove countryside is the essence of the classic vacation experience. . . quaint shops, old world charms and family memories. Vintage Holidays 2021 features open house for merchants, holiday music, horse-drawn sleigh rides, a holiday selfie station and more! The dates will be announced soon!


Make Chicago winter a little easier to swallow with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. When Jack Frost comes to bite your nose, it’s time to go sip. If your kids love cocoa or need a good introduction, check out local restaurants or cafes who make theirs from scratch.

Drink it. Stir. Make waves. Blow on it. Nibble on the good stuff and use a straw for the rest. No wonder kids love soup; it’s so much fun to eat. And that keeps us warm and cozy, which right now is a really good thing. From a Jewish grocery store with excellent matzah balls to a peaceful haven on Argyle Street, we’ll help you find your solution by sharing our Chicago’s favorite restaurants for soup.

Love them or leave them, hot dogs are big in Chicago, and if your kids haven’t begged for one yet, they will soon. We like the ease of movement (no silverware!) Take it one by one legendary local hot dog spot and turn eating into an adventure.


photo: American Club Resort

Kids dig hotel stays for the chance to sprint down long hallways and jump like monkeys on the bed. Parents love holiday for the opportunity to bond with the team, replace the same ole for a new scene and have someone else make the bed for a change. Take a winter getaway to destinations that allow you to spend time in the great outdoors and plenty of space to get away from it all with your family.

photo: Swissotel

that of Chicago Annual Santa Claus Suite at Swissotel will include a new private overnight experience. This year, the hotel is unveiling the Holiday Penthouse Hideaway accommodation package available for booking in the iconic Santa Suite or Duplex Suite. The experience includes over-the-top vacation decor, and guests can relax in the comfort of their own space and enjoy activities and amenities for the whole family. The Elf Decorated Room package is also available for booking for a more discreet festive stay.

– Maria Chambers and Amy Bizzarri


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