Chicago Holiday Activities: Christmas Lights, Ice Skates, Crafts and More Family Fun – Chicago Sun-Times | Wonder Mind Kids

It’s the time of year to take advantage of cozy winter events in and around Chicago with the whole family. Whether you choose ice skating and hot cocoa under the festive lights in Millennium Park or heartwarming storytelling in the Chicago area theaters, these events are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade: Kick off the holiday season with marching band music, decorated floats, Performances, an appearance from Santa himself and more at this annual Thanksgiving Day parade. From 8am to 11am on November 24th. On State St. by Ida B. Wells Dr. to Randolph St. Free, VIP tickets $60;

Lifetime turkey trot: The 44th annual Chicago Turkey Trot welcomes participants of all ages to run, walk or trot the 5K and 8K on Thanksgiving Day. And kids ages 2-12 are invited to compete in the Plymouth Rock Ramble Kids Race. Everyone will enjoy the celebrations at Turkey Day Tailgate after the events. Proceeds support the Greater Chicago Food Depository. November 24th. Diversey Harbor, 2601 N Cannon Dr. Trots start at Fullerton Pkwy. and Canon Dr. Registration $20-$55;

Holiday magic: The longest annual holiday event in the Chicago area returns for the 41st year with over two million lights, a 41 foot tall tree, a life size gingerbread house and more. Restaurants, gift shops and select animal enclosures will also be open to guests. 25 Nov-Dec 31. Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Rd, Brookfield. Tickets $17.95-$24.95, parking $15;

Light up the Lake at Navy Pier.

Light up the Lake at Navy Pier.

Light up the lake: When it’s too cold to be outside, Light Up The Lake brings you the largest indoor light show in the Chicago area. Patrons can enjoy Christmas lights, an ice skating rink and birch maze, light sculptures, a free ride on the Centennial Wheel (one free ride with each paid entry), say hello to Santa, and more. Nov 25, 2022-Jan 7, 2023. Navy Pier, Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand Ave. Tickets $15-$27;

Christmas Carols at Millennium Park: Spread the holiday cheer in Millennium Park by singing with the Chicago carol singers. Singers from across Chicago gather over four Fridays, November 25th through December 11th. 16. Millennium Park, Cloud Gate, 201 E. Randolph St. Free;

Unique holiday show: Make a dent in your Christmas shopping at this four-day market. Browse unique gifts from 500 artisans and vendors while enjoying food, drink, live music and kid-friendly activities. 1st-4th December. THE MART, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 7th floor. Tickets $15, valid every four days;


Through December 24th, attend the Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party at the Chicago Children’s Theater.

Shedd Scouts: The Shedd Aquarium is offering several youth programs for Scouts and students this winter. Students in grades 6 through 12 can dive into Career Exploration on December 3rd and Oceanography on December 10th. Teens ages 14-18 can learn about marine conservation and explore careers during a teen workshop on December 10. Students in grades 2-5 can visit aquatic animals and participate in activities at the Marine Biologist Workshop on December 17th. Finally, families can take a daily guided tour of Shedd Aquarium highlights at Must-See Tours. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Admission free – $75;

Renegade Craft Fair: Shop from a selection of local artisans at this festive fair! Food and drinks are available for purchase. 17-18 December. Morgan Manufacturing, 401 N. Morgan. $12 suggested admission;

The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party: The Chicago Children’s Theater hosts this interactive puppet show featuring characters like Peter Rabbit, Simpkin the Cat and Tom Kitten. Toddlers and their families are invited to live music and storytelling, followed by a meet-and-greet with chocolate milk and cookies. Until December 24th. Chicago Children’s Theater, 100 S. Racine Ave. Tickets, $43.25+;

Christmas market: This experience is considered “the most authentic” German Christmas market of its kind and is an annual tradition for many Chicagoans. Marketgoers can shop for Christmas items, enjoy a warm beverage in a 2022 edition souvenir mug, indulge in leisurely European cuisine, and more. Plus, kids are invited to take part in fun activities with Kids Club passes. Until December 31st. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.; Gallagher Way, 3635 N Clark St.; RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway, Aurora. Free admission;

“The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Wonder”: From the creators of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition comes an enchanting holiday extravaganza. The Nutcracker comes to life with the music of Tchaikovsky and wall-to-wall projections sure to delight the whole family. Until December 31st. Lighthouse ArtSpace, 108 W. Germania Pl. $26.99+;

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival: For the festival’s 24th year, three areas of downtown Milwaukee will be illuminated with festive fun and lively light shows. Hop on the Jingle Bus for a 40-minute narrated tour of each display. And check out other holiday-related events in downtown Milwaukee, like Cocoa with the Clauses on December 10th. Until January 1st. Pere Marquette Park, 900 N. Plankinton Ave.; Zeidler Union Square, 301 N. Michigan St.; Cathedral Square, 520 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. See the full schedule and hours of operation

ZooLights: The Lincoln Park Zoo shines with a holiday spectacle for all ages. Enjoy light shows and shows, grab a refreshment at Snowy’s Spirits & S’more, ride the Ferris wheel and more. Until January 1st. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St. Free admission Mondays, $5 Tuesdays through Sundays;

“Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light”: Christmas decorations from around the world complement a four-story Grand Tree in the dome of the Museum of Science and Industry. All ages are invited to view the exhibitions and appreciate the cross-cultural holiday traditions. Until January 4th. Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr. Free, with museum admission; Admission tickets $12.95 to $49.95;


The Ribbons of Light at the Lightscape Celebration at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Courtesy of Chicago Botanical Gardens

Amaze Light Festival: The whole family will enjoy this winter wonderland filled with sparkling lights, activities, holiday treats, music and more. Highlights include the Amaze Market and Arctic Express train rides. An additional fee applies to select attractions. Until January 8th. Odyssey Fun World, 19111 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. Tickets $26-$86;

“Elf the Musical”: Based on the popular film, the play tells the story of Buddy the Elf, who travels from Santa’s workshop to New York City in search of his father – and discovers some holiday magic along the way. Until January 8th. Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. tickets $89;

lightscape: Stroll this spectacular, immersive trail at the Chicago Botanic Garden to enjoy artistic light displays, the Fire Garden, and more. Until January 8th. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe. Tickets $14-$75;

“The Sound of Music”: The Paramount Theater comes alive with the popular film scores of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Bring the whole family to one of the most popular musicals of all time. The lobby is festively decorated. Until January 8th. The Paramount Theater, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. Tickets $28-$62;

109th Annual City of Chicago Christmas Tree: Nothing says “holiday season” in Chicago like taking all those family photos and selfies by the City of Chicago Christmas tree in Millennium Park. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and visit the illuminated tree until January 8th. Millennium Park, near Washington St. and Michigan Ave. For free;

Ice skating at Millennium Park.

Ice skating at Millennium Park.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Timess

Chicago Children’s Museum Workshops: Children are invited to get creative at these winter workshops. Make thank you cards for your loved ones by December 5th. From December 8th to January 10th, get creative with clay at the Dough Workshop. Chicago Children’s Museum Art Studio, 700 E. Grand Ave., Suite 127. Free with museum admission; Tickets $19;

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink: Grab a pair of skates and slide across the ice at the festive Millennium Park. Free skating lessons are available on selected dates. Until March 5 (weather permitting). Millennium Park, McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, off Michigan Ave. between Washington St. and Madison St. Free admission, online ticket reservation required. Ice skate rentals $13-$15;

Ice Skating at Rosemont’s Parkway Bank Park: The Chicago Wolves Ice Rink opens on November 19th. Entry to the ice rink is free. Bring your own skates or rent them on-site for $8 per pair. Hours: Nov 19 – Dec 21, noon to 10pm Fri; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sat.; 11am to 9pm Sun noon to 9pm Nov 22; closed on November 24th. Special holidays on public holidays December 22nd to January 8th. Visit for the full season schedule with times/dates through January 29, 2023.

Tobogganing: Do you feel locked inside? Get ready and head to one of the many sledding hills in the Chicago area! Highlights include Dan Ryan Woods (83rd St. and Western Ave.), Cricket Hill (660 W. Montrose Ave.), Caldwell Woods (W. Devon and N. Nagle Ave.), and Warren Park (6601 N. Western Ave .) . Free;,,

Enjoy ice skating at Parkway Bank Park in Rosemont.

Enjoy ice skating at Parkway Bank Park in Rosemont.

Courtesy of the Village of Rosemont

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