Christmas in Chicago is a special time of a year for all. But if you’re looking for a break from the city, set your sights on a family road trip to celebrate the season. These nearby festive towns are bringing holiday cheer that won’t disappoint.
Travel back in time and celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas in Galena. Your family will fall in love with the small town charm of the garland-draped shops on Main Street and enjoy singing Christmas carols during a fireworks show. Don’t miss the Night of the Luminaria & Living Windows on Dec. 14 where the streets of Galena are filled with more than 5,000 candle-lit luminaries.
If you desire only a short drive from home, Naperville is calling your name. The western suburb offers the best holiday events your family can imagine. During the first three weekends of December, grab some hot chocolate at their first-ever YuleTide Fest and then enjoy a holiday lights wonderland.
This historic town might be known for its Groundhog Day festivities, but Woodstock brings holiday happenings in December, too. Enjoy a Victorian setting of Christmas by taking a carriage ride through the square filled with lights and strolling carolers. From there, stop by the Woodstock Opera House to see their Christmas Tree Walk or attend a performance of “The Nutcracker Ballet.”
If your family loves holiday light displays, see the sparkling illuminations mixed with gorgeous floral displays at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens or see dazzling synchronized displays at the Festival of Lights from Nov. 29-Dec. 31. You can also see Santa every weekend from 7-9 p.m. during the Festival of Lights!
There’s no surprise that a town called Santa Claus celebrates Christmas 365 days a year. Known as America’s Christmas Hometown, they’re devoted to making any family’s holiday festivities special. Where to begin? You can visit the Santa Claus Museum to learn more about Jolly Old St. Nick or explore a candy castle filled with Christmas decorations. Make sure to stop by Santa’s Land of Lights, a 1.2-mile drive-through light show telling the shining story of Rudolph.
The city of Fort Wayne brings lots of holiday fun for families all around. Ooh and aah at the holiday windows and light displays all across the downtown area. Then warm up and take in the classic Christmas scents of gingerbread at the History Center’s Festival of Gingerbread (Nov. 29-Dec. 15) where you can see incredible creations completed by artists of all ages.
Celebrate a Swedish Christmas only a few hours away. The village of Stockholm takes pride in their heritage with holiday events nearby the Mississippi River’s Lake Pepin. Their early winter celebration called God Jul – A Swedish Christmas (God Jul means “Merry Christmas” in Swedish) will give your family a new perspective on another culture’s holiday traditions (Dec. 7). Stroll through this small Wisconsin town to see all the holiday happenings with luminaries, sleigh rides and a visit from Santa.
Follow Chicago Parent on Instagram.
This story was originally published on Nov. 21, 2017. It has been updated with the most recent information.