Best Things to Do with Chicagoland Kids in December

We've rounded up some of the best activities and events to do with kids in Chicago and suburbs this month.

When raising kids, you know life can get busy. That’s why it’s sometimes helpful to plan ahead when searching for exciting events and attractions in Chicagoland. To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do with kids in December.

Be sure to check out the holiday lights and holiday tea experiences happening this month. Also, find other holiday events such as Hanukkah events, magical holiday events and Nutcracker performances.

Keep on scrolling to see our top picks of kid-friendly events in Chicago and the suburbs. You can also find more family events listed in our calendar.

City

A choir sings at the annual Chicago Holiday Sing-a-Long in Millennium Park
Photo courtesy of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE)

Blue Man Group Chicago at Briar Street Theatre

Dec. 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 26-31, 2023

Experience new instruments, technologies and audience participation at the Blue Man Group Chicago. This family-friendly performance is great for ages 3 and up.

CKC Presents: Mrs. Claus! A Holiday Musical at Beverly Arts Center

Dec. 1-23, 2023

Families can join Mrs. Claus and the Elf Class of 2023 as they try to find it in time to save Christmas. For ages 2-10.

Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along

Dec. 8, 15, 2023

Sing and celebrate Chicago’s diverse holiday traditions at the new Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along. Dec. 8 is Windy City Gay Chorus and Dec. 15 is League of Chicago Theaters.

The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party at Chicago Children’s Theatre

Dec. 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 27-31, 2023

Enjoy an interactive trunk and puppet show, which includes original music. A communal tea party to follow the show. Recommended for ages 8 and under.

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Lyric Opera House

Dec. 2-27, 2023

Journey to Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair with Christopher Wheeldon’s holiday masterpiece. Magic is on the horizon for young Marie and her mother, a sculptress creating the iconic Statue of the Republic. As they prepare for their annual holiday celebration, a visit from the charming but mysterious Great Impresario sets off a Christmas Eve dream of whirlwind romance and adventure.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins at The Chicago Loop Synagogue

Dec. 7, 9-10, 14, 16-17, 21, 23, 2023

In this adaptation of the award-winning book, a troupe of actors arrive to find no one celebrating Hanukkah so they put on a show. Advanced registration is required.

CKC Presents: Mrs. Claus! A Holiday Musical at the Apollo Theater

Dec. 7-30, 2023

Families can join Mrs. Claus and the Elf Class of 2023 as they try to find it in time to save Christmas. For ages 2-10.

‘Twas the Night Before… by Cirque du Soleil at The Chicago Theater

Dec. 7-28, 2023

Join Isabella, a curious girl who’s become jaded by the hoopla surrounding Christmas, as she is whisked away to an upside-down, inside-out world where she meets characters inspired by the original timeless poem.

Chicago Cultural Center Holiday Open House

Dec. 9, 2023

Enjoy this family-friendly Open House event for fun with a Sloomoo Slime Activation, live performances by Uniting Voices Chicago, family films, holiday shopping at Buddy, Bingo and more. Online RSVP required.

Holiday Party at Commercial Club Playground of Chicago

Dec. 9, 2023

All ages can enjoy a holiday party that will feature games, refreshments and a visit from Santa at Commercial Club.

4th Night, 4th Light at Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field 

Dec. 10, 2023

Enjoy a Hanukkah celebration with live entertainment, a DJ, giveaways and a candle lighting. Also, explore Winterland and Christkindlmarket. Registration required.

Día de Muertos, Living Presence at the National Museum of Mexican Art

Through Dec. 10, 2023

Head to the main gallery to see the museum’s 37th Day of the Dead exhibition to remember the thousands of people who died in the February 2023 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Also, it will include a large installation to memorialize women who have disappeared, violated or murdered.

5th Night, 5th Light: Cookie Decorating with Apachi Evanston

Dec. 11, 2023

Take part in cookie decorating and a night of candle lighting at Bernard Horwich JCC in West Rogers Park. Registration required.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker at Cadillac Palace Theatre

Dec. 12-17, 2023

This holiday performance is a re-mixed and re-imagined version of the classic, and features hip hop dance and Tchaikovsky’s timeless music together.

Rollin’ With Frosty! at Lake Shore Park

Dec. 15, 2023

Families can enjoy a fun holiday roller skating event with Frosty to Snowman. Limited number of skates to borrow.

Soulful Chicago Holiday Book Fair at Betty Shabazz International Charter School

Dec. 16, 2023

Shop from more than 100 Black titles on sale, listen to music by DJ Duane Powell and more at this holiday book fair.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at Cadillac Palace Theatre

Dec. 19-31, 2023

The Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart-warming holiday classic. It will feature the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” among others.

Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza

Through Dec. 24, 2023

Provides live entertainment for their visitors. Offers a unique shopping experience, family-friendly events and intercultural activities.

Santa at 900 North Michigan Shops

Through Dec. 24, 2023

Visit with Santa at 900 North Michigan Shops on Level 3. Santa will be in a vintage sleigh with hundreds of tiny holiday lights. Online reservations required.

Santaland at Macy’s State Street

Through Dec. 24, 2023

Kids will be able to go over their wish list with Jolly Old St. Nick. This location is great when enjoying more holiday activities in The Loop. Reservations are required.

A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre

Through Dec. 31, 2023

Join Ebenezer Scrooge as he journeys through his past, present and future to discover the importance of friendship and love — with plenty of jubilant musical numbers, spectacular costumes and hilarious “Bah Humbugs!” along the way. For ages 5-plus.

Christkindlmarket at Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville

Through Dec. 31, 2023

Enjoy a special edition of the Chicago German-American Holiday Market. Includes hot beverages, German food and gift shopping – just like at Daley Plaza.

Disney100: The Exhibition at Exhibition Hub Art Center Chicago

Through Dec. 31, 2023

  • Address: 2367 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago
  • Cost: Ticket prices vary by day. Admission starts at $34.90/ages 13-plus, $24.90/children 4-12, $27.90/seniors and military, free/ages 3 and under | Get tickets

The Walt Disney Archives opens its vault of historical and special treasures, works of art, artifacts, costumes and memorabilia with the launch of Disney100: The Exhibition. See 10 elaborately themed galleries at this 20,000-plus exhibition with many interactive elements for all ages.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Through Dec. 31, 2023

  • Address: 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
  • Cost: Features free and ticketed activities; $37.50/bundle: ice skating, wheel and axe throwing, $20/ice skating, $5-$12/axe throwing, $15-$18/Centennial Wheel

See Chicagoland’s largest indoor lighting experience. It features interactive light displays, ice skating, toasty fire pits, local artisan markets, heated Centennial Wheel, fireworks on Saturdays and more.

Mold-A-Rama: Molded for the Future at Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Through Dec. 31, 2023

This exhibit features a collection of popular, rare and experimental Mold-A-Rama souvenirs from the past. Take home colorful souvenirs made by several machines featured in the exhibit and around the museum.

Chicago Union Station The Polar Express Train Ride

Through Jan. 1, 2024

  • Address: 500 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago
  • Cost: Value Departures: $55/ages 12-plus, $47/ages 2-11; Standard Departures: $67/ages 12-plus, $59/ages 2-11; Premium Departures: $80/ages 12-plus, $72/ages 2-11 | Get tickets

Relive the magic of The Polar Express on a real train ride. Take the one-hour train ride to meet Santa Claus and have hot chocolate and Walker’s Shortbread. Each guest will receive a keepsake sleigh bell.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at Museum of Science and Industry

Through Jan. 1, 2024

This Chicago tradition began in 1942 with a single tree. Now, the museum features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree surrounded by more than 50 other trees and displays. Each surrounding tree is decorated to represent holiday traditions in other cultures around the world.

The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle at Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago

Through Jan. 7, 2024

Enjoy this immersive event about the most beloved family holiday tale, The Nutcracker. You’ll see immersive projections and special effects, meet a life-sized Nutcracker, have photo ops and more.

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Through Jan. 7, 2024

Enjoy a twinkling winter wonderland complete with festive activities, such as visits with Santa, a holiday pop-up bar, sweet treats of all kinds and more.

Pompeii: The Exhibition at Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Through Jan. 15, 2024

See this immersive educational museum exhibit, “Pompeii: The Exhibition,” and be transported back in time to learn about Pompeii and see more than 150 historical artifacts.

Doodles x CAMP

Through Jan. 28, 2024

Step into a fully immersive experience with Doodles x Camp. It is a 3,500-square-foot experience with features like Stoodio Magic, Rainbow Valley, Glowing Adventures and more.  

First Kings of Europe at Field Museum

Through Jan. 28, 2024

View this exhibit at the Field Museum that gathered more than 700 exquisite objects, such as jewelry, armor, weapons and more.

Hamilton at James M. Nederlander Theatre

Through Jan. 28, 2024

See this epic saga that follows the rise of Alexander Hamilton, based on Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography. It blends the sounds of hip-hop, R&B, jazz and Broadway music. For ages 5 and up.

North/Northwest Suburbs

Photo Credit: Legoland Discovery Center

Christmas Town at Summerfield Zoo

Dec. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-23, 2023

Check out Santa’s Reindeer Barn with Santa’s entire sleigh team of reindeer, then visit with Santa Claus on Saturdays and Sundays. Kids will earn a “stable elf” diploma and take part in baby reindeer flight school training sessions. Online reservations are required.

Holiday Bricktacular at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago

Begins Dec. 1, 2023

Celebrate the holidays with themed builds, photo opportunities with life-sized Lego Santa and more. Visitors can try to find all the Lego presents throughout the attraction for their chance to win an exclusive holiday prize!

Kohlights: A Mesmertastic Holiday Lightacular! at Kohl Children’s Museum

Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 2023

Kids can take control over the light display at different activity stations along the way at this holiday event. Kohlights is now an indoor and outdoor experience, so there will be access to all indoor exhibits as well.

The Nutcracker at Prairie Center for the Arts

Dec. 7-10, 2023

Schaumburg Dance Ensemble’s vibrantly costumed and staged production of Tchaikovsky’s magical holiday ballet has enchanted audiences of all ages for nearly a quarter of a century. The Nutcracker brings to life a fantasy world of dancing snowflakes, waltzing flowers and battling mice.

Vintage Holidays in Long Grove

Dec. 8-10, 15-17, 22-23, 2023

Victorian buildings trimmed in lights, a covered bridge and cobblestone walkways lined with luminaries in beautiful historic Long Grove. There will be costumed carolers, strolling musicians and Santa and Mrs. Claus on weekends. Horse-drawn carriage rides on Sundays on select dates.

Happy Holiday Railway at Illinois Railway Museum

Dec. 9-10, 16-17, 2023

Take a 40-minute train ride trip through the winter countryside on one of the museum’s trains. Sip on hot chocolate and enjoy treats while you await your visit from Santa on the train. Also, be sure to check out the holiday lights display at the boarding area, including the biggest and brightest Christmas tree in McHenry County.

Santa in the Village! in Historic Downtown Long Grove

Dec. 10-11, 17-18, 2023

Do your holiday shopping and visit with Santa Claus. On Dec. 3, the pictures will be by the decorated bridge.

1st Night, 1st Light: Camp Chi Hanukkah Kickoff Party at Bernard Weinger JCC 

Dec. 7, 2023

Light the candles, enjoy food, play arcade games and celebrate the first night of Hanukkah at this family-friendly event. Registration required.

Duke It Out Nutcracker at Nichols Concert Hall, Music Institute of Chicago

Dec. 9, 2023

This Nutcracker performance, curated by Dance Chicago, pairs the classical (Tchaikovsky) and jazz (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn) versions of the holiday favorite, performed by professional brass and woodwind quintets. This family-friendly performance is 60 minutes long.

North Shore School of Dance: The Nutcracker at Lake Forest Academy

Dec. 9-10, 2023

The story of Clara and her Nutcracker prince as they fight the Mice King and journey through the snow to the Land of Sweets, told by ballet dancers.

Clayson’s Kids Days at Clayson House Museum

Dec. 10, 2023

Ages 4-12 can join the museum for a fun event for children. There will be a drop-in craft and you’ll be able to visit with the mascot, Clayson, the Family Dog.

Everyone at Play at Kohl Children’s Museum

Dec. 10, 2023

The museum invites families with children with special needs to explore the exhibits while closed to the general public. A quiet room for stimulation breaks will be available. Advanced registration required.

6th Night, 6th Light: Family Challah Bake at Bernard Weinger JCC

Dec. 12, 2023

Join Anya Viner, owner of Tigertail Bakery, to learn how to braid and decorate Challahkiahas. Registration required.

7th Night, 7th Light: Teen Hanukkah Party at The Revere at Bernard Weinger JCC

Dec. 13, 2023

Teens in grades 7-12 can drop in for Lite-Brite Design and dreidel competitions, fill your own sufganiyot, photo booth, Maccabee dodgeball tournament and music. Registration required.

Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at College of Lake County James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts

Dec. 16-17, 2023

The Ruth Page Civic Ballet performances recreate Ruth Page’s beloved original full-length staging. Exquisite dancing, stunning costumes and magical settings in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of the Sweets, “The Nutcracker” promises holiday joy for children of all ages.

Winter Wonderland at Discovery Center Museum

Dec. 22, 2023-Jan. 2, 2024

Test your skating skills at the Discovery Center Museum’s new indoor Sock Skating Rink and enjoy creating winter-themed crafts.

Harlem Globetrotters at BMO Center

Dec. 30, 2023

Watch the Harlem Globetrotters as they go head-to-head against the Washington Generals in an exciting, trick-filled basketball game.

Arctic Adventure at Six Flags Great America

Through Dec. 31, 2023

Enjoy a drive-through light experience at Six Flags Great America on select nights, where you’ll see whimsical lights and winter characters. There will also be Carousel Lights & Market where there will be photo ops, holiday treats and décor in Carousel Plaza and Orleans Place.

Santa’s Rock n Lights – Drive Thru Light Show at Lake County Fairgrounds

Through Dec. 31, 2023

Enjoy more than 1,000 feet of dancing light tunnels, three larger-than-life 3D polar bears, 3D dinosaurs and hundreds-of-thousands of lights dancing to music for about a mile or more.

Sparkle Light Festival in Rosemont

Through Dec. 31, 2023

Visitors can enjoy an immersive display of millions of holiday lights and outdoor holiday activities, including free train rides, winter tubing and themed mazes. A special menu of festive food and beverage options will also be available.

Willow Hill Lights at Willow Hill Golf Course

Through Jan. 6, 2024

Enjoy this drive-thru holiday lights show, which is back for its second year with bigger and better displays. It will feature a 1.6-mile route with more than a million lights, three drive-through tunnels and a 30-foot Christmas tree.

Lightscape at Chicago Botanical Garden

Through Jan. 7, 2024

See thousands of twinkling lights while walking through the Winter Cathedral and a reimagined fire garden.

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli at Illinois Holocaust Museum

Through April 14, 2024

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli explores how Jewish immigrants imported and adapted traditions to create a uniquely American restaurant. Learn about deli history with menus, advertisements, neon signs, photographs, uniforms and film and TV clips. There are also interactive and photo opportunities.

South Suburbs

Photo credit: Kristie Kahns

Christmas in the Commons at New Lenox Commons

Dec. 9-10, 16-17, 23, 2023

See a holiday light display with a 50-foot-tall lighted Santa Claus and holiday activities to accompany the lights, including visits from Santa, horse-drawn wagon rides, synthetic skating rinks, visits from reindeer and more.

New York Voices Holiday Show at Fine and Performing Arts Center, Moraine Valley Community College

Dec. 9, 2023 

See the Grammy Award-winning vocal jazz ensemble, New York Voices. The concert will have classic hits such as Let It Snow, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Silent Night and much more. Great for all ages.

Beyond the Nutcracker by School of Ballet 5:8 at Lincoln-Way East High School

Dec. 16-17, 2023

It’s set to the renowned Tchaikovsky score where audience members are invited to join Emma, her Uncle Abrahms and the angel Anastasis as they embark on a journey through time and discover what Christmas is all about.

Holiday Magic in Motion at The Promenade Bolingbrook

Through Jan. 7, 2024

Promenade visitors can stroll through a world of twinkling lights, see 11 illuminated displays, magical candy canes and see Santa.

Western Suburbs

Photo credit: Illumination – Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

Holiday Express at Blackberry Farm

Dec. 7-10, 14-17, 2023

See Santa and his elves at Blackberry Farm for pictures. Also, enjoy holiday displays, Gingerbread School House, Little Elf Hobby Shoppe, Candy Cane Village, a gift shop, Sugar Plum Playland and more.

The Naperville Nutcracker at Pfeiffer Hall

Dec. 7-10, 2023

This holiday performance is set to the beloved score by Tchaikovsky. With its beautiful costumes, gorgeous sets and impressive dancing, this production is guaranteed to fill the audience with cheer and delight!

Tree Lighting in Wilder Park

Dec. 7, 2023

Join the Elmhurst Park District as they kick off the holiday season in Wilder Park and light community trees that surround the park. Kids can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy holiday festivities.

Oswego Holiday Express at South Point

Dec. 8-10, 2023

Put on your pajamas and your warmest apparel and head to the “North Pole” on Oswego’s Holiday Express. Mrs. Claus will greet you, you’ll enjoy hot cocoa from the Village Grind and then meet Santa.

Adaptive Play Time at DuPage Children’s Museum

Dec. 10, 2023

This monthly event provides a modified environment for play and learning for children and their caregivers. It is intended for families with disabilities, on the autism spectrum and/or with sensory processing disorders. Pre-registration is required.

Sundaes with Santa at The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor

Dec. 10, 17, 2023

Enjoy making your own ice cream sundae with the big guy. Tickets include making sundaes with Santa, homemade hot cocoa, photo op with Santa and a goodie bag. Purchase advanced tickets.

Home for the Holidays in Downtown Oak Park

Dec. 16, 2023

Families and friends can head down to Lake Street & Marion Street for free sleigh rides, visits with Santa, hot cocoa and musical entertainment. Also, enjoy a free showing of The Polar Express at Lake Theater.

Salt Creek Ballet: “The Nutcracker” With New Philharmonic at McAninch Arts Center at the College of DuPage

Dec. 16-17, 2023

This magical full-scale production at the MAC features more than 50 dancers including guest artists. You will see this magnificent ballet performed to live music.

Santa’s Naperville Workshop

Through Dec. 21, 2023

Families can enjoy a unique visit with Santa Claus inside his magical workshop. Bring your own camera. Dress for the weather. Advanced registration is required.

Magical Christmas at Santa’s Village

Through Dec. 23, 2023

See more than 3 million lights synchronized to holiday music at this one-of-a-kind drive-through experience. At the end of the drive-through, you’ll be able to park your car and meet and take a photo with Santa Claus. Also, a 300-foot tube slide, entertainment and hot cocoa and funnel cakes for purchase. Online reservations are required.

Christkindlmarket at RiverEdge Park

Through Dec. 24, 2023

Offers a unique shopping experience, family-friendly events and intercultural activities.

Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo

Through Dec. 30, 2023 

See twinkling lights, an amazing selection of Christmas trees and wreaths and greenery at this holiday lighting event. Also, hot chocolate and holiday gifts are available to purchase in the Wild Side Gift Shop.

Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo

Through Dec. 31, 2023

This annual event features more than two million twinkling LED lights and is Chicagoland’s longest-running holiday light experience! Advanced tickets required.

Naper Lights in Downtown Naperville

Through Dec. 31, 2023

  • Address: Downtown Naperville area
  • Cost: Free; donations are welcome

Put on a pair of 3D glasses and enjoy a magical holiday lights celebration, presented by Rotary Club of Naperville Sunrise. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Santa will be available to take pictures.

Holiday Lights in Lilacia Park

Through Jan. 1, 2024

Enjoy Lombard Park District’s annual holiday lights display, which will offer magical light shows, tree decorations, a gingerbread house and more. Kids can visit with Santa every Friday-Sunday from 6-8 p.m. Also, holiday characters, cookies and hot cocoa.

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

Through Jan. 6, 2024

Surround yourselves with color while walking on the one-mile paved pathway. Enjoy seasonal music, captivating light designs and roasting s’mores on a fire at this outdoor event.

Winter Lights at Central Park

Through Jan. 7, 2024

Enjoy a half-mile walk to see the holiday lights through Central Park. See inspirational signs, colorful rainbow arches, cascading snowflakes and more.


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Kari Zaffarano
Kari Zaffarano
Kari Zaffarano is a mom of one and Chicago Parent's Audience Development Coordinator. She tracks down the best events every week and shares the inside scoop with families in print and online. She enjoys reading, traveling and exploring new places with her son.

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