Best Holiday Activities for Chicagoland Families

These kid-friendly holiday happenings will make your season even brighter.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You can almost feel the magic in the air when the holiday season arrives in Chicago. When you have kids, these moments are even more special when you watch their excitement for the holidays.

Especially in Chicagoland, the holiday season offers plenty of family fun with twinkling lights, magical attractions and more. Whether you’re celebrating ChristmasHanukkah or Kwanzaa or looking forward to New Year’s Eve, we’ve got you covered with lots of holiday fun.

Here’s how to make the season even brighter with these kid-friendly holiday happenings the whole family will love.

Take in all the holiday lights

Photo Credit: Willow Hills Winter Magic

How can you not marvel at all the holiday lights in Chicagoland? You can take a stroll in neighborhoods like Sauganash and Logan Square to see houses decked out. Many popular attractions are returning with their annual lights like Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights and Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. Newer displays like Sparkle Light Festival in Rosemont, will surely become a holiday tradition. You can even drive through some holiday light displays.

Make plans for these holiday events

german-christmas-market
Photo Credit: Christkindlmarket

Many holiday events in Chicago have become cherished traditions for many families and we’re always happy to see them in return. This year, get some shopping done at the Christkindlmarket (located at Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville) or see decorated trees at Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights.

Take a photo with Santa

Photo Credit: Cheryl Eugenio

Santa Claus is coming to town — and you won’t miss him with all these experiences across the Chicago area. Visit Santa at beloved holiday events like Macy’s Santaland or Hyde Park Holly-Day. We even provided some virtual experiences if you want to surprise your child with a video call from Santa, too.

Shop local for the best toys

Don’t ship, shop local! That’s our motto when it comes with holiday shopping. And with supply chain demands, you might want to shop earlier than usual to make sure you get all your gifts. 

Hop aboard these holiday trains

Photo Credit: Blackberry Farm/Fox Valley Park District

Kids who love trains would love to take a ride on a holiday one. The holiday trains in Chicagoland offer plenty of festive ways to celebrate. And if your family loves The Polar Express, then there are holiday train experiences in Chicago and the suburbs that recreate that movie’s magic.

Skate around at an ice skating rink

Photo Credit: Maggie Daley Park

While we can enjoy skating rinks all winter long, many of the outdoor rinks begin to open during the holiday season. You can stop at Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon or McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park for amazing views of the city skyline. There’s also plenty of other places to skate around across the city and suburbs.

Feel like royalty at a holiday tea

Photo Credit: The Langham

An afternoon tea with some festive flair is a perfect outing for a family. Many of these holiday tea experiences provide great kid-friendly options like hot chocolate and frosted sugar cookies. Dress up to the nines to really make it a special event. Or even take a quick photo for the family holiday card!  

See a holiday classic — The Nutcracker

Photo Credit: Joffrey Ballet

There are many holiday theater options in Chicago, but seeing The Nutcracker is always a show that families should see at least once. With the dance of the sugar plum fairies and the waltz of the flowers, kids will love to see a live ballet performance. There are also many Nutcracker performances that provide a little twist from the original.

Give back at one of these toy drives

Photo Credit: Pixabay

As exciting as the holiday season can be, it’s important to think about others, too. Volunteering as a family is a great way to give back to the community. And since it’s a time where our children receive many gifts, they can return the favor by participating in a toy drive. 


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Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Chicago Parent Editorial Team
Since 1984, the Chicago Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for Chicagoland families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.
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