Best Things to Do with Kids in Chicago and Suburbs This December

Plan ahead! 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 with school, sports practices, dance classes and other extracurricular activities. 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 this month.

There are many happenings around Chicagoland in the month of December. Check out the Hanukkah events, Kwanzaa events, holiday events, tree lighting events and magical places to see holiday lights.

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

Photo Credit: Navy Pier

Día de Muertos, Memories & Offerings at the National Museum of Mexican Art

Dec. 1-4, 6-11, 2022

Head to the main gallery to see the museum’s 36th Day of the Dead exhibition to remember the individuals who died from COVID and other tragedies in the last year.

Sensory Friendly Fridays at the Insect Asylum

Dec. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, 2022

Enjoy a sensory friendly day at The Insect Asylum where they have no music, no flashing or distracted lights and limited entry of 10 per group. 

Dooby Dooby Moo at Lifeline Theater

Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 2022

See the performance of Dooby Dooby Moo, based on the popular bestseller by Doreen Cronin at Lifeline Theatre.

Hyde Park Holly-Day at Harper Court

Dec. 3, 2022

Families can head to downtown Hyde Park and family-fun activities such as holiday crafts, ice carving demos and sculpture stroll, family photos with Soul Santa and Mrs. Claus, dance performances, meet and greets with costumed characters, live reindeer and Buddy the Elf.

Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Northeastern Illinois University Auditorium, Steinberg Fine Arts Center 

Dec. 3-4, 2022

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.

Santa and Aunt Holly Are Coming to Town at Richard H. Driehaus Museum

Dec. 3-4, 2022

Kids can visit with Santa and have their photo taken. Afterwards, join Aunt Holly and Elf Amy for stories and songs. Tickets include same-day museum admission.

The Art Deco Nutcracker at The Athenaeum Theatre

Dec. 3, 2022

Set in 1920s America, Kremnev’s “The Art Deco Nutcracker,” featuring Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, is a fresh, yet traditional take on the beloved holiday favorite with costume and set design inspired by the unique sophistication of the Art Deco era.

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

Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24, 2022

Enjoy an interactive trunk and puppet show, which includes original music on violin, mandolin, toy piano and banjo. Hot cocoa and cookies follow the show. Best for ages 2-6.

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Lyric Opera House 

Dec. 3-27, 2022 (Fridays-Sundays)

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.

Wicked at James M. Nederlander Theatre

Through Dec. 4, 2022 

Ages 8 and up can head to James M. Nederlander Theatre to see the musical, Wicked, which looks at what happened in the Land of Oz from a different angle.

CKC Presents: Mrs. Claus! A Holiday Musical at Stahl Family Theater

Dec. 6-23, 2022

Chicago Kids Company’s holiday classic celebrates the 23rd year of Mrs. Claus! A Holiday MusicalGet tickets early.

A Mexican Christmas at St. Alphonsus Church

Dec. 10, 2022

Celebrate this beloved holiday tradition featuring Christmas music from 17th century Mexico City. The concert features both classical music and folk-based songs of praise and celebration.

A Mexican Christmas at Mother of the Americas Parish

Dec. 11, 2022

Celebrate this beloved holiday tradition featuring Christmas music from 17th century Mexico City. The concert features both classical music and folk-based songs of praise and celebration.

Rollin’ With Frosty! at Lake Shore Park

Dec. 16, 2022

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

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

Through Dec. 23, 2022

Chicago Kids Company’s holiday classic celebrates the 23rd year of Mrs. Claus! A Holiday MusicalGet tickets early.

The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle at Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago

Through Dec. 31, 2022

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.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

Through Jan. 4, 2023

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.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Through Jan. 7, 2023

See Chicagoland’s largest indoor lighting experience. It features interactive light displays, birch tree maze, skating rink, visits with Santa and more.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier at Lookingglass Theatre Company

Through Jan. 8, 2023

Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about a little tin soldier who never gives up, Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman’s production is a gorgeous spectacle of music and movement. For ages 5-plus.

Wild Color at The Field Museum

Through Jan. 8, 2023

Rooms at the Field Museum will be dedicated to different colors of the light spectrum and visitors can see how color is displayed in the natural world: gems, minerals, animals that glow under UV light and more. The presentation includes sounds, vibrant visuals and media projections.

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Through Jan. 8, 2023

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.

The Lion King at Cadillac Palace Theatre

Through Jan. 14, 2023

Ages 6 and up can head to Cadillac Palace Theatre to see the musical, The Lion King, which won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The Art of Brick at Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Through Jan. 16, 2023

The largest display of Lego art features more than one million Lego bricks transformed into more than 100 sculptures by artist Nathan Sawaya. The display includes Sawaya’s original sculptures as well as re-imagined versions of some of the world’s most famous art masterpieces.

Harry Potter: Magic at Play at Water Tower Place

Through May 14, 2023 (Thursdays-Mondays)

Enjoy the first-of-its-kind interactive experience, which allows fans of all ages to engage with the Wizarding World like never before. It’s 30,000 square feet of hands-on magical interactivity including games, exploration, sensory activations and more that celebrate Harry’s own journey in discovering the wizarding world.

North/Northwest Suburbs

Photo Credit: Salt Creek Ballet

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

Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 16-23, 26-29, 2022

Kids take control over the light display at different activity stations along the way at this holiday event. 

Salt Creek Ballet: The Nutcracker at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts

Dec. 2-3, 2022 

See Salt Creek Ballet’s The Nutcracker as it marches back onto the North Shore Center stage with an affordable full-length holiday production. It will be performed by a professional company with exceptional guest soloists. 

The Nutcracker at Prairie Center for the Arts

Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 2022

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 Nutcrackerbrings to life a fantasy world of dancing snowflakes, waltzing flowers and battling mice. 

Green is for Christmas: In-Store Meet and Greet with Esteban, the Green Crayon at The Book Stall

Dec. 3, 2022 

Stop in the Book Stall for a family-fun meet and greet with the character Esteban, the Green Crayon from Drew Daywalt’s contemporary classic, The Day the Crayons Quit!

Happy Holiday Railway at Illinois Railway Museum

Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 2022 

Take a 40-minute train ride trip through the winter countryside on one of the museum’s trains. Sip on hot cocoa and enjoy treats while you await your visit from Santa on the train.

Caring Santa at Woodfield Mall

Dec. 4, 11, 2022 

Kids with special needs, particularly those with autism, can enjoy meeting a Caring Santa at Woodfield Mall. Advance registration required for private photo experience.

Santa Cares Day at Northbrook Court

Dec. 4, 2022 

Visit Santa in a sensory-friendly environment. Exclusively for children & families with special needs. Reservations are required. 

Sensory-Friendly Santa Experience at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Dec. 4, 2022 

Fashion Outlets of Chicago invites children with special needs and their families to enjoy a Sensory-Friendly Santa Experience.

Sensory Santa at Hawthorn Mall

Dec. 4, 2022

This sensory-friendly Santa event is for children and families with autism and special needs. Reservations required. 

Small Stories for Small Readers at Booked Evanston

Dec. 6, 13, 20, 27, 2022 

Miss Jess reads stories and sings songs every Tuesday at Booked. For ages 1-5. 

A Mexican Christmas at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Dec. 9, 2022

  • Address: 939 Hinman Ave., Evanston
  • Cost: $25/ages 16-plus, $10/student w/valid ID, free/ages 15 and under, $100/10-person family pass 

Celebrate this beloved holiday tradition featuring Christmas music from 17th century Mexico City. The concert features both classical music and folk-based songs of praise and celebration.

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

Dec. 10, 2022 

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. 

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

Dec. 10-11, 2022

Enjoy the story of Clara and her Nutcracker prince as they fight the Mice King and journey through the snow to the Land of Sweets. A portion of the proceeds are donated to organizations and charity groups. 

Clayson’s Kids Days at Clayson House Museum

Dec. 11, 2022

There will be a drop-in craft and you’ll be able to visit with mascot, Clayson, the Family Dog. For ages 4-12. 

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

Dec. 17, 2022

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. 17-30, 2022 

Test your skating skills at the Discovery Center Museum’s new indoor Sock Skating Rink and enjoy creating holiday crafts based on cultures around the world.

Yetis are the Worst: Author Open House with Alex Willan at The Book Stall

Dec. 17, 2022

Drop by The Book Stall for a family-friendly open house featuring children’s author Alex Willan to greet his fans and share his new book, Yetis are the Worst! Get your book signed, too.

Evanston Children’s Choir Holiday Concert 2022 at St. Nicholas Church

Dec. 18, 2022 

Enjoy hearing Evanston Children’s Choir Holiday Concert back in live-action form for the first time in three years.

Santa at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Through Dec. 24, 2022

Experience the magic of the holiday season with a visit to Santa’s winter wonderland. Sensory-Friendly Santa is from 8-10 a.m. on Dec. 4 and every Monday evening from 4-7 p.m. Nov.21-Dec. 5, dogs and cats are welcome to join their owners for photos with Santa.

Let it Shine Drive-Thru Light Show

Through Jan. 1, 2023

Let It Shine returns this holiday season with two locations in Illinois. Guests stay in their cars and immerse themselves in a wonderland of light displays that are synchronized to holiday classics.

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

Through Jan. 1, 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 

Through Jan. 1, 2023 (Wednesdays-Sundays)

Visitors can enjoy an immersive display of millions of holiday lights amongst 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. 

Holiday Bricktacular at Legoland Discovery Center

Through Jan. 2, 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!

Lightscape at Chicago Botanical Garden

Through Jan. 8, 2023

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

Skating in the Park at Parkway Bank Park

Through Jan. 29, 2023

Come out to Chicago Wolves Ice Rink, where the parks’ great lawn transforms transformed into an NHL-sized, outdoor skating rink. Guests are invited to bring their own skates.

South Suburbs

Photo credit: Kristie Kahns

Holiday Lights in Homewood

Dec. 2, 2022

Throughout downtown Homewood, see costumed characters such as Elsa, Anna, Olaf and more. Also, Santa will flip the switch for the annual tree lighting ceremony. Ice sculpture demos, the grand holiday carousel, live reindeer and more.

Christmas Express 2022 at New Lenox Train Station

Dec. 3-4, 2022

Enjoy the 14th annual holiday train ride at New Lenox Train Station. Ride to Tinley Park with songs and entertainment. Tickets include a visit with Santa, breakfast or lunch, plus many activities.

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

Dec. 17-18, 2022

Set to the renowned Tchaikovsky score, audience members watch as Emma, her uncle and the angel Anastasis embark on a journey through time and discover what Christmas is all about. 

Amaze Light Festival at Odyssey Fun World

Dec. 24, 26-31, 2022

  • Address: 19111 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park
  • Cost: $36/ages 13-plus, $30/ages 2-12, free/under 2 (VIP tickets and family bundles are also available); $15/pre-paid parking

Guests enjoy an all-immersive storybook experience highlighting five-themed worlds of displays and activities. There will be 3D lighted decor and photo opportunities around every corner. 

Western Suburbs

Photo Credit: Blackberry Farm/Fox Valley Park District

Holiday Express at Blackberry Farm

Dec. 1-18, 2022

See Lake Gregory and Blackberry Farm in all its holiday glory amid the twinkling lights and songs of Christmas. Back in the village, enjoy storytelling of the classics, festive decorations, reindeer food bar, hay wagon rides and a visit with Santa. 

Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo 

Dec. 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 26-31, 2022

Celebrating its 41st year, this annual event features more than two million twinkling LED lights! Advanced tickets required.

Storytime at IKEA Bolingbrook!

Dec. 1, 15, 2022

Ages 2-6 can enjoy a story time at Ikea on the first and third Thursday of every month. Also, free milk and cookies after a librarian from Bolingbrook Fountaindale Public Library reads stories using puppets, music and movement. RSVP required.

Tree Lighting in Wilder Park

Dec. 1, 2022

Join the Elmhurst Park District as it kicks off the holiday season in Wilder Park and light the more than 60 community trees. Kids can visit with Santa while enjoying games, photo opps, holiday music, food trucks and more.

Animal Care League’s 37th Annual Holiday Bazaar at Berwyn VFW

Dec. 2-4, 2022

Come out to this 37th annual event for holiday shopping, baked goods, raffle prizes and photos with Santa.

Geneva’s Great Tree Lighting and Christmas Walk

Dec. 2, 2022

The Christmas Walk begins at 6 p.m. Santa arrives and the tree will be lit between 6-6:30 p.m. The courthouse lawn becomes illuminated with lights, too.

Holiday Express – Special Needs Night at Blackberry Farm 

Dec. 2, 2022

Enjoy all the fun of Holiday Express in a low-sensory environment at Blackberry Farm. Pre-registration is required.

Kids Club Holiday Magic at North Riverside Park Mall

Dec. 3, 2022

See a holiday-oriented Magic Show with James Jensen Magic. Registration required. See a screening of The Polar Express and the first 100 kids will receive a free jingle bell. 

Santa’s Workshop at Wilder Mansion

Dec. 3, 2022

Bring your children to Wilder Mansion where kids can purchase inexpensive gifts for mom, dad, teacher, friends and more. Items are kid-priced and kid-friendly.

Winterfest and Cookie Walk in Downtown Oak Park

Dec. 3, 2022

  • Address: Marion Street between Lake Street and North Boulevard, Oak Park
  • Cost: $25/participation fee

Downtown Oak Park’s annual Winterfest + Cookie Walk includes a souvenir cookie tin and 25-plus individually wrapped cookies to collect at participating businesses. There will be a free movie screening of Jingle Jangles, musical entertainment and Santa, too.

Holiday Lights in Lilacia Park

Dec. 4-18, 2022

Celebrate this annual holiday lights display in Lilacia Park, which features tree decorations, magical light shows, a gingerbread house and more.

Santa Cares Day at Oakbrook Center

Dec. 4, 2022

Children within all spectrums of special needs and their families are welcome to a sensory-friendly visit for fun family photos with Santa. Reservations required.

Sensory Friendly Holiday Party with Santa and the Special Needs Mom Squad at Mistwood Golf Club

Dec. 4, 2022

All abilities are welcome to enjoy a lunch buffet, sensory activities and take pictures with Santa in their private room.

The Naperville Nutcracker at Pfeiffer Hall

Dec. 11, 2022

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!

Merry Madness in Downtown Downers Grove

Dec. 15, 2022

  • Address: Downtown Downers Grove area
  • Cost: Free

Many of the downtown shops and restaurants in Downers Grove will be participating in this event. There will be specials, gift card drawings, strolling carolers and more.

Home for the Holidays in Downtown Oak Park

Dec. 17, 2022

Families and friends can head down to Lake Street and Marion Street for free sleigh rides, visits with Santa, hot cocoa and musical entertainment. 

Rockin The Spectrum’s Christmas Party

Dec. 17, 2022

Enjoy dinner and time with other families while playing games. Santa makes an appearance. Mommy’s Creative World be there, with cotton candy and face painting extra.

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

Dec. 17-18, 2022

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.

Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo

Through Dec. 30, 2022

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.

Naper Lights in Downtown Naperville

Through Dec. 31, 2022

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. Bach to Rock performing on Dec. 17-18.

Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

Through Jan. 7, 2023

  • Address: 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
  • Cost: $19-$24/adult, $13-$16/kids, free/2 and under; member tickets at discounted rate; early bird specials available, too

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. 8, 2023

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

This post is updated monthly.

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