It’s the best time of the year to spend time with loved ones, and lucky for us, the Chicago area has plenty of holiday experiences that offer fun, memorable experiences for years to come. Read on for our favorite guaranteed memory-makers. Happy holidays to you and your family!
Be mesmerized by twinkling lights
Experience the magic of millions of lights with your family and a few of your favorite animals at either Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights or Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic. If you prefer a more interactive experience, Morton Arboretum’s Illumination is a must-see.
Head to the sky
For an experience you’ll never forget, take the family on a magical Holiday Lights Chicago Helicopter Tour over the city’s skyline and lakefront. Be wowed by the glittering views of Michigan Avenue lights, Millennium Park lights and those of the North Shore.
Cut down your own Christmas tree
If you haven’t found your perfect tree, get to it! Chop your own tree at Richardson’s Tree Farm where you can choose from more than 90,000 trees on 75 acres. You’ll also find fresh fudge and free coffee and cocoa daily in the heated barn with wreaths, garlands and other festive decorations. On weekends, the farm even offers tractor-drawn wagon rides.
Visit Santa, the Chicago way
What do you get when you combine trains and Santa? A heck of a memorable experience! Hop on Santa’s Magical Trolley Express for a trolley ride through either Naperville or Evanston to the final destination of Santa’s workshop for games, hot cocoa and cookies and visits with the jolly old man. Good news if you don’t want the fun to stop – tickets include admission to either DuPage Children’s Museum or Little Beans Café in Evanston. Find more fun train rides here.
Hop on the trolley
Cruising through downtown Chicago at night is always magical, but it’s even better in the comfort of a trolley where you don’t have to worry about driving or traffic. The Chicago Trolley whisks passengers around the best of the city’s holiday scenes for the Holiday Lights Tour with stops at ZooLights and Christkindlmarket. Plus, you’ll walk away with a Sprinkles cupcake.
See trees from around the world
My family always makes sure to visit the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Light every year, which features 50 festively decorated trees, plus MSI’s giant tree gracing the rotunda. It’s always fun trying to find your favorite tree and even more fun when you make it for the annual snow show.
Catch a show
There is nothing like a holiday show to warm your spirit. The gorgeous Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet is a classic. But if you have young kids–with short attention spans–the Nutcracker at the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences offers a unique musical spin. Check out a few more of our favorite picks here.
Grab your skates
Head to the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park for picture-perfect views of the city skyline. Don’t forget to make stops for hot chocolate! Swing on by Millennium Park afterwards for more photo opportunities.
Take in a magical sleigh ride
Bundle up and get ready to snuggle with the family and experience a sleigh ride like no other. At Go Sleigh in Harvard, take in the quiet winter wonderland while being pulled by Belgian draft horses on your sleigh.
Get away from it all
One of our favorite ways to enjoy the holidays is spending quality time together away from the pressures of everyday life. The Abbey Resort in Lake Geneva is a quick getaway and offers plenty of holiday activities such as ice skating, crafts and visits with Santa.