Wonderfest: A holiday must-do

Navy Pier is mainly known for its outdoor appeal, but come December, the party moves inside when it is transformed into a magical winter wonderland filled with glistening lights, merry music and holiday family activities.

Winter Wonderfest

  • Dec. 2-Jan. 8
  • Navy Pier
  • winterwonderfest.com and navypier.com for festival hours,
    attractions, discounted family packages and to buy wristbands in

This year, the family fest lasts a week longer, Dec. 2-Jan. 8.

Another new addition to this year’s fest is an adults-only setting with live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

But during the day, the festival is perfect for even the littlest holiday revelers thanks to the Winter Wonderfest Jr. area filled with bounce houses and tinsel tunnels.

The preschool set will love the Kris Kringle Carousel and the Reindeer Express train ride through Santa’s workshop. Elementary school-aged kids can ride the indoor Ferris wheel between decorating and devouring freshly baked goods at the Cookie Cottage. Older children can take off on the Wind Glider, a breath-taking journey akin to hang gliding, or try out their figure skating moves on the indoor ice rink.

And families of all ages will relish the entertainment at the Winter WonderStage, including comedy, dance and magic shows.

All of this holiday fun, however, comes at a price. While admission is free, most of the main attractions require a wristband, which start at $15 per child.

Want to experience the fest without the lines? Attendance generally ramps up the weekend before Christmas, so plan your outing earlier in the season. School groups tend to descend on Wonderfest mid-morning through early afternoon, so veteran attendees also suggest a mid-afternoon arrival on weekdays for the thinnest crowds.

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