There is no shortage of winter activities and holiday cheer in Illinois. Each year, local communities hold family-friendly activities ranging from spectacular light shows to classic holiday performances. Whether you prefer shopping at Christmas craft fairs or viewing light displays, Illinois has something for everyone during the winter months. The following winter activities will take your mind off the frigid winter weather and put you in good spirits.
Ice skating at the Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon in downtown Chicago is like skating through hilly alpines, but with a city backdrop. This free ice skating experience is one of the best in the state, and it usually opens in late November. Figure skates and hockey skates are available, plus hot chocolate to complete the winter outing.
Geneva is a small town with lots of holiday spirit during the winter. The first week of December, the city holds its annual Christmas Walk for locals and visitors. Visit Santa and see him lighting the great tree, tour the Holiday House, take a carriage ride, and enjoy more winter festivities.
The Morton Arboretum is known for its year-round holiday celebrations. During the winter months, visitors can stroll through the woods and view the gorgeous trees illuminated in colorful lights. This award-winning display of various tree species lit up in sparkling lights is a must-see each year.
Head over to the Museum of Science and Industry to explore holiday traditions around the world. Originating in 1942, this holiday event has become a yearly tradition for Chicago families. You can't miss the four-story Christmas tree, dozens of holiday displays representing various cultures around the world, and other holiday events.
This free holiday event in Lincoln Park Zoo has been drawing in families for years. ZooLights features luminous displays, musical light shows, 3D spectacles, and other holiday activities throughout the zoo grounds. Enjoy photos with Santa, crafts, holiday snacks, ice sculpting, train rides, and the carousel.
Experience the holiday classic "A Christmas Carol" at Goodman Theater in Chicago. This extraordinary yearly performance tells a heartwarming tale of hope and kindness. The festive music and abundance of stage magic will surely get you in the holiday spirit.
If you've ever fantasized about an indoor winter wonderland with a playground, the Winter WonderFest is a must-see. This Chicago family tradition features an indoor skating rink, giant slides, train rides, ice peaks, and holiday decor galore. Kids can visit with Santa, go "snow" tubing (no gloves necessary), and other winter activities.
Explore the holiday flower show at the Garfield Park Conservatory without freezing outdoors. This indoor exhibit features over a hundred fir trees illuminated in over 15,000 twinkling lights. Poinsettias and other winter plants are beautifully displayed, as well. This annual holiday show is like walking through the wintery woods without the winter chill.
If you like shopping for homemade crafts, the Christmas Crossroads Craft Show should be on your destination list. For nearly five decades this massive Christmas craft show has been featuring homemade items created by local artisans. All the proceeds go to local charitable causes such food pantries and scholarships.
The Larsen's Light Show in Elburn is designed to create family memories. A local landscaper puts on an elaborate display each year to bring Christmas spirit to the local community. This illuminated mansion draws in thousands of sightseers each year because it's truly a sight to behold.
If you've ever dreamt on an endless chocolate buffet, you can finally make that dream a reality at Galesburg Historical Society Chocolate Festival. Sample endless chocolate treats including pies, tortes, cakes, candies, beverages, and more. This annual festival is usually held in February, and tickets are around $10.
There's nothing like visiting a cozy bakery on a winter day. Bannison's Bakery has been in the family since 1938, and they have perfected holiday treats. They hand make gingerbread houses, snowman cupcakes, brandied fruit cake, pies, petit fours, Florentines, and various traditional European treats.
Enjoy an exhilarating ride down four-story tubing hill "Polar Peak" in the middle of MB Financial Park in Rosemont. Known as "Frozemont" during the winter, this tubing area also offers a kiddie slope for younger children under five. It's the perfect winter activity for snow days.
Grant Woods Trail offers so many possibilities for nature-lovers during winter months. Go hiking or cross-country skiing on six miles of gravel trails and access over four miles of snowmobile trails. The gently rolling landscape and year-around views of wildlife make this a relaxing destination.
What better place to go caroling than beautiful Millennium Park downtown Chicago? Caroling at Cloud Gate is a festive event where hundreds of carolers join to belt out holiday tunes. Santa also joins the crowd to add holiday spirit.