As a mom, I try to embrace the holiday season (and all of its, ahem, chaos) as a time to create happy memories that will last a lifetime for my son. As this holiday season approaches, I am researching new opportunities for our family to create such memories.
To my delight, I have discovered that there is an abundance of holiday activities in Chicago! Families rave about the city as being one of the best places to visit with family during the holiday season. And it’s easy to understand why. From November through early January, there are many kid-friendly activities from tree lightings, to outdoor ice skating, to celebrations at the zoo and more! If you are thinking of visiting Chicago for the holidays, here are my top-ranked kid-friendly activities!
City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting at Millenium Park
Tree lightings hold a special place in my heart as I grew up going to my town’s tree lighting with my family on the first Saturday of December every year. I fondly remember that night marking the official start of the holiday season as the lights were aglow and the holiday music played. As such, tree lightings are at the top of my bucket list for holiday activities with my son. Fortunately, in Chicago, there is no shortage of tree lightings! But I would be remiss to not put Chicago’s “official” Christmas tree at the top of my list. This year, the city will celebrate the 109th annual lighting of the Chicago Christmas Tree in Millennium Park on Friday, November 18 at 6 pm. The attraction is proudly recognized as “larger-than-life” with its twinkling lights and illuminated star.
Located at 201 East Randolph Street, the tree will stand aglow through to Sunday, January 8. Admission is free, and access to the park is easy with many nearby parking lots for those traveling by car, or options of travel (subway, bus) for those traveling by CTA public transit.
Winterland at Gallagher Way
As a born and raised baseball fanatic, incorporating America’s favorite pastime into my son’s holiday agenda is a top priority. To my delight, this is rather easy to accomplish in Chicago as holiday celebrations abound at the iconic Wrigley Field in Lakeview. Ranked as one of the best kid-friendly venues to visit this season, Winterland at Gallagher Way is an event that takes place both inside and outside the ballpark with an abundance of kid-friendly activities from ice skating, Santa’s workshop, holiday movie screenings, and more!
Located at 3635 North Clark Street, Winterland will run from Friday, November 18 through Sunday, January 8. Admission to Winterland is free and does not require tickets to access the holiday fun. Merchandise, concessions, rides, and professional photos are available onsite for purchase. Tickets are required, however, for the Wrigley Field portion of Winterland and can be purchased in advance online or directly on-site. Pricing varies depending on the activity package you choose, but tickets are around $5 per person. Best time management tip coming up....... I recommend taking advantage of early-bird pricing online if you think you and your family will be joining in on the fun at Wrigley Field this season. Have a little bundle in tow? Tickets are free for babes aged two and under at Wrigley Field Winterland events.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Since he was born, my son has taken to animals like no one I have ever seen. To the point that I am wondering if we have a future veterinarian in our family! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This season, I want to be sure I incorporate his love for animals into our holiday bucket list with a trip to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. Beloved to visitors near and far, Brookfield Zoo is one of the best places to visit with family any time of year, but this time of year is especially unique as visitors can enjoy the 41st annual Holiday Magic lights festival. Featuring a colorful display of more than two million glittering LED lights, plus a full schedule of kid-friendly activities like visits with Santa, ice-carving demonstrations, live entertainment, and more, the venue has much to offer this holiday season!
Chicago’s longest-running lights festival begins on Friday, November 25, and wraps up Saturday, December 31. There are two separate entrance gates to the Brookfield Zoo.
The North Gate entrance is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield. Holiday Magic tickets are not required in advance if you are entering through the North Gate. However, you may opt to make purchase tickets and your parking pass in advance online. Tickets range in price from free for children under three, $17.95 per child, $24.95 per adult, and $19.95 per senior. North Gate parking passes are $13.40.
The South Gate entrance is located at 3300 Golf Road in Brookfield. Holiday Magic tickets are required in advance if you are entering through South Gate and may be purchased online. Pricing is the same as Northgate, though there are additional pricing options if you hold a membership card, a library card pass, or are an active or retired member of the military.
To get more information on these kid-friendly holiday activities, please visit this website’s free KidFriendlyVenue app!