'Bundle up, get outdoors and explore' is slowly becoming our family's new wintertime mantra. While I don't necessarily enjoy the chilly weather, my kids love being outdoors any time of the year. And when dressed properly, being outdoors is a joy, even in the dead of winter. Here are four fun ways to celebrate the holiday season in Chicago...outdoors.
Celebrate the Solstice. Don your cold weather gear and celebrate the official start of winter outdoors at a nature oasis in the middle of the city. The Winter Solstice Festival at the North Park Nature Center welcomes the long Chicago winter with live music, crafts and more. Take a walk along the 1.5 mile moon and luminary-lit trails and see if you can spot deer tracks in the snow. Marvel at the frozen marsh. Visit with animals from the Big Run Wolf Ranch and enjoy the musically celebrated holiday treat of chestnuts roasted on an open fire. As always, admission to the North Park Nature Center is free; no registration required. This year's festival with take place this Saturday, December 14, from 6 - 9 pm.Belt Out Your Favorite Christmas Carols in Millenium Park. Celebrate the holidays in Millennium Park, with festive Christmas Carols on Friday evenings through December 20 when Caroling at Cloud Gate returns on Friday evenings through December 20, 2013 at 6pm.This free program showcases the best of the best Chicago choral groups and invites visitorssing-along, too. Hundreds of singers gather each week near the "Bean" to sing the joys of the season during these 50-minute caroling sessions.
Skate to Your Heart's Content at an Outdoor Ice Skating Rink. Chicago Park District’s outdoor ice skating rinks are located all around the city, welcoming both beginning and advanced ice skaters. Skating season runs through Feb. 23 at most outdoor rinks, weather permitting. New this year, most ice rinks will offer programs including learn to skate and pick up hockey games.
Party with the Animals. Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights festival features thousands of colorful light displays throughout the zoo as well as special visits with Santa Claus, live music, holiday crafts and large-scale ice carving. Running every weekend from this Friday to January 5 (closed Dec. 24 and 25), check the zoo calendar for related festival events. New this year, visitors can also ice skate at the Farm-in-the-Zoo ($5 admission; $5 skate rental or bring your own).