Navy Pier is just as wonderful in the winter as it is in the summer. You can pull right in, park your car in the indoor lot, and enjoy a day jam-packed with activities, dining, shopping, and fun — without having to endure the chilly weather outdoors. For the 15th year in a row, families from near and far will head to Navy Pier to celebrate the season minus the gloves, hat and mittens at Winter WonderFest (open now through January 10, 2016).
Featuring more than 24 rides and attractions and 170,000 square feet of entertainment for all ages, this fun fest is back! Here is our insider's guide and top tips for Navy Pier's Winter WonderFest.
- See what's new for 2015. A glittering forest of nearly 500 trees decorated with 25,000 ornaments hung on a mile of wire will greet guests this year, along with newly imagined decor. New rides and attractions this year include the Polar Extreme, a double-sided inflatable slide and obstacle course, interactive Arctic Peaks Climbing Walls and an expanded, more challenging Winter Rules mini golf course.
- Arrive early or weekdays to beat the crowds. Festival hours are 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Special hours will be in effect on December 24 (10 a.m. – 5 p.m), December 31 (10 a.m. – 8 p.m.) and January 4-7 (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.). The fest is closed on Christmas Day.
- Purchase your tickets in advance. Avoid having to wait in line to purchase wristbands by purchasing online in advance. All attendees, ages two and up, must have a purchased ticket for entrance. General admission tickets cost $10 and activity tickets cost $25 at the Navy Pier box office. Special pricing and offers are available online. For full ticketing information and advance ticket purchase, visit navypier.com/pnc-bank-winter-wonderfest/.
- Leave your coats in your car. Parking is conveniently indoors at Navy Pier, so avoid having to drag your winter gear around all day by leaving your coats in your car.
- Check out the special promotions. Visit Special Offers page before you go for daily discounts on admission and parking.
- Skate a Figure Eight on the Chicago Blackhawks Rink. Carve out some time during your visit to enjoy a twirl around this popular indoor ice skating rink. You'll need to purchase an Activity Ticket, which includes skate rental.
- Visit with Santa. He'll be waiting at the foot of Navy Pier’s magnificent 42-foot tall tree, with professional photographers ready to capture the moment. The Claus Residence is just one of the many places in Chicago to spot Santa.
- Tube down Chicago's warmest hill. No mittens are required at dual lane 15-foot-high Wintertube “snow” hill!
- Find fun especially for the littlest ones. The Jingle Jym is a special section for small kids, giving them a chance to bounce, explore and slide. Two bouncy houses — shaped like a gumball and Santa's busting workshop — and an Arctic Wonder Obstacle Course ensure that even your littlest ones have a blast at the fest.
- Make your own holiday sugar cookie. At the Create-A-Cookie Cottage, kids can decorate freshly baked sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles.
- Catch a holiday show. The WonderFest features a great lineup of holiday entertainment. Plan your visit to coincide with a live performance. Check out the entertainment schedule before you go.
The PNC Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier takes place in Festival Hall and will run from December 5, 2015 to January 10, 2016. For more details and complete calendar of events at Navy Pier, visit navypier.com.
Photos courtesy of Navy Pier