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Your kids will be bursting with excitement at these 15 Chicago attractions and events.

1. Ken Ludwig's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas 

Broadway In Chicago and Emerald City Theatre present this hilarious take on the classic holiday poem from Nov. 3-Dec. 30, 2018 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

Tip: After the shop, do some holiday shopping along Michigan Avenue.

2. McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink

Enjoy free ice skating daily from Nov. 16, 2018 through March 7, 2019 on this beautiful outdoor 16,000-square-foot rink in Millennium Park. There's no admission, so bring your own skates, or rent a pair for $12 weekdays; $14 on weekends and holidays.

Tip: Take a fun selfie in the reflective, curving surface of Chicago's #1 attraction, Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean").

3. Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Light

This annual cultural celebration at the Museum of Science & Industry showcases a spectacular 45-foot Grand Tree, surrounded by 50 beautifully decorated trees representing Chicago's diverse ethnic communities and their holiday traditions. Opening on Nov. 15, you'll also get song and dance routines and a dose of indoor "snow."   

Tip: It's the Museum of Science & Industry! This is a curiosity-inspiring, imagination-bending playhouse for kids.

4. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

This classic children's holiday book comes to life on stage in Strawdog Theatre Company's new adaptation. The family-friendly production and uses live music to tell the fantastical story of Hershel of Ostropol and his adventures over the eight nights of Hannukkah. The show runs from Dec. 1 – Jan. 5, 2019. Tickets start at $10 and family discounts are available.

Tip: Strawdog Theatre Company has programming geared toward younger audiences and families all year long.

5. Minnie & Mickey at The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

At the nation's largest evening holiday celebration, held Nov. 16-17, you'll find family-friendly activities, live shows and a grand tree-lighting parade down Michigan Avenue, ending with fireworks over the Chicago River. Best of all for the kids in tow? Minnie and Mickey lead the parade!

Tip: Even after the parade has been and gone, the lights along the Mag Mile will fill your kids with wonder.

6. City of Chicago Christmas Tree in Millennium Park

On Nov. 16, get the holiday started with the 105th annual lighting of Chicago's official Christmas tree in Millennium Park, at Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. Continuing through the holiday season, visit this massive evergreen, and enjoy some fun selfies with The Bean while you're at it. You can also join in some Caroling at Cloud Gate on Nov. 23 and 30, Dec. 7, 12 and 14 at 7pm.

Tip: Take a spin on the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink (see #2 for details). 

7.  Holiday Windows at Macy's on State Street

From November to January, peer into large windows exquisitely decorated by a dedicated team of painters, welders, costume-makers, engineers, visual artists and carpenters. Combining traditional old-school artistry with gorgeous visual elements, the windows are adorned with imaginative scenes that fill little ones with wonder.

Tip: Venture into the warmth of Macy's to gaze upon the 45-foot Great Tree, decorated with over 1200 ornaments and 25,000 twinkling lights.

8.  ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Head over to Lincoln Park Zoo for a free lights festival, where families can do holiday crafts, take pictures with Santa, watch live ice carving, enjoy animal encounters, ride a train, and a carousel — and so much more. This festive event takes place Nov. 23, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019.

Tip: Head over to neighboring Farm-in-the-Zoo for a little ice-skating among the ponies and goats.

9.  Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier 

From rides, slides and ice skating to icicle lights and towering holiday trees, this INDOOR holiday event from Nov. 30, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019 offers 170,000 square feet of unadulterated playtime.

Tip: The list of things to do at Navy Pier is endless, particularly when it comes to kid-friendly activities. Check out all the free events and public programs currently on offer.

10. Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier

The Children's Museum offers fun all year round, but especially over the holidays. Escape the chilly winter weather in this wonderland of interactive exhibits, exciting activities and themed play areas.

Tip: The Children's Museum has a fabulous store attached to it, filled with games, books and toys designed to inspire inquiring young minds.

11. Breakfast with Santa at Shedd Aquarium

On select dates in December, enjoy breakfast with Santa, a mug of hot chocolate, The Polar Express 4-D experience, and more surprises.

Tip: The Shedd is part of Chicago's Museum Campus, which means the Adler Planetarium and Field Museum of Natural History are only a hop, skip and a jump away.

12. Holiday Flower Show at Lincoln Park Conservatory

The Lincoln Park Conservatory transforms into a Winter Wonderland for this free, all-ages show. Enjoy holiday poinsettias, trees, sparkling lights, and model trains that traverse through the plants from Nov. 23, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019. This year will also feature holiday photography from the 1940s through 1960s.

Tip: The Lincoln Park Conservatory stands beside the Lincoln Park Zoo, and is a stone's throw from Farm-in-the-Zoo and its ice-skating rink. You can spend a whole day having fun with the kids right here!

13. Art Institute of Chicago Wreathing of the Lions

This Nov. 23 marks the 27th year in which the Art Institute of Chicago's monumental lions, which flank its grand entry on Michigan Avenue, get a giant dose of holiday pizzazz with lush evergreen wreaths. As a bonus, you and the kids can warm up with complimentary hot chocolate and live music.

Tip:  Step inside to see the Thorne Miniature Rooms, featuring 68 rooms painstakingly decorated in historical furnishings dating back to the 13th century. For the holiday season, select rooms have been decked out in tiny festive decorations.

14. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

On select dates between Dec. 1-31, you can enjoy a full schedule of live entertainment: singing to the animals, professional ice-carving demonstrations, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, magic shows, a friendly 38-foot talking tree, costumed characters, plus a a model train display. 

Tip: In addition to all the activities, Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic is one of the largest light shows around, with over one-million twinkling bulbs illuminating the zoo grounds.

15. Wonderland Express & Hanukkah Concert at Chicago Botanic Garden 

The Chicago Botanic Garden definitely knows how to put the "wonder" in "wonderland." From Nov. 23, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019, Wonderland Express features toy trains that wind their way through plantings, onto overhead bridges, and past more than 80 miniature recreations of Chicago's most famous buildings and landmarks. Best of all? Indoor snow!

On Dec. 9, attend the annual Hanukkah concert featuring the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. The group will perform festive songs in two one-hour shows at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tickets, $20 in advance and $23 day of, go on sale to the public Nov. 12.

Tip: There's more to Wonderland Express than trains. Check for caroling, movie days, holiday markets and wreath sales on select dates.

16. CTA Holiday Train

On select weekdays and during the weekends before Christmas, Santa dashes through the city in his sleigh (atop a flatbed train car) pulled by decorated, peppermint-scented passenger coaches. At certain stops, jolly train conductors dressed in elf costumes take photos of kids with Santa and hand out candy canes. Check the CTA website for an updated schedule.

Tip: As a complement to the festive trains, the CTA Holiday Bus brings the same holiday spirit to bus riders as it travels through Chicago’s neighborhoods.


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Related Listings

Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-5300

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600

Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414

Lincoln Park Zoo
Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000

Lincoln Park Conservatory
2391 N. Stockton Dr.
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-7736

Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 744-6050

Chicago Children's Museum
700 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 527-1000

Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 939-2438

Macy's on State Street
111 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 781-1000

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