5 Family-Friendly Ideas for Holiday Adventures in Chicago
Growing up north of Chicago, it was always a special treat when my family took the train downtown and spent the weekend in Chicago, especially during the holidays! Now I get to share those magical experiences with my husband and 2-year-old daughter, Hannah. All kinds of festivities abound during this time of year, so bundle up and join the merriment of some of Chicago’s favorite traditions.
1. Lincoln Park Zoo – ZooLights Festival: November 25 – January 1
ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is a free festival featuring luminous holiday light displays with activities for the whole family. Take pictures with Santa Claus, watch live ice-sculpture carving, enjoy carousel and train rides, and feast on delicious holiday snacks. Grown-ups can indulge in warm spiced wine and frosty lagers. An early dinner will beat the rush and ensure you have time to explore the zoo. Within walking distance to the zoo, try RJ Grunts (great kid’s menu and extensive salad bar) or Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. (Cash only!)
2. Go Ice Skating: Mid-November – Early March
Show off your ice-skating skills this winter at one of two beautiful skating locations. The 16,000 square-foot McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink is right next to “The Bean” in Millennium Park. Enjoy free ice skating daily. The Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park also offers a unique option to skate through an “alpine in the city” experience. Take a lap or two, and then grab some hot chocolate. Both options offer free admission, so your own skates or rent a pair at the rink for only $12.
3. Christkindlmarket: November 18 – December 24
Walk through a traditional German holiday market at the 21st Annual Christkindlmarket offering authentic German cuisines such as bratwurst, potato pancakes, goulash, and a must-have for the adults, Gluhwein (a warm, spiced red wine). Peruse the market’s one-of-a-kind shops with unique handmade gifts and exquisite ornaments.
4. Macy’s on State Street – Holiday Windows
After visiting the Christkindlmarket, head over a couple blocks to Macy on State Street and check out their holiday-themed windows for pure joy and happiness of the season. Grab some traditional Garrett popcorn to enjoy during your holiday window viewing experience. Make sure to order an extra bucket to give as the perfect gift or have at your holiday party.
5. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade: Saturday, November 19th at 5:30 pm
There is no better way to kick-off the holiday season than along the famed Michigan Avenue at The Magnificent Mile Lists Festival. Mickey and Minnie Mouse will marshal the grand Tree-Lighting Parade down Michigan Avenue and light 1 MILLION lights along the way! The parade features remarkable floats, helium-filled balloons, marching bands, musical performers and ends with fireworks over the Chicago River.
Wherever you end up, I hope you enjoy getting into the holiday spirit. Keep warm!
To access more information about local restaurants, unique attractions, and special offers in Chicago, visit our Destination Guide, or explore Hilton properties in Chicago below.
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