Holiday Fun

The Polar Express, Santa on Skis & Gingerbread Houses: The Best Holiday Events for Families

Don't forget the peppermint hot chocolate

Cendrillon (Cinderella)

From Cinderella to gingerbread donuts, there are plenty of kid-friendly events and treats to savor this holiday season in Chicago. Here are some of the latest and greatest:

Caroling at Cloud Gate
‘Tis the season for holiday songs, and what better way to see them then in front of one of Chicago’s crown jewels. For the next few weeks, performers will vary, but from 6-7 p.m., the festivities are free! Some events to look forward to: The King’s Singers, Apollo Chorus of Chicago and ChiArts: The Chicago High School for the Arts on December 12; and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus on December 14.

Eat Breakfast With Santa at the Shedd
Eating breakfast with Santa is special, but doing it at the Shedd Aquarium is truly over the top! After breakfast, kids get to watch the 4-D Polar Express before snapping a few pics with Santa. Of course, there will be plenty of time to explore the kids’ area, and reserved seats to the aquatic presentation are included in the ticket price.
Details: Breakfast dates are December 15, 16, 22 and 23; Prices are $54.95 for adults, $39.95 for children three-10 and free for children three or younger

The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party
This delightfully interactive show at the Chicago Children’s Theatre will keep the whole family entertained. Two famed Beatrix Potter stories will be told, and kids have the chance to interact with parts of the set AND enjoy hot cocoa and cookies with their favorite cast members. Takes place in the Pritzker Family Studio Theatre.
Details: December 8–24

Glide into Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier
Be forewarned that crowds here can get massive, so the best way to beat them is to go early before the thick of the holiday season begins. It’s a blast for families, with 17,000-sq.-ft. of things to do, from indoor ice skating to giant slides. Check online to buy tickets in advance so you can save a few bucks.
Details: Through January 6, 2019; Ticket prices vary.

wndr Museum

Explore Life As We Know It At the wndr Museum
Every child has a sense of wonder, and this museum taps into that (don’t worry, it’s definitely for parents too). A Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirror Room” is a highlight through the journey of immersive rooms and artwork displays that challenge perception and make you wonder about life.
Details: Through the end of December; Tickets are $32. 

Ride the Chicago Polar Express
All aboard! Riding the Amtrak is a fun activity for kids in general, but when it turns into the Polar Express, it’s an event like no other. Grab your jammies and board the train, where you’ll be treated to a cup of hot cocoa and a cookie, and a one-hour journey through the storybook with a visit by Santa, dancing chefs and your very own sleigh bell. Plenty of photo opps to be had.
Details: Rides run through January 1, departing from Union Station; Ticket prices and times vary.

Build a Festive Trip to the LEGOLAND Holiday Bricktacular
The “bricktacular” brings the holidays to LEGOLAND brick-by-brick. With plenty of opportunities, like building Lego gingerbread houses to a scavenger hunt through MINILAND, it’s a great way to enhance the visit.
Details: December 15-16, December 23-24 and December 29-30; Tickets range from $15.50-30.99.

The Waldorf Astoria

Celebrate in Style at the Santa Suite in the Swissotel
For a truly magical experience, head up to the Santa Suite at this downtown hotel for a ton of holiday fun. Of course, Santa himself will be there, but kids can also write their holiday wish list, get their face painted and indulge in a hot chocolate bar before stocking up on cookies, candy and fairy floss.
Details: Santa Days takes place every Saturday and Sunday in December until December 23; Family tickets (4) are $40 and individual tickets are $15, plus applicable fees.

Make Gingerbread Houses at the Waldorf Astoria
Gingerbread houses can be a pain to put together, unless of course 
you have a trained pastry chef coming in for the assist. The houses are pre-made and ready for decorating with sweet frosting and colorful candies.
Details: Classes take place December 15 at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.; 
$35 per attendee.

See Cendrillon (Cinderella) at the Lyric Opera of Chicago
This is the famous fairy tale like you’ve never seen it before—in opera form. “Cendrillon” is sung in French, but for those that lack fluency, English subtitles will be projected. It’s intended as a family affair, and kid tickets are only $20 with the purchase on an adult ticket. And don’t fear, although the language may get lost in translation, the silly antics of the crazy stepsisters, the quirky fairy godmothers and the romance between Cinderella and the prince will all be just as enchanting.
Details: “Cendrillon” runs through January 20. Check website for exact dates and times.

Taste the Holidays at Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
Adults flock for pumpkin spice and peppermint mochas, so why shouldn’t kiddos get in on the action? One of our favorite donut haunts rolled out three festive donuts for the holidays, available through the end of the year: peppermint bark old fashioned, gingerbread Stan and the croissant-donut egg nog Le Stan. There’s also peppermint bark hot chocolate, and for the adults: gingerbread chai, egg nog lattes and peppermint bark mochas.

Holiday flavors at Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Rock Out With Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
The Strawdog Theatre Company takes a whirl at adapting this children’s book about the story of Hershel of Ostropol, following him on his adventures over the eight nights of Hanukkah, defeating goblins along the way.
Details: The show runs through January 5, 2019. Tickets start at $10. 

Create Your Own Spa Gifts at This Kids-Only Night Out
Your kids (5-12) will ditch you for this Saturday night activity, so make dinner plans while they chow down on pizza and get ready for a little spa chemistry. The Laboratory has all sorts of cool kids’ classes and “nights out,” including this one where they have the chance to create their very own, custom scented holiday spa kits. Book quickly, space is very limited.
Details: December 15, 6:15-9 p.m. Tickets are $40.

Ski With Santa at Wilmot
Head north to Wisconsin where Santa and Mrs. Claus traded their sleds for ski gear and are ready to hit the slopes with your family! The skiing starts at 3 p.m., followed by dinner with the festive duo at Walt’s Tavern for a 5:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. seating. Reservations should be made in advance.
Details: December 21, 3-8 p.m.

Have Tea with Mrs. Claus at Monica + Andy
If you have younger kids who may be intimidated by the hoopla of big Santa focused events, bring them to Chicago-based children’s store Monica + Andy for a more intimate experience. Pairing up with Tea Time Socials, the afternoon tea (dates and times vary for locations in Oak Brook, Lincoln Park and River North) includes treats and tea and a holiday singalong with Mrs. Claus. A portion of proceeds will benefit the DAISY Foundation for women and children.

Wicker Park Farmers Market

Peer Into The Holiday Windows at Macy’s
What’s a holiday season without a stroll by the iconic windows at Macy’s on State Street. Although it’s not the Marshall Field’s of yesteryear, the windows are still decked out in celebratory fashion with merry and bright sights in each one. If you dare, step into one of the stores off State Street to start your holiday shopping with kids in tow.

Take the Farmer’s Market Indoors in Wicker Park
For the first time, Wicker Park is taking its beloved farmers market indoors to nearby restaurant Chop Shop on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., December through April. Kids will love grabbing a donut and mom and dad will love all of their favorite farmers under one roof.