Holiday Fun

The Best Holiday Activities for Families in Chicago

BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Snow is starting to fall in Chicago and the holidays are near. Soak up the last few minutes of fall and get ready for winter with these family-friendly holiday activities.

Go Ice Skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Time to dust off the old ice skates (or rent them for $13 weekdays, $15 weekends), as the annual Millenium Park ice skating rink has reopened for the season. Early birds get the worm here—they offer free skating lessons during winter break and on the weekends, one hour before open (check the hours before you go, sometimes it’s really early!).
Details: The ice rink is open through March 10, 2019, weather permitting.  

Prost! at Christkindlmarket
Tackling this Daley Plaza market with kids can be a challenge, but also a fun tradition. The market starts on November 16 and brings the best of German holiday tradition to the Loop. A great way to do this with kids is to partake in the family programming—there’s a passport to get stamps at many of the booths, and new this year is a scavenger hunt. If all else fails, grab a giant pretzel and some strudel (and a souveneir mug of beer for yourself) and go on your merry way.
Details: Christkindlmarket runs from November 16 through December 24. 

Christkindlmarket; Credit: True Shot Studios

See Your Favorite Green Guy Live at How the Grinch Stole Christmas
He’s a mean one, that Mr. Grinch, but he’s one we love to see every holiday season. The Dr. Seuss character makes his way to the Chicago Theatre for a live production that’s sure to entertain the most curmudgeonly kid. The colorful show runs 85 minutes, so just enough time that nobody gets antsy.
Details: November 16-November 25 at the Chicago Theatre. Ticket prices range from $58-125.

Explore the Lights at The Morton Arboretum
Starting on November 17, The Morton Arboretoreum will be illuminated with beautiful colored light displays that change as you walk along the one-mile path. To get in the festive mood, seasonal tunes play in the background. The whole family will love cozying up by the fire to roast s’mores afterwards, too. A new feature this year is special trees that change colors and lights in response to touch, so go ahead and hug a tree!
Details: November 17-January 1, 2019; Tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for children (two to 17) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and $18 for adults/$12 for children on weekdays.

Thanksgiving Parade

Shrek is Live on Stage in the Suburbs
Lincolnshire may be a bit of a hike, but it’s worth it for the stellar kids productions at the Marriott Theatre. Through December 30, the quirky ogre makes his stage debut along with Fiona and all of the friends your family grew to love in the movie. It’s sure to be a hilarious adventure.
Details: Through December 30; Tickets are $18.23 per person.

Mickey and Minnie Make Michigan Avenue Magnificent
On Friday November 16, it’s time to line up along the Magnificent Mile as Mickey and Minnie Mouse lead their annual holiday parade down Michigan Avenue. It gets crazy, so go early. Family-friendly activities line the streets, and samples from Chicago instituions like Eli’s Cheesecake and Garrett Popcorn are available for snacking. Of course, Santa will be in town to greet families as well. Fireworks culminate the end of the big festivities.
Details: November 16, activities start at 4 p.m., parade runs from 5-7 p.m.

While We’re Talking About Parades…
If you are staying local for Thanksgiving, it’s always a hoot to see the balloons floating down State Street, mishaps and all. Your kids will absolutely adore seeing some of their favorite characters IRL (or as close to real as cartoon characters get). The parade is early, so grab some hot cocoa, bundle up and snag a spot to get a front-row view.
Details: November 22, 8-11 a.m. on State Street from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street. 

ZooLights; Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography

Light up the Zoo
A family favorite of my own, the Lincoln Park Zoo is turned into a winter wonderland with beautiful lights around every tree, music-reactive displays and plenty of kid-friendly rides like the carousel and train. Weather can be cold, so dress appropriately, and hot chocolate and snacks abound to help distract from the chill. Our family loves to hit up nearby R.J. Grunts for a burger afterwards, but make your reservation in advance because many people have the same idea.
Details: November 23-January 6, 2019 (check website for exact dates and times); free admission, rides extra.

Savor the Snow
There has to be some benefit to being a Midwestern kid in the winter–SNOW! Before the weather turns subzero, take time to savor the snow. Make snowmen in local parks, toss some snowballs and make a snow angel. Sometimes the best family memories are free!