Kid-friendly holiday attractions in Chicago
By Josephine Levin
Magnificent Mile Light Festival (The Magnificent Mile)
Are you looking for a great white Christmas with the kids? Try Chicago. You can have all the advantages the big city has to offer with its many kid-friendly attractions like the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and more. You can also experience a beautiful winter wonderland right in the heart of Chicago in many beautiful parks. In fact Chicago has so much going on during the holiday season that you will find it hard to pack it all in.
Picture time with Santa
One thing thatâs sure to please the kids is that Santa Claus appears all over Chicago in so many kid-friendly places. At the free Santa House in Daley Plaza, the site of Chicagoâs official giant Christmas tree, the kids can have their pictures taken with Santa. Daley Plaza is also the site for the free annual winter Christkindlmarket, an old German type outdoor market featuring German food and carols. For the kids there is a kinder korner that has fun activities, scavenger hunt, coloring pages and an activity passport with a chance to win prizes (Nov 21-Dec 24, 50 W. Washington corner Dearborn).
Over a million dazzling lights and about 200 lit up trees will decorate the Magnificent Mile, Chicagoâs famous shopping area on Michigan Avenue. The official start of the holiday season is the Magnificent Mile Light Festival on November 22 that features a tree lighting parade, family friendly activities, entertainment, spectacular fireworks and extended shopping hours. The kids can meet Santa at the Kids Corner in Pioneer Court in Lights Festival Lane (401 N Michigan Ave).
A real fun way to meet Santa though is at 360Â° Chicago where Santa sits 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile. Here is a spectacular experience called the Tilt where you hang on to hand bars and stand on a ledge that tilts out letting you and the kids have a downward facing view of the city. Santa will be here every weekend beginning Nov 22 until Jan 1, 2015, 10 am-2 pm and Christmas Eve (875 N Michigan Ave).
ZooLights at the free Lincoln Park Zoo (Daniel Hautzinger)
ZooLights at the free Lincoln Park Zoo also give a wonderful lit-up display of lights throughout the zoo. Santa will be there until January 4 when he will head back to the North Pole. Be sure to download the free visitorâs guide. Besides all the amazing animals there, at the Farm-in-the-Zoo is an outdoor ice-skating rink. Either bring your own skates or rent them at the Farmhouse (2001 N Clark St).
Christmas carols & ice-skating
McCormick Tribune IceâSkating Rink at Millennium Park (City of Chicago)
On Friday evenings from 6-7 pm you can take the kids to Cloud Gate (the Bean) in Millennium Park for free choral performances of Christmas carols. The kids and you can join in the sing-along. Millennium Park is home to the free outdoor McCormick Tribune IceâSkating Rink that opens for the season in November and offers ice skates for rent for $12. Free ice skating lessons will also be offered one hour before the rink opens Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and during the school winter break, December 22âJanuary 4, except December 25 and January 1 (201 E Randolph St).
Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier (Navy Pier)
Chicagoâs waterfront playground Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter Wonderfest offering more than 25 rides, slides, a Ferris wheel, carousel, jungle gym and ice-skating. The kids can visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus December 5-24 at Winter Wonder Town where professional photographers take a photo of the kids with Santa (this is included in the general admission price, 700 E Grand Ave).
(MORE: Find kid-friendly hotels to stay in Chicago for the holiday season.)
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at Museum of Science and Industry (Photo: J.B. Spector)
Chicago will be the venue for some theatrical productions and concerts specifically related to the holiday season like âA Christmas Carolâ by Charles Dickens to be performed at the Goodman Theater, the âNutcrackerâ at the House Theater of Chicago, Tchaikovskyâs âNutcrackerâ Ballet and Handelâs âMessiahâ by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago.
The Museum of Science and Industry, has a special holiday exhibit Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light. The kids will love this hands-on interactive museum and you can expect to spend quite a few hours there (Nov 13, 2014 to Jan 4, 2015, 5700 S Lakeshore Drive).
Josephine Levin contributed this to MiniTime.