Chicago is spot for winter wonder

Need to get out of the house during break? Head to the city for family fun


Last updated 12/18/2019 at 7:14pm | View PDF

Chicago offers a number of attractions this winter break to stimulate learning and promote family fun, including The Chicago Children's Museum, The Museum of Science and Industry and Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier. (photos provided)

Winter break is a great time to head into Chicago and take advantage of the array of attractions and museums to enchant and enlighten everyone in the family. Here are a few destinations to consider.

The 19th annual Winter Wonderfest at Chicago's Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., will once again delight and dazzle visitor to its 170,000 square feet of seasonal fun.

Attractions include the Arctic Plunge and Snowman Bouncer inflatables, Candy Cane Lighthouse, Dashers Crashers bumper cars, Sugar Plum aerialists, climbing walls, the Kringle Carousel, the Xfinity Ice Skating Rink and more.

The fest runs through Jan. 12, with hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Christmas Eve (closed Christmas Day), New Year's Eve and Jan. 6-8; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 19 and Jan. 9.

Online admission pricing is $20-$28 for general admission (depending on date), $10-$14 for juniors under 42 inches and seniors 65 and older, and includes a ride on the Centennial Wheel. Parking at Navy Pier is $35 for up to six hours. For information visit

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, will host the Jabberwocky Marionettes Puppet Show from 11 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 28, with a cast of amphibian, reptile, insect and bird puppets exploring an exciting new world.

See the Mammals & More Animal Show from 11 a.m. to noon Thursday, Jan. 2, for up close encounters with a sloth, an armadillo and more, and warm up at the Pop-Up Hot Chocolate Bar that runs until 2 p.m.

During Cold Blooded Weekend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 4 and 5, visitors will interact with and learn about a large collection of reptiles and amphibians from the Chicago Herpetological Society. Other programs are a special butterfly release from noon to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, and the daily Story Time (11 to 11:30 a.m.), Critter Connection (noon to 12:30 p.m.) and

Live Animal Feeding (1 to 1:30 p.m.) programs.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. Admission is $9, $7 for students and seniors 60 and older, $6 for children ages 3-12 and free for children under 3; some programs require additional admission. For information, call (773) 755-5100 or visit

The Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier will fascinate young guests with Cloud Buster, 37 climbable feet of structural steel, wood, wire, rope, acrylic, fiberglass and artificial turf perched over Navy Pier's Fifth Third Family Pavilion. Ascend to The Apartment, the apparatus' highest destination designed to resemble a Chicago apartment.

The Pigeon Comes to Chicago!: A Mo Willems Exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 12, featuring beloved characters from the children's author, like Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie, and The Pigeon himself as their stories come to life. Kids can make Elephant and Piggie dance with old-time animation, put on a wearable bus and drive around the exhibit, dress up Naked Mole Rat and send him down the runway for a one-of-a-kind fashion show, launch foam hot dogs at The Pigeon and more.

A glittery storm will descend at the Snow Globe Dance Party, starting at 11:15 a.m. December 26-30. And ring in 2020 with Noon Year's Eve festivities starting at 10:30 a.m. and culminating in a countdown and confetti drop at high noon.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (open until 8 p.m. Thursdays). The museum closes at 2 p.m. Dec. 24 and 31 and opens at noon Jan. 1. Admission to the museum is $15 in advance for Chicagoland residents; parking at Navy Pier is $35 for up to six hours.

For information, call (312) 527-1000 or visit

Visitors to the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, can experience wearable technology in the Wired to Wear exhibit, including jackets that help one "see" in dark spaces, racing suits that deploy their own airbags and a jet suit capable of traveling 32 mph.

Create an LED ornament or wearable circuit band through Sunday, Jan. 5, in the Makers United workshop and enjoy the annual favorite Christmas Around the World (with more than 50 trees) and Holidays of Light displays, which also run until Jan. 5.

The museum is open from 9:30 to 4 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25), 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 21-22 and 26-30, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 23, Jan. 2-3; 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 1.

Admission is $21.95, $12.95 for children, with $2 discount for online purchases and packages available for certain exhibits and additional experiences; parking is $22.

For information, call (773) 684-1414 or visit

The Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, invites guests to interact with a living fossil at the sturgeon touch pool in its At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit. Get up close with these primitive giants, feeling the leathery texture of the sturgeon's skin and the hard bony plates that encase their bodies.

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Animal chats are held multiple times during the day at the Caribbean Reef, Animal Reef, Abbott Oceanarium and Polar Play Zone. And the 4-D Experience makes one feel under the sea with water mist, neck air blasts, bubbles, leg ticklers, enhanced floor lighting, seat vibrations and back pokes; a separate $4.95 admission is required.

The aquarium is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (closed Dec. 25); 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and Dec. 27-31; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 24; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 1. Admission is $39.95, $29.95 for ages 3-11.

For information, call (312) 939-2438 or visit


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