Chicago beckons with winter break fun

Extend the holiday season with festive activities kids and adults alike will enjoy

It's the most wonderful time of the year - with kids off school for two weeks and hours of time that most likely will be spent on electronics, unless something more interesting is on the agenda.

Fortunately, Chicago offers a host of opportunities to have fun with the whole family - and it's just a short car or train ride away.

O Tannenbaum

Explore rich holiday traditions at the Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry through Jan. 3.

What began in 1942 as a single tree is now a celebration that features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions of cultures around the globe.

This year, the golden age of travel is being celebrated with themed decor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and Take Flight's 727, which have been newly reimagined.

While at the museum, enjoy "Antarctica" or other films in the Giant Dome Theater, visit Coleen Moore's Fairy Castle and go to extremes with a photographer chasing diminishing glaciers in the Extreme Ice exhibit.

The museum is at 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

Tickets are $21.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids ages 3-11, with additional costs for the theater and certain exhibits.

The museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Dec. 23, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 24, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 26-30, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 31, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 1 and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 2-3. The museum is closed Dec. 25.

For more information, visit

Su'pier'ior fun

Light up the Lake continues through Jan. 2 at Navy Pier.

The indoor, temperature-controlled experience features a sprawling light garden with large-scale sculptures comprising more than 600,000 twinkling lights, including a giant teddy bear, a 25-foot tall deer, a 60-foot light tunnel and a 40-foot tree.

Bring skates or borrow some at no extra charge to enjoy the Alpine ice rink made with real ice.

There's also an authentic holiday beer garden, a kiddy train ride, Santa's Merry Main Street and other family-friendly and date-night activities.

Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave.

Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Dec. 18, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dec. 20 to Jan. 2. Tickets are $21, $29 for kids ages 3-12, and include a ride on the Centennial Wheel, offering 360-degree views of the decorated city and frosty Lake Michigan.

Visit for more information.

A European staycation

Chicago's two Christkindlmarkets are open for just a few more days, with the one at Daley Plaza closing Dec. 24 and the one at Wrigley Field open through Dec. 31.

The Christkindlmarket Chicago is one of the most authentic traditional holiday markets of its kind outside of Europe, offering a unique shopping experience, family-friendly events and intercultural activities. Purchase roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst and hot spiced wine while enjoying the sound of festive music and the glimmer of sparkling Christmas tree ornaments.

The Daley Plaza Chirstkindlmarket is at 50 W. Washington St.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 23 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 24.

The Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville is part of the Winterland at Gallagher Way, which includes an 8,000-square-foot ice rink and more.

Gallagher way is at 3635 N. Clark St. Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 24 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 31.

Admission to both locations is free.

Visit for details.

Lace up the skates

The Ice Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park offers a fun chance to enjoy the outdoors and beautiful views of the city skyline.

This year the ribbon is decorated with designs inspired by Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" and "Starry Night" paintings, a collaboration between the art exhibit "Immersive Van Gogh" and the Chicago Park District.

Admission is $20 online, $22 walk-up and $5 for those with their own skates. Admission is free on weekdays for those with their own skates. The ribbon is open every day, with limited hours Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

The park is at 337 E. Randolph street. Visit for more information.

Get back to nature

Escape Chicago's winter weather and become immersed in nature with a visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which features live animals, nature-inspired art, toddler-friendly play spaces and a 2,700-square-foot greenhouse home to more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies.

Check the calendar for special events such as story times, animal feedings, butterfly releases and more.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is $9, $7 for seniors and students, $6 for children and free up to age 3.

Visit for more information.

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean