Wednesday 12 May 2021
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The Big City Blog: Breaking down the best holiday-themed events around Chicago

Winter Wonderfest

Winter Wonderfest

By Jina Bute

The holiday season is finally here. And between frantically completing shopping lists and planning family get-togethers, it’s important to take a moment and enjoy the busiest time of the year. Here are six ideas to get out on the town — and into the holiday spirit.

Winter Wonderfest
Where: Navy Pier
When: Dec. 2–Jan. 8
Presented by Fifth Third Bank, Winter Wonderfest is Chicago’s biggest and best indoor winter playground, featuring better than 170,000 square feet of rides, holiday décor and the Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating rink. Perfect for a family holiday tradition.

Christmas Around The World
Where: Museum of Science & Industry
When: Through Jan. 8
Learn and experience the different holiday traditions and cultures from all over the globe at the ever-popular MSI. This tradition originally began in 1942 with only a single tree, newly decorated for 12 days to serve as a tribute for the countries fighting along America during World War II. Today, this annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees, all decorated by volunteers to represent how the rest of the world celebrates Christmas. Plenty of ethnic demonstrations and performances as well.

Where: Lincoln Park Zoo
When: Dec. 2-4, 9-23, 26-31, Jan. 1
Lincoln Park Zoo presents its annual ZooLights through New Year’s Day. Festive activities include photos with Santa, holiday crafting for children, carousel and train rides, and holiday gift shopping. But ZooLights isn’t only for children — the festival also offers wine and beer, as well as adult-only events like BrewLights and Adults Night Out: Holiday Edition.


Where: 50 W. Washington St.
When: Nov. 18–Dec. 24
Chicago’s largest Christmas festival, Christkindlmarket Chicago, brings a cherished German and European tradition through high-quality gifts, spiced wine and common European sweets. Inspired by the 16th century Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, the Christkindlmarket gives local Chicagoans a chance to experience European holiday culture and a tradition.

Holiday Magic
Where: Brookfield Zoo
When: Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 26-31
Although a little bit out of the city, Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo is the largest and longest-running lights festival in the Chicagoland area. The festival is decorated with more than one million twinkling LED lights and features a brand new Polar Lights Show, as well as opportunities to encounter and take photos with some of the animals.

Adler After Dark: Lights Out
Where: Adler Planetarium
When: Dec. 15 … 6-11 p.m.
Not all holiday events have to be “family-friendly.” The planetarium’s popular 21-and-over series Adler After Dark is hosting Lights Out in honor of the holiday season. Participate in a special glow-in-the-dark scavenger hunt and enjoy the incredible view of the Chicago skyline. And for one night only, check out the full-dome sky show Dark from the European Southern Observatory, which follows the journey to discover the nature of dark matter.