There is less time between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, so let’s make the most of it! We put together holiday activities and events along with indoor, outdoor, and winter ideas to keep the fun going all December long. Each day has itinerary ideas all laid out with options throughout the western suburbs so you can make your holiday bucket list! We know December can get busy with commitments, so you can choose some days that work for you and check out what’s going on.
There is also a printable holiday bucket list at the end of the day by day list that you can choose from and do any day of the week! If you are on Instagram, tag us (@kidlist) and use the hashtag #mykidlist so we can feature you!
Holiday Bucket List by Day
Children 12 and under and their families are invited to ice skate with Cinderella and the Prince from 9-11 am at the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink in Rosemont. Admission to the rink is free and you are welcome to bring your own skates. Skate rental is available for $8. (Every Sunday they will have different characters- click here for the schedule.)
Find hidden ornaments in downtown Hinsdale to win prizes from local businesses! The contest runs December 2-17. Follow Hinsdale Parks on Facebook and/or Instagram for more details and clues each day. Then head over to Cosley Zoo’s Festival of Lights, a winter wonderland featuring 20,000 twinkling lights, an amazing selection of Christmas trees, hot chocolate, and holiday gifts.
Families come from all over to see Santa at Orland Square! His authentic white beard and red suit with a hint of gold makes it a special experience. You can find him in the lower level H&M wing.
Kids can read aloud to therapy dogs at Clarendon Hills Public Library. Please note that the sessions are 15 minutes long and there is a maximum of 8 children per session. Registration opens on December 2 and you must call the library to register. (630) 323-8188. If that isn’t your thing, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has an Illinois Resident Donation Day on December 5 and every Thursday that they are open.
Take a magical trip to visit Santa on the Naperville Riverwalk at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street. Admission is free and photos can be purchased for $8 each or two for $15. Santa House is open from 4:30 – 8:00 pm on December 6.
Winter Wonderland in Western Springs has free hayrides, a petting zoo, and crafts with food and drinks for purchase as well as a Christmas Marketplace where you can buy local gifts. Seeing Santa arrive on a fire truck adds to the holiday excitement!
The Chicago Dogs are hosting their second annual Holiday Gingerbread Decorating and Cookie Party from 1-4 pm in the Rivers Stadium Club inside Impact Field! You can enjoy gingerbread house decorating alongside hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.
Aurora Festival of Lights at Phillips Park is one of the largest free outdoor drive-through holiday light displays in northern Illinois. One of the largest free outdoor drive-through holiday light displays in Northern Illinois, the Aurora Festival of Lights, returns for its 13th year in 2019 with even more dazzling displays that will delight both adults and children.
Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 1- December 31, 2019 you can go to Brookfield Zoo for free! You do not need to buy admission tickets if you plan on attending those days, but zoo attractions that require extra tickets still need to be purchased at the zoo. Also, Cantigny Park is hosting a Kid Rock’s Jingle Bell Rock music and dance party.
Lombard Park District is hosting an event to make holiday candy and the Park District of Oak Park and WSSRA welcome families with sensory issues to an evening at Cheney Mansion and a visit with Santa!
Get outside a take a walk at Fullersburg Woods or Waterfall Glen to clear your mind with fresh air. The holidays can get hectic! Click here for more ideas for where to take a walk in the forest preserve. Or spend some time in a nature center to explore the outdoors inside.
There’s a Kiddo Concert with Sarah Jayne Lane at Whole Foods Market in Wheaton, Teddy Bear Clinic at DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, and you can also check out the beautiful lights at Lilacia Park in Lombard (free visits with Santa and a magical elf hunt on December 13).
Flying High is having a Santa Open Gym where your kids can enjoy the gymnastic equipment, write a letter to Santa, make reindeer food, meet Santa himself, and make an ornament for the tree.
Hofbräuhaus Chicago is hosting a “Holiday Kinderfest” at 1 pm. Families can enjoy $7 meals for children ages 12 and under in addition to a variety of free activities including face painting, ornament decorating, magic acts, and visits with Santa.
Kids 18 months old through 6 years old can enjoy holiday games, a snowball fight and a winter wonderland obstacle course at the Eola Community Center in Aurora.
The Morton Arboretum has an interactive storytime with stories, a craft and adventure walk (weather permitting), Wonder Works in Oak Park has guided activities designed to help children develop focusing skills and strengthen self regulation through oral storytelling, read alouds and mindful awareness games, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies with creating a full-size gingerbread house at the Burr Ridge Park District.
Travel to the Oak Brook Recreation Center (North Pole) via trolley and enjoy crafts, the reading of the Polar Express, bounce house, light refreshments, and meet Santa. Pre-registration ends Friday, December 14. Gemini Gymnastics in La Grange is hosting a Winter Fest for babies and toddlers from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm for $5 per child.
The Festival of Lights Light Show at the Bolingbrook Promenade has 250,000 LED lights that twinkle, sparkle and dance to more than 20 different holiday songs. The show plays nightly on the hour at 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 pm.
Passero’s is hosting a Holiday Cookie Decorating event at their new location in Arlington Heights (3 S. Evergreen Avenue). Tickets are $30 and includes pizza, non-alcoholic beverages, and cookie decorating for one adult and one child! There are two time slots: 9:30 – 11:00 am and 12:00 – 1:30 pm. In the evening, enjoy over a million twinkling LED lights, a 41-foot-tall talking tree, Chicago Wolves Skating Rink, ice carvers, larger than life LED animal sculptures, zoo chats at Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo.
Join Swissotel Chicago for their first ever menorah lighting event! First Light of Hanukkah is taking place from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.
Want a special ice skating experience? Head to the Sky Rink at the Peninsula Hotel. Skate rental is $20 for adults and $10 for children (12 and under) with proceeds benefiting Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Hephzibah Children’s Association.
We love filling our tumblers with hot chocolate and driving around to see all of the amazing lights, especially if you didn’t get a chance to see them yet! There are also a few live nativities on Christmas Eve, including Hinsdale Covenant Church, which has services that include live animals at 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 and 5:00 pm and Our Lady of the Woods in Orland Park with live nativity showings at 4:00 pm, 5:30 pm, and midnight.
Happy Kwanzaa! Naperville Park District is hosting Family Bingo, which includes 12 games of Bingo, a snack provided at the start, pizza and a drink at the halfway point, prizes for both adults and children and a consolation prize for all children at the end of the event. Please note that no walk-in registrations are accepted for this event.
Jump to your heart’s content at Darien Sportsplex and spend the day using their big inflatables and playing on the soccer field. Then in the evening head to Oak Brook Park District to enjoy a dive-in movie at the pool. They will be showing Home Alone.
Toy Story 4 is showing at the Downers Grove Library! Bring a pillow and blanket and pillow to enjoy the movie on their giant screen.
Head to a game room so your kids can play some arcade games or laser tag or go bowling at one of these kid-friendly bowling alleys, then check out our Guide to Kids Eat Free so you don’t have to worry about cooking dinner!
Enjoy activities and play basketball at the Clarendon Hills Park District Holiday Open Gym for $3. Grades 1-3 are at Prospect School from 10:00 – 11:30am and grades 4-8 are at CH Middle School (enter through the Park District) from 12:00 – 1:30pm.
Happy New Year’s Eve! We have the scoop on all of the family-friendly NYE celebrations, including DuPage Children’s Museum Bubble Bash. Want to see all the options? Click here for the full list of events.
December Fun Checklist
Rather have a checklist? We are list people over here, so we get it. Click on the holiday bucket list below to be able to print the full version.
You can also receive 50% off admission to the Westmont Yard indoor play area from now until 1/1/20. All you need to do is head over to the Westmont Yard Instagram account and show them the post of the Kidlist Bucket List in their feed!
We love when you tag us on social! It makes us feel like we aren’t throwing these ideas out into the black hole of the internet. Be our Kidlist friend and tag @kidlist #mykidlist when you try something you see on the site. 😘