8 Most Unique Holiday Experiences in Chicago and the Suburbs

You don’t have to look hard in the Chicagoland area to find a holiday event, but what are the best holiday experiences? We filtered through the options to find the most unique attractions and events for a memorable December. Get the details on these one-of-a-kind family-friendly events and activities below!

Caroling at The Bean

photo courtesy of the City of Chicago

November 29, December 6, 13, 20, 2019
Did you know you can join the crowd in front of Cloud Gate on Fridays from 6-7pm to sing carols all together? What a great way to get in the festive spirit! The Chicago Children’s Choir will be the special guest this Friday, December 13, 2019 and Wicker Park Choral Singers will be there on December 20. Songbooks will be distributed at this event and a large print version is available- just ask the people handing out the books. Then you can ice skate at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink or head over to the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park to make the night even more special!

Morton Arboretum’s Illumination

November 23, 2019 – January 5, 2020
The Morton Arboretum’s Illumination is a wonderful lights display and unique experience. You can you interact with trees and marvel at amazing light displays while walking along wooded paths. Cozy up around one of the many fire pits with a refreshment and enjoy the journey!

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Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape

photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

November 22, 2019 – January 5, 2020
There’s a new lights experience in town! Lightscape in Glencoe is a mile-long path with curtains of light, music, singing trees, and more. This lights show originated in the UK and this year is the first time it will be in the US. The sparkling tunnel of light looks amazing. We haven’t been there yet, but this definitely looks worth the drive.

Rooftop Ice Skating in the City

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. The hotel website states, “Hours are subject to change, it is recommended guests call +1 (312) 337 2888 prior to arrival to confirm.”

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Saturdays and Sundays November 30 – December 22, 2019 and the week of December 26-31, 2019
Enjoy the zoo in a different way this holiday season with a giant light display, 41-foot-tall talking tree, more than a million LED lights, live entertainment, professional ice-carving demonstrations, special visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and ice skating on the Chicago Wolves skating rink (skate rental available). Click here for our insider’s guide to Holiday Magic.

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Get Outside at Parks with Paved Paths

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Now through January 12, 2020
If you like amusement parks and indoor winter fun, Navy Pier is the place to be. You will find amusement rides for each age group, many inflatable slides and bounce houses, climbing walls, an indoor ice skating rink, and indoor tubing on a small hill at this holiday extravaganza. Click here to read our review, including all of the attractions you will find along with tips and discounts.

Ice Skate with Your Favorite Characters

All rights reserved

Fridays in December, 2019
You can ice skate with various characters on Sundays in December at the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink at Parkway Bank Park in Rosemont! The event is open to the publish for parent sand children ages 12 years old and under. Admission to the rink is free and you are welcome to bring your own skates. Skate rental is available for $8. Click here to view the schedule of characters.

Visit a Live Nativity

Live nativity scene featuring Mary, Joseph, and Jesus

Various dates December 6 – December 24, 2019
If you are looking for an experience focused on the meaning of Christmas, visiting a live nativity is a great way to do that. There are many options in the west and southwest suburbs, all with volunteer actors, some with live animals and even snacks and warm drinks! Click here to be taken to our full list of churches with a live nativity in the west and southwest suburbs of Chicago. 

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Family Holiday Fun Guide

Looking for more local ideas that your family will enjoy this holiday season? Head over to our full guide to holiday fun for families!

Half-Priced Tickets for Local Shows and Activities

We also have discounts and deals for your family so you can have a great time AND get a good discount on local attractions and events. Click here for our half-price ticket page.

About the Author

Annie Tandy
Annie loves making great memories with her kids and started Kidlist in 2011 so she can help others do the same! Besides finding fun and exciting things to do, Annie, her husband, and their kids enjoy caring for their chickens and hanging out with them in the backyard. Click here to read about Annie's chickens and see pictures! She also finds joy in gardening, home improvement projects, knitting, soap making, and painting along with being active in her community, church, and as a board member of the Western Springs Business Association. Click here to follow Annie on Instagram.

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