8 Most Unique Holiday Experiences in Chicago and the Suburbs

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Indoor ActivitiesOutdoor ActivitiesWinter

Are you scrolling through all the holiday activities and feeling overwhelmed? We have narrowed down all of the amazing local holiday experience choices and created a list just for you! These are eight of the most unique holiday experiences that Chicagoland has to offer this season. These are some of my family’s favorite activities, and I hope they will be a hit with your children this holiday season, too!

8 of the Most Unique Holiday Experiences in Chicagoland for 2021

Caroling at The Bean

photo courtesy of the City of Chicago

November 26, December 3, 10, 17, 2021 from 6:00pm – 7:00pm and December 12, 2021 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm
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! 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 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022
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!

Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape

photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

November 12, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Lightscape in Glencoe is a mile-long path with curtains of light, music, singing trees, and more. Walk through the twinkling glow of the Winter Cathedral, and find new features each year that shine with all the colors and light up the sky!

Amaze Lights Festival

Now – January 2, 2022
Want a special lights experience? Head to the Rosemont! Annie and her family went to Amaze and they loved walking through the mazes of lights and many photo opportunities at Impact Field. An additional opportunity to snow tube is available to add-on to your lights package. Check out Annie’s review here! You can finish up your trip to Rosemont with a skate rental across the street at the entertainment district on the synthetic rink. More ice skating information can be found here!

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Friday through Sunday, November 26-28, Wednesday through Sunday, December 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, Sunday through Friday, December 26-31, 2021
Enjoy the zoo in a different way this holiday season with a giant light display, 41-foot-tall talking tree, more than two million LED lights, live entertainment, professional ice-carving demonstrations, drop off letters for Santa, ice skating, and photo-ops. Click here for our insider’s guide to Holiday Magic.

Light up the Lake at Navy Pier

Courtesy of Light up the Lake

November 26, 2021 – January 2, 2022 | Times vary
Navy Pier kicked off their first indoor winter lights festival. Tickets start at just $15 per person, including a ride on the Centennial Wheel! Inside Light up the Lake are 600,000 twinkling lights, an ice rink with skates available to rent, and kiddie train rides. My family has tickets to check it out in a few weeks! We can’t wait!

Experience a Live Nutcracker Performance

Dates and Times Vary
Take your family to see a Chicago or local production of the Nutcracker. I have made it a tradition with my daughter that we go every year and have a holiday date night. There are plenty of local theater performances, so you don’t have to go all the way downtown unless you want to!

Visit a Live Nativity

Live nativity scene featuring Mary, Joseph, and Jesus

Dates and Times Vary
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. 

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.


For more family fun, check out our giant 2021 Holiday Guide!

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