Kidlist’s 2023 Holiday Family Fun Guide


As the weather turns colder, it’s time to start thinking about the winter holidays and holiday family fun! It may seem soon (and we’ll certainly be updating all of these articles throughout the next two months), but certain events have already begun registration. Others, including toy drives, will wrap up well before the holidays begin in earnest. So now really is the right time to pick out the items on your list you really want to do!

This guide rounds up tons of holiday family fun, including live theater performances, the best Christmas lights to go see around your neighborhood, so many opportunities to see Santa, live nativities for Christmas, events for Hanukah, volunteer opportunities, and more.

This guide is sponsored by Yorktown Center.

Santa in Residence at Yorktown Center

The holiday season is hardly complete without a visit with Santa at Yorktown Center! Step into our winter wonderland in Center Court and make magical memories with your family with Santa this season. Get ready to share your wish lists, spread cheer and take home your annual holiday family keepsakes with Photos with Santa, now through December 24 at YorktownCenter.

Pet lovers, take note: Santa loves pets too! Join us for our special Pet Photos with Santa dateson November 14, December 5, and December 12 during all Santa hours. We invite all well-behaved pets to enjoy the festive spirit of a holiday photo session with Santa Claus. Yorktown Center is your one-stop holiday shop! After the holiday festivities, cross off your holiday gift lists at our gifting destinations including Von Maur, HomeGoods, Barbaraโ€™s Bookstore, and more!

Get in the Giving Spirit

Toy Drives and Donations
Toy drives in Chicago’s western suburbs for unopened toys, plus where to donate gently used toys. Get in the spirit of giving and extend holiday family fun to others!

Volunteering with Kids
Volunteering with kids is such a worthwhile way to connect as a family. These organizations offer opportunities to help them better our community.

Popular Christmas Resources

Driving Routes for the Best Residential Christmas Lights 2023
All of the best Christmas lights in the suburbs with addresses, photos and a map. All of the homes are organized into driving routes so it’s all ready for you to take a self-led tour through the suburbs!

Drive-Through Christmas Lights
Looking for a ticketed experience that you can drive through? We found the best drive-through light shows to experience this holiday season.

Walk-Through Christmas Lights
These walk through displays are the perfect way to enjoy the lights, as you wander down the paths. Plan in advance for the ticketed events, or pack up the kids for a last minute excursion in a free public park display.

2023 Christmas Bucket List *with free activities only*
Not sure where to start this holiday season? We’ve got a list for that! Check out free things to do this Christmas season.

Santa Sightings

Santa Sighting Alert! Where to See Santa
Santa sightings in the west and northwest suburbs of Chicago! A comprehensive list of where to see Santa, including dates, times and calendar listings with more info.

Eat with Santa
These festive dining experiences are filled with incredible food, as well as craft stations, music, photo opportunities and sweet treats.

Free Photos with Santa
All the opportunities to take free photos with Santa for families in the western suburbs!

Pet Photos with Santa
Pets shouldn’t be left out of the holiday family fun. Find places that welcome dogs, cats, and other pets in this list of pet photos with Santa.

Polar Express Train Rides, Holiday Express, Santa Train, and Santa Trolley
These magical rides are filled with sweet treats, visits with Santa, and much, much more. Reservations for these events go very quickly, so if you haven’t booked something, start looking today.

2023 Local Holiday Family Fun Events

The Best Hanukkah Events in Chicagoland
Check out Kidlist’s guide to all things Hanukkah for some of the best family events in Chicagoland celebrating the Festival of Lights, which begins at sundown on Thursday, December 7 and ends on the evening of Friday, December 15 in 2023.

2023 Nutcracker Performances and Live Holiday Theater for Kids
Holiday theater for kids makes for a magical memory! Find a local performance of some of our holiday favorites.

The Most Unique Holiday Experiences
We curated a list of holiday experiences that are new this year or separate themselves from the rest.

Horse-Drawn Carriage and Trolley Rides for Old-Fashioned Holiday Family Fun
Places to find a horse drawn carriage ride or holiday trolley ride in the western suburbs.

2023 Holiday Walks and Tree Lighting Ceremonies
โ€˜Tis the season to get outside and celebrate the holidays. Store-front windows filled with snowmen, reindeer lining the streets, elves hidden in downtown shops, and rows of beautifully-decorated trees fill your neighborhood parks.

Churches with a Live Nativity for Christmas
Find a local church hosting a live nativity event with live actors portraying the Christmas story, sometimes with live animals and other fun touches.

How to Celebrate New Yearโ€™s Eve with Kids
You don’t have to wait until midnight to celebrate the new year. These local places are hosting fun events to celebrate New Year’s Eve with kids during the day!

Gift Guides

Experience Gifts in Chicago’s Suburbs
Tons of ideas for experience gifts to enjoy time with each other that your children will never forget. These are a great way to extend the holiday family fun!

The Best Games for Family Game Night
Great games to put under the tree or to break out for a fun holiday party gathering.

Christmas Season Resources

Live Christmas Tree Farms: Where to Cut Your Own (or Find a Pre-Cut Tree)
Driving to the lot, sawing down a tree, drinking cocoa together: cutting your own Christmas tree is a holiday family fun adventure! Or go with pre-cut and skip the saw.

Stores Open on Christmas (coming soon!)
Need something last-minute? Not celebrating Christmas? Here’s what was open last year; we’ll update it again for 2023 closer to the date.

The Porch also gives an overview of Holiday Safety Tips and Tricks for a Stress-Free Season and we highlight fun holiday things to do there as well.

For more winter fun, check out our winter activities for kids guide!

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