Top holiday events for families in Chicago: December 20 - January 5

It's finally here - the weekend before Christmas and the start of winter break for lots of children across the Chicago area. With the holidays in mind, I put together a list of great holiday happenings for families in the Windy City - from now through Sunday, January 5, 2014. May you enjoy festive gatherings, quality time off, and loads of holiday family fun!

1. Christkindlmarket Chicago
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. (Loop)
Tues., Nov. 26 - Tues., Dec. 24
Free admission

The Christkindlmarket Chicago is officially open for the season! The festive holiday market is an absolute must for anyone living in or visiting Chicago over the holidays. I went last year and loved it.

From now until Christmas Eve, you can head to Christkindlmarket Chicago to browse classic German gifts and indulge in German culinary treats. Families should be sure to pick up a Christkindlmarket Passport and then let your children get stamps from various "Passport Stamping Stations" located throughout the market. It's a great way to let parents shop and kids have fun!

2. CTA Holiday Train
Various CTA "L" train lines
Weekends and select weekdays, Fri., Nov. 29 - Mon., Dec. 23

The six-car decorated train is the way to ride the CTA "L" train during the holidays - making it a great way to check out the city's neighborhoods in true holiday spirit. Check the CTA website for the full schedule of dates, times and lines.

3. Holiday Hub
Block Thirty Seven, Pedway Level, 108 N. State St. (Loop)
Open daily through Tues, Dec. 24
Mon. - Sat., 10 am - 6 pm, Sun., 11 am - 5 pm

The Holiday Hub is located on the Pedway Level at Block Thirty Seven - in the heart of the Loop. The "cozy winter cottage" is open daily through December 24 and offers family-friendly activities to shoppers and visitors alike. You can enjoy a story corner and arts and crafts table while you sip complimentary hot beverages - perfect for Chicago's chilly days. There also will be information guides on hand to help you plan your holiday activities in Chicago's Loop.

4. Irish Christmas Market
Montrose Green, 1819 W. Montrose Ave. (Ravenswood)
Sat., Dec. 21 from 11 am - 8 pm and Sun., Dec. 22 from 11 am - 4 pm
Free admission

This weekend is the closing weekend of the Irish Christmas Market. The outdoor market in Ravenswood offers local produce, festive crafts and gifts, seasonal food and drink, and live entertainment. It's a great way to finish up your holiday shopping, purchase the final items for your holiday meals, and toast to a happy holiday all in one festive place.

5. Redmoon Winter Pageant
Redmoon Theatre, 2120 S. Jefferson St. (Pilsen)
Fri., Dec. 20 - Sun., Dec. 22 (Fridays at 7 pm, Saturdays at 4 and 7 p.m., Sundays at 1:30 and 4 pm)
Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children 3 - 18 years old, and $10 for college/university students

The Redmoon Theatre's 15th annual Winter Pageant is a family-friendly show that includes a cast of 40 performers, featuring hip-hop dance, Indian and Southeast Asian dance, puppets, shadow play, belly dance, aerial acrobatics, a Mexican clown artist, and live, original music. The Winter Pageant presents a new myth inspired by the poem, "The Conference of the Birds" by Farid ud-din Atta, which focuses on the themes of community, bravery and hope.

6. Season of Wonder
Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive (Museum Campus)
Now through Sun., Jan. 15, 2014
(Extended holiday hours: Thurs., Dec. 26 - Wed., Jan. 1 from 9:30 am - 6 pm)

The Season of Wonder celebration at the Adler Planetarium runs through Sunday, January 15, 2014. It features Winter Sky Live, a sky show that gives you a close look at seasonal constellations, visible solar system objects and the Aurora Borealis. While you're at the Adler Planetarium, you can experience what it feels like to be in a giant, virtual snow globe at the end of each Cosmic Wonder or Welcome to the Universe show.

7. Winter WonderFest
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave.
Fri., Dec. 6, 2013 - Sun., Jan. 12, 2014 (Check the website for hours)
Free admission; Activity wristbands are available for purchase online or at the event

For 13 years, Winter Wonderfest has transformed Navy Pier into an indoor winter carnival loaded with rides, inflatable slides, train, ice rink, zip line, and much, much more. My family has gone for the last few years, and my sons always beg to go as many times as possible.

8. World's Winter Celebrations in Chicago
Multicultural exhibit with pop-up window displays and galleries in the Loop (See website for locations)
Now through Fri., Jan. 10, 2014

This year, the Chicago Cultural Alliance allows you to discover how eight different cultures celebrate the holiday season. You can visit five window displays and galleries throughout the Loop to learn more about the traditions observed during Lithuanian Christmas, Chinese New Year, Silvester, Simbang Gabi, Diwalk, Latvian Winter Solstic, Wigalia and St. Lucia.

9. ZooLights
Lincoln Park Zoo, Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Pkwy (Lincoln Park)
Dec. 13 - 23, 2013; Dec. 26 - Jan. 5, 2014
Free admission

The Lincoln Park Zoo's free annual event features an amazing array of light displays that will thrill people of all ages. While at the zoo, you can pose for photos with Santa, enjoy free holiday crafts, ride the carousel and kiddie, and more. Of course, you can get a nighttime look at the animals, too!

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