Five family holiday must-dos in Chicago

Five family holiday must-dos in Chicago
Christkindlemarket Chicago

I always come into December full of energy and optimism that the holiday season is going to be a quiet, peaceful time of family togetherness. By the first weekend in December, it always becomes clear to me that this holiday season is going to be a jam-packed, crazy one just like the year before it.

This month gets absolutely nuts. Between family commitments and special holiday school activities, I feel like the December days fly by me. That being said, I do make an effort to make sure that we make the time to hit up some of our favorite Chicago holiday spots. These unique experiences are only here for a couple of weeks so you gotta get on it!

Here is my list of absolute must-do local holiday highlights for families (you've still got time to catch all of these fun things before Christmas arrives).

  • ZooLights.  It just wouldn't feel like the holidays without a trip to see Zoo Lights (either at the Lincoln Park Zoo or the Brookfield Zoo). This year, we did both. I can't get enough of the lights synchronized to the music (yes, seriously). These festivities take place after Christmas as well so no big rush here.
  • Christkindlemarket. Normally Daley Plaza isn't all that exciting for kids -- but not so at this time of year. Your little ones will be amazed as Daley Plaza is transformed into a charming little village called Christkindlemarket. This open-air market sells everything from European-style ornaments to German specialties like bratwurst and strudel. Little visitors can sip on hot apple cider as they wait their turn to chat with Santa Claus. Open daily through Dec. 24.
  • The Nutcracker.  Nobody does it like the Joffrey Ballet. Performances take places through Dec. 27. My daughter and I attended on opening night -- and it was spectacular as always.
  • The CTA Holiday Train. Everyone rides the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) during the holidays -- even Santa Claus himself. The CTA Holiday Train makes stops on all of the various lines. The “sleigh” is decked out in holiday decorations and Santa and his elves hop off at each stop to pass out candy canes. Normal CTA fares apply. Visit to see the full schedule.
  • Caroling at the Bean in Millennium Park. On Friday evenings at 6:00 p.m., holiday revelers join together for Caroling at the Bean This free event includes complimentary hot chocolate and votive candles for participants. We're heading down to check it out this Friday. After the caroling, we might event make a stop at the ice rink at Millennium Park (to watch at least).

Would love to hear what your favorite holiday activities are this time of year.

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