Chicago Winter Fun for Kids: Activities & Events Guide

By Laurie Christofano

As a lifelong resident and your go-to Realtor in Chicagoland, I’ve discovered some fantastic places that are perfect for families with young kids. Whether you’re new to the area or just looking for new adventures, this guide will help you make the most out of our vibrant communities.

Outdoor winter activities for kids and families in Chicago & suburbs

Wintrust Winterland at Gallagher Way and Santa Baby Pop-Up Bar

Step into a winter fantasy at Wintrust Winterland at Gallagher Way, an enchanting destination for holiday revelry in Chicago. With its exciting rides, fun-filled games, and cozy outdoor chalets, this festive venue is perfect for families and friends alike. Nestled near Wrigley Field, it offers a unique holiday experience, combining the thrill of a winter fair with the charm of an intimate celebration. Just a short walk away, the Santa Baby Pop-Up Bar awaits, ready to dazzle with its extravagant holiday decor and spirited atmosphere. This festive bar is a wonderland of holiday joy, complete with themed drinks and a jubilant vibe, making it a must-visit for those seeking a truly immersive holiday experience in the city.

Morton Arboretum Children’s Garden

The Morton Arboretum Children's Garden offers a natural oasis that invites kids to explore the wonders of the outdoors. This garden is a dynamic space where children can connect with nature and learn about the environment in an interactive, hands-on manner. With areas designed to encourage play and discovery, young visitors can climb, splash, and engage with a variety of natural elements. The garden's design is thoughtful and inclusive, making it accessible and enjoyable for children of all abilities. It’s a place for families to experience the joy of outdoor exploration, where each visit can lead to new discoveries about the natural world and its many wonders.

Millennium Park Ice Skating and Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon

Experience the magic of winter in Chicago with two iconic skating destinations: the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park and the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. The Millennium Park rink offers a classic ice skating experience with the stunning city skyline as a backdrop, complete with free skating and weekend lessons. Just a short walk away, the Skating Ribbon provides a unique, winding path through the scenic Maggie Daley Park, surrounded by Chicago's skyscrapers. Both venues create a delightful winter atmosphere, perfect for families and skaters of all skill levels.

Sonny Acres' Christmas Light Show

Illuminate your holiday season with a visit to Sonny Acres' Christmas Light Show. This festive attraction in the Chicago area is a wonderland of twinkling lights and captivating holiday displays. Families can enjoy a leisurely drive through a mesmerizing route adorned with vibrant lights and seasonal themes. Each turn offers a new visual delight, making it a perfect outing for all ages. The light show at Sonny Acres brings the spirit of Christmas to life, offering a memorable experience that captures the joy and wonder of the holiday season.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo is an enchanting winter event that transforms the zoo into an illuminated wonderland. As the longest-running lights festival in the Chicago area, it offers a spectacular display of over a million twinkling LED lights, creating a mesmerizing setting for a festive family outing. Visitors can stroll through the dazzling light displays, enjoy seasonal music, and participate in various holiday-themed activities. The event also features unique animal encounters, making it an educational and magical experience. Holiday Magic is a celebration of the season's joy and a must-visit destination for creating lasting holiday memories.

Sledding at Soldier Field

Sledding at Soldier Field offers a thrilling winter experience right in the heart of Chicago. The area around this iconic stadium boasts a popular sledding hill, perfect for families seeking a fun outdoor activity. The hill's location provides not only an exhilarating ride but also a unique urban backdrop, combining the excitement of the city with the joy of winter sports. This spot is especially beloved after a fresh snowfall, providing an excellent way for families and friends to enjoy the outdoors and embrace the colder months in a festive, active manner.

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier is a festive extravaganza, offering a wondrous indoor winter playground in Chicago. This annual event transforms Navy Pier into a magical landscape filled with giant slides, amusement rides, and an array of holiday-themed activities. The festival's highlight is its dazzling array of lights and decorations, creating a mesmerizing holiday atmosphere. Families can enjoy various attractions, including ice skating, live entertainment, and plenty of photo opportunities. Winter WonderFest is a perfect destination for those seeking to celebrate the winter season in a lively, family-friendly environment.

Snowshoeing at Morton Arboretum

Snowshoeing at Morton Arboretum offers a serene and picturesque way to explore the winter landscape. This activity allows visitors to trek through the snow-covered grounds of the arboretum, immersing themselves in the quiet beauty of nature during the winter months. The arboretum's diverse terrain and well-maintained trails make it an ideal location for snowshoeing enthusiasts of all levels. It's a unique opportunity to witness the tranquil side of winter, observe wildlife, and enjoy the peacefulness of the snowy forest. Snowshoeing here is not just a physical activity, but a way to connect with nature and enjoy the serene winter scenery.

Winter Bird Watching - Forest Preserves of Cook County

Winter bird watching in the Forest Preserves of Cook County is a serene and engaging activity, offering a peaceful escape into nature. The preserves' diverse habitats are home to a variety of bird species, making them ideal spots for bird enthusiasts. Winter brings unique opportunities to spot migratory birds and local species in their natural habitats. The quiet, snow-covered landscapes enhance the experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature and the beauty of wildlife. This activity is not only a treat for bird lovers but also a wonderful way for families to connect with the outdoors during the colder months.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is a beloved Chicago holiday tradition that transforms the zoo into a luminous winter wonderland. This annual event features a dazzling array of colorful light displays, creating a whimsical and festive atmosphere. Visitors can walk through the brilliantly lit paths, enjoy themed displays, and partake in various holiday activities. The experience is further enhanced with seasonal music, warm drinks, and delightful photo opportunities. ZooLights presents a perfect blend of holiday cheer and outdoor fun, making it an ideal destination for families looking to celebrate the season in a truly magical setting.

Cross-Country Skiing - Forest Preserves of Cook County

Cross-country skiing in the Forest Preserves of Cook County is a delightful way to experience the beauty of winter in the Chicago area. The preserves offer a variety of trails that cater to both beginners and seasoned skiers. Gliding through the snowy landscapes, skiers can enjoy the tranquility of the forests and open spaces, often spotting wildlife along the way. It's a perfect winter activity that combines physical exercise with the peacefulness of nature, offering a refreshing escape from the urban environment.

Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza

The Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza is a festive holiday market that brings a slice of German tradition to Chicago. This charming outdoor market is filled with twinkling lights and holiday decorations, creating a cozy and jubilant atmosphere. Visitors can explore a variety of vendor booths offering unique crafts, ornaments, and gifts. The market is also renowned for its delicious array of traditional German foods and drinks, including bratwurst, pretzels, and warm spiced wine. It's a delightful experience that combines shopping, dining, and cultural exploration, making it a must-visit holiday destination.

Starved Rock State Park Winter Hiking

Winter hiking at Starved Rock State Park offers an extraordinary outdoor adventure. The park, known for its stunning canyons and frozen waterfalls, presents a breathtaking winter landscape. Hikers can explore the snow-covered trails, experiencing the tranquility and beauty of nature in its winter form. The park's unique geological features, including ice-clad rock formations and frozen waterfalls, create a picturesque setting for a day of exploration. This winter hiking experience is both invigorating and serene, making it an ideal activity for those who appreciate nature's quieter moments and spectacular winter scenery.

Rainy day activities for kids and families in Chicago & suburbs

Triton College Holiday Lights Celebration

Get in the spirit of the season with Triton College's holiday lights celebration! Perfect for a rainy day, you can enjoy the dazzling spectacle from the comfort of your car. Drive through the campus and be surrounded by rows of brightly lit trees, creating a magical winter wonderland. Don't forget to stop for a festive selfie or a family photo to capture the holiday joy. This free holiday drive-through experience begins on Friday, Dec. 8, and runs through Jan. 2, 2024, making it a must-visit destination this winter season.

WonderWorks in Oak Park

Nestled in the vibrant community of Oak Park, WonderWorks is more than just a children's museum; it's a creative play-based learning hub. Designed to spark curiosity and imagination, WonderWorks offers an array of interactive experiences that cater to the developmental needs of young children. From sensory-rich exhibits to hands-on learning stations, it provides an environment where kids can freely explore, create, and discover. The museum's commitment to nurturing young minds and fostering a lifelong love for learning makes it a must-visit destination for families seeking an educational yet fun outing.

Let's Play Work in Forest Park

Let's Play Work in Forest Park is a vibrant and innovative space that redefines the concept of a kid-friendly environment. Created with both parents and children in mind, it offers a unique blend where kids can immerse themselves in imaginative play while adults have the opportunity to focus on work or simply relax. This space is the brainchild of a local parent who recognized the need for a place where work and play coexist harmoniously. Here, children can explore and engage in a variety of playful activities, while parents can take advantage of the adult-friendly amenities, making it an ideal spot for family outings, work days, and community events. Let's Play Work isn't just about play; it's about creating a community space where families can come together, celebrate, and enjoy the balance of productivity and fun.

WaterLemon in Downtown LaGrange

In the charming downtown of La Grange, WaterLemon stands out as a delightful haven for families with young children. This innovative play cafe and party venue, envisioned by a mom who sought a welcoming, stylish, and safe space for kids, caters to children 5 and under. The space beautifully blends a playful atmosphere with modern design, inspired by the sunny vibes of the West Coast. Parents can relish a moment of relaxation with a cup of coffee while keeping a watchful eye on their kids in a bright, cheerful environment. WaterLemon is more than a play area; it's a commitment to clean, fun, and memorable experiences, making it a go-to spot for family outings, birthday celebrations, and a bit of peaceful respite in the bustling suburban life.

Forest the Fox’s Playbox in Westchester

Forest the Fox's Playbox, nestled in the heart of Westchester, offers a whimsical and engaging world for young adventurers. This playful paradise is specifically designed for toddlers and preschoolers, providing a safe and stimulating environment for them to explore and learn. The space is filled with imaginative play areas that encourage kids to be active, creative, and social. It's a community treasure where little ones can develop essential skills while having fun. Whether it's for a casual play day or a special celebration, Forest the Fox's Playbox is a place where childhood memories are made, fostering a sense of joy and discovery in every visit.

DuPage Children’s Museum

DuPage Children's Museum is a vibrant realm of discovery and learning, a little journey away but worth every mile. This museum is a wonderland where young minds are free to explore the realms of science, art, and math through interactive and hands-on experiences. Each exhibit is designed to spark curiosity and encourage exploration, making learning an exciting adventure. The museum's environment is tailored to foster creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration among its young visitors. From building blocks to water play areas, every corner of the museum offers a new opportunity for discovery, making it a cherished destination for families seeking a blend of education and fun.

Children’s Museum at Navy Pier

The Children's Museum at Navy Pier is a bustling hub of creativity and learning, perfectly situated at one of Chicago's most iconic landmarks. This museum is a kaleidoscope of fun and education, offering an array of interactive exhibits that inspire children to learn through play. Each area of the museum is thoughtfully designed to ignite the imaginations of young visitors, encouraging exploration in diverse fields from the arts to the sciences. It's a place where hands-on activities blend seamlessly with imaginative play, making every visit an enriching experience for the whole family. The museum's dynamic environment is perfect for sparking a lifelong love of learning and exploration in the hearts of its young explorers.

Ninja Squad Gym in North Riverside

Ninja Squad Gym in North Riverside offers a dynamic and exhilarating environment for kids to channel their inner ninja. This gym is a haven for active play, where children can participate in classes that combine fun and fitness. Designed for preschoolers and accompanied by 'mom & me' sessions, it provides a unique opportunity for kids to develop their motor skills, strength, and agility. The gym's engaging courses are crafted to enhance balance, coordination, and confidence, all within a safe and supportive setting. It's more than just a gym; it's a community space where kids can learn new skills, make friends, and have a blast exploring the exciting world of ninja athletics.

We Rock The Spectrum in Franklin Park

We Rock The Spectrum in Franklin Park is a fantastic place where children of all abilities can play and learn together. Their unique equipment and activities are designed to aid in the areas of strength, movement, sensory processing, communication, and social interactions. It’s an inclusive environment that supports neurological growth and development, making it an exceptional spot for families to enjoy and learn together.

KidCreate Art Studio

KidCreate Art Studio is a colorful and imaginative space that welcomes young artists and their families. Specializing in art classes for toddlers and up, it offers a nurturing environment where creativity is encouraged and artistic skills are developed. With a focus on fun and learning, KidCreate provides a variety of hands-on activities that allow children to experiment with different art materials and techniques. The classes are designed not only to foster artistic talent but also to enhance cognitive and motor skills. It's a place where children, accompanied by their caregivers, can dive into the world of art, creating memorable masterpieces and developing a lifelong appreciation for artistic expression.

Kohl Children’s Museum

Kohl Children's Museum, located in the greater Chicago area, is a delightful world where learning and play intertwine. This museum is specially designed for younger children, offering a wide range of interactive exhibits that engage the senses and ignite curiosity. Each exhibit is crafted to inspire imagination and promote understanding in areas ranging from the arts and sciences to cultural awareness. The museum provides a nurturing environment where children can experiment, create, and discover, fostering early educational development in a fun and engaging way. It's a space where families can share joyful learning experiences, making it a favorite destination for those seeking enriching activities for their little ones.

Local Libraries: A World of Wonder

The local libraries in Oak Park, Forest Park, Elmwood Park, Northlake, Berwyn, North Riverside, and beyond offer amazing children’s sections. They're ideal for story times, educational activities, or just a quiet afternoon with a good book.

In Chicagoland, there's no shortage of adventures for families with young kids. As a local and a parent, I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting places to share with my clients. Whether you're buying, selling, or just exploring, I'm here to help you discover the best of our community. Let's make some memories! 🏡✨

Laurie Christofano,
Your Advocate in the Chicago Arena
Realtor, Lifelong Friend, and All-Around Chicago Enthusiast