Saturday, December 10, 2016

Annual Event: Holiday Activities

The holiday's are here and with all that is happening in the city, it can cause a little anxiety determining what to do.

We have narrowed our focus to a "top 8" with reviews of each activity throughout the month. Zoolights and Garfield Park we will hit up after Christmas as they run all month long.

Rating scale: One to Five Snowflakes

The Goals and Ratings (if checked off our list):

Navy Pier Winter Wonderfest: ❋❋❋❋❋
This is the highlight of our year. Every. Year.  The best indoor playground to take the kids with a ton of activities fun for the whole family.  Highlights include:

  • Inflatable slides and bounce areas, 
  • Ice skating rink (with rental)
  • Unique rides: inner tube sledding 
  • Ferris wheel and other carnival style rides, 
  • Toddler train (best version yet, this year), 
  • Multiple photo opportunities (includes Santa with Ms. Clause)
Our kids were split in some of the activities they could do, based both on height an interest, so my husband and I divided and conquered the night.

Note:  Be prepared to wait in lines and plan accordingly (phone games, books, etc).

Polar Adventure Day: 
This event was fine. The park had made a great effort - from roasting marshmallows in a fire pit. to arranging a dog sled company and wildlife organizations to bring birds (vulture, barn owl), snakes, and more.

The dog sledding was neat to see, but the mushers didn't speak about the dogs or interact with the kids. My son latched onto a dog (Hawkeye) so we spent a lot of time watching him pet the pup.

The wildlife group brought a wolf, coyote, and porcupine, which couldn't be touched...but we were able to get our hands on a skunk and ground hog!

Two more dates available throughout the winter. There are nice paths for walking or snowshoeing.

Sledding:  ❋❋❋❋❋
With a perfect amount of snow fall, we headed to the Soldier Field sledding hill -- though the link above provides a variety of options which may be closer to you. The boys had a great time and will go back the next time conditions are good.


  • Free parking next to the hill 
  • sled area is wide, allowing for multiple people to go at once.
  • Our 6 and 4 year old where both able to go down by themselves.
  • No one was injured!

The Santa Experience - 12 Days of Santa: ❋❋❋❋❋
From the moment the Shops at Roosevelt Collection opened, it has been a positive impact on our city living experience. The ICON theater, Nando's, The Container Store, the playground...the list goes on and on...there is so much to love about this small and mighty collection.

While the stores alone are great, they knock it even further out of the park with their events. They are always well done and this was no different.  Nestled into a storefront (INSIDE!! next to the Loft Store), it is adorably decorated to feel like a small winter path, entering Santa's home. There are some small ornament crafts as well.

Santa is great - incredibly friendly, talks with the kids, and takes several (free) photos. A very different experience from the "hustle-in-take-photo-go" standard we have grown accustomed to.

And no lines (when we went)!!

CTA Holiday Train - 
The CTA Holiday Train has been a Chicago staple since having children, but let's set expectations. It is, at it's best, a unique experience.

Our past rides have been harried, jam-packed, and one year the train actually zipped right past us -- leaving confused parents and crying kids in it's wake.

This year was the best year yet, thanks to our new tactic: Ride in the evening. We took the 7pm train and it was the first time we found a seat and actually saw the entire train. Even snuck close enough for a Santa photo.

The city added a second train: Elves Workshop Train, which follows Santa's train and helps with overflow. The only difference is the Santa car has...Santa.  Everything else is the same!

Another Chicago staple and we love hitting up the Lincoln Park Zoo!  We lucked out with great weather this year, which makes the whole event more enjoyable. There is a new Polar Bear exhibit we were able to see (and the bear) and quite a few of the animals were still out and about. 

We love going to the zoo in general, and this night was the most packed we had seen it (again, due to the nicer weather), so we hit up our highlights, walked down candy cane lane, and headed home.  

Worth the trip!

---- What holiday activities do you have as "not to miss"?

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