Holiday happenings: Get the inside scoop on plenty of holiday exhibits, light shows and family fun in Chicagoland
AMAZE photo by Matt Zuro
By Trent Modglin
AMAZE Light Festival in Rosemont
Impact Field has transformed into the ultimate holiday destination with the debut of The AMAZE Light Festival in Rosemont. Open now, visitors can enjoy outdoor holiday activities for all ages amongst an immersive display of more than one million holiday lights.
In addition to timed light shows and seven theme-based illuminated worlds, AMAZE guests can take advantage of tubing on Thrill Hill, a holiday market, festive food and beverages, a candy shop and more. Children can enjoy Santa’s Workshop, holiday craft making and festive train rides on the Arctic Express.
The AMAZE Light Festival will be open through January 2. General admission tickets are $23 for adults and $18 for children ages two through 12. Visits to Santa’s Workshop must be reserved in advance when purchasing tickets.
VIP and platinum ticket packages, which allow access to Leinie Lodge and the Rivers Stadium Club, which boasts an all-inclusive buffet and drinks, are also available.
Impact Field is located at 9850 Balmoral Ave. in Rosemont. Find ticket information at AmazeRosemont.com
Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden
This is the third year of this enchanting, after-dark, illuminated trail created just for the Botanic Garden. It features many favorite artistic installations along with some new features to surprise and delight the senses.
Attendees will bask in the glow of thousands of twinkling lights as they walk through the Cathedral of Light and past the fire-filled sculptures while listening to the playful choir of singing trees. Tickets range from $14-26, and children under three are free. It’s recommended to book early, as many dates sell out in advance.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe. Visit ChicagoBotanic.org to get more information and order tickets.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry
A Chicago tradition for nearly 80 years, it first started in 1942, when a single tree was decorated to represent U.S. allies during World War II. Now, there is a four-story Grand Tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays that represent the holiday traditions from different cultures around the globe. More than 30,000 lights and fake snowfalls add to the spirit of the season for visitors.
The exhibit is open through Jan. 3 and is included with general admission tickets. 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. MSIChicago.org
Kohlights holiday light show at the Kohl Children’s Museum
The only Chicago holiday light show designed specifically for children will open its second, expanded run at Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview on Nov. 26. Kohlights: A Mesmertastic Holiday Lightacular allows young guests to explore properties of light and color by controlling and interacting with thousands of holiday lights in the museum’s two-acre park.
The fully outdoor holiday light walk will run from 5-7 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through December 12, before beginning daily shows December 17-31 except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Advance reservations are required at KohlLights.com. Tickets are $20 per person for adults and children. Museum members receive a discounted rate of $15 per person.
Kohl Children’s Museum is located at 2100 Patriot Blvd. in Glenview. For more information, visit KCMGC.org or call (847) 832-6600.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago goes all out for the holidays with its ZooLights celebration, decorating the entire property with a mind-boggling 2.5 million colorful lights, adorning everything from the trees to animal exhibits to the grass itself — often synchronized to holiday music.
The celebration, now in its 28th year, includes photos with Santa, gift shopping, spiced wine and craft beer, seasonal snacks, and animals in their outdoor exhibits. New this year is the Family Wildlife Center and holiday lights exhibits on the Main Mall and south lawn. Separate ticketed experiences include the Enchanted Forest, the Light Maze, Lionel Train Adventure, carousel ride and the festive pop-up bar that provides a great elevated view of the zoo.
This year’s ZooLights will be open on select dates from Nov. 19-Jan. 2 from 4-10 p.m. Admission is $5 and tickets must be purchased in advance. Admission is free on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Lincoln Park Zoo is located at 2200 N. Cannon in Chicago. 312-742-2000. LPZoo.org
Light up the Lake at Navy Pier
Exciting times at Navy Pier, which will be hosting a new indoor holiday experience this holiday season called Light up the Lake. Visitors can enjoy sprawling light-sculpture displays created from more than 600,000 twinkling lights, a massive Alpine ice rink, an authentic holiday beer garden, train rides for the kiddos, Santa’s Merry Main Street, a gift market and more. Bonus: Tickets start at just $15, and a ride on the iconic (and heated) Centennial Wheel outside is included with your ticket.
Light Up the Lake runs from Nov. 26-Jan. 2. 600 E. Grand Ave. Visit NavyPier.org for ticket information.
Skating in Rosemont’s ParkWay Bank Park
The Chicago Wolves Ice Rink is back this winter in the middle of Rosemont’s Parkway Bank Park entertainment district. In an effort to ensure social distancing this year, the outdoor ice rink will limit its capacity, and advance ice-skating reservations will be required. Skating reservations (for 45-minute sessions) and skate rentals can be made at ParkwayBankPark.com. Face masks are required by skaters entering the skating tent, and skaters are encouraged to continue wearing their face masks while skating. Admission to the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink is free, but a credit card is required to hold reservations. Rentals are available online for $8.
The rink, located at 5501 Park Place, will be open every day through Jan. 5 and Sundays through Feb. 28. Visit ParkwayBankPark.com for more info.
Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville
This incredibly popular annual outdoor market in Daley Plaza offers traditional German food (bratwurst, pretzels, roasted nuts, chocolate, etc.), drinks and live entertainment. Vendors in this charming, illuminated village sell handmade ornaments, nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks. The market has been a Chicago tradition since 1996 and is influenced by the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany (which began in 1545). Admission is free.
Insider’s tip: Not only do we recommend a boot-shaped mug of their famous spiced wine, but if you have a larger group, you can reserve a table in the heated tents — and even order a food and beverage package in advance through their website.
Christkindlmarket Chicago runs Nov. 15-Dec. 24 at 50 W. Washington downtown. There is also a second Chicago Christkindlmarket location at Gallagher Way next to Wrigley Field, running Nov. 22-Dec. 31. Visit Christkindlmarket.com for more information.
Maggie Daley Park skating ribbon
Enjoyed by more than a million visitors each year, the quarter-mile ice skating ribbon in Maggie Daley Park is open with Van Gogh-inspired visuals on the ice provided by Immersive Van Gogh Chicago, the blockbuster immersive experience seen by more than 3.5 million visitors since its North American debut last year. Skaters will glide across sunflowers and starry night brushstrokes as they take part in a unique and exciting winter experience for all ages.
Prices range from $16-20, including skate rentals. If you are bringing your own skates, admission is $5. For more information on Maggie Daley Park (337 E. Randolph), visit MaggieDaleyPark.com
Illumination at the Morton Arboretum
This award-winning, outdoor walking tour — now in its ninth year — is an interactive one-mile stroll that focuses on the Arboretum’s renowned, 50-acre tree collection, which is brought to life with more than one million lights set to music to create a captivating, colorful, interactive experience. Check out the tunnel of light, magical woodland, new Human + Nature display featuring 150 colorful lanterns, and fire pits perfect for warming up and making s’mores.
Illumination runs Nov. 20-Jan. 2, and ticket prices range from $13-$24 ($7-$19 for members). It’s advised to purchase tickets online in advance, as most nights will sell out.
The Morton Arboretum is located at 4100 Illinois Route 53 in Lisle. 630-968-0074. MortonArb.org
Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo
It’s the 40th anniversary of Holiday Magic, where the Brookfield Zoo gets you into the holiday spirit with more than one million lights covering the trees, fences and animal structures of the 216-acre zoo.
Experience a brilliantly lit 600-foot tunnel featuring thousands of colored lights all synchronized to music, a giant 20-foot-lit orb that’s ideal for Instagram selfies and holiday photos, a 41-foot tree to celebrate the holidays and several larger-than-life LED animal sculptures. Plenty of festive food and beverage options as well.
Holiday Magic runs Nov. 26-Dec. 31, and advance tickets are required. Brookfield Zoo is located at 8400 W. 31st St. in Brookfield. 708-688-8000. Reserve tickets at CZS.org/holidaymagic
Macy’s holiday fun
After taking in the annual Macy’s holiday windows and the Holiday Traditions Tour (which highlights the traditions of iconic State Street), stop by the 17,000-square-foot Walnut Room, a dining landmark on the seventh floor complete with Austrian chandeliers, Russian wood paneling and — most importantly during the holiday season — a 45-foot Christmas tree with 15,000 lights that sits directly in the center of the room.
Insider’s tip: The chicken pot pie and Grand Tree buffet are fantastic, but if the wait is too long to be seated in the Walnut Room, head to the adjoining wine bar that still offers views of the tree and an extensive, affordable wine list. And don’t forget to take the kids to Santaland on the fifth floor, right up through Christmas Eve, to meet the big guy himself. 111 N. State. MacysInc.com
Chicago Detours’ holiday walking tour
Chicago Detours will offer their fun and creative Downtown Chicago Holiday Walking Detour for a limited number of dates this November/December to both the general public and private groups. This interesting alternative to standard holiday activities shares unexpected angles to Chicago’s holiday history and traditions and stays indoors more than half the time. Guests will savor a seasonal cocktail inside the cozy Miller’s Pub, admire the windows on State Street, and then end the tour right across from the Christkindlmarket, where they can experience shopping, food and drink on their own afterwards.
Advance registration is highly recommended. 312-350-1131. ChicagoDetours.com