sponsored by:
Baird & Warner

Covid conscious winter activities for families and individuals

Image: Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier/navypier.org
Image: Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier/navypier.org

The holidays looked a little different for many of us last year. This year, most events are back in full swing – and can still be attended safely. Let’s take a look at some of the best events Chicagoland has to offer.

With COVID-era adjustments in mind, Navy Pier has replaced its longtime Winter Wonderfest with a similar, yet upgraded, event called Light Up the Lake, in what they claim is the area’s largest temperature-controlled, indoor light garden. Some close contact activities such as bounce houses were removed, but ice skating remains, and new this year is a Bavarian bierhaus featuring craft brews, cocktails, soft pretzels, and sweets. For the first time, a ticket to this event now includes a ticket to the Centennial Wheel, whose gondolas are heated.

Speaking of soft pretzels, Christkindlmarket is back with all of the bratwurst, gluhwein, and trinkets you can handle. Locations have changed over the years but this year’s iterations are the classic home at Daley Plaza in Downtown Chicago and Gallagher Way, the plaza just west of Wrigley Field. Tables in the warmth of the Daley Plaza Timber Haus can be reserved in advance online.

Image: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum/Morton Arboretum

Tickets for Lincoln Park Zoolights, one of the most well-known displays of holiday lighting, typically cost $5 but most Mondays and Tuesdays are free. Special events coming up throughout the month include BrewLights by Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. on December 2, a tribute to a Charlie Brown Christmas on December 12, a Holidaze adults night out with a live DJ on December 16, and a special celebration for New Year’s Eve. Another splendid display of holiday lights can be found at Downtown Naperville’s Naper Lights, open every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Santa will be on-site for photos on Friday and Saturday evenings and live music will be provided on December 17 and 18. Other excellent light shows in the area include the Six Flags Great America Holiday in the Park Lights, the Aurora Festival of Lights, Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo, Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum, and the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape. Lots of lights to be seen.


A toasty hot chocolate goes well with any outdoor holiday event. Oak Park’s Holiday Walk, however, offers up to six varieties to choose from as you make your way through numerous charming businesses. The Holiday Walk will take place on December 11 and 18 and features a Santa visit, choirs and caroling, a free family-oriented movie both days at Lake Theatre, live music in various restaurants throughout the day, and of course, the six hot chocolates you must try.

Image: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light/enjoyillinois.com

To get some global perspective on our beloved holidays, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibition is a rare opportunity to observe more than 50 trees and displays celebrating traditions from around the world. These displays, which are decorated by volunteers, surround the four-story Grand Tree and are often accompanied with music.