Carving turkeys and stuffing our bellies surrounded by loved ones is pastime we look forward to all year, no doubt. Extend the celebration and make memories to be thankful for by hitting up any of these events that’ll keep your little turkeys moving, from parades to turkey trots and everything in between.
Lincoln Park ZooLights
Be there when the switch is flipped to begin the annual spectacular light display at Lincoln Park Zoo on Fri., Nov. 24 at 4:25 p.m. next to the Wild Things gift shop. The paths will be illuminated with musical light displays and fun family activities and crafts are spread throughout. Watch the nightly live ice sculpture carvings, snap pics with Santa and lace up your skates to take a few loops around the ice skating rink.
Worth Noting: Due to the popularity of this event, taking public transportation whenever possible is encouraged.
Dates: Nov. 24-26, Dec. 1-3, 8–23, 26–31; Jan 1-7
Hours: 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: Admission free; ice skating $5
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park
Take a miniature ride at Chicago Botanic Garden
The Wonderland Express will transport your fam into a garden paradise filled with 750,000 outdoor lights. Step inside Nichols Hall, and watch garden-scale trains wind past miniature replicas of more than 80 Chicago-area landmarks. Another model train will weave by more landmarks set around the North Pool of Krehbiel Gallery, transformed into an English country train platform. If all this chugging around has made you hungry, you can whet your whistle at the Caboose Café and Wonderland Express Shoppe.
Date: Nov. 24-Jan. 7
Hours: Nov. 24-Dec. 22, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 23.-Jan. 7, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (closes 3 p.m. Christmas Eve & closed Christmas Day)
Cost: $13/adults, $10/ages 3-12, free for ages 2 & under ($2 discount for members); Tuesdays are half-price
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe
Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Returning for a 5th year is the crowd pleasing dazzler Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum. Walk the mile-long path and gaze in amazement at the LED lit trees through the winter woods. Bright light shows set to The Nutcracker music recorded by The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and glowing trees that respond to touch and sound will amuse and stimulate the senses of all ages! Keep toasty warm by stopping at a cozy bonfire or enjoying a hot beverage (adult options available) served at the three tents scattered throughout the event.
Dates: Nov. 18-Jan. 2
Hours: 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; lights out at 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Non-members, $15/adults, $10/ages 2-17; Members, $10/adults, $5/ages 2-17; free for children under 2
Tip: Purchase tickets ahead as event does sell out
Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rte. 53, Lisle
Dazzling Holiday Trolley Ride
A pretty cool way to watch the winking and blinking of holiday lights is by trolley. Hook up with Chicago Trolley Co. for its annual Holiday Lights Tour. The lightly narrated two-and-a-half-hour adventure shows the best of Chicago’s holiday lights and stops at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights show. Sights on the tour include The Magnificent Mile, Macy’s holiday windows, Christkindlmarket, the John Hancock and Daley Plaza trees, Millennium Park and more. The tour even includes complimentary treats from Sprinkles Cupcakes for each passenger.
Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 23
Hours: Tour times vary, check website
Cost: $29/adults; $18/kids
Tour departs from the John Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile
Make it a colorful weekend at the Chicago Children’s Museum
There’s no denying that most households in America have in one way or another been touched by the work of Eric Carle, whether he helped you learn to read or lulled you to sleep at night. Chicago Children’s Museum newest exhibit, Very Eric Carle, introduces, reacquaints and inspires visitors to the work of the renowned author and illustrator. Step into the pages of his classic Very series, introducing five special insects who take journeys of discovery. Each story is a testament to Carle’s love of nature, respect for the emotional lives of children and his recurring themes of friendship, creativity and the power of imagination.
Dates: Thru Jan. 7
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Also open Thurs., 5 p.m-8 p.m.
Cost: $14/person; free for ages 1 & under
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Say Guten Tag! to Santa
Bundle up for this outdoor market that brings the cherished German and European tradition of the Christkindlmarkt in Germany to Chicago and adds a heap of local charm. You’ll see the market’s signature wooden cabins topped with festive red-and-white-striped canopies, each packed with handmade gifts, food and drinks from around the world and many are run by native German speakers. Shop, eat, enjoy free entertainment, repeat – and be sure to say “guten tag” to Santa Claus.
Dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 24
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
On Daley Plaza, Between Dearborn, Washington & Clark St., The Loop
McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade
How about spending your Thanksgiving morning with the Harlem Globetrotters? You can, because they’re performing in the annual Thanksgiving Parade, a local bucket list item everyone should check off at least once. This year’s parade lineup is filled with performances to delight all ages, including stage performances from Medieval Times, Music Theater Work’s Peter Pan, Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, Black Ensemble Theater’s Sammy: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr. and much more.
Insider tip: For a less crowded area to view the parade, sponsors suggest a spot near State and Adams Streets.
Date: Nov. 23
Hours: Starts at 8 a.m.; suggested to arrive early
State St., from Congress to Randolph, Downtown
Local Charitable Turkey Trots
Work up an appetite and justify an extra slice of pie after spending your morning burning excess calories in a local race. Many city neighborhoods and suburban towns host these Thanksgiving Day trots, and most of them are benefiting a great cause, adding to the spirit of giving and gratitude!
Downer’s Grove is hosting the 14th annual Bonfield Express 5K, raising money for local high school students.
Enjoy a stunning view of the lakefront by entering Evanston’s Flying Turkey 5K. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Harvest Food Pantry and Foundation 65. A canned goods drive to benefit the panty will take place before the race.
By running the North Shore Turkey Trot, you’re supporting Landon, an energetic 10-year-old boy who received a diagnosis of a Grade III brain tumor, Anaplastic Astrocytoma, affecting only 1-3% of all pediatric patients, roughly 50 kids a year.
Naperville’s 20th annual Turkey Trot benefits the Lion’s Club, a charity supporting children and families with hearing and visual impairments and diabetes support.
Join runners around North Pond in Lincoln Park at one of Chicago’s traditional Thanksgiving traditions, the 40th annual Turkey Day Run. These 5K and 8K courses end with Turkey Bowling. Proceeds benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Too busy on Thanksgiving morning? Consider hitting the pavement two days after at the Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in Grant Park on November 15. Parents will love the Lakefront views and children will burn off their energy in the Kids’ Dash.
Schaumburg’s competitive half marathon and 5K benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and takes place Nov. 25.
What local events are a part of your family’s holiday traditions? Share in the Comments below.
— Maria Chambers