Winter break is upon us and sometimes it doesn’t feel like much of a break, with all the entertaining of children we need to do. We’ve rounded up a few ideas to make it memorable AND enjoyable, from new bowling alleys you have to check out to fancy tea times (and relaxing tee times!). Some of these events ship out after the holidays, so be sure to catch them while you can!

wonderland3photo: Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express

(1) Indulge Your Train Lovers at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express
Outdoors at the North Shore’s garden paradise, you can walk meandering pathways and soak up more than 750,000 outdoor lights. Indoors, things are just as magical. In Nichols Hall, watch garden-scale trains wind past miniature replicas of more than 80 Chicago-area landmarks, including Navy Pier, Soldier Field and Millennium Park.

Hours: Daily thru Jan. 2; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. thru Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Dec. 16-Jan. 2
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe
Cost: $13/adults; $10/ages 3-12; Free for ages 2 & under. Members receive $2 off each ticket. Prices are half price on Tuesdays.

(2) Tee Up at Topgolf
Looking to hit a hole in one on your next family outing? Head to the golf and entertainment hot spot where you can improve your own game while introducing your kids to golf in a fun, interactive and non-intimidating environment all year-round.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-midnight; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.-midnight
Where: Top Golf, 3211 Odyssey Court, Naperville & 699 W. Thorndale Ave., Wood Dale
Cost: Prices vary, check website

Kings Bowl Chicagophoto: Kings Bowl

(3) Spare Yourself from Boredom at Kings Bowl
Take refuge from the elements at Kings Bowl in Lincoln Park. Whether you’re impressing the kids with your bowling skills or schooling them in a game of air hockey, there’s not a chance you’ll hear those dreaded words, “I’m bored!”. Come hungry because they have an extensive and reasonably priced kids menu and the coal-fired pizza at attached Max & Leo’s will make for a cozy winter day meal.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 3 p.m.-midnight; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Where: Kings Bowl, 1500 N. Clybourn, Lincoln Park
Cost: $6-$10/person; $5 shoe rental; $3 sock rental; Air hockey, $1/person per game

(4) Build Family Memories at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago
Step into an indoor winter wonderland bursting with LEGO bricks at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago’s annual Holiday Bricktacular. Young brick masters can make their own ornaments, add cheerful elements to a very merry Holiday Village, stroll through a snow-covered Chicago Miniland, cheese it up for holiday photos and receive a free exclusive holiday-themed factory brick.

Hours: Dec. 1-23, Mon-Fri., noon-7 p.m. & Sat.-Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Dec. 24 & 26-30, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Dec. 25, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 26-Jan.3, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago, 601 N Martingale Rd, Schaumburg
Cost: Tickets as low as $14.25 when purchased online

Navy Pier Winter Wonderfestphoto: Navy Pier Winter WonderFest

(5) Get Your Winter Thrill-Fill at Navy Pier
Get your thrill fill at Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest, which has rides for all ages. Being Chicago’s biggest and best indoor winter playground, it features 170,000 square feet filled with rides, giant slides, Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating rink and holiday decor that is sure to get you into the holiday spirit.

Hours: Check calendar for hours
Where: Navy Pier, 600 N. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Cost: General admission $10, activity ticket $23, family six-pack $99

For the experience: Chicago Children's Museumphoto: Chicago Children’s Museum

(6) Indoor Snowball Toss at Chicago Children’s Museum
Get those pitching arms warmed up! Pretend you’re a World Series winning Cubs player when you wind up for a pitch with soft, fluffy snowballs as you watch them fly, zip, float and dip!

Hours: Dec. 17; 2:15 p.m.; Dec. 26 & 27, 5:15 p.m.
Where: Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Cost: Free with $14 general admission; free for kids under 1

(7) Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
Based on the best-selling book series by Barbara Park, this holiday show follows fan-favorite Junie B. Jones as she takes part in a holiday sing-along concert at school and Secret Santa Day. “Dear Santa, I really hope you were watching me just now. That’s all I hope. Love, Junie B. –Giver.”

Hours: Thru Jan. 8; check calendar for showtimes
Where: Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park
Cost: $19+

Tate and Gabby at Tea cropped

(8) Grab a Spot of Tea at The Langham Hotel: Pavilion
The Langham hotel is the perfect place to get a little fancy with the family over winter break. Pavilion is home to The Langham Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood, a traditional afternoon tea that first debuted at The Langham, London in 1865. The Langham will offer its usual array of proprietary teas accompanied by sweet and savory treats made with holiday-inspired ingredients, like gingerbread scones and duck confit sliders. A special kids’ menu is available. Rest your weary feet while you sip your glass of bubbly, listen to live holiday music and enjoy the beautiful holiday décor with your favorite people.

Hours: Seatings Mon.-Wed., 3 p.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. through Jan. 7
Where: The Langham Hotel, 330 N. Wabash, Chicago
Cost: $75/adults (includes glass of champagne); $30/kids
Online: or call 312-923-7710 for reservations

(9) Warm Your Hands with a Mug of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate
Cut the chill in the air with a warm mug of chocolate sweetness. True to its name, this Bucktown favorite has a sweet spot for the roasty-toasty drink. Of the nine hot chocolate choices, the biggest kid pleaser is the “Medium.” Concocted from milk chocolate, dark chocolate, a hint of caramel, and a combo of heavy cream and whole milk, it will have them licking their lips — especially when they lay eyes on the house-made marshmallow on top.

Hours: Tues.-Thurs., 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5:30 p.m.-midnight; Sun., 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Where: Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, 1747 N. Damen, Bucktown
Cost: Varies

Blue Man Group New Yearsphoto: Blue Man Group

(10) Put 2016 to Bed with Blue Man Group
Cap off 2016 with a kid-friendly performance with the Blue Man Group. For the 1 p.m. & 4 p.m. New Year’s Eve shows, children will be transformed into members of the Blue Man Group band with pre-show face painting.  Other festivities include a pretend midnight countdown after the show, complete with party hats, noisemakers and a special performance of “Auld Lang Syne” by the Blue Men.

Hours: Dec. 31; 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. & 10 p.m.
Where: Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted, Lakeview
Cost: $49-$99

What plans do you have in the works for your winter break? Share in the Comments below!


—Maria Chambers