Resist the urge to stay snug as a bug in those turkey pants this weekend and close out November with a flurry of activity. Holiday lights tours on foot, in a trolley or helicopter, ice skating with a view and more musicals than you can possibly cover in a weekend, we’ve done the work to find the cold-weather fun. Read on for our Editor’s picks for this weekend’s best of the best.
photo: courtesy of Chicago Helicopter Experience
Up, Up, Up! Get a Birds-Eye View of Holiday Lights
Buckle up and take your holiday lights enjoyment to all new heights with a birds-eye view from 1,200 feet above the crowd. New this year, Chicago Helicopter Experience, a helicopter touring company with a heliport in Bridgeport, is offering guests sky-high views of Chicago’s magnificent light displays. Whether you’re taking the family or escaping for a much-needed date night, this is an experience that won’t soon be forgotten. The pilot gives a guided-tour of the lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, Millennium Park and the Chicago skyline, which is breathtaking no matter the time of year but exponentially so during the holidays. Fri.-Sun., 5:30 pm.-9:30 p.m. Chicago Helicopter Experience. $178/person. All ages. Event details.
A Dazzling Holiday Trolley Ride
The coolest 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. New this year, the Holiday Lights Tour will offer complimentary treats at Sprinkles Cupcakes for each passenger aboard the tour. Fri. & Sat., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. & 6 p.m. Departs from the John Hancock Observatory. $29/adults; $19/children. Event details.
It’s a Small World of Christmas Magic
It’s an international winter wonderland at Christmas Around the World. The fam is going to be enchanted by the trees and displays that are decorated to represent the rich multicultural heritage of Chicago. Of course, the crown jewel will be the The Grand Tree with 30,000 twinkling lights, sparkly ornaments and all of the trimmings. The kiddos can get into the holiday spirit while they sing along to holiday classics and play in flurries of snow that fall every half hour. If that wasn’t enough, Disney-lovers can also check out the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives for an exclusive peek at the making of Frozen and much more. Daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Museum of Science and Industry. Free with admission (non-residents: $18/adults, $11/children 3-11; residents: $15/adults, $10/children 3-11). All ages. Event details.
Family Cooking Class at The Kids’ Table
Adults and kids get to work side-by-side to make a delicious meal, and then enjoy it together! It’s the perfect combination of a fun activity, hands-on cooking instruction, a delicious dinner and recipes so you can recreate the dishes at home. Sat., 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. The Kids’ Table Lakeview. $25/person. All ages. Event details.
A Detective Game with Cat-titude
This interactive spy story provides the purrr-fect opportunity to show your little ones the mystery and excitement of live theatre. With the promise of pie and the smell of a rat close by, gather clues to help Three Little Kittens find their missing mittens and make new discoveries before Mother Cat comes slinking home. Now through Jan. 3, varied showtimes. Emerald City’s Little Theatre. $15; $8/children 1 & under. Ages 0-5. Event details.
Watch ZooLights Illuminate the Night’s Sky
One of the nation’s only free-admission zoos flips the holiday switch with ZooLights. With the light displays throughout the grounds your fam can stroll through for holiday crafts, take photos with Santa, enjoy food and drinks, watch ice carving demos, partake in carousel rides and go-’rounds on the new Lionel Train Adventure, all while admiring the explosion of multi-colored lights. Fri.-Sun., 4:30 p.m.-9 pm. Lincoln Park Zoo. Free. All ages. Event details.
Magic Tree House: A Night in New Orleans
Take your kids to a musical and watch beloved Magic Tree House characters, Jack and Annie, venture through the tuneful streets of 1915 New Orleans, where they discover 14-year-old Louis Armstrong and must set him on the trumpeting path to become the “King of Jazz.” This triumphant tale explores a world where possibilities are endless and stirs the soul of the Jazz Age. Sun., 1 p.m. Apollo Theater. Tickets start at $15. Ages 5 & up. Event details.
Ice Skating with a View
Take a spin on the ice with a magnificent view at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Once again this year, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will present Winter Workouts with FREE skating lessons, Fri.-Sun., one hour before the rink opens. Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 10 p.m.-9 p.m. Millennium Park. Free skating, $12/skate rental. All ages. Event details.
Saturday Kids Pokemon League
Pokemon fans have a place to learn how to play the game! Every Saturday they can learn with other Pokemon Trainers. They may use any cards they have, but must bring or purchase a ready-to-play 60 card deck. Don’t know how to play? Arrive at 10 a.m. for a learn-to-play session. At 10:30 players will be matched and play will begin. Trainers can earn incentives along the way for attendance, good sportsmanship and wins! Sat., 10 a.m. Cat & Mouse West Loop. Free; $10/fee if you drop off kids. Ages 7-12. Event Details.
Bundle up for this outdoor market that brings the cherished German and European tradition of the Christkindesmarkt in Germany, which began in 1545, to Chicago and adds a heap of local charm. Head to Daley Plaza, where 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. Nov. 20-Dec. 24; Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Daley Plaza. Free. All ages. Event details.
A Christmas Story: The Musical
“You’ll shoot your eye out” is one of the most recognizable lines in movie history and now you can experience Ralphie’s desperation to receive the coveted Red Ryder BB Gun acted out on stage. The kids will eat up the energetic music that ranges from gentle ballads to show-stopping numbers. Sit back and let the imagery take you back to an easier time we often long for and enjoy a show with a beautiful message: family, friendship, love – the holidays are nothing without them. Fri., Sat. & Sun., various showtimes. Paramount Theatre. $41-$56. All ages. Event details.
Glenview Park District: Holiday in the Park
Take in the annual Holiday in the Park & Parade! The parade marches on Glenview Rd., from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, going west to Jackman Park. Santa will have his own fancy float. Once the parade is parked, Mr. Claus will visit with children in Jackman Park. Sat., 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Glenview Rd., from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, going west to Jackman Park. Free. All ages. Event details.
Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action
Kohl Children’s Museum is out to show kids that exercise is fun with their newest exhibit, Run! Jump! Fly! Adventures in Action. Visitors will engage in five different exercise simulations that include surfing, snowboarding, kung fu and rock climbing – all in a fun and immersive environment. Fri. & Sat., 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m. Kohl Children’s Museum. $11; free for children 1 & under. Ages 0-8. Event details.
Hunt for Gnomes and Build Them Sweet Homes
Gnomes are invading Morton Arboretum for a game of hide-and-seek in the Children’s Garden. Can you find them all? Search for them throughout the week and then come back on the weekend to continue the hunt and create a keepsake, light-up gnome home of your own. Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Morton Arboretum. Hunt is free with general admission; home building is $7/member, $10/non-member. All ages. Event details.
Illumination: Tree of Lights
Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns with more lights, sights and sounds that will transform a Chicago-area wintertime walk in the woods into a colorful, inspiring experience like no other. Brand new experiences this year including dazzling lighting effects where a series of glowing orbs create a glittering vista. Visitors can sing to the trees to activate LED lights that rain down like shiny strands of tinsel. Nov. 20-Jan. 2, 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Morton Arboretum. $17-$20/adults; $11-$13/children. All ages. Event details.
Let us in on your weekend plans in the Comments below!