Who’s ready for a new start in 2021? Break out the noisemakers because the kid-approved New Year’s Eve activities for families are about to kick off. We rounded up outdoor events and at-home celebrations to help your family ring in the new year. Psst. . . all of these are daytime events that’ll have them tuckered out well before the clock strikes midnight (aka: champagne time for you!).


photo: Village of Rosemont

Skate Your Way into the New Year

Parkway Bank Park welcomes you and your crew to figure 8 the year away at their Chicago Wolves Ice Rink. Bring your own skates and skate for free or rent skates onsite for $8. This year, capacity will be limited and visitors will need to reserve a 45-minute skating time slot.

Dec. 31; 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; Parkway Bank Park, 5501 Park Pl., Rosemont. More info

photo: Brookfield Zoo

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Zoogoers can safely enjoy this year’s Holiday Magic by strolling along the many pathways, lit with more than one million twinkling LED lights, including through a brilliantly lit 600-foot-long tunnel featuring thousands of colored lights all synchronized to music. New this year, guests of all ages can play the Game of Gnomes. Embark on a fun-filled scavenger hunt in search of 24 whimsical and enchanting themed gnomes, measuring 12- to 20-inches-tall that will be located throughout the park.

Dec. 31, 3 p.m.-9 p.m.; Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Rd., Brookfield. More info

photo: Wilmot Mountain

NYE Spent on the Mountain

Spend New Year's Eve breathing fresh winter air and shredding at Wilmot Mountain. In just a little over an hour, you can hit the mountainous slopes and have a winter romp in the snow. 

Dec. 31; Wilmot Mountain, 11931 Fox River Rd, Wilmot, WI. More info

Kohl Children's Museum Kohlights

Kids take charge in Chicago’s newest holiday light display, Kohlights. Using glow stick learning wands, they can control and change the lights, so it’s a different lightacular experience every time. Your kids won’t even realize they’re learning while they play with light and color to create new hues and patterns.

Dec. 31, 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; Kohn Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview. More info

photo: City of Chicago

See Chicago's Christmas Tree at Millennium Park

The holidays look a bit different at Millennium Park this season, but the cheer is still ever-present. All are invited to experience new virtual holiday programming on YouTube and to visit Millennium Park to see the City of Chicago Christmas Tree shining brightly. 

Dec. 31; 201 E Randolph St., Millennium Park. More info

photo: Naper Lights

Stroll Naperville's Riverwalk for Naper Lights

Visit Naperville's beautiful riverwalk and you'll find the 8th Annual Naper Lights display. This free event brings holiday cheer and festivities in a way that makes social distancing a breeze. While you're in the area, stop into Le Chocolat du Bouchard for a delicious handcrafted hot cocoa (we recommend the Mexicocoa). 

Dec. 31, 4 p.m.-9 p.m.; 120 Water St., Naperville. More info

Take a Spin at Maggie Daley's Ice Rink

The Maggie Daley Park ice skating ribbon is one of the best spots in the city to skate a figure eight. The railing that lines the loop is the perfect pick-me-up for wobbly skaters.

Dec. 31, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St., Naperville; More info.


Host a Balloon Drop with Luft Balloons

Embrace the goodbyes of 2020 with help from Luft Balloons. Hang a Luft Balloons balloon bag from the ceiling with attached tabs and pull the dangling ripcord to let the balloons fall. The drop is fully arranged and inflated and features 1 Disco Ball, 2 Stars, 1 3' Globe, 2 Confetti Dot and various sizes of black, gold and silver latex balloons. Best part: You get to decide what time to wrap up the year and send the kids off to dreamland.

Dec. 31; At home with the help of Luft Ballons; More info

Noon Year's Eve Party Hosted with the Girl Scouts

The Girl Scouts are helping Chicago families ring in 2021 with fun! Girls and their family and friends are invited to celebrate with a STEM activity, creating party favors, learning about Girl Scouts and so much more. There will also be a noon countdown so kids can celebrate New Year without staying up too late. 

Dec. 31, 11 a.m.; Virtual via the Girl Scouts; More info

photo: Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

New Philharmonic New Year's Eve Concert

College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center is ready to help you ring in 2021 with New Philharmonic and Maestro Kirk Muspratt. Introduce the kids to Strauss waltzes and polkas, arias, light classical, pop tunes and movie music. 

Dec. 31; 2 p.m. Virtual via McAninch Arts Center; More info

photo: American Blues Theater

It's a Wonderful Life, Virtual Show

American Blues Theater has been transporting Chicagoans back to the “Golden Age of Radio” to experience the story of George Bailey for over 19 years in their wildly popular interactive It's a Wonderful Life performance. While the performance is hosted via Zoom this year, the wholesome fun and holiday cheer will still shine through.

Dec. 31, 4 p.m. & 7 p.m.; Virtual via American Blues Theater; More info

photo: August de Richelieu via Pexels

Marriott Theatre's The Four C Notes

The Four C Notes are back for New Year's Eve after last year's sold-out concerts! Created by John Michael Coppola, best known for his appearance in Jersey Boys, The Four C Notes are the Midwest’s only tribute dedicated to recreating the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons!

Dec. 31, 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.; Virtual via Marriott Theatre; More info.

photo: DuPage Children's Museum

Have an At-Home Bubble Bash with DuPage Children's Museum

Have a fun hands-on New Year's Eve at home with the help of DuPage Children's Museum. Enjoy a box filled with fun games, festive maker activities and other celebratory surprises. In addition, you'll receive special access to a virtual NYE celebration with the Museum, including musical performances, interactive art and maker videos, and a special countdown with DCM and friends. Do your countdown at noon or stay up late—whatever your family desires!

Dec. 31; DuPage Children’s Museum, 301 N. Washington St., Naperville. More info

— Maria Chambers


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