Carving turkeys and stuffing our bellies Thanksgiving Day is a 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 and make social distancing a breeze. From contactless chats with Santa to drive-thru holiday light shows, we’re filling your family calendar with holiday cheer.
Buckle Up for a Drive-Thru Holiday Lights Show
Returning for the 8th year is the crowd-pleasing Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum. This awe-inspiring winter tradition has been reimagined as a two-mile driving experience designed with guest safety in mind. Illumination will dazzle visitors with its unparalleled spectacle of color, light, and synced musical soundtrack they won’t see or hear anywhere else.
Have a Contactless Chat with Santa
Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Fashion Outlets of Chicago has created a contactless Santa experience to make a visit safer for families. He's located near the Food Court and visits to bend his ear are free, with photo packages available for purchase.
For other options for Santa visits, read our story Magical Places to Meet Up with Santa (& Mrs. Claus, Too!).
View a Timeless Favorite in a New Way
Art on theMART
With the cancellation of The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker, a newly animated digital display will be shown as part of Chicago's Art on theMART, the largest digital art projection in the world. The projections—displayed on theMART’s 2.5-acre river-façade—will be set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score.
Be Treated to Shows from All Over the Country
Virtual Holiday Performances
We don't have to tell you that things look a wee-bit different this year. This means you're likely not dressing the kids in their fancy clothes and heading to an in-person holiday show. Luckily theaters all over the country have gotten creative and are bringing the cheer right to your home. Read our story 14 Holiday Theater & Musical Performances You Can Enjoy on Your Couch to learn about shows that will lift your holiday spirits.
Take a Lighted Stroll in the Gardens
Chicago Botanic Garden
Wander into a festive world of wonder and light at Chicago Botanic Garden's Lightscape. Along a mile-long path, the night comes alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a playful choir of singing trees to a spectacular waterfall of light. At times, you’ll find yourself in the center of it all—stepping inside a cathedral of golden light, walking down an avenue of luminous linden trees, moving through colorful ribbons of light. This year's one-way path has been redesigned with the safety of visitors in mind.
See the City of Chicago’s Annual Christmas Tree
Things will look at a bit different at Millennium Park this season, but the cheer will still be present. All are invited to experience new virtual holiday programming on YouTube and to visit Millennium Park to see the City of Chicago's Christmas Tree shining brightly near the intersection of Michigan Ave. & Washington St.
Step Back in Time to a Vintage Holiday
Downtown Long Grove
Historic Downtown Long Grove invites holiday revelers to take a break from online shopping and rediscover the magic of the holiday season. The annual Long Grove Vintage Holidays campaign is what the classic holiday experience is all about. . . quaint shops, old-world charms, and family memories. Vintage Holidays 2020 features merchant open houses, holiday music, horse-drawn sleigh rides, holiday selfie station and more!
Travel the World Without Leaving Chicago
Museum of Science & Industry
What began in 1942 as a single tree, is now an international winter wonderland at Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light. The family is going to be enchanted by the trees and displays that are decorated to represent the rich multicultural heritage of Chicago. The crown jewel will be the floor-to-dome Grand Tree with 30,000 twinkling lights, sparkly ornaments and all of the trimmings.
Window Shop and Support Local Businesses
Wicker Park Bucktown Window Wonderland
The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce is back with its holiday window program, Window Wonderland. Dozens of businesses across Wicker Park and Bucktown are decorating their windows in holiday themes, and shoppers can vote on the best windows for a chance to win raffle prizes.
Make it a Weekend of Making Others Feel Thankful for You
Acts of Kindness
They can't help it, kids are innately compassionate and kind. Foster and hone that natural beauty with a few simple gestures during this weekend of thanks. Read our story 96 Everyday Acts of Kindness for Kids (& Their Grown Ups) to snag some ideas on how your kids (and their favorite grown-ups) can spread big love this holiday season.
Sleigh Bells Ring for Family Movie Night!
Family (Christmas) Movie Night
The absolute BEST time of year to watch T.V. is that stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas because of holiday movies galore. Watch classics to modern must-sees with your little ones that vary from animated to live-action. But before starting family movie night, bake your favorite holiday cookies and get ready to snug in for an evening (or the whole chilly day).
— Maria Chambers