Carving turkeys and stuffing our bellies surrounded by loved ones 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, from parades to turkey trots and everything in between.

photo: Art on theMART

Art on theMART
Merchandise Mart is making things special for Chicagoans this holiday season. As part of their holiday program, they are conducting Art on theMART.  There will be six winter holiday images that will each animate for a minute and a half, running in between the contemporary artworks by Diana Thater, Zheng Chongbin, Jason Salavon and Jan Tichy throughout the 2-hour program.

On-Going Dates: Nov. 17-the new year
Hours: 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: Free
Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, River North

photo: Lincoln Park ZooLights

Lincoln Park ZooLights
Be there when the switch is flipped to begin the annual spectacular light display at Lincoln Park Zoo on Fri., Nov. 23 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, enjoy strolling carolers and sip on warm spiced wine.

Worth Noting: Due to the popularity of this event, taking public transportation whenever possible is encouraged.

On-Going Dates: Nov. 23-25 & 30, Dec. 1, 2, 7–23, 26–31; Jan 1-6
Hours: 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: Admission free; $3 tickets available for experiences
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. 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. 6
Hours: Nov. 24-Dec. 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 22.-Jan. 6, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (closes 3 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 8 & Dec. 24, 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

photo: Morton Arboretum

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Returning for a 6th 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. 17-Jan. 1
Hours: 4:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; lights out at 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Non-members, $18-$23/adults, $12-$15/ages 2-17; Members, $12-$18/adults, $7-$10/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 Mag Mile, Macy’s holiday windows, Christkindlmarket, the John Hancock and Daley Plaza trees, Millennium Park and more.

Dates: Nov. 23-Dec. 23
Hours: Tour times vary, check website
Cost: $32/adults; $20/kids
Tour departs from 875 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile

photo: Parkway Bank Park

Light Up the Park at Parkway Bank Park
Parkway Bank Park invites you to help kick off its winter programming with the opening of the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink. Their Light Up the Park tree lighting event will feature a spectacular display of more than 80,000 lights. Free activities for the evening include ice skating on the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink, strolling carolers, sleigh rides and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Rosemont’s Mayor Brad Stephens will arrive at 5:30 p.m. to officially illuminate the Park.

Dates: Nov. 23
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
Parkway Bank Park, 5501 Park Place, Rosemont

photo: Christkindlmarket via Maria Chambers

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 The Loop and Naperville 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. 16-Dec. 24 (Chicago) and Nov. 23-Dec. 24 (Naperville)
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Cost: Free
On Daley Plaza, between Dearborn, Washington & Clark St., The Loop
Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville

2015 McDonalds Thanksgiving Paradephoto: McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade 2015

Uncle Dan’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 and appearances to delight all ages, including City of Zurich Police Band, Royal Bahamas Police Force Marching Band, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Boys Scouts of America, Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts, the American Sidesaddle Association, Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament and many more.

Insider tip: For a less crowded area to view the parade, sponsors suggest a spot near State and Adams Streets.

Date: Nov. 22
Hours: Starts at 8 a.m.-11 a.m.; suggested to arrive early
Cost: Free
State St., from Congress to Randolph, Downtown

photo: enerGEEwhiz

Day-Off Camp at enerGEEwhiz
This 3-hour camp includes an hour enerGEEwhizz fitness class on the proprietary equipment, lunch, and 90 minutes of education and a craft segment. This camp offers the perfect opportunity for mom and dad to get holiday shopping done or simply recover from Thanksgiving Day excitement.

Date: Nov. 23
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
EnerGEEwhiz, 1418 N. Kingsbury St., Near North Side

Day-Off Camp at Windy City Ninjas
Register your kids today for Windy City Ninjas’ Black Friday Camp! Kids will test their mad ninja skills while building strength, agility and self-confidence . . . all while having a blast. Campers will learn proper techniques from trained instructors, engage in structured obstacle circuits, tackle new obstacles, enjoy free play time and participate in competitions and races.


Date: Nov. 23
Hours: 9 a.m.-noon, 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. or 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $50/half-day, $85/full-day
Windy City Ninjas, 2500 W. Bradley Place, Near North Side

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 their annual Bonfield Express 5K, raising money to provide scholarship assistance to high school seniors at Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Lisle and Westmont high schools.

Enjoy a stunning view of the lakefront by entering Evanston’s Flying Turkey 5K. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Vineyard Food Pantry and Foundation 65. A canned goods drive to benefit the panty will also take place before the race.

By running the North Shore Turkey Trot, you’re supporting the Highland Park Police Benevolent Association which reacts during times of joy and sorrow, providing a valuable network of support for its members, Law Enforcement Officers and other law enforcement communities.

photo: Naperville Turkey Trot

Naperville’s 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 41st 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 24.  Parents will love the Lakefront views and children will burn off their energy in the Kids’ Dash and the famous finish line cinnamon rolls.

Schaumburg’s competitive half marathon and 5K benefits the Misericordia Heart of Mercy, which supports individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and takes place Nov. 24.

— Maria Chambers


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