5 Things to Do: Thanksgiving Weekend 2017

Thanksgiving Weekend 2017: Wonderland Express at Chicago Botanic Garden

Before you dig in to those Thanksgiving leftovers this weekend, keep the holiday fun going with annual events at The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Botanic Garden, and Lincoln Park Zoo. Plus, shop local on Saturday and enjoy a dance party (complete with indoor snow) with your kiddos.

26th Annual Wreathing of the Lions

5 Things to Do: Wreathing of the Lions at Art Institute of Chicago
Photo courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Nov. 24

Watch as the Art Institute of Chicago’s lions are adorned with wreaths for the holidays. This year’s event will be emceed by the Chicago cast of “Hamilton,” and the Soul Children of Chicago will perform. Plus, enjoy free hot chocolate during the ceremony and free crafts (including make-your-own wreaths) afterward.

Wonderland Express

5 Things to Do: Wonderland Express at Chicago Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden.

Opens Nov. 24

Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual Wonderland Express returns with model trains, indoor snow, mini Chicago landmarks, ice sculpting (Dec. 28, Jan. 4), carolers (Nov. 24-26, Dec. 2, 23), a holiday market (Dec. 2-3) and more. And save the date for special events like Holiday Cheers! Seasonal Tasting at Wonderland Express (Dec. 6) and the Hanukkah Concert (Dec. 17).


5 Things to Do: ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo by Julia Fuller/Lincoln Park Zoo.

Opens Nov. 24

Lincoln Park Zoo’s extended ZooLights (the free event will run for seven more days this season) will feature more than 2.5 million lights, visits from Santa, ice sculptors, a Light Maze (new this year), and more. You can also visit for special events like ZooLights Family Nights (Dec. 11, 18, and Jan. 1), Holiday Market (Nov. 28), Adults Night Out: Holidaze (Nov. 30), and BrewLights (Dec. 7).

Small Business Saturday

5 Things to Do: Small Business Saturday
Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash.

Nov. 25

Start (or finish) your holiday shopping by supporting the local businesses that make your community special. In Evanston, pick up a passport and spend $75 to receive a “We Love Evanston” tote bag, coffee mug, and phone stand, plus munch on free cookies at businesses participating in the Cookie Crawl. In West Town, Ad Hoc, Paperish Mess, Tarnish, and Study Hall are partnering to offer promotions, drinks, trunk shows, and pop-ups with local artisans. And in Downtown Skokie, you’ll find pop-up gift shops, deals, and restaurant specials.

Snow Globe Party

5 Things to Do: Chicago Children's Museum snow globe party
Photo courtesy of Chicago Children’s Museum.

Nov. 25

Stop by Chicago Children’s Museum for the first Snow Globe Party of the season. Families can dance under “snowflakes” as the Great Hall is transformed into a life-sized snow globe, where the U.S. Postal Service will also unveil new Forever Stamps featuring “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats. The snow globe fun will continue every afternoon from Dec. 26 to Dec. 30.


  • Rosemont will “Light Up the Park” on Nov. 24 with the opening of the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink and a tree lighting event. Throughout the day, guests can enjoy ice carving, horse-drawn sleigh rides, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
  • Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co.’s Holiday Lights Tour will begin Nov. 24. The tour stops at Sprinkles Cupcakes before heading down Michigan Avenue and stopping at Christkindlmarket and ZooLights.
  • Christkindlmarket Park at Wrigley will open Nov. 24 and run through Dec. 31. Visitors will now find everything they love about Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, and even an ice skating rink, next to Wrigley Field.


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Anna Carlson writes the weekly 5 Things to Do column and monthly Recommended Events. A graduate of Glenbrook South High School and the University of Missouri, her work has been published in Chicago Parent, Inside Columbia Magazine and Central California Parent Magazine. She is a proud supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital






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