‘Tis the season to find your family’s favorite way to play, have fun and create warm holiday memories. You’ve probably done Christkindlmarket and Macy’s windows — so start some new traditions with these great holiday activities in Chicago and beyond.
Ready? Set? Do. And re-do year after year!
See Holiday Lights From New Heights
Chicago Helicopter Experience (CHE) is offering a unique new way to check out the twinkling holiday lights — from 1,200 feet above ground! You may even get a chance to fly with Santa, who will be taking time off from his busy holiday schedule to pilot helicopters on the weekends. Holiday light tours take off from Bridgeport and feature sky-high views of the lights along Mag Mile and Millennium Park, as well as Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights. Helicopter tours are available Nov. 27 to Jan. 3.
Take a (Nearly) Free Ride!
Most of the time, riding the Chicago ‘L’ is a utilitarian experience that takes you from point A to B. But, this month, you can catch a ride aboard the brightly-lit Holiday Train. You might even spot Santa as he dashes through the city in his sleigh (just look on top of the train car!). Even train conductors get into the spirit, by getting Elfed — make sure you get your “Elf Selfie,” as they will be taking pictures with the crowds. The normal $2.25 fare is a small price to pay for all the extra holiday cheer. Check the CTA website to find a holiday train near you!
Swedish Lights Festival
A bit up the road from the Michigan Avenue Festival of Lights, you’ll find the St. Lucia Festival of Lights in Andersonville. This traditional Swedish Christmas celebration takes place on Dec. 13. Catch the candlelit parade down Clark Street with “Lucia Girls” dressed in long white robes with beautiful candle crowns leading the way and singing the Lucia Song. Afterward, celebrate at the Swedish American Museum with lots of family-friendly entertainment. Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago
The Reason for the Season
Have a “Blue Christmas” at the House of Blues, where every Sunday you can enjoy a jubilant and jolly Gospel Brunch. The riveting music is matched only by the delicious food. Such a joyous way to get into the holiday spirit! The House of Blues, 329 Dearborn St., Chicago
‘Treasure’ Family Time
While the crowds flock to the Nutcracker and the Goodman, plan an intimate evening at the Lookingglass Theatre and take in a performance of “Treasure Island.” This swashbuckling race for buried treasures is recommended for pirates and seafarers age 10 and up. Runs through Jan. 31. Lookingglass Theatre, John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan Ave., #1430, Chicago
Spend Time With the Family
Many families spend the day after Christmas watching “The Godfather” trilogy on AMC. Instead of vegging in front of the classic gangster flicks, enjoy a live telling of Chicago’s notorious crime stories on the Untouchables Gangster Tour, now in its 27th year. Hop aboard the Untouchable Tour bus for an almost two-hour journey into the past, cruising old gangster hot spots and hit spots! 773-881-1195
A Family Skate!
Ice skating season is underway at Millennium Park — and it’s exhilarating to get outside and skate as a family under the bright, festive light of the Chicago skyline. Skating is free and skate rental is available for $12. If you have them, bring your own skates because those rental lines can get pretty long. Millennium Park, McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, 201 E. Randolph St. , Chicago
Sounds of the Season
On the Magnificent Mile, you’ll find magnificent sounds of the season at Fourth Presbyterian Church’s free lunchtime concerts at 12:10 p.m. every Friday. Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, 312-787-4570
Chestnuts on the Drive
Go nuts with this tiny, but tasty, tradition. Take an enchanting break from the Mag Mile holiday hustle and bustle. The Four Seasons Hotel Chicago will be serving up hot roasted chestnuts outside its front doors. Fridays and Saturdays, 4-6 p.m., Nov. 28 to Dec. 28, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Place, Chicago
It’s Time for Me to FLY
As Father Time ticks off another year, ring in 2016 in a brave way! iFLY is a great way to jump out of your comfort zone and embrace those courageous New Year’s resolutions. Why not? If you can fly, you can do anything! Open New Year’s Eve and New Years Day. iFLY, MB Financial Park, 5520 Park Place, Rosemont; Freedom Commons, 1752 Freedom Drive, Naperville
Donna Bozzo (aka The Lady With The Alligator Purse) shares her ideas for simple, fantastic FUN as a TV contributor and on her website, TheLadyWithTheAlligatorPurse.com. Look for her new book,“What the Fun?! Put More Fun in Your Family’s Life” (Penguin Random House), in May 2016.
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