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10 Things to Do in the Chicago Suburbs This Holiday Season

The city of Chicago offers some pretty spectacular lights, sounds, and activities during the holiday season – but the suburbs are full of snowy, seasonal, sensational excitement too. Want proof? Here are 10 amazing places and events for holiday fun with your family this year.

1. Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum

Through January 1, you can come to this beautiful site in the western suburbs for a bit of natural holiday cheer. The mile-long outdoor tour takes you through the arboretum’s tree collections to experience the melding of technology and nature. Interact with trees in ways you never imagined, and enjoy treats and warming stations along the way.

2. Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Kids who love trains will adore this annual exhibit, which is a true family favorite. Model trains travel in and out of miniature Chicago landmarks made from organic materials – while it snows, indoors! The event also includes ice sculpting, a holiday market, caroling, free movies, and visits to the greenhouses.

3. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Now in its 36th year, the seasonal celebration at the zoo features over a million LED lights, a talking tree, performances, a model railroad, Santa and Mrs. Claus, cooking decorating, singing to the animals, and zoo chats. Animal exhibits remain open until 8 p.m. in the evening. The event is open on weekend evenings through December 17, then runs December 26-31 and ends with Zoo Year’s Eve.

4. Christkindmarket Naperville

The same Christkindlmarket that comes to Daley Plaza every year also has a suburban home. Through December 24, you can visit holiday vendors at this traditional German market. Buy gifts, food and beverages, and enjoy seasonal events. It’ll be a bit crowded, but parking is definitely better than in downtown Chicago.

5. Home for the Holidays at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

In Oak Park, the house where famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright lived hosts a free holiday open house on Saturday, December 2. Get a tour, enjoy refreshments, participate in a holiday design project, and see the way the home has been decorated in keeping with Wright family tradition. Event is free, but registration is required.

6. Celebrate the Season at Rosemont’s MB Financial Park

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the park at Rosemont takes place Friday, November 24 starting at 5 p.m. Starting that day you can also enjoy free ice skating, including the Sunday Funday Characters on Ice free skate from December 3-24. Then, take advantage of one of the great restaurants and entertainment venues surrounding the park.

7. Geneva’s Christmas Walk

Geneva’s event to kick off the holidays on December 1 hearkens back to Swedish tradition. At 6 p.m., Santa Lucia and Santa Claus arrive and the lighting of the great tree takes place. Roasted chestnuts, strolling carolers and a live nativity follow. Complimentary carriage rides are offered, and you can also participate in the Holiday House Tour on December 1 and 2 (tickets are $35 for tour and tea), visiting five architecturally unique homes decorated for the holidays.

8. Elf the Musical at the Paramount Aurora

The Broadway Series at this beautiful old theater in the far western suburbs will be presenting “Elf The Musical” through January 7. Based on the 2003 Christmas movie that’s become a seasonal classic, this version is a feel-good musical extravaganza that will make your holiday season a little brighter.

9. Take a Holiday Train Ride

If your family wants to ride the Polar Express or similarly-themed holiday trains, you can find one in almost every suburb! Tickets are still available. Our favorites include the Happy Holiday Railway from Union’s Illinois Railway Museum, and the South Elgin Polar Express.

10. Holiday Shopping

Chicagoland is a retailer’s paradise, and we have so many great places to get gifts. This season, visit one of the largest indoor malls in the country, Woodfield Mall, and all the stores around it (like Ikea). Or get your discount shopping done at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago in Rosemont, which hosts a Black Friday event like no other. Want to enjoy some outside time in the (hopefully) snowy weather? Oakbrook Center and Westfield Shoppingtown Old Orchard are perfect. We also like the Promenade Bolingbrook and Aurora’s Chicago Premium Outlets.

Chicago Holiday Style isn’t limited to the city!

The suburbs are pretty fun here in Chicagoland, whether it’s warm or cold. Moving here? Moving out of here? Elite Moving & Storage has you covered. Get a free estimate from us, and let us know how we can help you with your moving and storage needs.

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10 Things to Do in Chicago This Holiday Season

Chicago has so much going on this time of year. Enjoy the festivities, which always remind us what a great city we live in, and how lucky we are at Elite Moving & Storage to have such proximity to amazing attractions!

1. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

This parade is pretty special. It starts off the holiday season here with a lineup of activities on Friday, November 17 and Saturday, November 18. At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, the grand Tree-Lighting Parade goes down Michigan Avenue. Who does the honors? Why, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, of course – sprinkling Chicago with a little bit of Disney magic.

2. The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade

You may have seen this one on WGN. Every Thanksgiving morning, this exciting event along State Street includes regional high school marching bands, equestrian units, celebrities, performances, giant balloons, and floats. Expect over 5,000 participants, and hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the route.

3. Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

The city’s 104th official Christmas tree lighting takes place in Millennium Park on Friday, November 17. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. with holiday music from the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” country trio Temecula Road, and the Oakdale Christian Academy Choir. This year’s tree is a 62-foot Norway Spruce with a 37-foot base!

4. Ice Skating at McCormick-Tribune Rink and Maggie Daley Park

Ice skating actually takes place all over the city during Chicago’s winters, but if you want a view of the city’s iconic skyline, you have two awesome options. The McCormick-Tribune rink is located right underneath the Bean (er, we mean Cloud Gate), which makes for some cool skating. The Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon (with treat vendors along the path) actually lets you do something other than skate in a circle. Both rinks are free, but skate rentals will cost you.

5. Chicago Trolley’s Holiday Lights Tour

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. offers an evening tour during the season to show off the city’s festive light displays. The ride includes a free Sprinkles cupcake and just a couple of stops, at Chicago’s historic Christkindlmarket and ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. Even those of us who live here learn from the company’s knowledgeable guides, so don’t miss this!

6. Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

The 17th annual holiday event is an indoor winter playground at one of the city’s biggest tourist spots. You can enjoy rides, giant slides, holiday decor, and the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Skating Rink. While you’re at Navy Pier, enjoy some great dining, visit the Chicago Children’s Museum, or take in an IMAX movie!

7. The Park at Wrigley

Wrigley Field is an enchanted place no matter the time of year, but this season it’s upping its game with holiday festivities at the new Park at Wrigley. The Park will have its own Christkindlmarket, starting November 24, and will also open an ice skating rink ($5 admission for 13 and up, plus skate rentals). A tree lighting ceremony takes place from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28, and then Santa’s Workshop opens. We love this new addition to Chicago holidays!

8. Visiting Chicago Museums

Museums are a no-brainer because they’re warm and fun no matter when you go. This is your last chance to see Sue the T-Rex in the main hall at the Field Museum, before she’s moved upstairs next year to make room for a new dinosaur addition. “Jurassic World: The Exhibition” and “Ancient Mediterranean Cultures in Contact” are also there right now. Also, the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” exhibit is a long-time city tradition. The Art Institute will wreathe its lions for the 25th year running on November 24, starting at 10 a.m. with a presentation including “Hamilton” cast members and the Soul Children of Chicago.
 Also going on around Chicago during the holidays: the Museum of Contemporary Art‘s 50th anniversary exhibit “We Are Here”; the Shedd Aquarium’s “Washed Ashore,” which features life-sized animal sculptures made from ocean trash; and the Chicago History Museum’s “Race: Are We So Different?”

9. Shopping Downtown!

Locals tend to shop on State Street, and tourists tend to shop on the Mag Mile – or so we hear, although we frequent both whenever we can! Wait for a table around the giant Christmas tree in the Walnut Room in Macy’s to enjoy one of the treats of the season, or just check out the decorated windows from the outside. Whether you prefer walking into high-end stores or getting great deals on gifts, downtown Chicago has it.

10. Theatre

As you may know, Chicago is a city that loves live performances, and around the holidays we have a few can’t-miss shows – including the Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” and the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol.” At the Lyric Opera, “Die Walkure” of Wagner’s the Ring Cycle is playing throughout November. At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” runs too! And we have tons of smaller theaters that deserve a look as well. 

For example, the House Theatre‘s non-ballet interpretation of the Nutcracker is always fun. For a list of holiday-themed theater events, visit TimeOut Chicago.

Chicago Holiday Style Is Here!

At Elite Moving & Storage, we are passionate about and proud of our city, and we know it well. As a local moving company, we value diversity and dependability in ourselves and others. How can we assist you with your moving and storage needs this winter? Contact us so we can help you!