The holidays are upon us and the spirit of the season can be felt throughout Illinois. A month-long celebration of holiday concerts, lights festivals, and plentiful holiday shopping can make even the biggest scrooge get into the spirit of the season. To help you celebrate, we’ve put together some of the must-see shows and holiday attractions from all around the state. Whether you’re looking for a unique date night or fun family experience, read on to plan out your holiday itinerary.
Chicago Date Night
It’s a Wonderful Life in Concert
The grand Symphony Center on Michigan Avenue is home to the revered Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Founded in 1891, the CSO is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world and there is no better time to see them live than the holidays! For a truly special experience, listen as they bring a holiday classic back to life during the live performance of It’s a Wonderful Life, December 9-11.
The Nutcracker at the Joffrey
The opening of the Nutcracker is one of the surefire signals that Christmas is coming. This year The Joffrey’s Tony Award-winning choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, is reimagining the classic through the eyes of a child at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Take in an early show with your sweetie before dining out in one of downtown’s magnificent fine dining options like the recently opened Dearborn Tavern or grab a drink at LondonHouse.
Holiday shopping can prove to be stressful if you don’t have a plan of action. Luckily the city of Chicago has made it easy on shoppers by centralizing some of the best shops in the world right along Michigan Avenue, between the Chicago River and Oak Street. This strip, better known as the Magnificent Mile, offers a combination of high-end and casual retailers, with some excellent dining options scattered in along the way.
Just a few blocks from the Magnificent Mile, State Street is another prime shopping destination. Block 37 offers five floors of impressive shopping and dining options including Zara, Anthropologie and Latinicity, which offers a delicious twist on Latin street food featuring 10 innovative kitchens, a tapas restaurant, coffee café, full bar, market and lounge.
Featuring popular retailers such as H & M, Nordstrom Rack, Urban Outfitters and Macy’s, the landmark State Street Retail Historic District is always abuzz during the holiday season. The flagship Macy’s on State Street pulls out all the stops during the holidays, bringing in a 45 feet tall Christmas tree and displaying its annual Holiday Windows. Whether you stroll by as you shop or make a special trip, viewing Macy’s holiday décor has become a family tradition for many.
Illinois is home to many stores for those holiday shoppers looking to save this season. Just outside the city, shoppers will find Rosemont’s Fashion Outlets of Chicago, including over 130 designer outlets. While you’re there, be sure to experience “Frozemont” at MB Financial Park. Here you will enter a winter wonderland complete with ice skating, ice hockey, ice sculptures and more.
Another great option to satisfy holiday shoppers is the Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora, which just saw a recent expansion to 140 stores including Calvin Klein, Theory, and Vera Bradley. To improve your shopping experience, you will also find many seasonal features like complimentary hot cocoa and lounge areas for a break while bargain hunting.
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For those of you looking for a unique touch to holiday gifts, try a more creative option like one of Illinois great craft fairs or holiday festivals. Julmarknad in Bishop Hill is sure to be a festive experience with plenty of one-of-a-kind artisan gifts. The always popular Christkindlmarket in Chicago is another great place for handmade gifts. Now open in Chicago’s Loop and the historic Naper Settlement in Naperville, this traditional German holiday market serves up tons of sweet treats and incredible crafts.
Here’s a short list of additional unique Illinois holiday shopping options:
- Freeport Visitors Center Holiday Gift Expo
- Christmastime at Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles
Holiday Fun for the Whole Family
Across the state, Illinois has plenty of festive experiences for families. Plan a trip to see the Nutcracker in Champaign, featuring the Champaign Urbana Ballet company and a few of its littlest ballerinas. If you’re looking for a cultural experience this season, head to Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, to find more than 50 Christmas trees, each decorated in the style of a different international culture. As an added treat, children can also create their own holiday trinket to remember their visit.
The East Peoria Festival of Lights returns for its 32nd year offering a place for families to enjoy beautiful light displays without having to leave the comfort of their warm and cozy cars. The kids will love it and adults will definitely appreciate the holiday cheer.
Here are even more choices for family friendly holiday fun:
- Lincoln Park ZooLights
- Ol’ Fashion Christmas in Galva
- Santa’s Magical Trolley Express in Evanston
- Holiday Lights at Mooseheart in North Aurora
- 31st Annual Lighted Christmas Parade in Bradley
- Candlelight at the Inn in Campton Hills
- Belleville’s Way of Lights
- Aurora’s Holiday Festival of Lights
For more useful information to plan your holiday season check out the Enjoy Illinois Things to Do tab.
-Illinois Office of Tourism