Category Archives: Seasonal Fun – Winter

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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


Photo by @ChicagoSymphony

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


Downtown Chicago

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.

Check the links for more details.

Unique Shopping

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:

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:

For more useful information to plan your holiday season check out the Enjoy Illinois Things to Do tab.

-Illinois Office of Tourism



Indoor Activities for Adults Feature Image

Spring is finally here, which means April showers are on the way. But what should you do on those rainy spring days? We have just the thing. We’ve got a great list of fun activities to keep in mind while the weather is still warming up.

Hit the Mall

While the Magnificent Mile remains the most widely known retail mecca of the Midwest, there are plenty of other shopping locations in Illinois for you to find the retail therapy – and new spring wardrobe – you’ve been searching for. Find even more shopping experiences around the state in the new exclusive digital content from Travel Illinois Magazine, linked here.

  • With more than 200 manufacturer and retail outlet stores offering up to 70 percent off, serious shoppers can’t go wrong at Gurnee Mills. Located in Gurnee, this shopping center even has activities for the non-shopper to enjoy, like laser tag, arcade games and a movie theatre.
  • And, not to be outdone, the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg boasts nearly 300 stores, restaurants and specialty shops – all under one roof.
  • Chicago is also home to multiple indoor shopping centers that can help protect you from the elements, including the 900 North Michigan Shops that offer a taste of luxury and the famous Water Tower Place, which presents shoppers with a unique, high-energy urban shopping experience like no other.
Grand Court facing Nordstrom

Even window shopping can be fun at Woodfield Mall’s multi-level shopping center located just west of Chicago.

Take in a Show

No matter what you’re in the mood for, Illinois has no shortage of entertainment opportunities. Here are a few tips that we recommend for finding that perfect way to unwind with a laugh, a little music or both.  

  • For laughs, there’s no place like the world famous Second City in Chicago. With shows each night of the week ranging from improve to stand up to full productions, the Second City has a 50 year reputation for producing comedy stars like Dan Aykroyd and Tina Fey.
  • Experience the blues like you’ve never heard them before at Blue Chicago. Located close to Ontario Street’s restaurant row, this blues club is the perfect way to spice up a night out.
  • Treat yourself to the Broadway experience at one of Chicago’s many fabulous theatres. Home to the hottest shows direct from Broadway and world premieres, these venues are sure to create lasting memories.
Bank of America Theatre

The lush Bank of American Theatre is classic venue to see the latest and greatest on Broadway.

Indoor Sports

Shake off that winter snooze with some adventure. Illinois is home to all kinds of exciting indoor adventures that can send you to new heights. Embrace your inner child with one of these three fun activities:

  • Feel the simulation of true free fall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel at iFLY in Naperville, Chicago or Rosemont (then suit up for the real thing this summer).
  • Strap in for a unique challenge that combines basketball, lacrosse and hockey with bumper cars at WhirlyBall Chicago. If it sounds silly, that’s because it is.
  • Take it down a notch and lace up for a classic game of bowling or bocce at Pinstripes in Chicago or one of the three suburban locations.

For more ideas, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Indoor Activities for Kids Feature Image

With kids, we understand that there is no such thing as a “lazy day” while waiting for the weather to warm up. Check out this list of kid-friendly indoor activities!

American Girl Place

Shop, play and let your imagination run wild at the American Girl Place on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Stop by the Doll Hair Salon where American Girl dolls receive stylish new hairdos and a bit of pampering. Or, indulge in the Truly Me Signature Studio and customize a doll outfit or a personal backpack to take home. Complete your day with brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at the American Girl Café, where there is always a special seat for your child’s American Girl doll.

LEGO Store

Just a short walk from American Girl Place, the LEGO store features a “Pick-A-Brick Wall”, where you can hand pick and purchase specific LEGO bricks to add to your family’s collection. If that isn’t cool enough, an interactive play area called the “Living Room” gives visitors a chance to get hands-on with the LEGO products with new, creative building scenarios each month.

LEGO store

The LEGO Store in Water Tower Place can entertain all with its LEGO pieces, buildings and games.

Indoor Water Parks

Outdoor water parks may not have opened yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in water park fun just yet. Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort and Enchanted Forest in Utica is the ultimate family getaway that is a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. Enjoy its 24,000 square foot indoor waterpark complete with slides, a lazy river, kiddie pool, wave pool, and even a spa that is located near Starved Rock National Park for a scenic view.

And don’t forget to visit KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee! The water park features a wave pool, whirlpools, body and tube slides, and waterfalls that will entertain adults and children alike. Had enough water for the day? KeyLime Cove also has 10,000 square feet of entertainment including the RipTide Reef Arcade, Pinki’s Pet Palace, and The Enchanted Lagoon Kids Spa.


KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort boasts family fun with its various entertainment options.

DuPage Children’s Museum

Illinois is home to multiple children’s museums, and one of our favorites is the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville. Whoever said that rainy days couldn’t be productive? This unique, hands-on museum offers an early educational experience where kids can learn and play in its multiple exhibits that promote skill development in math, science and art.

For more ideas, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism


Ice Feature Image

This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos that surround the theme “ice.” Check out a few of our favorite shots from around the state below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured.

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out

kickoff post- Chicago - (at) darrengeorgia

This week, we kicked off our “ice” challenge with this awesome photo taken of the Chicago skyline by @darrengeorgia!

Batavia - (at) misslolo_kitty

What a cool shot! Photographed in Batavia by @misslolo_kitty, this fits our theme “ice” perfectly!

Chicago evening (at) ernest_deo

Gorgeous shot of Lake Michigan and the Windy City’s skyline by @ernest_deo!

Forest Park Beach - (at) katiegoingplaces

How cool does the ice look at Forest Park Beach? (Photo taken by @katiegoingplaces)

Chicago skyline - (at) rwolna

Love this icy shot of Chicago’s shoreline by @rwolna!

Dixon Rock River - (at) debsfarmstand

Great shot of the ice breaking on the Rock River in Dixon! (Photo by @debsfarmstand)

Lake Michigan ice - (at) katexplores

How beautiful is this shot of Lake Michigan? We love that @katexplores captured these big chunks of ice on the shoreline!

Chicago icicles - (at) chikittty

Love the way that the water froze in this photo! Awesome shot in Chicago by @chikittty.

Fox River at Island Park - (at)

Awesome details on this close up of icicles at Island Park on the bridge over Fox River! (Photo by

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Unique Winter Activities Feature Image

It’s finally feeling like winter in Illinois, and there are plenty of outdoor adventures like skiing, ice skating and snowboarding to enjoy. But if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy the winter weather, look no further. There are numerous activities where you can unplug from a busy week while still relishing the winter season.

If making winter plans with friends and family is more of a brain freeze than brain storm, check out these three unique outdoor adventures for this winter in the Great Rivers Country.

Bald Eagle Days at Pere Marquette State Park

Take a trip to Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton and participate in Bald Eagle Days, an informative program about the eagle unique to North America. You’ll learn the differences between immature and mature bald eagles, discover what they eat, and figure out why some call Illinois home during the winter months. Open until March 4, this is an exciting opportunity to view the wintering bald eagles.

Eagle perched on a tree-Alton CVB

A bald eagle perched in a tree at Pere Marquette State Park

Wildlife Prairie Park

This 2,000-acre zoological park allows you to get up close and personal with animals native to Illinois and the Midwest such as cougars, black bears, bobcats, bison and owls. Just 10 miles west of downtown Peoria and open all year round, the adventure never stops with a butterfly garden, wildflowers, lakes and restored prairies to visit as well.

wildlifeprairiepark- canada lynx

A Canada lynx at Wildlife Prairie Park. (Photo credit: (at) wildlifeprairiepark)

Luthy Botanical Garden

Experience the jaw dropping colors and spectacular display of flowers and shrubs at Peoria’s Luthy Botanical Garden. Open all year-round, seven days a week, the Garden embraces five acres and offers multiple theme gardens including an Herb Garden, Woodland Garden, Rose Garden and Hosta Glade. If that wasn’t enough, you don’t want to miss out on the Conservatory floral displays showcasing lilies, orchids and poinsettias. If visiting the Peoria Zoo is already on your list of places to visit, use your Zoo receipt at the Garden on the same day for free admission!

Luthy Botanical Gardens (at) erikschims

Check out the beautiful blooms at Luthy Botanical Gardens! (Instagram photo: (at) erikschims)

For more unique winter activities, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism