As the holidays near, Illinois and Indiana offer several festive day-trip destinations and family-friendly events to help you celebrate the magical season. In addition to holiday parades and winter festivals throughout cities like Peoria, Ill., Chicago and Indianapolis, here are five must-see places to take the family during the holiday season.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Chicago's largest zoo is magical any time of the year, but in December, visitors can take in the lights, seasonal decorations, ice carvings and performances inside the zoo's Holly Jolly Theatre. Holiday Magic happens each weekend in December, as well as Wednesday, Dec. 26, and Monday, Dec. 31. For more information and ticket prices visit www.brookfieldzoo.org.
Santa on the Polar Express
Inspired by Chris Van Allsburg's book The Polar Express, this annual event gives kids the chance to have their own Polar Express adventure. In Illinois, several cities host Polar Express events in early December sponsored by park districts, the Illinois Railway Museum, Jaycees, libraries and more. Dates and ticket prices vary by city. For more information and locations, check out www.santainchicago.com/santaonthetrain/santaandtrains.
Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
From Nov. 30 through Jan. 6, Navy Pier and Bank of America present a winter wonderland of fun for families and all ages. The event is in its 11th year. Admission is free into Navy Pier but there are charges for parking and individual activities such as ice skating, rides and attractions. Group rates also are available. Visit www.winterwonderfest.com for more information.
Millennium Park ice skating
The Millennium Park ice rink, located on Michigan Avenue (between Washington and Madison), has become a Chicago landmark. The park's ice skating rink is open to residents, guests and visitors of all ages through Jan. 8. Skating is free, although there are skate rental fees. For rental rates and other information, contact the park at (312) 742-1168.
Jolly Days Winter Wonderland
The Children's Museum in Indianapolis presents the Jolly Days Winter Wonderland through January. It is the largest children's museum in the world with more than 100,000 artifacts. Jolly Days offers kids the opportunity to slide down a Snow Castle and end their day with a visit to Santa. Visit the museum online at www.childrensmuseum.org for more details.
Holiday fun in the Midwestern states of Illinois and Indiana is plentiful. East Peoria has hosted its annual Festival of Lights for more than 25 years, while Traders Point Creamery in Indianapolis presents Christmas on the Farm with sleigh-hayrides and live reindeer.
A visit to either state this holiday is sure to keep the entire family busy, happy and in the holiday spirit.