10 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in the Chicago Southland
By Carrie Steinweg published November 21, 2023
December is a magical month - especially in the Chicago Southland, where you’ll find so many ways to spread holiday cheer and experience fun with the family. Need some ideas? Here’s a few events you’ll want to work into your calendar this season.
December 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-23, 26-31
8400 31st Street
This is the 42nd year for this annual tradition at the zoo. It’s Chicagoland’s longest-running lights festival, which includes interactive displays, photos ops, giant animals, a light tunnel show, walkthrough displays, a dance party at Polar Plaza and entertainment. Weather permitting, you can also ride the carousel and check out the Elf Power Virtual Reality Experience.
Candlelight House Walk
Downtown Frankfort Area
132 Kansas Street
Start off the month of December with the 42nd Annual Candlelight House Walk. Select Frankfort homes will be decorated for the holidays and are sure to put you in a Christmas mood. There will also be a Frankfort Arts Association Open House, where you can learn about upcoming exhibits and activities, a Winter Wonderland and specially-priced Holiday Cocktails at CD&ME and Navarro Farm will be open with live music, carriage rides, hot chocolate, free signature cocktails, s’mores and more.
Local Tree Lightings
December 1 & 2
On December 1, get in the spirit of the season with a countdown to the large community trees in Matteson, Monee and Worth. You’ll find additional fun, too, - music, hot chocolate and cookies and an appearance from Santa at these holiday events. On December 2, kick off the holidays with Lansing's official holiday tree lighting ceremony and Holiday Market. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also arrive at their Lansing home to hear children's wishes. Don't miss the Dancing Light and Music show runs every 8 minutes, every evening until December 10th.
Lotton Art Glass Annual Christmas Open House
Lotton Art Glass Gallery & Studios
24760 South Country Lane
Do some of your holiday shopping as you browse the studio and gallery at this unique shop. Experience live glass artistry and meet the artists!
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
Governors State University
Center for Performing Arts
1 University Parkway
You’ve probably seen the classic holiday movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Now you can take in a show of the radio play. The beloved holiday story comes to life as a live 1940's radio broadcast with the help of an amazing ensemble.
Christmas in the Commons
December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17 & 23
101 Veterans Parkway
Enjoy this incredible display of lights with a 50-foot tall lighted Santa along with a few new surprises. In addition to the light display, enjoy visits from Santa and reindeer, horse-drawn wagon rides and a synthetic ice skating rink.
Sand Ridge Nature Center
Forest Preserves of Cook County
15891 Paxton Avenue
Get an idea of what Christmas was like in the days long ago. Visit the pioneer cabins and witness old-fashioned holiday traditions. Play with handmade toys, make crafts and see what’s cooking on the open fire.
Christmas in the Village
Village of Peotone
Downtown Peotone, Main & Second Streets
The festivities begin on Friday with a tree lighting and seasonal treats from 4:30-6:00 p.m. On Saturday, you can attend the pancake breakfast with Santa, holiday cookie walk, see live entertainment, take part in kids’ activities and enjoy a bonfire.
Winter Holiday Market
Village of Park Forest
350 Victory Drive
The Winter Holiday Market will return for a fun-filled day that will include shopping, reindeer petting, holiday caroling, food trucks, photos ops, a tree lighting and an appearance from Santa.
Holiday Traditions at Pullman National Historical Park
National Park Service Visitor Center
610 East 111th Street
Workers at the Pullman Palace Car Co. came from all over the world and brought their own winter holiday traditions with them. Join in this historical look at a melting pot of holiday sentiment and make some ornaments to help decorate the tree and take some home. Then stay for the outdoor tree lighting with a special guest.
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