Treat your kids to a cosmopolitan holiday experience in Chicago. Here are our favorite things to do in Chicago before Jolly Old St. Nick slides down the chimney:

See over two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last free zoos in the United States. Don’t bother with the $3 per person light maze (save that money for a donation to the park or for a trip to the zoo’s souvenir shop). The free light shows are plenty to keep your kids’ interest.

Christkindel Market at Wrigley in Chicago

Don’t fret that there’s no Chicago Cubs baseball in the winter. Enjoy caroling, ice skating, hot cider, a bratwurst, and shopping for Christmas gifts at Christkindel Market at Wrigley. If you still need your baseball fix, tours of historic Wrigley Field are available on most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the off season.

Symphony Hall in Chicago

Relish the sounds of Christmas with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Best for kids ages 9 and up, experience a world-class orchestra in one of the most iconic music venues in the world. A two hour performance with intermission, you’ll hear rousing renditions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells along with intimate favorites like White Christmas and O Come All Ye Faithful. Before the show, check out the Art Institute of Chicago and the bean at Millennium Park nearby.

Magnificent Mile Shopping

Shop the Magnificent Mile. This quintessential shopping experience rivals London and New York with huge department stores including Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Uniqlo —along with smaller shops like Lush, Madewell and more. 

Dessert at American Girl Chicago

For the American Girl fans in the family, don’t miss the flagship American Girl Store on the Magnificent Mile. Get books, clothes, or just browse the displays to learn about the dolls. Lunch at American Girl has tasty kids’ options, sandwiches, burgers, and pasta. We especially enjoyed the flower pot chocolate dessert included with the kids’ option and the the veggie, hummus and fruit appetizer. 

Chicago Dog

After shopping the Magnificent Mile, get your Chicago dog fix at Downtown Dogs. For the uninitiated, a Chicago dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, a pickle spear, sweet pickle relish, sliced tomato, and hot peppers on a poppyseed bun. You’re required to eat a Chicago dog before you’re allowed to leave the city. 

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