101 things for families to do in Chicago | Winter 2012
It may be cold outside, but there are still lots of fun things for kids to do in Chicago.
You know how it is: For most of the year, you can't find holes in your calendar where there isn't something you're planning to do, want to do, or sad you can't do because you're doing a hundred other things. Then comes the winter, and the cold and snow and ice, and with them bored and restless kids. Little known scientific fact: Once you have a family, cabin fever sets in at approximately a gajillion times faster than when you were single. But behold! There is so much to do during the winter, at least 101 very-fun things to do, and they are all collected here. And we've included in this list a wide variety of activities, from fun ways to hit the outdoors to awesome ways to stay dry, warm and entertained. We've also put together a master list of all 101 events on one page.
Stay toasty as you take a walk—and a climb on the Matterhorn Climb and Slide and a ride on the Reindeer Express Train Ride—in Navy Pier's elaborate annual holiday wonder world. A 50-foot indoor Ferris wheel, bounce houses, an ice trail ropes course and other wintry recreations are also in the frost-free mix. Nov 30–Jan 6. Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave (312-595-7437, winterwonderfest.com). Admission free, attraction wristband $15–$20.
You can’t walk on water, but you and the fam can traipse across the snow’s surface with the help of some snowshoes at this 1,700-acre west suburban arboretum. Rentals are available at the visitors center; once you’ve got those tennis rackets strapped up, head out on the kid-friendly Conifer Collection trail where benches, restrooms and warming stations make this an enjoyable, whine-free outing for all. 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle (630-968-0074, mortonarb.org). Admission $12, seniors $11 youth ages 2–17 $9 (discounts on Wednesdays). Snowshoe rental $10–$12, kids $8–$10, for two-hour rental; $14–$16 all-day rental, kids $12–$14.
Hop aboard this two-hour tour of the city's holiday lights and other seasonal attractions for a great way to see all the major downtown holiday attractions without having to deal with traffic and parking. Tour-goers will get a look at the Magnificent Mile, Macy’s holiday windows, Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest, the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, Lincoln Park’s ZooLights and more. Advance tickets required. Through Dec 31. 875 N. Michigan Ave (773-648-5000, chicagotrolley.com). $26, kids 3–11 $19.
Charlie, Lucy, Snoopy and the gang are making themselves at home at the MSI this winter. The lovable characters whom cartoonist Charles Schulz spent 50 years researching, writing and drawing eventually netted more than 355 million readers. This exhibit features art, artifacts and memorabilia on tour for the first time from the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. Through Feb 18. Museum of Science and Industry. 5700 S Lake Shore Dr (773-684-1414, msichicago.org). $20, seniors $19, kids ages 3–11 $13 (includes general admission).
Here's the best of both worlds: The Chicago Children's Museum's annual exhibition includes a chance for families to build a “snow” fort, throw “snowballs,” dress up a snowman and skate on a newly expanded indoor “ice” rink—without the gloves and other gear. Through Jan 8. Navy Pier, 700 E Grand Ave (312-527-1000, chicagochildrensmuseum.org). Free with general admission ($12, seniors $11).
The respectable rock club delivers something for wee music fans, too. Top names in Chicago's rockin' kids' music entertain little scenesters select Sunday mornings all winter, with acts that include the likes of Little Miss Ann, Jeanie B! and the Jelly Beans, the Boogers and Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies. Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont Ave (773-281-4444, beatkitchen.com). $6.
Our favorite storyteller around, Nili Yellin—a.k.a. the Storybook Mom—reads aloud to kids at free storytelling events all over the Chicago area each week. Our fave, though, is Friday mornings at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, when our kids can sit enthralled with Nili while we grab a cafe au lait and peruse the well-curated staff picks at this charming store. Fridays 11am. 4736 N Lincoln Ave (773-293-2665, thestorybookmom.com); free.
Grown-ups take over the main trampoline court five times a week at this kid-centric sports and party chain to work off up to 1,000 calories bouncing around like no one’s business. Instructors lead you through choreographed sets of jumping jacks, leap frogs and other moves. During evening classes, your kids can play on the other tramps while you bust a move. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6, 7pm; Saturdays at 9am. 6424 Howard St, Niles (847-801-5867, skyhighsports.com) or 2244 Corporate Ln, Naperville (630-717-5867). $8.
Adults and kids ages 2 and up can work together to make masterpieces from clay at teacher-led drop-in classes Saturday mornings in December. Reservations suggested. 4401 N Ravenswood Ave (773-769-4226, lillstreet.com). 10–11am on Dec 1, 8, 15, 22, 29. $10 per person.
Check out the Peking Acrobats as they take on breathtaking feats of gymnastics and contortionism. You can expect gravity-defying balancing acts, jaw-dropping juggling stunts and much more when they perform at the Center Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. January 29–31. 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie (847-673-6300, northshorecenter.org) $9.
Remember when you used to be able to have coffee with your friends? Now you can do it again at Pickle's Playroom, where an indoor play area separate from the coffee house awaits the most rambunctious of kids. Aside from the café and the play area, there's also a kids' salon, so you can seriously multitask. Ongoing. 3652 N Lincoln Ave (773-293-7747, picklesplayroom.com); $12 open play, $9 for siblings.