{travel} Chicago Area Family-Friendly Holiday Festivities by Contributor, Christine Potthoff

Staying in the Chicagoland area this holiday season?  There are no checked baggage fees or weather delays at this fun events!


Santa’s Candy Cane Express at the Hesston Steam Museum

La Porte, Indiana (Michigan border)


A great day or overnight trip, the Hesston Steam Museum offers Santa’s Candy Cane Express during the first two weekends in December!  Where else can your family visit Santa in his very own caboose?!  This is a great destination on the weekends in the summer months as well, with plenty for families to do in the nearby towns of Harbor Country, Michigan as well.

TIP:  Donate a new, unwrapped toy for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program and receive one FREE train ride–and don’t worry, they have enclosed coaches for the winter months!

“A Christmas Story” Comes Home at the Indiana Welcome Center

Hammond, Indiana

Now through 1/8

Chances are, “A Christmas Story” is a holiday movie tradition at your house!   Did you know that the author was writing about Hammond, Indiana? Check out the “A Christmas Story” Comes Home exhibit and events takingplace until January 8th at the Indiana Welcome Center.  Visit Santa on Santa’s Mountain and slide down the red slide, just like in the movie!

TIP:  This exhibit is easily on the way to visit Candy Cane Express at the Hesston Steam Museum—make a weekend of it!


Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield, IL

12/10-11, 12/17-18 & 12/26-31

Bundle up the family and see how one million twinkling lights transform a popular warm-weather destination into a beautiful winter wonderland!  Enjoy animated light displays, decorated Christmas trees, a laser light show, ice-carving, Santa, and nightly music and entertainment.

TIP:  Make a trip to a Dollar Store and grab some glow-in-the-dark goodies before you head to the zoo—necklaces, wands, sticks, etc.  They’ll come in handy when your kids see the $10+ glow options that vendors will be selling all over the zoo that night!

Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

Chicago, IL

Now through 1/8

The fun at Navy Pier doesn’t stop with the change in seasons!  Check out the 170,000 square foot indoor event featuring inflatables, ice-skating, rides, entertainment, and much more!

TIP:  There are lots of discounts available for this event here!  And why not make a day (or weekend!) of it and combine the Winter Wonderfest with the FREE Lincoln Park ZooLights?

Be sure to research membership options at museums and zoos before purchasing your tickets–a membership may pay for itself with only 2 visits a year!  Plus, there are usually benefits such as:

  • Free or discounted parking
  • No or less standing in line
  • A portion of your membership may be tax-deductible
  • Discounts on dining and gift shop purchases
  • Free stuff, such as t-shirts, bags, in-house events, guest passes, and much more!

Happy Holidays, Chicagoland!

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