The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! And with that…A LOT of time to fill with visitors in from out of town. Since it is hard to come up with ideas when you are stuffed with pie and all sorts of turkey trimmings, I’ve come to your rescue. Here are the best places in Chicago to entertain your holiday guests that everyone will agree upon:
City of Chicago
Why it is the perfect spot: It is hard to find a restaurant that everyone can agree upon. But when you come across a restaurant with a top secret entrance, code words, and spy equipment for diners to tinker with, EVERYONE will be happy. The kids’ menu at SafeHouse Chicago is one of the best ones we have ever come across, and the creative concoctions for adults will have you climbing through the maze wall and maybe even trying out a new step or two on the dance floor. Oh, and be careful finding the correct bathroom door, spies!
Peggy Notebaert Nature Center, Chicago
Why it is the perfect spot: Yes, other museums like the Shedd Aquarium and Museum of Science and Industry might have more to see, but during school break the museums are SWARMED with tourists and Chicagoland residents. Ditch the crowds and appreciate the beautiful nature museum nestled in Lincoln Park. There are tons of hands on activities including an indoor playground for the kids, but the real showstopper is the butterfly haven. It is the perfect place to unplug and unwind in tropical paradise.
Maggie Daley Park, Chicago
Why it is the perfect spot: I have been to countless parks across the country but absolutely NOTHING compares to the beauty and functionality of Maggie Daley Park. There are so many playgrounds and play areas to explore, including ice skating and rock climbing along the skating ribbon. After playing and exploring, walk a few short blocks to the Aqua Blue and enjoy their delicious brunch featuring an Instagram worthy bagel wall. You won’t regret it.
Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe
Why it is the perfect spot: There is no admission fee except for the price of parking at the popular Chicago Botanic Garden, and it is a great place to stretch your legs, breathe in some fresh air, and take in the beauty of the holiday season. The always popular and absolutely magical Wonderland Express display opens on November 24th and runs through the new year. After oohing and aahing over the exquisite train display, indulge in hot cocoa, cookies, and even adult beverages at the Caboose Café’. In addition to exploring the beautiful outside holiday displays, warm up in the stunning indoor greenhouses and explore the academic offerings at the Regenstein Center.
Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield
Why it is the perfect spot: The VAST Brookfield Zoo has tons of animals on display and with the new animal encounter experiences, you can befriend a penguin, giraffe, or another furry friend. If that isn’t a memorable holiday experience, I don’t know what is. You can spend hours playing, learning, and exploring at the Hamill Family Play Zoo, which will come in handy if you want to stay at the zoo later in order to see the popular Holiday Magic special event, which includes a 41 foot talking tree display and over one million twinkling LED lights. The popular holiday extravaganza starts at 4 p.m. on weekends in December but you need to get there EARLY in order to secure a parking space. Families can also enjoy special breakfasts and brunches with Santa at the zoo throughout the holiday season—it is a tradition for our family!
Why it is the perfect spot: Let’s be honest…having your family together and cooped up in one house is bound to be a stressful experience. So have everyone lace their gym shoes and head over to Funtopia in Glenview to have some fun! Funtopia boasts not just climbing walls, but also a creative obstacle course and climbing structure for even the wee ones. Book online since reservations ahead of time since available climbing times can be limited over school break, and plan on exploring the Glen for lunch afterwards since there are so many tasty and family friendly options like Eggsperience and the Yard House.
Pinstripes, Multiple Chicagoland Locations
Why it is the perfect spot: Everyone likes a little competition, right? Well, your family and friends can try their hands at either bocce or bowling while at Pinstripes. Even the losing team won’t be too sore because the food and drink offerings from Pinstripes are stellar, especially if you attend the vast Sunday brunch that features carving stations, seafood, pasta, and much more (kids eat free at suburban locations). Also, don’t forget to check out the weekday tot times to keep the little ones entertained now that it is chilly outside.
Here’s to hoping that you have a great time together with family and friends and that you are still speaking to one another by the end of their stay. Oh, and if you need an additional break, check out these popular (and some are free!) spots for indoor play, as well as a Guide to Chicago’s Quintessential Holiday Activities.