Looking to jump start your holiday season, but don’t have a lot of money? Well, Chicago has plenty of inexpensive activities that will put everyone in a festive mood. With these budget friendly options, your wallet will sing with holiday cheer. The following events are entertaining for the whole family.
The 20th Annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival starts on November 19th and features free musical concerts at the BMO Harris Bank Stage from 11:00 A.M. to 3:45 P.M. Those with a sweet tooth can walk down Lights Festival Lane at Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Avenue) from 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. to sample treats, for a nominal fee, from venders such as Garrett’s Popcorn and Eli’s Cheesecake. Of course Santa will be there for pictures! From 5:30 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse will be on North Michigan Avenue (from Oak Street to Wacker Drive) to lead the Lighting Procession. The procession will have floats, marching bands, and your beloved Disney pals. Trees along the Magnificent Mile will be illuminated with more than one million lights and the procession will end with a fireworks show along the Chicago River. The festival’s website encourages taking public transportation but for brave drivers, you can use downtown parking garages.
If you want to see one more lighted tree, stop by Daley Plaza (Washington Street and Dearborn) on November 23rd for Chicago’s 98th annual tree lighting ceremony. Musical acts kick off the celebration at 4:30p.m. and the Christmas tree will be lit at 5 p.m. The city also encourages people to use public transportation for this free event.
Families can also visit Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest from December 2 to January 8th. The WonderFest has something for all ages with its Blackhawk indoor ice rink and Kringle Carousel. WonderFest Jr. has rides, slides, and obstacle courses for younger children; while jugglers and magicians entertain at the Winter Wonder Stage. Admission to Winter WonderFest is free but guests must purchase regular ($15) or premium ($18) activity wristbands to access all rides and attractions. Premium wristbands give you access to Blackhawk indoor ice rink. Non-WonderFest activities can be added to your premium wristband for an additional price. Four-pack wristband packages can be purchased online ($44–$54),but free parking packages can only be purchased at the box office. The fest opens daily at 10 A.M., but consult its website as closing times vary.