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During the chilliest months of the year, Illinois hosts exciting events that are well worth the winter trip. Hear and taste all the state has to offer this season.

Wonderland Express & Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden


The Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual holiday celebration includes caroling, ice sculpting and a holiday market, but the highlight for many families is the elaborate train set chugging along through miniature Chicago landmarks and glittering indoor snow. Be sure to also check out Lightscape, a new installation at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Exterior of Galena Cellars during the holiday season.

Galena Cellars Nouveau Weekend


Every year, Galena Cellars Vineyard celebrates its latest vintages with a party hosted at its flagship store in downtown Galena. The town gets into it, too, with a full parade down Galena's Historic Main Street.


Belleville Christkindlmarkt

Beginning in 2014 to celebrate Belleville's Bicentennial, this Christmas market, situated on the City's main market square next to the famous fountain, dates back to the mid-16th Century.


Lunch with Santa on the Train

Most kids have met Santa—but have they met him while riding a train pulled by a vintage diesel locomotive along the Monticello Railway? A sack lunch sweetens the deal; just don’t let Santa steal the cookie.

The Ferris Wheel illuminated in the evening

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier


This beloved annual Chicago winter event features 170,000 square feet of carnival rides, giant slides, holiday-themed activities — and, of course, a massive indoor ice-skating rink. Head to the iconic Navy Pier in Chicago for a family adventure.


Caroling at the Carillon

The Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon chimes as carolers sing around a crackling bonfire. Complimentary hot cocoa and cookies, plus a visit from Santa, round out this free event.


Christmas Lights Trolley Tour

Guests settle into a fully enclosed, heated trolley while the Starved Rock State Park staff drives to the best holiday light displays in the area. The two-hour journey includes plenty of caroling.

Christmas lights at brookfield zoo

Zoo Year’s Eve


Go figure: New Year’s Eve at the Brookfield Zoo is a wild event. Animal lovers dance to live DJ music, play games and vie for prizes in the Holly Jolly Theater before the early countdown at 8 p.m.

Click here for Jan/Feb events and discover more to do in Illinois this winter.

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