Holiday celebrations, snowy festivals, and wintry outings make Illinois even more magical in the chillier months.

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 Chicago Botanic Garden.

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.

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

LaSalle, Peru, Oglesby, Utica

Guests settle in to 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.

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.

Alton-Audubon Eagle Ice Festival


Eagle-watching enthusiasts and curious kids can see a bald eagle up close in the Alton Visitor Center, then watch ice sculptors create towering-yet-delicate works of art. Just across the river, the Audubon Center shuttles guests around the park, looking for eagles.

Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition


A huntress. A towering wizard. A looming castle. They’re just some of the sculptures that artists vying to represent Illinois in the U.S. Nationals Snow Sculpting Competition might create in front of curious passers-by. How cool?!

Starved Rock Eagle Watch Weekend


Birds of Prey shows and family activities at the Starved Rock Visitor Center, Starved Rock Lodge and Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. Take a short hike to the top of Starved Rock for a live eagle viewing or join the park naturalist for a guided eagle viewing tour. Read more about where to spot bald eagles in Illinois.

The Morton Arboretum’s Enchanted Railroad


Marvel at a world of tiny enchantment! Watch an intricate miniature model railroad wind through magnificent scenery that the whole family can enjoy. The trains run at a child-friendly height to thrill even the littlest fan.

Chicago Restaurant Week


For fourteen days, enjoy dining deals throughout the city and surrounding suburbs and experience Chicago's rich, culinary diversity. Hundreds of restaurants  feature special prix fixe menus for brunch, lunch and dinner.

Woodstock Groundhog Day


The filming site of Bill Murray’s hit movie attracts thousands every February for Groundhog Day trivia, tours and movie viewings. A crowd of enthusiasts huddle in the cold each year to see the town’s own Woodstock Willie predict a long winter or early spring.

Chicago Theatre Week


A celebration of Chicago’s world-class theatre scene, visitors and residents have the opportunity to choose from more than 120 productions and sample the extraordinary range of theatrical offerings in Chicago. Read more about Chicago Theatre Week.

Big Muddy Film Festival


Thanks to a mix of experimental, documentary, narrative and animated films, there’s a movie for everyone at Southern Illinois University Carbondale each February. Emerging and established filmmakers answer questions from viewers.