Top 8 Winter Events & Festivals in Illinois

Skiing? Eagle watching? Just trying to get away from the cold? Illinois is The Middle of Everything—with plenty of winter activities for travelers of all types. Here’s a roundup of the best festivals, festivities and events that will fill up your winter social calendar in every region.

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Northern Illinois

 

Winter Carnival at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

  • Location: Galena
  • Date(s): TBA
  • Description: Hot air balloon rides. Ice turkey bowling. Fire & ice shows. And so much more. There’s nothing like the Winter Carnival at the Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa. Hosted in Galena, this hotly anticipated annual event offers visitors the chance to show off their skating and sledding skills at the Nordic Center or to try their feet at snowshoeing. Plus, all needed equipment is available to rent from the Nordic Shop. It’s three days of ice-skating, balloon-riding, and ice-carving fun for the whole family.

Woodstock Groundhog Days

  • Location: Woodstock
  • Dates: February 2, 2024
  • Description: Do six more weeks of winter lie ahead? Love the film Groundhog Day featuring Bill Murray? Join the city’s mascot, Woodstock Willie, at the Historic Woodstock Square for its ever-popular Prognostication. Willie will make his annual weather forecast and visitors can enjoy a tasty chili cookoff, tour filming locations, and catch screenings of the film at the famed Woodstock Theater. If only we could wake up in that idyllic scenario over and over again… 

Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition 

  • Location: Rockford
  • Dates: January 24-27, 2024
  • Description: And now for something completely different. The Rockford Park District will be hosting its 37th annual Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition where teams from around the state will compete to represent Illinois with unique snow sculpting creations. The event welcomes over 50,000 visitors as they come to view these giant works of snow art each year. All are encouraged to take their time walking through each sculpture to maximize the fun experience. There’s even a high school division to boot! 

Chicago Theatre Week

  • Location: Chicago
  • Dates: February 8 – 18, 2024
  • Description: Culture lovers rejoice! League of Chicago Theatres and Choose Chicago are partnering up for the 11th year to present Chicago Theatre Week, giving you the perfect excuse to escape the cold. Featuring more than 100 performances at a diverse collection of over 200 theaters across the city, this highly anticipated event allows visitors and locals to sample an exciting array of theatrical offerings at value prices.

Central Illinois

  

Champaign County Restaurant Week

  • Location: Champaign
  • Dates: January 26 – February 3, 2024
  • Description: Restaurant Week is almost here! Get ready for nine whole days of food, fun and more food as Champaign County celebrates its 7th annual Restaurant Week. This beloved festival features award-winning chefs from around the world, offering the best in culinary creations. From vegan to soul food and everything in between, attendees can come out, support local businesses and experience delectable dishes from India, Cambodia, Thailand, Mexico, Italy and many more.

Great River Eagle Days

  • Location: Quincy
  • Dates: January 27 - 28, 2024
  • Description: Our national bird, the great Bald Eagle, is a symbol of equality, unity, and hope. To celebrate its return and for all that it stands for, the Standing Bear Council of Quincy will host its annual Great River Eagle Days with a wealth of exciting festivities, including over 30 Native American vendors and food booths, Native American dance and drum performances, and, of course, eagle watching. The event will conclude with the traditional blessing of the eagle ceremony on Sunday.
  • EXPERT TIP: The best viewing spot is from the adjoining boat ramp. Also, don’t pass up the “Fry Bread.”

Southern Illinois

 

Grafton Eagle Meet & Greet

  • Location: Grafton
  • Dates: January 13 & 27, 2024
  • Description: Eagle watching is one thing, but what about meeting our nation’s beloved bird in person? Head to the Grafton Visitor Center and get the unique opportunity to see an American bald eagle live for FREE. You’ll get to meet and greet one of the raptors and even take a photo while experiencing what it’s like to see one of these iconic symbols of America up close and personal. Oh, and don’t forget to take a Grafton eagle shuttle tour, highlighting the best spots to view these magnificent creatures–in case you want to see more than just one.

Ice Jam at the Dam

  • Location: Alton
  • Dates: February 17, 2024
  • Description: The National Great Rivers Museum Open is throwing its 2nd annual winter-themed festival, Ice Jam at the Dam. Celebrating all things icy, visitors can expect a variety of COOL activities including open dam tours, live animal programs, live music, Park Ranger campfire programs, educational booths, eagle-watching, and so much more. This year’s Ice Jam at the Dam is sure to be thrilling fun for the whole fam.
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