Can't-Miss Illinois Winter Events

Get out this winter and enjoy family-friendly events throughout Illinois, including holiday celebrations, snowy festivals, and exciting outings.

Illinois comes alive each winter with holiday celebrations, snowy festivals and plenty of chances to hear, taste and see all the state has to offer in the chillier months. So pull yourself away from the hearth and bundle up for an outing—you won’t want to miss these exciting events.

1. Wonderland Express

Glencoe | November 23–January 6

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. chicagobotanic.org

2. Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest

Chicago | November 30–January 6

Try rides, slides and glides around a skating rink at Navy Pier. The 18th annual event draws thousands of families to “Chicago’s biggest indoor playground.” navypier.com 

3. Alton-Audubon Eagle Ice Festival

Alton | January 6

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. visitalton.com

4. Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival

Chicago | January 10–19

Belly-laughs fill the Stage 773 theater for eight days in January, when more than 180 groups from around the globe gather for improvisation and other silly gags. At an average of 20 shows a night, it’s the largest sketch comedy festival in the world. stage773.com

5. Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition

Rockford | January 16–19 (weather permitting) 23–26 (make up)

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. ilsnowsculpting.com

6. Starved Rock Eagle Watch Weekend

Oglesby | January 26

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. www.illinoisaudubon.org 

7. The Morton Arboretum’s Enchanted Railroad

Lisle | January 18–February 24

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. http://www.mortonarb.org

8. Chicago Restaurant Week

Chicago | January 25–February 7

For fourteen days, enjoy dining deals throughout the city and surrounding suburbs and experience Chicago's rich, culinary diversity. Hundreds of restaurants will feature special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for brunch and lunch and $33 and/or $44 for dinner. eatitupchicago.com

10. Groundhog Days

Woodstock | January 31–February 3

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. woodstockgroundhog.org

11. Chicago Theatre Week

Chicago | February 7–17

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. ChicagoTheatreWeek.com

12. Big Muddy Film Festival

Carbondale | February 18–24

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. bigmuddyfilm.com

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