Chicago Experience gifts might be my favorite type of gift for everyone, but especially for my kids! There’s no difficult packaging to open, I don’t have to figure out where I’m going to store it, and we get to make awesome family memories! My mom gifts us with a membership to the Lincoln Park Zoo every year, and it’s such a blessing. Here’s my list of the best Chicago Experience gifts for kids in 2022. (Hint: Send this to Grandma and Grandpa…)
Light up the Lake
Navy Pier’s Light Up the Lake is one of our favorite family traditions. They have ice skating, visits with Santa, a maze, and so much more! In 2022, the experience runs from November 25 through January 7. If you go on a Monday-Thursday, tickets are $15 per person (ages 3+). Friday-Sunday, adults are $27, and kids ages 3-12 are $17. Get tickets and more information here.
Afternoon Tea at American Girl
The ultimate experience gift! Spending time at the American Girl store at the Water Tower Place location is always magical. Not only is there a retail shop, but there’s also a salon, dining room, and an interactive historical exhibit. If your girl already has a doll, she can bring it with her and there will be doll-sized chairs for your table, doll hair styling and manicures, and even a holder for your doll in each bathroom stall! So smart! It looks like their Afternoon Tea Time has some spots in November and January, but there are still plenty of dining options in December. Book your reservations here. P.S. If you’re traveling from out of town or want to make a weekend of it, several Chicago hotels offer American Girl packages, like Westin Michigan Avenue.
The new Color Factory immersive art experience in the Willis Tower is fantastic! I took my 6-year-old son when they opened and he has been begging to go back. Beginning November 17, they will have a Winter Colorland theme and we’re taking my almost-4-year-old for her birthday! I highly recommend it! Use code GOODLIFE for 20% off tickets!
Harry Potter Immersive
Immersive exhibits are all the rage and Harry Potter At Play is the newest to open in Chicago. I got a sneak peek this week, and I highly recommend it! Here’s my review! The exhibit is located in Water Tower Place and here for a limited time! Get more info and tickets here.
The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle
Another new immersive exhibit for the kids this holiday is the Nutcracker Immersive, by the same company who produced the Immersive Van Gogh. It’s at the Lighthouse Artspace which is a gorgeous event space – I love their cafe lounge. The kids will be able to dance and explore the space while the iconic Nutcracker music plays and scenes from the ballet are projected from ceiling to floor. The exhibit opens November 19 and tickets can be bought individually or in a discounted family pack. Buy your tickets here before they sell out!
There are quite a few Nutcracker ballets performed throughout Chicagoland, but two stand-outs are by the Joffrey Ballet and Ballet Chicago. The Joffrey performs December 3–27, 2022 at the beautiful Lyric Opera House. Ballet Chicago will perform at the Athenaeum on Lakeview December 9-18. Currently, there is a deal from Groupon for the Joffrey performance.
Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group show (spectacle!) is always a crowd pleaser! Best for ages 5+, the performers are so funny and talented. This is a great memory maker! You can even call the theatre ahead of time if you are celebrating something special and they will announce it on their stage projections before the show. If you want to eat while you’re in the area, I recommend the super fun 2D cafe before or after the show! They are also currently on Groupon too!
Whatever your kid is into, I bet there is a class in Chicago to help them explore it! We love The Kid’s Table in Wicker Park (if they’re 5+, you can drop them off and go have tacos and a marg at Big Star) and the new (and super-adorable) Bettie’s Chicago has a few kids cookie decorating workshops. The Chopping Block has a teen winter camp that looks super fun, too!
Zoo and Museum Memberships
There are so many great museums in Chicago and having a membership makes life so much easier! We love having a Lincoln Park Zoo membership for the free parking, advance ticket purchase, and discounts! I like to pair these gifts with something my kids can open, like a dinosaur toy with the Field, a telescope with Adler, or art supplies with the Art Institute! Our favorites are:
- Field Museum– currently on Groupon for select dates!
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Adler Planetarium
- Shedd Aquarium
- Brookfield Zoo
- Art Institute
- Chicago Children’s Museum
- Chicago History Museum
- Chicago Botanic Garden
Get Moving (and tire them out) Memberships
Kids are like puppies, exercise and wear them out, so they go to sleep faster! Here are some of our favorite city kid gym memberships!
- Fit City Kids: my in-laws got us a year long membership last year and we used it all the time!
- My Gym
- Altitude Trampoline Park
- Windy City Ninjas
- Little Beans Evanston
Staycation at Loews Chicago Hotel
Loews Chicago has the cutest package called GingerBed + Breakfast. This special staycation includes a spacious room, a tent for the kids, books to check-out from their Holiday Bedtime Story Cart, hot cocoa, an in-room movie, daily $50 breakfast credit and a gingerbread cookie decoration kit, and valet parking for one car per night.
I hope this gave you some ideas for Chicago experience gifts! Always be sure to check Groupon for deals and steals! If you need other Chicago themed gift ideas, head to this post for more!