Effingham Daily News
From holiday festivals and events, to magnificent bald eagle watching and outdoor adventures, Illinois is the perfect winter wonderland to escape to this season.
Illinois’ four regions each offer unforgettable travel experiences. Chicago & Beyond covers much of the northern part of the state, while the Land of Lincoln showcases Central Illinois. Heading West, Great Rivers Country runs along the Mississippi River and Southern Illinois is represented by the Trails to Adventure region.
In addition to the highlights listed below, travelers can plan their trip at enjoyillinois.com, where they can also download the Enjoy Illinois travel app or request a free Illinois Travel Guide.
Uncover the history behind everyone’s favorite Peanuts characters at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Charlie Brown and the Great Exhibit (Chicago & Beyond), now through Feb. 18. Visitors will learn about the development and evolution of childhood favorites like Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy through creative hands-on activities. Christmas around the World & Holidays of Light takes place at the museum now through Jan. 6. The exhibit features more than 60 displays, decorated by members of Chicago’s many ethnic communities from around the world. For more information, visit msichicago.org.
Rediscover the magic of the season at Long Grove’s Holiday Festivities (Chicago & Beyond), now through Dec. 31. Festival goers can enjoy a wide variety of activities, including plenty of shopping, horse-drawn carriage rides and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. For more information, visit visitlonggrove.com.
Shelbyville kicks off the winter season with the Shelbyville Festival of Lights (Land of Lincoln) now through Dec. 30. This family-friendly Christmas season tradition features dozens of light displays with themes such as Candy Cane Lane, Victorian Village, Santa’s Shop, the North Pole and Bethlehem, to name a few. For more information, visitlakeshelbyville.com/
Christkindlmarket (Chicago & Beyond), one of the most visited holiday traditions in Chicago, is back for its 17th season, now through Dec. 24. Christkindlmarket transforms Chicago’s Daley Plaza into a traditional German holiday market, with seasonal trinkets and delicious holiday treats such as savory sausages and sweet waffles for sale. In addition, special events like live music and visits with Santa take place throughout the season. For more information, visitchristkindlmarket.com/en.
The sky will be illuminated in festive colors from over two million twinkling lights at the East Peoria Festival of Lights (Great Rivers Country) now through Jan. 1. The 28th annual festival invites visitors to embark on a two mile holiday-themed drive through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland to see the Parade of Lights floats and lighted displays. For more information, visit cityofeastpeoria.com.
Celebrate Christmas like it was in 1904 at Christmas at the Dana-Thomas House (Land of Lincoln) now through Dec. 31. The Frank Lloyd Wright home mimics the grand manner of Springfield socialite Susan Lawrence Dana’s first holiday gathering. For more information, visit dana-thomas.org.
The Du Quoin Lights Fest (Trails to Adventure) transforms the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds into a magical land with festive lights and decorations, now through Dec. 31. The festival features a three mile drive through lighted displays and decorated trees and also includes entertainment, food, crafts and visits with Santa. For more information, visit duquoin.org/tourism.htm.
The Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Gardens (Chicago & Beyond) welcomes visitors now through Jan. 6. The event features a 10,000-square-foot exhibition of miniature trains winding through replicas of Chicago’s favorite landmarks and is sure to be a crowd pleaser for the entire family. For more information, visit chicagobotanic.org.
Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights (Chicago & Beyond) are back, now through Jan. 6. Visitors can stroll through the zoo and enjoy over one million twinkling lights, in addition to watching live ice carvings and other entertainment. During Zoolights, animal exhibits are open late, so visitors can take advantage of all of the zoo’s enchanting wildlife, all for free. Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic, open every weekend in December, also offers up seasonal treats for animal lovers like Santa at the Candy Cane Corner, ice-carving demonstrations, magicians and live musical performances. For more information, visit lpzoo.org orczs.org/CZS/magic.
For a family fun weekend, visit the12th Annual Bank of America Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier (Chicago & Beyond), now through Jan. 6. Navy Pier is Chicago’s most visited family destination and for good reason. Winter Wonderfest includes a plethora of exciting holiday and winter-themed entertainment, including ice skating, rides, attractions, an indoor Ferris wheel, shopping and more. For more information, visit navypier.com.
Get up close and personal with beautiful Bald Eagles this winter in Illinois, the perfect place to spot America’s national bird. Bald Eagle watching in the Cache River Wetlands (Trails to Adventure) offers great opportunities for eagle watching, now through April 1. The wetlands provide the resources and materials needed to spot eagles and identify birds along the rivers. For more information, visit dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r5/cachervr.htm.
Discover what life was like in Metropolis during the 18th century by visiting the Olde Tyme Christmas and Living History Museum (Trails to Adventure), from Dec. 8 - 9. Fort Massac re-enactments of Christmas traditions from the French Colonial, American Revolution, Lewis and Clark, War of 1812 and the Civil War periods are featured at this celebrated event. Then, head to the visitor’s center to spread holiday cheer with seasonal music and refreshments. For more information, visitmetropolistourism.com.
Grab your snow boots for the Chestnut Twilight Snowshoe Hike (Great Rivers Country), from Dec. 8 - Feb. 23. This incredible hike winds through the beautiful trails of Chestnut Mountain, ending at a bonfire overlooking the Mississippi River. For more information, visitchestnutmtn.com.
Experience an evening of elegance at the Walker's Bluff Winery Holiday Concert at the Wine Cave (Trails to Adventure) on Dec. 14. Featuring a five piece quintet from Paduda, Italy, this night of seasonal music takes place in the winery’s fabulous wine cave and includes food from the winery’s elegant restaurant, award winning wines and holiday cocktails. After the concert, explore the winery’s tasting room and general store for an unforgettable evening at one of Southern Illinois’ premier destinations. For more information, visitWalkersbluff.com.
Be sure to head to the Alton-Audubon Eagle Festival (Great Rivers Country) on Jan. 5. The festival features a live eagle meet and greet, kids’ activities, crafts and eagle viewing walks. Learn how to spot eagles and the best places for eagle watching. For more information, visitvisitalton.com.
Don’t miss the Bald Eagle Days Environmental Fair and Wildlife Art Show (Great Rivers Country), from Jan. 11 - 13. The show is the largest event in the Midwest dedicated to the United States’ most majestic bird, with more than 200 fun and informative exhibits for all ages. For more information, visitqccaexpocenter.com.
Can’t get enough of Illinois’ famous Bald Eagles? Then be sure to visit the Bald Eagle Watch Weekend (Chicago & Beyond) at Starved Rock State Park, from Jan. 26-27. This outdoor awareness weekend, hosted by the Illinois Audubon Society, features raptor and eagle awareness presentations held each day by the World Bird Sanctuary and features live bald eagles. For more information, visitstarvedrocklodge.com.
Don’t miss out on the Central Illinois Jazz Festival (Land of Lincoln), from Feb. 1-3. Spend the weekend dancing, parading and listening to great jazz musicians. The three day festival features world class musicians, including 17 bands and six guest artists. For more information, visitjuvaejazz.com.
Calling all auto enthusiasts! Don’t miss out on the largest auto show in North America at The Chicago Auto Show (Chicago & Beyond), from Feb. 8 - 17 at McCormick Place. The annual event features more than one thousand different auto accessories, competition vehicles, domestic, international antique and collector cars. For more information, visitchicagoautoshow.com.
Take a sweet walk through Springfield’s Lincoln Memorial Gardens beginning Feb. 16 to collect sap from maple trees during Maple Syrup Time (Land of Lincoln). For four weekends in late February and early March, Maple Syrup Time features Illinois’ tastiest pure maple syrup. For more information, visitlincolnmemorialgarden.org.
In addition to these great events this season, don’t miss out on Enjoy Illinois’ family-friendly and romantic getaway travel deals, including CoCo Key Water Park and Discovery Center in Rockford, a weekend ski package at Galena’s Chestnut Mountain Resort and a bed & breakfast two-night stay in Bloomington. Visit enjoyillinois.com to choose from more than 60 travel packages that are sure to make your getaway to Illinois this winter one to remember.