Top 5 Ways to Spend New Year’s Eve with the Family Around Chicago

Who says New Year’s Eve is for adults only? Before you book a sitter this year, check out these fun, unique ways to ring in the new year with the whole family.

Celebrate With a Few Thousand Friends

There’s no better way to make New Year’s Eve feel BIG than to spend it with a lively crowd and epic views. You’ll find both and a lot more at Navy Pier, which has become the ultimate holiday destination for entertainment and family-friendly attractions.

Dance Party at Chicago Children’s Museum
Navy Pier, Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago
December 31st – 10:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
$14.95 admission

Before you hit up any restaurants or rides at Navy Pier, make Noon Year’s Eve at Chicago Children’s Museum your first stop. Your kids can create festive crowns, get down at a kids-only dance party and enjoy a massive confetti drop when the clock strikes noon.

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
Navy Pier, Chicago
December 31st – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
$13 - $28 admission

If you’re bringing the kids, experiencing Winter WonderFest is a must. Featuring ice skating, giant slides mini golf, bouncers, bumper cars and more than 24 rides, the Wonderfest is a dream destination for children and adults of all ages.

2. Make the Day Historic

New Year’s Eve is a day to reflect on the past, get excited about the future and have fun at the same time. What better place to do all three than at a library or museum? In addition to Chicago’s Children’s Museum (mentioned above), there are plenty of other options to choose from.

New Year’s Eve Bash at Kohl Children’s Museum
Kohl Children’s Museum, Glenview
December 31st – 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.
$35 admission ($25 admission for members)

Kohl Children’s Museum transforms an entire wing into a Times Square style bash. You and your family will be treated to a concert, dance party, juggling performances and tons of cool activities before a massive confetti drop.

Fun Family NYE at DuPage Children’s Museum
DuPage Children’s Museum, Naperville
December 31st – 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
$25 admission ($20 for members)

There’s always a lot to see and do at DuPage Children’s Museum, but on New Year’s Eve they turn the interactive fun up a few notches. Special activities include making wearable art, face painting, 3D cookie sculptures, DIY confetti party poppers, a photo booth and a “fluorescent adventure.”

3. Go Outside and Play

You don’t have to stay inside to beat the chill. Lace up your ice skates or running shoes and you can warm up quickly while enjoying the outdoors.

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Millennium Park, Chicago
December 31st – 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Free admission ($15 skate rental)

Take a spin on the ice in a fun, festive atmosphere at the Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, which has become a holiday tradition for families throughout Illinois. If anyone needs a few skating lessons, head over early at 9 a.m. where instructors will be on hand to help skaters find their legs.

Skating Ribbon
Maggie Daley Park, Chicago
December 31st – 10 a.m. 8 p.m.
Free admission ($15 skate rental)

Unlike traditional ice rinks, the Skating Ribbon takes you on an adventure. Gather up the family and glide through the rolling landscape of downtown Chicago for this one-of-a-kind multisensory experience. After your journey, treat yourselves at one of Maggie Daley Park’s hot chocolate stands.

“Get Lit” New Year’s Eve Fun Run
Folepi’s Winter Wonderland, East Peoria
December 31st – Start time 11:50 p.m.
$6 admission

If you’re more of a runner than a skater, head out to the Get Lit New Year’s Eve Fun Run. With a 11:50 p.m. start-time, you’ll get the new year started on the right foot as you race into the new year with a fun-loving crowd of fellow runners.

4. Hang Out with Some Party Animals

The zoo might not come to mind during the winter, which is partly what makes it such a cool destination on New Year’s Eve. In addition to featuring exotic animals in holiday themed settings, these iconic zoos go all out to make the day extra special.

Zoo Year’s Eve
Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield
December 31st – 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
$21.95 admission ($15.95 for children 3 to 11; free with membership)

The Brookfield Zoo will be hosting Zoo Year’s Eve, which will have an ice carver, magician, carolers and more. You can also make your own noisemaker and enjoy an early kid-friendly countdown at 8 p.m. in the Hamill Family Play Zoo.

Zoolights at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago
November 23rd – December 31st – 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
(8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve)
Free admission

Bring the kids to the Lincoln Park Zoo to experience ZooLights, a spectacular reimagining of the zoo that transforms it into a winter wonderland. You’ll also find a wide range of festive activities and new sights to see, including live ice-sculpture carving, musical light shows and 3D displays.

5. Light Up the Night

Ever wonder where those loud pops going off in the distance are coming from on New Year’s Eve? Take the kids to them live and in-person this year and make the night truly unforgettable.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show at Navy Pier
Navy Pier, Chicago
January 1st – 12 a.m. – 12:15 a.m.
Free admission

No matter how old you are, there’s nothing quite like that moment when the clock strikes midnight and the sky lights up. Enjoy Chicago’s premier firework show at Navy Pier – a dazzling 15-minute display above Lake Michigan that will stay with you well into the new year.

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