Top 12 Holiday Happenings

From festive lights festivals to dazzling flower shows, here are 12 wintry ways to celebrate the holiday season in the Oak Park Area

The Oak Park Area is buzzing with community-driven activities year-round. But winter is an especially merry time to visit, as our tree-lined brick roads and charming landscapes transform into a wintry wonderland with festive events and seasonal specials. Here are 12 ways to celebrate the season in the Oak Park Area!

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo  |  Saturday, Dec. 2 - Sunday, Dec. 31
For more than 30 years, Brookfield Zoo has enchanted visitors of all ages with Holiday Magic. Chicagoland’s largest and longest running lights festival, the event boasts more than 1 million twinkling LED lights that bring the zoo’s exhibits to glittering new life. In addition to the dazzling light displays, Holiday Magic features a range of special events you need to experience to believe. Where else can you carol with big cats; marvel at elaborate ice-carding demonstrations; watch Santa and Mrs. Claus interact with reindeer; or have a conversation with a 41-foot talking holiday tree?

Forest Park's Holiday Walk & Festival of Windows  |  Friday, Dec. 1
Forest Park’s shops, restaurants, and bars kick off the holiday season with live window displays featuring twinkling lights and colorful ornaments at the annual Holiday Walk & Festival of Windows. On Dec. 1, Madison Street comes alive with live music and holiday entertainment including horse-drawn carriage rides, festive face paintings, and exclusive shopping deals. Don’t be surprised if you run into Santa and Mrs. Claus while enjoying the evening’s festivities!

Winterfest + Cookie Walk in Downtown Oak Park  |  Saturday, Dec. 2
Who says the weather outside is frightful? Here in Oak Park, the winter season is delightful! Downtown Oak Park’s annual Winterfest + Cookie Walk is a celebration of the season’s best food, music and activities. Guests will receive a novelty cookie tin and a map with more than 45 participating businesses handing out gourmet cookies and sweets in Downtown Oak Park – all while carolers sing your holiday favorites.

'It's a Wonderful Life' Pop-Up Bar at Fitzgerald's Nightclub  |  Wednesdays from Dec. 6 through Dec. 27 
Have a nostalgic night out at FitzGerald’s Nightclub with the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Pop-Up Bar. Every Wednesday in December, Berwyn’s legendary live music venue will draw inspiration from the classic holiday film to create a heart-warming atmosphere where patrons can revel in holiday cheer. Special cocktails inspired by characters from the movie will be available, alongside kitschy props like an old-time register that “gives out wings.”  Local musicians will perform a top-notch jazz set before a special showing of the film on the SideBar’s big screen.

Winter Greens Market at Oak Park Conservatory  |  Tuesday, Nov. 21 through Monday, Dec. 18
Home to a stunning selection of exotic flora and fauna, the Oak Park Conservatory is a popular destination for families and gardening enthusiasts throughout the year. But during the winter, you have the chance to take a few native plants home during the annual Winter Greens Market.  This one-stop shop for holiday decorating offers a wide assortment of seasonal greens like winter berries, spruce tops, magnolia tips, and fir. The market is open during regular conservatory hours from Nov. 21 through Dec. 18, though shopping early guarantees the best and greenest selection.

Sons of Serendip at Dominican University Performing Arts Center  |  Saturday, Dec. 2
Those interested in a soulful spin on classic holiday songs should head to the Dominican University Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Dec. 2 for Sons of Serendip. The silky-sounding group gained popularity during season nine of the TV show, “America’s Got Talent,” and have continued winning audiences across the country over on tour ever since. With a unique combination of harp, piano, cello, and vocals, Sons of Serendip deliver the heartwarming sounds and spirit-lifting melodies that define the holiday season.

Shopper's Reward Program in Downtown Oak Park  |  Wednesday, Nov. 1 through Monday, Dec. 25
What’s a better winter activity than shopping? Getting money back on your purchases! In Downtown Oak Park, you can receive a $50 certificate this season with the Shopper's Rewards Program. Spend $25 or more at a minimum of seven participating businesses, for a grand total of $400 or more with receipted dated Nov. 1 through Dec. 25, 2017. The exclusive annual offer is the perfect excuse to shop the new “Urban Local Made” collection at the Oak Park Visitors Center. Featuring work from local artisans and crafters, the program aims to inspire visitors to seek out local, authentic experiences while traveling – and there’s nothing more local or authentic than handmade jewelry, remarkable ceramics, quirky accessories, and one-of-a-kind artwork made right here in the Oak Park Area.

"Fire and Ice" Holiday Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory  |  Friday, Nov. 24 through Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018
Holiday plants are also front-and-center at the Garfield Park Conservatory’s beloved Holiday Flower Show. This year’s theme is “Fire & Ice”, telling a story of the power fire and frost can provide ecosystems. From red-hot poinsettias to cool-as-a-cucumber conifers, the show’s striking displays are meant to evoke both fire and ice. The conservatory’s regular gardens, boasting everything from tropical palms to lush ferns, remain open for visitors. Don’t worry about the holidays impacting your visit; its showrooms are open 365 days a year.

Holiday Lights at Cernan Earth & Space Center  |  Saturday, Dec. 2 through Saturday, Dec. 30
For an out-of-this-world holiday experience, check out the Cernan Earth and Space Center’s annual “Holiday Lights” show. A selection of seasonal tunes from Chip Davis and the Mannheim Steamrollers is synced with dazzling cosmic lights in the center’s 44-foot dome theater. Watch as thousands of stars dance to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and be mesmerized as songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” come alive with brilliantly illuminated images of a wintry night sky.

Deck the Depot in Berwyn's Depot District  |  Thursday, Dec. 9
On Dec. 9, join the businesses of Berwyn’s Historic Depot District for a night of family-friendly holiday cheer at Deck the Depot. Hop on the Berwyn Park District’s free Holiday Bus to catch the district’s festive lights in motion, grab a picture with Santa at Connie’s Restaurant, sing along with carolers, and watch in awe during the special tree lighting ceremony. And don’t leave empty-handed: visit all participating retailers and get your event “passport” punched at each for a chance to win $500 in raffle prizes!

Home for the Holidays at Frank Lloyd Wright's Home & Studio  |  Saturday, Dec. 2
Join the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust at Home for the Holidays, a historic celebration of the season. Bring your family and friends for a complimentary tour of Wright's Home & Studio in Oak Park, decked for the holidays the way it famously was when the famed architect's family lived there. A spectacular tree, poinsettias, fresh flowers, evergeens, and wreaths can be found at every corner of this Prairie style jewel. Guests can also take advantage of a special holiday design project in the studio's drafting room, discounts in the gift shop, a free shopping tote for every $50 spent, gift wrapping services, and prize drawings. 

Oak Park Festival Theatre's A Dickens Carol  |  Saturday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Dec. 24
This winter, Oak Park Festival Theatre debuts the world premiere of “A Dickens Carol.” Before creating Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Charles Dickens’ career was faltering. His finances were dwindling and his marriage was on the rocks. This reimagining tells the story of the magical twist of fate that changed the author’s life forever and inspired the beloved tale “A Christmas Carol.” The show premieres Nov. 25. at Oak Park’s Madison Street Theatre and will run until Christmas Eve.

Home for the Holidays in Downtown Oak Park  |  Saturday, Dec. 16
Just because you may be traveling this winter doesn’t mean you can’t feel at home in Oak Park. The annual Home for the Holidays festival in Downtown Oak Park offers you the opportunity to catch the old-fashioned holiday spirit and enjoy the season like a local. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the glistening tree-lined streets, pose for pictures with Santa, and sip hot cocoa while watching a holiday classic at the Lake Theatre. The best part? All events are free!

This is a small sample of the special events and activities in the Oak Park Area this winter. Check out the calendar of events to explore more upcoming events.

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