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Chicago Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

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Yes, Chicago is cold in Winter, but this can still be a great time to visit. In addition the the Chicago Pedway, great museums, and abundant ice skating, the holiday season features the Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier.

Part of our Michigan Avenue / Navy Pier tour, until January 6, 2014, this part of Chicago becomes a giant playground. It opens daily at 10am and each day the Mayor of Chicago picks a lucky guest to open the Wonderfest, get their earlier to have your chance at the honor!

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Inside the Festival Hall at Navy Pier are rides, games, and more ice skating. It's free to enter, where you can enjoy the carnival atmosphere and watch the crowds. But you'll need an activity wristband to take any of the rides. You can purchase a wristband for $19, which includes ice skating or $15, which does not. Always the deal seekers here at Free Tours by Foot, if you purchase tickets online or as part of a family pack, you'll get a discount! Certain weekdays are also sold at a better price.

Within the Wonderfest you can find:

  • Indoor Ice Skating Rink - rent skates or bring your own
  • Ferris Wheel - get a bird's eye view from 50 feet high
  • Zero Gravity – spin at high speeds on a new, 45-degree-tilted thrill ride
  • Kringle Carousel - hop aboard your favorite animal on this colorful classic
  • Reindeer Express Train Ride - take a ride around the holiday village
  • Snowy Summit Climbing Wall - challenge yourself to reach the rock wall's top
  • Winter Wind Glider - hang onto the soaring glider as you fly 40 feet into the air
  • "Power Wheel" Mini Adventure Track - cruise the course in a mini-Jeep "Hurricane" or mini-Dodge "Police Cruiser"
  • Winter WonderFest Jr. - bounce and tunnel through this section made for the youngest set

There are stages for live entertainment from magicians to jugglers. Each Sunday features a new Latin genre where you can listen and learn the dances and grooves yourself. At the Craft Corner, in December only, you'll be able to find a FREE Mickey Mouse ornament to decorate and remember your time. You do not need a wristband to make an ornament!

And of course, Santa Claus will be stopping by to visiting the children and listen to their Christmas lists.

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: September 26th, 2021
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