Want to get away this festive season? LGBTQI-friendly Illinois will have you feeling merrier than a well-soaked Christmas pud…

BY ILLINOIS OFFICE OF TOURISM. IMAGES ENJOY ILLINOIS/NICK ULIVIEIRI

Instead of watching the same movies and listening to the same music – if you’re looking to go big this Christmas – then get in the holiday spirit with a trip to LGBTQI-friendly (Christmas mecca) Illinois. While eating and shopping are a given, there are plenty of other Christmas-shaped activities happening all over Illinois – and for all of the #rainbowfamily – from ice skating and festive parades to sitting in an igloo surrounded by skyscrapers.

And, while the Mag Mile Parade which traditionally kicks off the holiday season may have already happened, Mag Mile is still open for festive and new year shopping (if that’s your bag) and there’s now the newly opened Starbucks Reserve Roastery to keep you going! This four-story shrine to coffee also features a full kitchen, bakery and mixologist-crafted beverages. Caffeine kweens, sorted.

Chicago

Here comes the Christkindlmarket…

The Christkindlmarket is Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival. First held on Pioneer Court in 1996, the four-week market is modelled after the famous Nuremberg Christmas market dating back to 1545.

The market offers shopping opportunities and serves as a winter wonderland meeting place for family and friends. Plus, enjoy German delicacies like brats, goulash and potato pancakes while you’re there. Yummo.

Psst! There’s also a Christkindlmarket market in Wrigleyville, right next to Wrigley Field which is in walking distance of a whole bunch of fun, pop-up holiday bars including: Santababybar, Stretch Bar & Grill (elfdup), Eight Crazy Nights – the only Hannukah pop-up bar – and the Christmas Club.

Chicago’s Christkindlmarket runs until 24 December

The Nutcracker on Broadway…

One of those traditions is seeing The Nutcracker performed at several theatres in entertainment capital, Chicago. The most celebrated and elaborate version is by the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet.

The famous Tchaikovsky score is played live by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, as graceful ballet dancers in beautiful costumes use dance to tell the story of a young girl’s Christmas dream

Running until December 29 2019 at Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University, Chicago

Get y’skates on…

For kids who can’t sit through a two-hour ballet – plus intermission – rent ice skates and cruise around Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon. The untraditional, winding path next to Millennium Park has the skyline as a backdrop. Night skating is available, and you can even skate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

Opens November 15 2019, Millennium Park, Chicago

Igloo, anyone?

Those not interested in standing out in the cold can sit in an igloo. It’s pricey, but you can reserve a heated, clear-dome igloo for up to 12 people on the Godfrey Hotel’s rooftop bar, I|O. Clear views of lit-up skyscrapers surround you, as you order cocktails or the new Smores In A Jar dessert (yummo). Enjoy that while you send the kids to the outdoor fire pits to make their own smores!

Opens November 23 2019, 127 W Huron

Head to the ‘Burbs

Stars of light

Trees are the stars of the light show at the unique Illumination at The Morton Arboretum in west suburban Lisle. Visitors walk along a one-mile path past colourful and creative art installations within the trees. Entertainment, hot chocolate and bonfires dot the path. Magic!

Running until 5 January 5 2020, 4100 Illinois Route 53

Beautifully Botanic…

There’s a similar display in north suburban Glencoe, at the Chicago Botanic Gardens’ Lightscape. Its huge light tunnels, in between colourful light displays, are fun to walk through, including one with long, dangling strings of light

Running until 5 January 2020, 1000 Lake Cook Road

Road Trip!

Festival of lights

Want to escape the cold? Stay in your car for the drive-through light display in East Peoria’s Festival of Lights, a 35-year tradition, with giant animated displays of things like ski jumpers and a 160-foot-long steam engine train. Be sure to wave to FOLEPI, the event’s toy soldier mascot, and if you’re lucky, you might see Santa, who occasionally drops by…

Running until 31 December 2019, 123 Par 3 Lane

Winter Wonderland

Alton’s Christmas Wonderland light show, set up by the “grandpa gang,” fills Rock Spring Park with more than four million lights, including a cascading waterfall. Afterward, head to the neighbouring town of Bethalto, where their Christmas Village features a live nativity, and holiday craft and food vendors!

Running until 29 December 2019, 2116 College Ave

More S’mores?

The roller coaster rides may be closed at Six Flags Great America in far north suburban Gurnee, but the park transforms into Holiday in the Park. Family-friendly shows with dancing elves or Looney Tunes characters run all afternoon and evening, as do outdoor s’mores stations, Santa visits and light displays. You can’t really get more festive than that, can you?

Running until 31 December 2019, select days, 1 Great America Parkway

Want more on LGBTQI Illinois? Visit enjoyillinois.co.uk/amazingforall

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