Illinois is often recognized for its outdoor activities during the warmer months. However, there are a plethora of sights to experience in the Land of Lincoln during cold weather. Take a look at this list of sights to see in Illinois to see just a few of the cool things happening this season.
1. 130th Annual Santa Claus Parade – Peoria
What better way to kick off the cold-weather season than with Santa? Peoria’s Santa Claus Parade is the longest-running event of its kind in the country, and it’s right in our own backyard. See costumed characters, immaculate decorations, and horses with your family and friends. The parade boasts the theme of “Fairy Tale Christmas,” and it takes place at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 24. After the parade, Santa will pose for pictures at the Caterpillar Visitors Center downtown.
2. 33rd Annual Festival of Lights – East Peoria
The whole family can enjoy this modern-day spectacle. The Parade of Lights kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 18, while everyone can drive through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland starting on Thanksgiving and ending on New Year’s Eve. Displays also include a nativity scene and an enchanted forest. In addition to the lights, other events include a pageant, ornament hunt, holiday river cruise, and a fun run.
3. Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch – Rantoul
Encounter real Alaskan reindeer up close! Hardy’s lets you tour their farm with 16 live reindeer that you can feed and take pictures with. In addition, they also challenge you to work your way through a special corn maze either in the daylight or at night with the aid of a flashlight or the moonlight. Hardy’s also boasts a pumpkin cannon, a paintball gallery, hayrides, cookouts, pedal race cars, as well as 5,000 Christmas trees.
4. Mistletoe Stroll – Galena
Travel to the far northwestern corner of Illinois to take in a one-of-a-kind experience. For two Saturdays only (Dec. 9 and Dec. 16), enjoy tasty treats while touring some of Galena’s dozens of bed and breakfasts. Stick around on Dec. 9 for the Night of the Luminaria, when more than 5,000 luminaries are lit throughout Main Street and the entire city.
5. McCormick Tribune Ice Rink – Chicago
Skate for free in Millennium Park from November until March at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink amidst the backdrop of Cloud Gate and many more Chicago landmarks. In fact, the rink opens the same day as Chicago’s 104th annual tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 17, which also takes place in the park. Weather permitting, hours and ice skating lessons vary depending on the day.
6. Bald Eagle Watching Throughout Illinois
No matter where you’re at, or where you’re willing to travel to, Illinois has many great sights from which to spot bald eagles. That’s because the eagles migrate south from more northern states for the warmer weather. Did you know that Illinois has more wintering bald eagles than any other state besides Alaska? See where an organized bald eagle watch is scheduled, from Rock Island and Alton to Marion and Utica.
Now that you know Illinois has some amazing cold-weather experiences, pencil these sights to see in Illinois in for this season. While you’re looking at your calendar, make sure you’ve got your next eye exam scheduled. After all, you’ll want to make sure you fully take in each activity with your best vision.