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Chicago’s annual Winter WonderFest is not to be missed!

Young woman ice skating outdoors on a pond on a freezing winter day - detail of the legsWhen it comes to festive fun, there is no better place to start than in Chicago. Each year Navy Pier becomes home to the Winter WonderFest and this year marks the 14th such event. Winter WonderFest starts at the beginning of December and runs until the middle of January, and is perfect for all the family. Navy Pier can be found in Streeterville and covers more than 50 acres on the edge of Lake Michigan.

The event started back in 2001 and attracts thousands of visitors and Chicago residents throughout the season, as the attractions vary a great deal. If you go along on a weekday night you will find that there are live musical performances on the Winter Wonderstage and there is also a beer garden, which is perfect for fun and relaxation. There are rides and attractions for people of all ages and a ride on the indoor Ferris wheel is a must; alternatively, you can give ice skating a try. If you go along on a weekend you need to be prepared to do battle with the crowds, as these are the busiest days.

If you can’t get there any sooner, consider a trip to Navy Pier on New Year’s Eve. There will be not one but two great firework shows, with the fireworks going off over the lake, but you will need to be prepared for a crush. Thousands of people go along on New Year’s Eve and you might need to get there early if you want to make sure that you have a good view. Just remember that others will have had the same idea.

The good news is that there is no admission cost to get into the Winter WonderFest area, but you may need a wristband if you want to go on any of the rides or attractions. These bands start at approximately $15 for a day’s admission. There are general admission bands and activity bands, so make sure that you get the right wristband for you. These can be ordered in advance to make sure that you are not disappointed and to save queuing.

What can you expect to see at Winter WonderFest this year? Favorite rides and attractions include the Wintertube, the Toboggan Tunnel, and Snowglobe Live! There is also the Winter Rules mini golf and the Holiday Howdy Horse. A spectacular sight is the 42-foot high Christmas tree, fully decorated and alerting everybody to what time of the year it is.

When can you visit Winter WonderFest? You can go along on any day of the week. From Sunday to Thursday the WonderFest opening hours are 10am to 8pm, and on Friday and Saturday the event stays open until 10pm. There are some days that have special hours, when closing may be earlier, and you need to note that on Christmas Day itself the attraction is closed. Keep an eye open for deal days and you may be able to pick up a bargain on admission and ride costs for all the family.        

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