Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Bucket List: A Guide for Experiencing the Beauty of the Holidays as a Family in Chicagoland {part one}

Each year, my family aims to experience and enjoy life together during the holidays, placing less emphasis on the gift aspect and more on togetherness. This is part one of a series detailing some of our favorite Chicagoland destinations during the Christmas season. Be sure to scroll down to the end; one of our favorite places is giving one family a set of tickets!

Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland Express
If you've been around here for awhile, you've gathered we are Chicago Botanic Garden enthusiasts. {What's not to love?! The great outdoors, plenty of space to explore and enjoy, winter exhibits to help relieve the stir craziness that sets in!}

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden
While the Botanic Garden is a hot destination for my kids during the spring, summer and fall, they pretty much ask year round how many days are left until we see the Wonderland Express, the garden's holiday-themed train exhibit that sprawls through the indoor atriums.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden
My boys, now 4 and 6, are absolutely enamored by the entire set up of trains chugging around the tracks of the mini Windy City. When they were younger, they spent most of their time chasing the trains as they ventured along the tracks. Now that the boys are older, they want to explore every single landmark building and discuss each of the tiny replicas along the tracks. John and I not only enjoy the family time with the boys while here, but we also enjoy marveling over how each and every piece of the mini city is made of natural materials like leaves, bark and other elements found in the great outdoors.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden
The Wonderland Express is well worth any trek you'd make as well as the cost.

When: November 29, 2013 - January 5, 2014
Time: Open daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. with few exceptions
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL
More Information: Chicago Botanic Garden

Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences: The Nutcracker

Perhaps you're thinking what I first thought when John and I mulled sharing our love of theatre with the kiddos: no way, no how will my kids sit through a live play!

Last December, when the boys were 5 and 3, we decided to give it a whirl anyway, as the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences specifically aims its shows for, well, young audiences, by making them lively, beautiful and entertaining. And they do it all in one hour!

Our boys, now 6 and 4, have delightfully experienced three productions, and they have really liked each one {says the surprised mom of two really active, light-saber sporting little boys}. We recently attended the opening-day performance of the Nutcracker. I didn't know how it was going to play out because the Nutcracker my husband and I knew centered all around ballet; however, this story was adapted into a wonderful production geared toward young audiences.

Photo courtesy of Peter Coombs and the Marriott Theatre
The boys enjoyed the music, the story, the animated characters and even the dance! Our youngest kept asking, "Mommy, how do they spin like that!?"in response to some of the ballet dances during the show. While this production of the Nutcracker did feature some splendidly talented dancers, the show wasn't dance-centric. In true Marriott fashion, the production was beautifully choreographed, funny, engaging and featured a wonderfully animated cast that was perfect for small children, older children and adults alike.

Photo courtesy of Peter Coombs and the Marriott Theatre
When: November 8, 2013 - December 28, 2013
Time: Click Here for showtimes
Where: Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, IL
More Information: Marriott Theatre 

So are you ready to cross a few things off your Holiday Bucket List? How about going to the Wonderland Express this holiday season compliments of the Chicago Botanic Garden?! The lovely people at the Chicago Botanic Garden are giving away a family four pack of tickets for the Wonderland Express as well as a free parking ticket. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stay tuned for part two of the Holiday Bucket List tomorrow. I have another great giveaway planned!

Disclosure: First and foremost, I only work with organizations I really love. I am a Chicago Botanic Garden ambassador who receives a membership in exchange for sharing about the garden on a regular basis. 
The Marriott Theatre invited my family to press day to see the Nutcracker so we could share our experiences with other families. 


  1. We love Wonderland Express. It is the one holiday activity we keep going back to each year.

  2. I have never been to Wonderland Express. My two boys would LOVE it!

  3. Wonderland Express has been a tradition for us for three years and counting. We first went when my son was about 2 weeks old!

  4. I've never been to the Botanic Garden at all....can you believe it?! I might have to give this a try....whether I win or not :)

  5. I think my family would love Wonderland express!! :-)

  6. nutcracker! although all would be fun! -Kristen lila

  7. Love these ideas! I think it's time we start some family traditions!

  8. This is a holiday tradition of ours as well!

  9. I've always thought this would be fun to do! We drive through the light things in Vernon Hills each year since Martha was one.

  10. We went last year for the first time. It was fun and magical for all of us!

  11. Right now we love visiting Santa now the G can handle him without freaking out.


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