CHICAGO - Navy Pier hosts the Eighth Annual Bank of America Winter WonderFest now through Jan. 4. The indoor festival at the shopping/entertainment center features visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, 750,000 lights, 25,000 ornaments, indoor ice skating and new attractions and entertainment encompassing 170,000 square feet. | Festival calendar
The Festival Hall holds 35 attractions, including eight large-scale inflatable games, more than a dozen rides and giant slides, climbing walls and the new Arctic Wonder Obstacle Course. Course designers say "kids must navigate 22 feet of obstacles before taking a trip through a giant tunnel and down a slide to face another 22 feet of obstacles."
Fly in your own Ice Dragon or ride the Winter Wind Glider, Ferris wheel, Reindeer Express Train Ride, Patch's Lighthouse, Kringle Carousel, Extreme Ice Trail Ropes Course and the Matterhorn Climb & Slide.
The city of Chicago is among finalists for the 2016 Olympics, a goal that provided the motivation for the 2016 Olympic Tree. It's one of several in what is described as "a towering village of professionally decorated trees…" Stop by the 2016 Olympic Bid Kiosk to support Chicago's Olympic dreams.
Work up a sweat on the Chicago Blackhawks Indoor Ice Rink, which is half the length of the Bears' football field. Skate rental is included in the price of an upgraded wristband, or bring your own skates and skate for free. Skate with Ronald McDonald every Sunday at noon.
Winter WonderFest Junior is an area designed for the really young crowd shorter than 46 inches tall. It includes a Ferris Wheel Jr. and King of the Snow Mountain, Tinsel Tunnels and the Snow Ball Blitz.
Hungry? Decorate your own cookie at Create-A-Cookie Cottage. Cookies are $3.
Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves will be at Family Pavilion Stage every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Dec. 23 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Santa gets very busy after that. Make sure to stop by the eWish Center to e-mail your holiday wishes to Santa before Dec. 25.
Daily toy give-aways will feature American Girl dolls and Tyco R/C Turbo Pro Wheelie Cycles.
And, don't be a humbug or you might be arrested by police officers Doug and Eddie who will patrol for "un-holiday like behavior." You could be given a ticket and land in Holiday Court where the honorable Mayor Evergreen presides.
Admission to Festival Hall is free. A $12 Basic Activity Wristband includes all rides and activities with the exception of ice skate rental, which costs $4.
Navy Pier was featured in the March/April issue of West Suburban Living as the Chicago area's No. 1 must-go place to take out-of-town guests. Visit www.winterwonderfest.com.