Where to Take Out-of-Town Guests (besides Chicago!)

Got family or friends in town for the holidays?

Child Luggage

It always seems like the go-to is to escort them on a day trip to Chicago. But they’ve already been to the Willis Tower and just don’t feel like navigating the crowds along Michigan Avenue.  Frankly, you just don’t want to deal with the city traffic this time around–I get it.

Still, you’ve got a house full of people of all different ages who are getting a little bit stir-crazy. We’ve compiled a list of attractions and distractions that appeal to all ages.  While there is definite kid-appeal to these locations (because duh, that’s what we do) we’ve selected spots that are not so obnoxiously kid-focused. In fact, we think even your childless-by-choice hipster brother-in-law will enjoy himself as much as your 90-year old grannie.

For up-to-date information on hours, admission, etc., visit each venue’s website before you go.

Holiday Excursions

Live Nativity Scenes
For families that observe Christian traditions, witnessing a live nativity performance can be a moving experience that reconnects them with their faith.

Classic Holiday Movie Showings
Take family movie night out of your rec room and into a movie theater on the big screen.  From black-and-white classics like It’s a Wonderful Life to modern-day favorites like Elf, these movies are guaranteed fun for the whole family.

Christmas Tree Farms

Harvest your own Christmas tree or select from freshly cut firs and pines.  Some farms offer added attractions like wagon rides and hot chocolate.

Morton Arboretum Illuminations 2014
Morton Arboretum Illuminations 2014

Illumination at Morton Arboretum, Lisle
According to Hyacynth,

Illumination is a family-friendly walk that spans a mile of paths at The Morton Arboretum and showcases the astounding beauty of the trees, enhanced and aglow with beautiful, glowing lights. At Illumination, the lights themselves aren’t the super stars; rather they are powerful tools in shedding the beauty of the Arboretum in a new light.

Best Holiday Light Displays 
Hop in the car and create your own guided tour of some of the best light displays in and around Lake County.

The Great Outdoors

Sledding Hills, Lake County
Take advantage of that fresh powder and experience the thrill of the wind in your face! Tracy tells us where to find the best sledding hills in Lake County.

Image from wilmotmountain.com
Image from wilmotmountain.com

Snow Tubing at Wilmot Mountain, Wisconsin
Snow tubing is the perfect winter “sport” your whole family can participate in–if you can hang on, you’re in!  Vail Resorts recently purchased Wilmot Mountain and invested $13.2 million in improvements.  The 2016-2017 season opens on December 14, 2016, and we can’t wait to see the changes!

Charming Downtowns

richmond-11Downtown Richmond
According to Jessica G.,

 A new generation of entrepreneurs and restaurateurs are joining timeless seasoned business owners to revitalize this historic little town. The downtown is passionate about injecting a new energy into the rustic brick store fronts… If you are looking for delicious food, a soothing spa, elegant boutiques, and a cozy coffee shop, Richmond is a great place to spend the day.

Historic Downtown Antioch Theatre Now Open! | image property of The Antioch TheatreDowntown Antioch
Many of our writers are proud to call Antioch “home,” and for good reason.  The downtown takes you back to yesteryear with its historic theatre, locally-owned shops, independent restaurants, and the return of the Dickens Holiday Village

We also recommend a visit to the downtown historic districts of Grayslake, Libertyville, Long Grove, Wauconda, Highland Park and Woodstock.

Worth The Trip

Photo Credit: H. Williams
Photo Credit: H. Williams

Mitchell Park Conservatory, Milwaukee
Heather and her family enjoyed their quick drive up to Milwaukee to experience “The Domes.”

Jelly Belly Warehouse Tour, Pleasant Prairie
Who doesn’t love jelly beans?  Tours are offered daily except for New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and Easter and are completely FREE, although you won’t be able to resist taking something home from the gift shop.

Day Trip to Milwaukee
Still want to see the city sidewalks dressed in holiday style?  Milwaukee will give you that metropolitan flavor with fewer complications and expense than a visit to Chicago.  With little ones in tow, it’s well worth your consideration.  Our writers’ compiled a list of their favorite Milwaukee-area attractions.

Active Indoor Adventures

Pinstripes, Barrington, Northbrook and other locations
Pinstripes is so much more than a bowling alley.  It’s an entertainment complex that also features bocce ball and first-rate bistro cuisine.  Even your most persnickety house guest will appreciate it!

Indoor Water Parks
It’s the next best thing to a beach vacation!  When the weather outside is frightful, the water is delightful at these indoor waterparks in and around Lake County.  Our local favorite is KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee, where Deluxe Guest Rooms can sleep up to six people.  For more splash-tactic ideas, see our guide to Indoor Pools in Lake County.

Image courtesy of WhirlyBall
Image courtesy of WhirlyBall

Whirlyball, Vernon Hills
If you’re a family with older children, a game of Whirlyball is a must-do!  Part bumper cars, part La Crosse, part basketball, this high-speed game adds up to 100% fun.  My favorite attraction? Laser Tag!


Discovery World Museum, Milwaukee
Jessica G. young scientists were delighted by the hands-on technology, local history, and aquarium along the shores of Lake Michigan.  While geared towards grade-school children, there is plenty for adults to enjoy as well.

Volo Auto Museum, Volo
History buffs, gearheads, and pop culture fans of all ages come together in appreciation at the Volo Auto Museum.

Wildlife Discovery Center, Lake Forest
When’s the last time you saw grandma pet a giant iguana or hold a boa constrictor? Never?   Well, isn’t it time she had her chance?

Dinner and a Show

L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2014
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2014

Tiki Terrace, Des Plaines
No Christmas in Hawaii for the family this year?  How about the next best thing?!  Part campy, part cultural, your family can enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of the South Pacific during Tiki Terrace’s Echoes of Polynesia show and dinner.

Medieval Times, Schaumburg
You won’t find nine ladies dancing or ten lords-a-leaping, but you will find medieval knights testing their mettle in the joust!  Dancing horses, swordplay and a three-course dinner you eat medieval style (i.e., with your hands) round out this thrilling family experience.

Do you have other recommendations for out-of-town guests of all ages?  Share them with us in the comments?



About Loralie 133 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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