Get into the holiday spirit with events throughout Central Illinois

Children throughout the area will have many opportunities to visit with Santa Claus this holiday season. Some of those events are listed here.

Holiday Shop and Stroll

The annual event that connects shoppers with nature while they shop for some unique Christmas gifts will be held once again at the Forest Park Nature Center, 5809 N. Forest Park Drive, Peoria Heights.

This year the event will be held on Friday and Saturday,  Dec. 9 and 10 and Friday, Dec. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m.

A special childrens’ shopping day will be held on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 9 a.m . to 1 p.m. Bring young ones to purchase gifts for loved ones, as volunteers help them shop and wrap their gifts. Each child will fill out a form with info about recipients and budget for each gift (prices start at $1.) Proceeds benefit Peoria Park District programs and services! Adult chaperones can hang out in the ‘lounge’ while kids shop.   


Christmas at the Mansions
Enjoy a holiday tour of two of Bloomington-Normal’s favorite historic sites — David Davis Mansion and Ewing Manor. For this self-driving event from 2-7pm on Saturday, December 10th, you’ll see these homes decorated in period Christmas finery. Music and other surprises will complement your tour.

On the day of the event, tickets will be $20 each, cash or check, and available only at the front door of the David Davis Mansion or Ewing Manor during the hours of the event. Tickets are available only until sold out and are non-refundable. Admission is free for children 3 and younger.Tickets are also available online at for $16 each. If purchasing tickets online, you must print out your online receipt and present that receipt on the day of the event at David Davis Mansion or Ewing Manor.


The Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria invites visitors to its annual Shop and Stroll for unique holiday gifts. (Photo courtesy of Discover Peoria)

Crafts on the River

Shore Acres Park, 100 Park Blvd., Chillicothe will host a Christmas craft show in a gorgeous holiday setting.  About 35 crafters and vendors will be on hand on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Skate with Santa

Skate with Santa Open Skate will be held at the  Bloomington Ice Center, 201 S. Roosevelt Ave. , on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 7 to 9 a.m. Free admission.


Miller Zoo hosts Santa

Come have breakfast with Santa Claus on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Miller Park Zoo, 1020 S. Morris Ave., Bloomington.

Two breakfast seating’s are available: 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Enjoy a continental style breakfast at the Zoo. There will be a chance to meet with Santa himself and take pictures with him and Mrs. Claus.

Enjoy a ride on the carousel and some animal encounters.

Tickets are required. Seating is very limited so do not delay and purchase your tickets today!. Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for non-members


Jingle Bell Bazaar

Come join local small businesses and get some gifts to check off your list this weekend, Saturday and Sunday,  Dec. 10-11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 2200 E. Washington St., East Peoria.

The event is presented by Angels Among Us Events, which is once again adopting a family for Christmas and asking for patrons to help make this Christmas a beautiful event for the family. 

A list of items will be provided, if you would like to help by purchasing an item, drop offs will be during our events. If you would like to donate to help us purchase items, a donation jar will be available at the event.

Experience the music of the holiday season live at many venues throughout the region, from choral concerts to wind ensembles.

PJs and breakfast with Santa

Break out your holiday PJs and join in a magical holiday morning with Santa and friends on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, 222 SW Washington St.,  Peoria. 

Enjoy a delicious breakfast with specially themed activities followed by “The Polar Express” in the Giant Screen Theater. Each child receives a gift.

 Breakfast will include: cheesy scrambled eggs, tater tots, applewood smoked bacon, sausage patties, fresh fruit and sugar pearl waffles.

After the movie, feel free to explore all exhibitions, including “MARS” and watch a planetarium show. 

Cost is $40 for adult members and $50 for child members;  $45 for non-member adults and $55 for non-member children.


Music for the holidays

Come celebrate the season with the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, Madrigal Singers, a combined student chorus, and special guests as they share beloved holiday classics and create new favorites for this magical time of year. 

Shows are Saturday, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. at the Center for the Performing Arts, 351 S. School St., Normal.

For ticket information, go to

An evening of Christmas music

The public is invited to “A Musical Christmas” at St. Paul United Church of Christ, 108 N. 8th St., Pekin on Sunday Dec. 11 beginning at 4 p.m. The program is under the direction of Sharon Samuels Reed, director of Fine and Arts and Choir at the church.


Traditional German Christmas dinner
Take a break from making dinner (or shopping) and enjoy a Traditional German Christmas on Thursday Dec. 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Zeller Banquet Room 3401 Griffin Ave., Pekin

Costs for each dinner is $18.95 (before taxes/fees) for either dine in or carryout orders.

Tickets only available in advance. No tickets available at the door.

Menu: Sauerbraten (German roasted meat), Choucroute Garnei (bratwurst and sauerkraut), Rotkohl (red cabbage), Schwabischer Kartoffelsalat (German potato salad), Salzstange/Brezel and Obatzda (bavarian pretzel stick and beer cheese)

There will be a drink station for dine in customers with coffee, iced tea, lemonade, and water. The bar will also be open for dine-in customers.

No outside food or drink.


Breakfast with Santa

Enjoy a warm breakfast and get your picture taken with Santa Claus on Sunday, Dec. 18, from 8 to 11 a.m. at Three Sisters Park, 17189 Illinois Route 29, Chillicothe. Proceeds will go towards the Hasselberg Ag Museum project.