Bloomington-Normal Best Holiday Activities – For Christmas 2023

Some great holiday activities can be discovered in Bloomington-Normal. The history and charm of Bloomington, Illinois often get overlooked by tourists, but it’s a fun destination to visit.

As a vibrant university town, there are always numerous events happening around the city. Winter is a great time to enjoy Bloomington.

The calendar is full of a variety of different festive activities to help visitors celebrate the holiday season. Here are a few of the best Christmas events happening around town.

Best Holiday Activities in Bloomington-Normal

As a busy college town with two major universities, there are always numerous events going on in and around Bloomington. Before visiting, check out the entire Visit Bloomington-Normal calendar of events to see the wide range of activities to enjoy. Below are just a small sample of some of the 2023 holiday events taking place in the city.

Consider a stay at the cozy Vrooman Mansion this winter, voted a Top Romantic Stay in the Midwest.

Best Place to Stay Bloomington-Normal

If you’re looking for a cozy B&B to stay while enjoying the holiday events and festivities around Bloomington-Normal? The Vrooman Mansion is the perfect destination for wedding nights, honeymoons, babymoons, or any romantic getaway!

🏠 Vrooman Mansion > Check Availability

The B&B features en-suite rooms within the mansion or guests can stay in the Carriage House just a few steps away from the main house.

Best Hotel Options

Below are the best hotels to stay in Bloomington-Normal.

Budget: La Quinta Inn & Suites
Midrange: Hyatt Place or Springhill Suites by Marriott

Miller Park Zoo Wild Lights & Breakfast With Santa – December 1 – 2 and December 8 – 9

Celebrate the holidays with the festive Miller Park Zoo Wild Lights evening events. Wild Lights runs on December 1 and 2 and December 8 and 9, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the zoo. Always a community favorite, the event features kid-friendly activities, Santa and Mrs. Claus, local vendors, and concessions. Families can purchase a S’mores kit for $3 apiece. The cost is $8 per person for ages 3 and older.

🎫🦍 Skip the Line Tickets Miller Park Zoo > Buy Now

Additionally, the Miller Park Zoo offers a ticketed Breakfast with Santa event, on December 9, with two seatings at 8:30 a.m. and another at 10 a.m. Tickets are limited and can be purchased by phone or at the admissions window. More information is available online.

Holiday Tree Lighting – December 1

Kick off the Bloomington-Normal Holiday Season with the annual Christmas tree lighting event on Friday, December 1 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. held in various locations in downtown Bloomington.

Jammies and Jingles – December 1

The Children’s Discovery Museum is offering a festive evening out for families, full of holiday fun, all while wearing your Christmas pajamas. Children must be accompanied by a paid adult. Jammies and Jingles runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the cost is $11 for members/Museums For All and $16 for nonmembers.

Jaycee’s Annual Holiday Parade – December 2

The annual Jaycee’s Annual Holiday Parade kicks off the holiday season at 10 a.m. The theme this year is March of the Toys. The parade route runs from Kingsley Jr High School to the McLean County Museum of History in downtown Bloomington. Show your holiday cheer with hysterical amazing holiday hats or light-up Christmas-themed beanies.

Ice Skating With Santa Claus – December 2, 2023

For a fun way to get some exercise head to the Bloomington Ice Center for open skating. Admission is $6 per person and skate rentals are available on-site for $2 per person.

On December 2, 2023, Santa will be making a special appearance, all while skating to the best Christmas music classics. A free cookie and hot chocolate come with each paid admission. Additional information is available on the Bloomington Ice Center website.

Music For the Holidays – December 2 and 3

Early December kicks off the Illinois State University’s College of Fine Arts winter concert season. What gets folks more excited for the holidays than enjoying the festive songs of the season? Bloomington offers a variety of choir, band, and orchestra concerts to bring on the holiday spirit. This family-friendly event features Illinois State University choruses and Symphony Orchestra performing music to celebrate the season.

Candy Cane Drop – December 9

On Saturday, December 9, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Santa will be facilitating the second annual Candy Cane Drop! Watch how he rises on a boom crane, with the help of the local forest crew as he drops candy canes for children aged 3 to 12. The drop occurs promptly at 10:15 a.m. and participants will meet with Santa upon his return to the ground. He’d love to see you in some reindeer antlers. Pre-registration is required for the event. Please call (309) 434-2260 for information.

Christmas Movie Trivia Night – December 14

Reservations are required for the Christmas Movie Trivia Night. The cost is $5 per person, with teams of up to six people. Giveaways throughout the night and prizes for winning teams. The event is located at the Hand of Fate Brewing Company in Petersburg, Illinois. This year’s theme is Christmas movies. Be sure to practice at home before playing!

A Christmas Carol – December 16

Located at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, enjoy an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the famous Broadway musical, accompanied by the MIOpera Festival Orchestra.

David Davis Mansion Children’s Christmas Events – December 15 & 16

Experience what a traditional Victorian and Edwardian Christmas was like during the Bloomington-Normal “Christmas at the Mansions” holiday events. To celebrate the season, the David Davis Mansion decks its halls with festive lights, trees, period costumes, and decorations to help guests envision what Christmas was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s. For 2023:

  • A Gilded Age Christmas – With Santa! – December 15 and 16,  5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Christmas at the Mansions Tour Ticketed Event – December 9

During the annual Christmas at the Mansions Tour, guests can appreciate the architecture and story behind each historic home. The participating mansions include the David Davis Mansion and the Ewing Manor. The event operates from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and costs $15 in advance, and $20 on the day of the event. Additional information is available here.

Celebrate the magic of the season at the David Davis Mansion.

Bloomington-Normal Best Sledding Hills – Ongoing

Make the most of the Illinois winter with one of Bloomington-Normal’s best sledding hills. Four locations make wintertime fun easy and accessible. They include:

  • Highland Golf Course, 1613 S. Main Street
  • Gregory Hill, just west of the ISU Weibring Golf Course
  • Jersey Hill at Ewing Park III, 901 Jersey Ave.
  • Clearwater Park, 2716 Clearwater Ave.

Be sure to bring a snow tube for the entire family.

Pantagraph Holiday Spectacular – December 1 – 3

Each year, The Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts offers holiday-inspired events. For 2023, the BCPA offers the Pantagraph Holiday Spectacular on December 1, 2, and 3. Times vary. Explore the BCPA events page for further details and more events.

Pam Tillis and Phil Vassar Holidays and Hits Concert – December 15

On December 15, 2023, Pam Tillis and Phil Vassar will perform at the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts. Tickets and more information are available online.

Santa’s Station – December 2 through 24

Santa’s Station is located in the heart of Uptown between Uptown Station and the Children’s Discovery Museum. Santa opens his station on Saturday, December 2, 2023, and you can visit him right up until December 24, when he departs to take care of some important business. A visit to Santa’s Station is free, but donations are encouraged. Bring your cameras because no photography services are provided.

Come see Santa at the annual Christmas Parade.

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