Sensory-Friendly Holiday Happenings in Illinois
Fun, inclusive events the whole family can enjoy throughout Illinois!
How will you make memories this holiday season?
There are light displays, sensitive Santa opportunities, parades and more going on throughout Illinois.
Our Special Events page includes a roundup of opportunities designed specifically for youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs.
You can also browse this collection of special programs and event guides for opportunities to create some holiday magic and plenty of smiles:
- Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs will provide sensory-friendly Santa experiences in Illinois and the St. Louis area on Dec. 3. These visits are free. Keepsake photo packages will be available for purchase. You must sign up to attend. Visit the Santa Cares website for a complete list of Santa’s stops. Be sure to select “Santa Cares”, “Caring Santa” or “Sensitive Santa” when checking your location. (Note some event dates and times may vary. Please check your location to confirm your date and time.)
- The National Federation of the Blind is offering letters from Santa and winter celebration letters in Braille to children who are blind or have low vision. The program is for children ages 10 and younger. Please complete the letter request form before Dec. 15. If you have any questions, call (410) 659-9314, ext. 2236, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Secret Sleigh Project is coordinating volunteers to provide in-home Santa visits to children who are medically fragile. Use the “Request a Santa Visit” form on the project’s website to request a visit.
- For families in the southern Illinois area, SI Families’ event calendar provides a great list of fun, seasonal activities. Other events in the area include Sensitive Santa at Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion, the Carbondale Lights Fantastic Parade, and the DuQuoin Holiday Lights Fair.
- For options in central Illinois, check out these lists from ChambanaMoms.com and Springfieldmoms.org. Great places to see lights include Chatham Lights up the Park, Festival of Lights in East Peoria, and Mattoon Lightworks.
- For Chicagoland residents, WTTW Public Television, Chicago Parent Magazine and Kidlist have some great suggestions for things to do and see. Want to catch a show? Chicago Children’s Theatre features accessible weekends for children and their families.
- Don’t forget to check with your local zoos! The St. Louis Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo will offer a sensory-friendly viewing option. Contact your local zoo to see what’s happening and when.
We will continue to add holiday events and activities, so please check our Special Events page often throughout the season.
If you know of a good sensory-friendly event to share, please email us at email@example.com.
Please note, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) is not involved in organizing or scheduling these holiday events. If you have questions about a specific event, please contact the event sponsor or organizer.