Sensory-Friendly Holiday Events Happening Across Illinois

November 22nd, 2022

Santa gives a stack of gifts from DSCC staff to an eager Club Compass student.

Events feature sensitive Santa, holiday lights, craft activities and more!

Are you looking for sensory-friendly events that the whole family can enjoy this holiday season?

There are a number of sensitive Santa opportunities, festivals and other holiday activities going on across Illinois.

Our Special Events page includes a roundup of opportunities designed specifically for youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs.

Here’s a look at some of the special programs available and other event guides for parts of the state:

  • The Secret Sleigh Project coordinates volunteers to provide in-home Santa visits to children who are medically fragile nationwide. See our Secret Sleigh event listing for more details on how to request a visit.
  • 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 10 years old and younger. Please complete the letter request form by Dec. 17. Letters are available in English or Spanish. If you have any questions, call (410) 659-9314, ext. 2236, or email
  • The Santa Cares program from Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs provides sensory-friendly Santa experiences in Illinois and the St. Louis area on Dec. 4. These visits are free. Keepsake photo packages will be available for purchase. Reservations are required. 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 may vary. Please check your location to confirm your date and time.)

Be sure to check our Special Events page often as we add more holiday activities to the list. If you know of a good sensory-friendly event to share, please email us at

Happy Holidays!

Please note, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) is not involved in the organizing or scheduling of these holiday events. If you have questions about a specific event, please contact the event sponsor or organizer.

Santa Making Sensory-Friendly Stops Statewide

November 23rd, 2021

Santa with his bag and blowing magic snow out of his hand

Free Santa visits for children with autism and other special needs

Are you ready for some Santa magic?

Autism Speaks has partnered with Cherry Hill Programs to provide sensory-friendly Santa experiences nationwide.

In Illinois, Santa will be spreading joy and holiday cheer on Dec. 5 and 12.

Join Santa in a calmer, more subdued environment. He is planning stops in communities that include:

  • Aurora
  • Champaign
  • Chicago
  • Gurnee
  • Moline
  • Northbrook
  • Orland Park
  • Peoria
  • Rockford
  • Rosemont
  • Schaumburg
  • Springfield
  • Vernon Hills

These sensory-friendly Santa experiences are free. Keepsake photo packages are available to buy.

You can reserve your spot for the Santa experience online. (The organizers strongly encourage reservations.)

For more upcoming holiday events for children with special healthcare needs in Illinois, be sure to check our Special Events page often.