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Chicago's Navy Pier is currently adorned with festive decor and fun attractions associated with the holiday season.

Winter WonderFest has descended on Navy Pier and runs through Jan. 7. The attraction, sponsored by Fifth Third Band, features rides, concessions, skating opportunities, crafts and much more in a setting that's colorfully decorated for the holiday season.

"People will see a lot of favorite attractions returning this year," said Payal Patel, spokeswoman for Navy Pier. Patel said the fest, held at the Pier's Festival Hall, is now in its 17th year.

Among popular attractions returning this year, Patel said, are the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Skating Rink and the Polar Ice Peaks Climbing Wall.

Rides, inflatable jumping houses and other interactive attractions, all with the holiday theme, are scattered throughout the Fest grounds. One of the new ride attractions is Dasher's Crashers Bumper Cars, which is geared to all ages.

Various thrill rides, including the Cliff Hanger and Tilt-A-Whirl, also star at the indoor fest.

"There's really something for everyone," Patel said, adding guests also will find the Cookie Cottage on the premises, where they can decorate Christmas cookies with colorful frostings and edible glitter. Visitors also will experience the Polar Extreme Obstacle Course, ride the Arctic Express train through Winter WonderTown or enjoy a ride down assorted slides.

"Various concessions will be available (for purchase) throughout Winter WonderFest," Patel said.

As an extra treat, with every ticket purchased for the event, guests will get a Centennial Wheel ride ticket included. The Centennial Wheel is Navy Pier's resident outdoor Ferris Wheel, which has enclosed gondolas. The tickets for the Centennial Wheel will be honored through March.

Patel said during the past 17 years, guests have visited Winter WonderFest from throughout Chicagoland, the Midwest and many other states and countries. Patel said there have been many repeat visitors to the Pier for the event.

"Year after year, we hope families find that this is a place to spend the holidays and create memories," she said. Patel added that Navy Pier personnel hope guests will feel like they've been overtaken by the holiday spirit in the festive atmosphere.

Each year, Winter WonderFest is planned months in advance but the actual attraction is put together on the premises in Festival Hall about 10 days before the event begins.

The event, which features 170,000 square feet of entertainment, stars a 42-foot tree as a focal point and about 500 trees with a total of 25,000 ornaments.

Among other entertainment at the fest, people will see aerial artists perform on select days. Visit for more information on entertainment, hours and more details.


Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.