From spring to summer, fall to winter, there’s always something fun happening in Peoria—it’s the city that keeps on giving! So, don’t let the dropping temperature keep you from exploring all the exciting events taking place this winter. Instead, capitalize on the gifts of the season with these top things to do in and around the Peoria area. Whether it’s indoor, outdoor, everyday or holiday activities, Peoria offers many opportunities to play.
On select weekends from mid-October through the first week of April, Carver Arena in the Peoria Civic Center transforms into an ice rink to host home games for the Peoria Rivermen, a Southern Professional Hockey League team. Single-game tickets can be snagged for as low as $11, so include dinner at one of Peoria’s delicious downtown eateries and make it a date night.
There’s nothing like lacing up a pair of skates and gliding along the glassy ice to warm up your wintry state of mind. PNC Winterfest Ice Rink, at the corner of Fulton Street and Jefferson Avenue near Peoria Civic Center, is the place to skate and practice your pirouettes, from Nov. 24 through Jan. 14. Slide down its 100-foot long Ice Slide for a real thrill, or relax and watch the fun as you sip hot cocoa inside the heated tent. And if you’re tired of the typical New Year’s Eve celebration, ring in the new year at Winterfest’s New Year’s Eve Countdown, which includes live music from Dexter O’Neal and the Funk Yard, fireworks, a children’s ball-drop at 7 p.m. and a midnight ball-drop countdown.
Book an interactive session at Downtown Peoria’s Gone in 60 Escape Games, where you can shed your Santa suit and play Sherlock Holmes. As seconds tick away, you’ll work with others—or against, depending on your level of competition—to find clues, solve puzzles, crack codes and unravel hidden mysteries in an effort to escape your crucible or save the world from destruction.
Bradley University brought collegiate basketball to Peoria in 1902 with the Bradley Braves. The men’s team will tip off its 16 home game season Nov. 1 at Peoria Civic Center’s Carver Arena. Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team, who was recently predicted to finish its highest ranking in five years in the Missouri Valley Conference pre-season poll, shoot hoops at Renaissance Coliseum on the university campus located in the West Bluff Historic District near downtown. So, dress in the team’s colors—red, white and black—and put some cheer in to your holiday spirit.
Put your Santa suit on Dec. 9 for the Santa Cause 5K outside the Limelight Eventplex in Peoria. Whether you walk, jog or run, you’ll be ho-ho-hoofing it like Santa because the only requirement for this footrace is that you dress like jolly St. Nick. But don’t stress; a five-piece Santa suit comes with your registration. No holiday hustle would be complete without Santa’s fleet of reindeer. With glowing Rudolph noses and fuzzy antlers, the little ones can participate in the 1-mile Reindeer Run. All participants from both races receive a commemorative ornament, and proceeds benefit Neighborhood House, whose mission is to alleviate poverty through programs that provide critical short-term relief while facilitating long-term recovery.
Situated along the shores of Lake Peoria in East Peoria, Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino offers plenty of adult fun and entertainment whether you’re a serious player or a curious bystander. Choose from more than 1,000 jingling slot machines and 24 game tables featuring Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Roulette, Craps, Let It Ride and Three-Card Poker. You can also enjoy multiple dining options, shopping, dancing and live music on the weekends at the casino.
On Nov. 18, the City of East Peoria kicks off its 33rd annual Festival of Lights celebration with the Parade of Lights. But if you can’t make the parade, see the twinkling floats and more at Folepi’s Winter Wonderland drive-through, from Nov. 23 through Dec. 31. The mascot, Folepi, gets his moniker from an acronym of the event title combined with the city’s name, Festival of Lights East Peoria Illinois. Among the many glowing installations, you can see the Star Trek Enterprise, the Bat Mobile and a 160-foot steam locomotive illuminated with 65,000 lights. Enter on Par 3 Lane off Springfield Road, and set the mood for this signature holiday experience by tuning your radio to 107.3FM for the perfect holiday music.
Also, be sure to navigate through the free Narrated Nativity drive at Taylor Street and Springfield Road and stroll Folepi’s Enchanted Forest (also free) in East Peoria’s Levee District, which culminates with a 35-foot Christmas tree. You can also visit Santa on select dates inside the Civic Plaza building near the forest entrance. Other festive events that enhance the excitement of the season include the Festival of Lights Queen Pageant, an ornament hunt, FOLEPI River Trail Classic competitive run/walk, Holiday River Cruises, stage productions of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Nutcracker,” Folepi's Gifts Galore Shop and Stroll and the New Year’s Eve Get Lit Fun Run.
Outside, the lawn may be covered in white, but the grass is always green in North Peoria’s The Yard. With 57,000 square feet of indoor turf, The Yard is the place to keep your summer sports skills from getting rusty. Batting and pitching cages, baseball, softball, soccer fields and weight training are only some of the fun you can have. Gather your family and friends and make a new holiday tradition of burning off calories from holiday dinners with a lively field game. Birthday parties, family reunions and corporate events can all be scheduled any day of the year here, too.
The holidays can be full of awe and wonder, but it’s no surprise that the town that appreciates outdoor parks also treats the Christmas season with the same passion. Less than a half hour’s drive from Peoria along the banks of the Illinois River, downtown Pekin lights up with Christmas on Court. The celebration happens Dec. 1 with a tree-lighting ceremony and a visit from Santa Claus, horse-drawn carriage rides, strolling carolers and other live performances, fun giveaways, tasty treats, shopping and more. Most activities continue through the holiday season, so slow down with a stroll along historic Court Street to get in the Christmas spirit.