The holiday season in Chicago is made of memories, from annual traditions to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
From watching a light show to sipping hot chocolate after an afternoon of ice skating, there’s something for everyone.
We’ve rounded up some of the highlights from the season; for more information, just click on the links provided.
Dates vary: Millennium Park, Loop
Millennium Park will be a hub of activity this holiday season:
– Check out Chicago’s official Christmas tree, a 55-foot blue spruce, until January 9
– On Friday evenings, join the chants, from November 25 to December 25. 16.
– Ice skating is open, weather permitting, until March 5, at both Millennium Park and the nearby Maggie Daley Park Ribbon.
While downtown, head to the Art Institute for a photo op with the museum’s famous ornate lions and admire the holiday window display of Macy’s State Street store.
Until December 20: CTA Holiday Train
Santa Claus, his reindeer and his elves will travel through Chicago on a decorated train, stopping at stations between November 25 and December 20. The train should take the green line first, followed by the orange and brown lines, then the red and purple lines, the pink line, the blue line and finally the yellow line.
Its companion, the CTA Holiday Bus, will appear on a variety of routes between November 29 and December 23.
9 Dec to 24 Dec.: Christmas Sing-a-Long Music Box, Lakeview
For nearly 40 years, the Music Box Theater has presented holiday classics “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas” with a twist. Before the curtain rises, the house organist guides moviegoers through a catalog of treasured Christmas carols. Fa-la-la-la-la.
Until December 24: Christkindlmarket, Daley Plaza and Aurora
Through December 31st : Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville, Lake View
Inspired by Germany’s traditional outdoor holiday markets, Christkindlmarket offers a taste of Europe in the Midwest. The Aurora location is new this year. In Wrigleyville, visitors can travel to the adjacent Winterland (with ticket) at Wrigley Field.
Until December 25: ChiTown Movies Holiday Favorites, Pilsen
Load up the car and head to the ChiTown Movies drive-in to see ‘Home Alone’, ‘Elf’, ‘Christmas Vacation’ and more on the big screen. If ChiTown’s lineup is any indication, yes, Virginia, “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.
Until December 31: Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield
The zoo’s miles of lights and illuminated animal sculptures have delighted visitors for over 40 years. Additional features include an ice rink.
Until December 29: Kohlights at the Kohl Children’s Museum, Glenview
Dubbed “mesmertastic,” the museum’s interactive display of light and color is a kid’s vacation paradise. Displays include Lollipop Light Lane and the 360 degree beam field.
The Nutcracker 2021 from Art on theMART on Vimeo.
Until December 30: Nutcracker, Art on the Mart, Merchandise Mart
Watch scenes from Joffrey Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” projected onto the massive canvas at the Merchandise Mart.
Through January 1, 2023: Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park
Enjoy a dazzling light show in the heart of Chicago. The festivities also include ice carvings, photos with Santa Claus and traveling singers. New this year are a Chicago skyline exhibit and a 165-foot-long Grand Light tunnel. Admission is free on Mondays.
Until January 1, 2023: Let It Shine light show
No need to worry about finding parking at Let It Shine – the show is a drive-thru. There are two locations – one in Northbrook and one in Schaumburg – although the layout of each is distinct from the other.
Until January 1, 2023: Sparkle Light Festival at Impact Field, Rosemont
The Sparkle experience includes light-up villages, a kids’ zone, a double-decker slide, and free rides on the Holly Trolly.
Through January 7, 2023: Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum, Lisle
Stroll along a mile-long path of trees lit up to show off their wintry beauty, accompanied by the sound of festive music. New this year is Electric Illumination, a late night experience for adults 18+, set to trance and progressive house music, with synchronized light shows (December 16, 23 and 30 only) .
Until January 7, 2023: Light up the lake at Navy Pier
Navy Pier does Christmas lights like no other – indoors. Highlights of the experience include a forest maze of over 100 lighted trees, an ice skating rink, and a train ride through Santa’s Village for youngsters.
Through January 8, 2023: Bright landscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe
The 1.25-mile illuminated trail leads visitors through enchanting light installations, including a fire garden and perennial fan favorite, the Winter Cathedral.
Until January 8, 2023: Amaze Light Festival at Odyssey Fun World, Tinley Park
The Amaze Experience includes a million twinkling lights, a holiday market, food trucks, music, a stage show and more.
Until January 8, 2023: Christmas Around the World, Museum of Science and Industry, Hyde Park
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the museum’s beloved tradition, which began with a single tree in 1942 and now has 50 trees, decorated to represent the holiday traditions of countries and cultures around the world.
Until January 8, 2023: Winter Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory, Garfield Park
This year’s theme is “Snow Day! with flowers arranged to create the illusion of a snowy garden. The centerpiece will be a 12-foot-tall tree made up of over 200 white poinsettias.
Opportunities to shop locally and support local artists and creators:
State Street Market, Loop, Nov. 18-Dec. 18.
Chicago Craft Market, Ravenswood, November 26-27.
One-of-a-kind Merchandise Mart, December 1-4.
Winter Market, Andersonville, December 2-4.
Winterglow Holiday Market & Beer Garden at the Salt Shed, Goose Island, Dec. 2-4; December 9-11.
Holiday Uprising Market, Beverly Arts Center, December 3.
Chicago Art Department Holiday Market, Pilsen, December 9.
Dank House Christmas Fair, Lincoln Square, December 2019 10
Chicago Art Girls Holiday Pop-up, North Center, December 10-11.
Chicago Craft Market, Fulton Market, December 11.
Holiday Market at The Plant, Back of the Yards, on December 11.
Renegade Craft Fair, West Loop, December 17-18.
Randolph Street Holiday Market, West Loop, December 17-18.
Events listed are subject to change. We recommend double-checking times and locations before heading out the door.
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