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Things to Do in Chicago for the Holidays

Chilly Chicago becomes a captivating Christmas city during the holiday season, and you’re sure to discover a delightful array of activities to indulge in.

Imagine yourself basking in the glow of millions of twinkling lights at the ZooLights display, or gliding gracefully on the ice at Millennium Park.

Picture perusing the Christkindlmarket, a mug of spiced mulled wine in your hand, as you search for the perfect handmade gift.

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And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with a host of other holiday happenings waiting to be explored.

Curious? Let’s uncover the magic of a Chicago holiday together.

Key Takeaways

  • The annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Millennium Park is a must-see event in Chicago during the holidays.
  • Visitors can enjoy exhilarating outdoor winter activities such as ice skating at the Ice Skating Ribbon in Maggie Daley Park or the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink at Parkway Bank Park.
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the festive Christmas markets in Chicago, including the famous Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza.
  • Experience the charm of Chicago’s winter season through unique holiday shows and performances, such as ‘Elf in Concert’ at Auditorium Theatre or ‘The Nutcracker’ by Joffrey Ballet at the Lyric Opera.

Iconic Chicago Christmas Events

holiday traditions in chicago

You absolutely shouldn’t miss the iconic Chicago Christmas events that light up the city during the holiday season.

Starting with the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Millennium Park, complete with live performances and dazzling fireworks. The sight of the magnificent Chicago Christmas tree, festooned with holiday lights, against the backdrop of the city’s skyline is truly breathtaking.

After the ceremony, you can glide on the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink while admiring the twinkling lights of Michigan Avenue.

Don’t forget to visit the Christkindlmarket, one of the city’s finest holiday markets, and the Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Gardens.

The Lincoln Park Zoo also hosts a spectacular light show.

Lastly, take a cultural trip with the Christmas Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Exhilarating Outdoor Winter Activities

thrilling winter adventures await

After soaking in the festive spirit at the city’s iconic Christmas events, it’s time to bundle up and embrace the exhilaration of outdoor winter activities that Chicago has to offer. Lace up your skates and glide over ice skating rinks at Maggie Daley Park’s Ice Skating Ribbon or the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink at Parkway Bank Park.

Venue Activity
Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon
Parkway Bank Park Chicago Wolves Ice Rink

Skate rentals are available for those who need them. During the annual holiday season, these venues transform into winter wonderlands, drawing crowds eager for a taste of Chicago’s winter charm. So, put on your gloves, tighten your scarf, and prepare to be swept away by the magic of the holiday season in Chicago.

Must-Visit Christmas Markets

european christmas market guide

Let’s dive into the vibrant world of Chicago’s must-visit Christmas markets, where you’ll find everything from an authentic German market downtown to charming holiday pop-ups scattered across the city. These annual markets are an integral part of Chicago’s holiday experience, offering a variety of festive delights.

  • Christkindlmarket: Here, at Daley Plaza, you’ll discover an authentic German Christmas market. Savor traditional treats like mulled wine and buy unique gifts and crafts.
  • Charming Markets: Around the city, especially on Magnificent Mile and near Macys on State Street, you’ll find delightful pop-ups. Find local artisan crafts at the Renegade Craft Fair and experience cultural richness at the Kwanzaa Market at Africa International House.

These markets truly encapsulate the spirit of the Christmas season in Chicago.

Festive Chicago Dining Experiences

vibrant culinary delights in chicago

Having soaked in the festive spirit at Chicago’s vibrant Christmas markets, it’s time to whet your appetite with the city’s unique holiday dining experiences. It wouldn’t be the holidays in Chicago without indulging in traditional dishes and festive cocktails at beloved Chicago establishments in the heart of downtown.

Holiday Show Chicago Tradition Favorite Holiday Treats
Themed Bars Fondue Nights Gourmet Hot Chocolate
Rooftop Igloos Holiday-Themed Dining Pop-ups Traditional Holiday Dishes
Seasonal Menus Winter-Themed Culinary Events Festive Cocktails

These experiences offer a chance to taste the city’s favorite holiday flavors, from gourmet hot chocolate to seasonal menus featuring creative twists on classic dishes. So, embrace the holiday cheer, bask in the festive light, and create unforgettable memories with these festive Chicago dining experiences.

Unique Holiday Shows and Performances

innovative holiday entertainment experiences

Chicago’s holiday season isn’t complete without the unique shows and performances that light up the city’s cultural scene. From the whimsy of ‘Elf in Concert’ at Auditorium Theatre to the cultural richness of ‘Irish Christmas in America’ at Old Town School of Folk Music.

Indulge in classic holiday performances like:

  • The Nutcracker by Joffrey Ballet, a must-see at the Lyric Opera.
  • Charles Dickens classic, ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the American Blues Theater.

Don’t miss live musicals such as:

  • ‘Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ for a heartwarming tale.
  • ‘Wonderful Life: Live’ for a nostalgic trip back in time.

These live performances are sure to leave you in a festive mood and make your holiday season in Chicago truly magical.


So, don’t just dream of a white Christmas, make it a reality in Chicago!

With a cornucopia of holiday events, twinkling cityscapes, unique shopping experiences, and delectable dining, you’ll find the city’s winter wonderland truly enchanting.

From ice skating under the stars to witnessing the magic of the season at the city’s museums, Chicago offers a platter of joy and celebration.

Come, embrace the holiday spirit in the heartbeat of Illinois.

It’s your turn to make some unforgettable holiday memories.

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