12 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Chicago

The holidays in Chicago are a special time of the year. There are places to go, people to see, and so many things to do! The truth is, there are so many things to do that it can become overwhelming. So the real question is ‘What are the best things to do’? Never fear, that’s where we step in. We have you covered when it comes to finding the best things to do to celebrate the holidays. The only thing you have to do is pick and choose what you want to do on the list and enjoy yourself during the most wonderful time of the year.

Christkindlmarket

Christkindlmarket Entrance

The Christkindlmarket has quickly become a holiday tradition in Chicago. Going on its 24th year, it has expanded from the original location in Daley Plaza to include a second one in Wrigleyville. It is an outdoor, holiday market that is based on German and European traditions. You can get amazing food like stuffed pretzels, German potato pancakes, Strudel, and spiced wine that is to die for! In addition to the food, they have vendors that sell some of the most intricate handmade gifts you’ve ever seen. Glass ornaments, one-of-a-kind decorations, and even wooden trinkets that will look great around the house or under the tree. You can come out to have fun and get your Christmas shopping done. Christkindlmarket is open every day until December 24th. Don’t miss out!

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/christkindlmarket/2019-12-24/

LightScape

Cathedral of Light

Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Gardens is more than just a light show; it’s a Christmas light world. The Botanic Garden grounds transform into a magical place. It is one of the premier light displays in the Chicago area and a must see. There is something for everyone here, from the Singing Trees to the Cathedral of Light. Bring the family and enjoy walking the grounds, roasting marshmallows over an open fire, sipping hot chocolate, and even enjoying a drink or two.

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/lightscape/2020-01-05/

Christmas Tree Lighting on Millennium Park

Christmas Tree in Millennium Park

The official Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting takes place in Millennium Park. The beautiful 55-foot Blue Spruce tree will be displayed next to Cloud Gate. Come out and witness one of the most grand tree lighting ceremonies in the country. There will even be a short fireworks show once the tree is lit up to add some extra flair to the event! The good news is that it is going on during the Magnificent Lights Festival, so you can take a short walk down Michigan Avenue and enjoy both events during the same night.

https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/tree0.html

Christmas around the World at MSI

Christmas Around the World

The Museum of Science and Industry is celebrating Christmas in more than one way. Christmas around the World is an exhibit that displays Christmas Trees decorated in styles from different countries around the world. Come out and see how they do things in Ethiopia, France, Japan, and more! Christmas is not just an American holiday; it’s a cultural phenomenon that brings all of us closer together. The exhibit is open during regular museum hours and runs until January 5th.

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/christmas-around-the-world-at-msi/2020-01-05/

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

Ice skating is one of those winter activities that just feels like Christmas. Maybe it’s the old Coca-cola commercials of the ice skating Polar Bears, or maybe it’s something else. One thing I know for sure is that it gets you in the holiday spirit. Come out to Millennium Park and enjoy ice skating under the Bean.

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/ice-skating-at-millennium-park/2020-03-08/

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is a two-day festival of fun, food, games! The street is closed down for two entire days and family-fun is priority number 1. At the end of it all there is a parade featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse that culminates in a tree lighting ceremony.

https://www.themagnificentmile.com/lights-festival/

Touring Macy’s on State St

Macy’s has a long-standing tradition of going big during the Christmas season. All the windows along State St feature different Christmas scenes that range from Santa and his reindeer to Christmas trees on display. However, the Walnut Room is the real treat. Standing tall, in the center of the room, will be a beautiful 45-foot tree. You’ll have a chance to just view the tree and all the intricate ornaments or get an up close look while enjoying a meal in the restaurant.

https://www.visitmacysusa.com/restaurant/walnut-room

Illumination at Morton Arboretum

See the Morton Arboretum like you’ve never seen it before. Illumination: Tree Lights is a one-mile display of amazing colors and sounds that will transport you to a different place. The highlight of the event, Tree Fascination, is a beautiful digital projection of light and color on Eastern white and Scots pine trees. Sip on hot chocolate and roast marshmallows over an open fire while being awed by the captivating light show. This year’s event has been expanded and will be bigger and better than ever. Illumination runs daily until January 5th.

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/illumination-at-morton-arboretum/2020-01-05/

Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier is the epicenter of family fun. Kids love it, and parents do to. There are so many attractions and so much to do you will probably have to go twice if you want to get it all in. There are games, rides, ice skating and more. You can take a trip on the Artic Express Train Ride, plunge down the inflatable slide, and even watch an aerial gymnastic performance. Ride the bumper cars, drink some hot chocolate…even climb and ice wall. When you’re here the fun never ends! Skating is free and ice skates rentals are available. Winter Wonderfest is open until January 5th. Don’t miss out!

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/winter-wonderfest-at-navy-pier/2020-01-05/

Christmas Caroling at Cloud Gate

Can you even have Christmas without Caroling? It’s one of those traditions that has been around longer than anyone can remember. The days of a group of carolers traveling through the neighborhood to spread the holiday cheer have pretty much passed, but the tradition has evolved. Come out to Cloud Gate and listen to Christmas caroling from some of the Chicago’s most entertaining choirs. The singing isn’t just for the pros, you can join in too. Singling along isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged!

https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/caroling_at_cloudgate.html

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

After hours, during the holiday season, the Lincoln Park Zoo is transformed into ZooLights. Over 1 million lights are set up around the Zoo in one of the most impressive visual displays you’ve ever seen. Come out and experience the Zoo in a way you’ve never seen it before. There will be hundreds of displays centered on family-fun. ZooLights is back for an unprecedented 25th year, so you know they have to be doing something right.

https://chicagowiki.org/things-to-do/zoolights-at-lincoln-park-zoo/2020-01-05/

Breakfast with Santa at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo will be hosting Breakfast with Santa this year, and you don’t want your little one to miss out on that. Enjoy a good meal, some quality time with Old St. Nick, and even a little cookie decorating afterwards.

https://www.lpzoo.org/breakfast-santa