I think that Christmas and the holiday season is one of the best times of the year to visit Chicago. Many festive events and activities take place in Chicago during the holiday season in November, December and early January, from tree lightings, holiday lights, holiday shopping, christmas markets and more. If you are thinking of visiting Chicago for the holidays, here are the best things to do in Chicago at Christmas that are guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit!
Things to Do in Chicago During Christmas
Below are the best things to do in Chicago during the Christmas holiday season. I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly with any new information or updates.
- Things to Do in Chicago During Christmas
- Visit an Outdoor German-Style Christmas Market
- Take a Holiday Tour
- Listen to Holiday Inspired Music at a Candlelight Concert
- See the City of Chicago Christmas Tree
- ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
- Go Outdoor Ice Skating
- Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
- Dine at the Walnut Room
- Winterland at Gallagher Way
- Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart
- Ride the CTA Holiday Train and Bus
- Go Holiday Shopping (or Window Shopping)
- Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously “Caroling at Cloud Gate”)
- Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle
- See a Christmas Show
- Drink Glogg at Simon’s Tavern
- Drink at a Christmas Themed Pop-Up Bar
- Walk the Illuminated Light Trail at Lightscape
- Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
- Chicago Christmas and Holiday Events
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Visit an Outdoor German-Style Christmas Market
Christkindlmarket is an authentic German-style outdoor market. Visitors can shop for Christmas ornaments and products from around the world and try various German food and drinks such as roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst, and hot spiced wine. You can purchase a limited edition souvenir mug to remember your trip.
Christkindlmarket will be in two locations in the city of Chicago in 2022: Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville. (They will also be opening a new location in Aurora, Illinois.)
Where: 50 W Washington Street and 3635 N Clark St
When: November 18 – December 24, 2022 (Daley Plaza) & November 18 – December 31, 2022 (Gallagher Way)
Hours: Hours vary see the website for more details
Cost: Admission is FREE.
Take a Holiday Tour
Listen to Holiday Inspired Music at a Candlelight Concert
Looking for a unique holiday activity? Chicago’s Candlelight Concerts is a series of special classical music concerts that take place in beautiful venues bathed in candlelight. These concerts taking place in December will feature holiday inspired music:
You can find the full list of candlelight concerts in Chicago here.
See the City of Chicago Christmas Tree
The 109th Annual City of Chicago Christmas Tree at Millennium Park is an annual tradition and a great spot to take photos for your holiday cards.
When: November 18, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Where: Millennium Park near the intersection of Michigan Avenue & Washington Street.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ at Lincoln Park Zoo is a cheerful, family-friendly holiday event in the heart of the city. Zoolights features hundreds of luminous LED displays and seasonal experiences, all under the glow of millions of lights. All dates require a timed reservation. Tickets will be available starting mid-October.
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2400 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL
When: 4:30–10 pm on select dates from November 19, 2022–January 1, 2023.
Cost: Mondays are free. Tuesday-Sunday tickets are $5.
Go Outdoor Ice Skating
One of the best and picture perfect spots to go ice skating in Chicago is McCormick Tribune Ice Rink right in front of the Bean which opens November 18, 2022. Admission is free, but online reservations are required.
Another another option is the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park which has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink. Advance reservations are recommended.
Here is a list of the best outdoor ice skating rinks in Chicago with hours, prices and other information.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
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The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry annual celebration began in 1942 and features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 40 trees and displays which represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe.
When: November 16, 2022 – January 4, 2023
Where: Museum of Science and Industry at 5700 S Lake Shore Drive.
Cost: Included in regular museum admission. Here is a link to the official website for prices, times and more information.
Dine at the Walnut Room
Dining at the Walnut Room is a Chicago holiday tradition. Located on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street (formerly Marshall Fields), the Walnut Room was the first restaurant ever opened in a department store. During the holiday season diners can enjoy the view of the Macy’s “Great Tree” in the middle of the restaurant while feasting on holiday classic dishes such as Mrs. Hering’s 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie. Holiday reservations are now open.
Where: 7th floor at Macy’s State Street at 111 N. State Street, Chicago, IL
When: The Great Tree will be lit from November 5, 2022 – January 8, 2023
Winterland at Gallagher Way
Winterland at Gallagher Way is back and will be bigger than ever. In addition to the Gallagher Ice Rink (now inside the ballpark) and Santa’s Workshop, there will be new family-friendly experiences inside iconic Wrigley Field. Gallagher Way is also the site for the Wrigleyville location of Christkindlmarket until December 31. Additional details will be announced soon.
When: November 18, 2022 through January 8, 2023.
Where: Gallagher Way, 3635 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613
Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart
Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART. Their winter program features Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” After School Matters’ “Shaping the Future” and Ouchhh Studios’ “Harmonic AI.”
When: 30-minute program of projections are shown twice nightly
Where: The Merchandise Mart, 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654. Spectators can watch the show from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street.
Ride the CTA Holiday Train and Bus
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Unlike last year, this year riders are allowed again aboard both the Allstate CTA Holiday Train and the popular Allstate CTA Holiday Bus.
The CTA Holiday Train is a holiday tradition unique to Chicago. As the train pulls into each station, Santa waves to riders from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees. Each car of the train is wrapped with holiday and seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars. (The video above is from one of my favorite Chicago photo spots.)
The CTA Holiday Bus is 60-foot bus turned into a winter wonderland with holiday music playing and Santa waving and from the roof-hatch of the bus. The exterior of the bus features Chicago’s skyline one snowy evening with “Ralphie the Reindeer” leading the way, his nose aglow and Santa’s sleigh in tow. Festive strings of lights outline the bus and its windows, along with sparkling snowflakes that light-up at night.
When: The CTA Holiday Train will run from November 26 (Friday after Thanksgiving) through December 22 and CTA Holiday Bus will run from November 30 through December 23. See transitchicago.com/holidayfleet for full details on dates, times and routes. (Unlike past years, the CTA did not release an exact schedule for the holiday train but you can see where the train is on the CTA Train Tracker here so you can track its progress.)
Cost: Regular CTA fare. See transitchicago.com for prices. You can see the bus pass by for free from the street.
Go Holiday Shopping (or Window Shopping)
Chicago is a great city for shopping with every type of store you can imagine. Many shopping centers and departments stores have holiday decorations and attractions to put you in a festive mood. Make sure not to miss Macy’s State Street (formerly Marshall Fields) – the building is a National Historic Landmark and it is known for its holiday window displays.
The major shopping areas in downtown Chicago include State Street (where you can find Macy’s, Target and many smaller stores) and The Magnificent Mile (where you can find three shopping centers, luxury designers and labels, several departments stores and popular brands).
If you are looking for unique and/or handmade items, check out these holiday markets: Randolph Street’s Holiday Market (November 12-13, 2022), Millennium Park Art Market (November 18-20, 2022), Chicago Artisan Market (November 26-27, 2022), Sauced The Night Market Before Xmas (December 1-2, 2022), One of a Kind Show (December 1-4, 2022), Randolph Street Holiday Market (December 17-18, 2022), and Renegade Craft Fair (December 17-18, 2022).
Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously “Caroling at Cloud Gate”)
The new Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously “Caroling at Cloud Gate”) will be back for four Fridays during this holiday season. Chicagoans will be able to join their voices with community singers and choruses from around the city.
Where: Cloud Gate at Millennium Park
When: November 25, December 2, 9 & 16, 2022
Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle
The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle is the ultimate holiday experience for the entire family! Experience the timeless holiday tale like never before – brought to life on a majestic scale. Presale tickets are now on sale.
When: November 19 -December 31, 2022
Where: Lighthouse ArtSpace at Germania Place, 108 W. Germania Pl, Chicago
Cost: You can see full prices and purchase tickets in advance here.
See a Christmas Show
Get in the holiday spirit with a Christmas show. There are many holiday shows you can see in Chicago this year, including:
- Joffrey Ballet -The Nutcracker
- Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
- Cirque Dreams: Holidaze
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
- NUTCRACKER! Magic of Christmas Ballet
This is a great list of all the holiday shows in Chicago.
Drink Glogg at Simon’s Tavern
Drinking the signature glögg (mulled wine) at Simon’s Tavern is a holiday tradition for Chicagoans.
The long standing neighborhood dive bar in Andersonville is packed every year during the holiday season.
Where: Simon’s Tavern, 5210 N Clark St, Chicago, IL
Drink at a Christmas Themed Pop-Up Bar
Chicago has several holiday pop-up bars that open just for the holiday season. These bars offer holiday decorations, themed cocktails and snacks and more festive touches. Advance reservations are recommended as they tend to be very popular. Some of the best holiday themed bars include:
Frosty’s Bar (809 W Evergreen Ave)
Santa Baby Bar (3505 N Clark Street)
Rudolph’s Pop-Up Bar (3660 N Clark Street)
Elfd’d Up (Stretch Bar & Grill, 3485 N. Clark Street)
Reindeer Room (1807 S Allport St)
8 Crazy Nights Chicago (3441 N Sheffield Ave)- Chicago’s first Hanukkah pop-up
Walk the Illuminated Light Trail at Lightscape
Lightscape is an after-dark, illuminated trail with thousands of twinkling lights at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Ok so this is technically not in Chicago but it is in the suburbs only a 30 minute drive from downtown. Timed entry tickets are now on sale. Book early – tickets have sold out the last few years!
When: November 11, 2022 – January 8, 2023 (select dates).
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022 (24 miles north of downtown Chicago)
Cost: Price varies depending on date. Tickets for adults start at $30 and tickets for kids 3-12 start at $14. Children 2 and under are free. See https://www.chicagobotanic.org/lightscape for prices and to purchase tickets in advance.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum is a one-of-a-kind, interactive spectacle of color, light, and sound that has been delighting audiences since 2013. Be surrounded by color as you walk a one-mile paved path amid interactive lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter. Timed entry tickets are now on sale. Tickets are limited and advance purchase is strongly recommended as popular dates and times sell out quickly.
When: November 19, 2022–January 7, 2023 (select days)
Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL 60532 (28 miles west of downtown Chicago)
Cost: Tickets range between $7-$19 for members, $13-$24 for guests. See their website for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.
Chicago Christmas and Holiday Events
City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
The City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on November 18, 2022. More details will be available soon.
When: Friday, November 18, 2022 at 6pm.
Where: Millennium Park, Near Washington St. & Michigan Ave
Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
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The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, will celebrate 31 years with a live parade (the largest nighttime parade in the US) when one million lights are illuminated on the trees along The Magnificent Mile.
When: Saturday, November 19, 2022.
Where: The parade is on North Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to Wacker Drive.
More Chicago Holiday Events 2022
In addition to the events mentioned above, other festive holiday themed events and activities include: Chicagoland Toys For Tots Motorcycle Parade (December 4, 2022), TBOX (Twelve Bars of Christmas) Bar Crawl (December 10, 2022), Adults Night Out: Holidaze (December 15, 2022), and Zoo Year’s Eve (December 31, 2022).
As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago during Christmas and the holiday season.
Planning a trip to Chicago? Check out my Chicago guides and itineraries:
- 3 Days in Chicago Itinerary + Travel Tips From a Local
- The Perfect Itinerary for One Day in Chicago (According to a Local)
- Most Instagrammable Places in Chicago
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