BEST Things do in Chicago for Thanksgiving Weekend (Other Than Eat Turkey!)

Spending Thanksgiving in Chicago and looking for things to do other than eating turkey? You are in luck because Thanksgiving is a great time to visit Chicago.  There are tons of things to do in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day and even more during Thanksgiving weekend.  If you visiting Chicago during Thanksgiving, here are the best things to do that are guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit!

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly.

Things to Do in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade is a family friendly annual parade that features huge helium-filled balloons, floats, marching bands, dance & equestrian groups, local sports teams and more. 

Where: State Street from Ida B. Wells Dr. to Randolph. (Parade starts on the corner of State Street and Ida B. Wells Dr., and travels north on State Street to Randolph.)

When: Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 2021) from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Central time

Cost:  Free.

See the City of Chicago Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree at Millennium Park in Chicago

The City of Chicago puts up a large Christmas tree annually at Millennium Park.  While you are here visit Cloud Gate (also called The Bean). This bucket list attraction is one of the most instagrammable spots in Chicago.

Where: Millennium Park (near the intersection of Michigan Avenue & Washington Street).

When: Millennium Park is open daily from 8am to 9pm.

Cost:  Free.

Go Ice Skating Near the Bean

Ice Skating in Chicago is a fun thing to do in Chicago during Thanksgiving Day

There are several places to go ice skating in Chicago for Thanksgiving. One of the best and picture perfect spots to go ice skating is at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.) right in front of the famous Bean sculpture.  Admission is free, but online reservations will be required. Reservation, skate rental and other details will be announced soon.

outdoor ice skating Maggie Daley Park Chicago

Another ice skating rink with great skyline views is the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park (337 E Randolph St.) located next to Millennium Park. The skating ribbon has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.  Reservations are strongly encouraged and will be released at noon on November 8, 2021 for Thanksgiving weekend.  See the official website for hours and prices.

Visit an Outdoor German-Style Christmas Market

christmas things to do in chicago

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.

The market will be in 2 locations in Chicago in 2021: Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville.

Where: 50 W Washington Street and 3635 N Clark St

When: 11am – 4pm on Thanksgiving; see the website for hours on the rest of Thanksgiving weekend.

Cost: Admission is FREE.

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. 

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.

When: 30-minute program of projections will be shown on 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Things to do in Chicago during Thanksgiving Weekend

If you are spending Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago, you will find even more holiday things to do.

Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously “Caroling at Cloud Gate”)

Do you enjoy caroling? Sing and celebrate the holiday season next to the Bean on Friday after Thanksgiving. The new Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously called “Caroling at Cloud Gate”) series is an annual Chicago holiday tradition but it has been reimagined to be more inclusive of Chicago’s many faith backgrounds, cultures and holiday music traditions.

Where: Cloud Gate at Millennium Park

When: 6–7pm on Friday, November 26, 2021

Cost:  Free.

Dine at the Walnut Room

large Xmas tree at the Walnut Room in Chicago

Having a meal 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 dining on holiday classic dishes.

This season’s menu will showcase traditional Walnut Room items such as Mrs. Hering’s 1890 Original Chicken Pot Pie, cider glazed slow roasted breast of turkey, meatloaf, spice rub salmon and carrot cake, among others.
Reservations are now open and available on OpenTable here for the holiday season. For parties over 16 people, the Walnut Room asks that guests make a reservation using an online form.

Where: 7th floor at Macy’s State Street at 111 N. State Street, Chicago, IL

When: Hours vary by day – see their holiday hours here. Closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier is Chicago’s newest holiday adventure. The indoor, temperature-controlled experience features a sprawling light garden of large-scale sculptures comprising more than 600,000 twinkling lights; a massive Alpine ice rink; authentic holiday beer garden; kiddie train rides; Santa’s Merry Main Street and gift market; and other family-friendly and date-night activities. Public ticket sales begin October 25, 2021.

Where: Festival Hall at Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

When: Opens Friday, November 26, 2021.

Cost: Tickets start at just $13.50, including a ride on the iconic Centennial Wheel, offering inspiring views of the city all decked out for the holidays.

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: Closed on Thanksgiving Day but open the rest of the weekend.

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.

Immerse Yourself in the Dr. Seuss Experience

The Dr. Seuss Experience is an imaginative and interactive immersion into the wondrous world of Dr. Seuss that opened early October in Chicago for a three month run. This Seuss-tacular sensory spectacle takes each guest on an awe-inspiring journey through nine different Dr. Seuss books, allowing each visitor a chance to magically step into the pages of each of the books.

Where: Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Avenue, Ste 100, Chicago, IL 60611

Cost:  Prices vary. Tickets prices start from $29.00 for adults and $18.00 for children (1-13 years old) for non-peak hours. Visit their website to purchase tickets in advance.

Immerse Yourself in The Office Experience

The Office Experience pop-up opens October 15 in Chicago for a three month run. Visit Schrute Farms, walk through the Dunder Mifflin set, and relive Jim and Pam’s iconic romance. The world of The Office will come to life with iconic set recreations, original show costumes and props, and opportunities for fans to engage with the show in new ways. Timed tickets are now on sale online.

Where: 540 N Michigan Ave on the Mag Mile.

Cost: General admission is $37.50 plus taxes + fees for off-peak times or $45 plus taxes and fees for peak times. Children 3 and younger are free. Groups can also purchase private access tickets or book the space for a private party.

Enjoy the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo


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Tickets for ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ are now live! Head to the #linkinbio to reserve your spot.

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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.

Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2400 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL

When: Closed on Thanksgiving Day but open rest of weekend from 4–10 p.m. Reservations are required and tickets to the general public will be available October 28.

Cost: Monday and Tuesday nights are free and Wednesday-Sunday tickets are $5.

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. Tickets are on sale -advance purchase is recommended as many nights will sell out.

Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL 60532 (28 miles west of downtown Chicago)

When:  Closed on Thanksgiving Day but open the rest of the weekend.

Cost: Tickets range between $7-$19 for members, $13-$24 for guests. See their website for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.

Take a Holiday Tour

There are a few tours that focus on Chicago’s holiday attractions that you can join on Thanksgiving weekend.  For some history with your holiday tour, check out this walking tour or this Segway tour.


Walk the Illuminated Light Trail at Lightscape

Sparkling tunnel of light at Lightscape Chicago Botanic Garden
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.Tickets are on sale -book early to guarantee your preferred dates. Tickets sold out last year!

Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022 (24 miles north of downtown Chicago)

When:  Closed on Thanksgiving Day but open the rest of the weekend. Hours are 4:30 – 11 p.m. (last entry at 9 p.m.)

Cost: Price varies depending on date. Tickets for adults start at $24 and tickets for kids 3-12 start at $12. Children under 3 are free. See https://www.chicagobotanic.org/lightscape for prices and to purchase tickets.

READ: Best Places to See Christmas and Holiday Lights In & Around Chicago for more places to see holiday lights in the Chicago area.

Visit a Christmas Tree Farm

Another thing to do over Thanksgiving weekend is to visit one of the many Christmas tree farms in the Chicago area to choose and cut your own Christmas tree. If you would rather not cut your own tree, you can just enjoy the ambiance, take holiday photos and buy a freshly pre-cut tree.

When:  Most Christmas tree farms open for the season on the Friday after Thanksgiving but a few are already open and will be open on Thanksgiving Day.

Where: Here are the best best Christmas tree farms in and near Chicago to visit this year.

As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day and even more on the rest of Thanksgiving weekend. Have you visited Chicago during Thanksgiving?

Planning a trip to Chicago? Check out my Chicago guides and itineraries:



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