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!

Things to Do in Chicago on Thanksgiving Day

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.  This year’s City of Chicago Christmas Tree is a 45-foot Blue Spruce. While you are here visit the Bean (one of the most instagrammable places in Chicago).

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

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

Cost:  Free.

Go Ice Skating

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 during the holiday season. One of the best and picture perfect spots to go ice skating is at the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park located next to Millennium Park. The skating ribbon has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.

When:  The skating ribbon is open on Thanksgiving with limited hours (11:00am-12:30 pm, 1:15-2:45pm and 3:30-5:00pm). See the official website for hours during the rest of Thanksgiving weekend. Advance reservations are required.

Where: 337 E Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601

Cost:  Skating costs $5 if you bring your own skates. You can rent skates for $16-$20 depending on date.

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. The nightly program features images from The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker, the Art Institute of Chicago’s current exhibitions “Monet and Chicago” and “Bisa Butler: Portraits” as well as Arts of Life, a nonprofit working with individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities.

When: 30-minute program of projections are shown nightly at 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. from November 12 through December 30, 2020.

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.

Cost: Free.

Drive Through the Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum is a tunnel of lights, an awe-inspiring magical woodland filled with dazzling color and starlike light, and a landscape filled with thousands of lights dancing to a musical soundtrack, that you can see from the warmth of your car. This year’s driving experience (30–40 minutes long) features an unparalleled spectacle of color, light, and music. You will see returning favorites reenvisioned, including Symphony Woods, Woodland Wonder, and Crystal Promenade, and five newly designed sights displayed along a two-mile road among the Arboretum’s trees. Tickets are time and date-specific and must be reserved in advance.

When: November 20, 2020 -January 3, 2021 including Thanksgiving Day.

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

Cost: $49 peak night, $39 standard night for non-members. See their website for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.

Drive Thru Holiday Light Show at Northbrook Court

Let It Shine is a new holiday drive thru light show set to launch at Northbrook Court. Guests are invited to stay in their cars and immerse themselves in a wonderland of light displays that are synchronized to holiday classics. Drive past dazzling archways, sparkling candy canes, glowing snowmen and more illuminated installations. In spirit of the holiday season, a portion of proceeds will benefit NorthShore’s Kellogg Cancer Center. Tickets are time and date-specific and must be reserved in advance.

When: November 15, 2020 – January 9, 2021 including Thanksgiving Day. 4:30 to 10:00 pm on weekdays and 4:30 to 11:00 pm on weeknights.

Where: Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Road, Northbrook, IL 60062 (24 miles northwest of downtown Chicago)

Cost: Time slotted tickets range in price from $29.99 on weekdays to $39.99 on the weekends per car with an added “fast pass” option to bypass the line. See their website for more information and to purchase tickets in advance.

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.

Enjoy the ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo


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ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ at Lincoln Park Zoo is a one-of-a-kind, festive holiday experience in the heart of the city. Zoolights features hundreds of luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities, all under the glow of millions of illuminated lights. The entire event is outdoors. Animal buildings will be closed but animals may be visible in their outdoor habitats.

When: Closed on Thanksgiving Day but open rest of weekend from 4–10 p.m.

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

Cost: This year, Lincoln Park Zoo is requiring all guests to purchase a timed entry ticket for $5.

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.

When:  Closed on Thanksgiving Day but open the rest of the weekend. Hours are 4:30 – 10 p.m. / 4:30 – 11 p.m. select Fridays & Saturdays

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 $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 Around Chicago This Year for more Christmas holiday light shows in and around 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?


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