BEST Things to Do in Chicago in December 2024 (From a Local!)

Searching for what to do in Chicago this December? Here are the best things to do in Chicago in December 2024 (from a local) – from the top attractions to festive holiday events and activities.

December is one of the best months to visit Chicago. Even though the weather is getting colder, it is still comfortable and there are so many fun and festive Christmas and holiday activities and events that take place.

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I will be updating it regularly with new events.

Things to Do in Chicago in December 2024

Below are the top things to do in Chicago in December.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission if you make a booking using my links at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Go Outdoor Ice Skating

people ice skating in Chicago in December at Millenium Park
There are several places to go outdoor ice skating in Chicago in December. One of the best and instaworthy places to go ice skating in downtown Chicago is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink right in front of The Bean. Another picture perfect spot is the nearby skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park which has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.

Visit an Authentic 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 visit.

The market is in 2 locations in Chicago: Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville.

Where: 50 W Washington Street and 3635 N Clark St

When: Hours vary see the website for more details

Cost: Admission is FREE.

Take a Holiday Tour

If you enjoy guided tours, join a holiday tour that focuses on Chicago’s holiday attractions:

Holiday Hike: Festive Food & Walking Tour
Seasonal Stroll Walking Tour of Holiday Attractions

See the Crèche and Wreathed Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago holidays
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States and is frequently found on lists of the top museums in the world.

During the entire month of December, you can see the lions decked with their evergreen wreaths as well as the spectacular 18th-century Neapolitan crèche, or Nativity scene, telling the story of Jesus Christ’s birth through more than 200 painted terracotta figures staged in an elaborate environment inspired by 18th-century Naples.

Hours:  Monday and Friday–Sunday from 11 a.m.– 5 p.m. Thursdays from 11 a.m.– 8 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.

Where: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Cost:  Varies. Click here to buy a skip the line ticket if you want to avoid long lines. There are discounts for Chicago and Illinois residents.

Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart

Art at the Mart light show during the Christmas holiday season

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 are shown two times every evening.

Cost: Free.

See the City of Chicago Christmas Tree

Seeing the City of Chicago Christmas Tree is one of best things to do Chicago in December

The City of Chicago Christmas tree can be seen at Millennium Park during the entire month of December.

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.

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

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.

Where: Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S Lake Shore Drive).

Cost: Included in regular museum admission. Here is a link to the official website for more information.

Tip:  If you are visiting a few museums and indoor attractions, consider purchasing a Chicago CityPASS or Go Chicago Card to save money on entrance fees.

See The Winter Flower Show at the Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the US. During the entire month of December, you can see their Winter Flower Show exhibit.

Where: 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60624

Hours: Wednesday 10am-8pm; Thursday – Sunday 10am-5pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday. Visitors are encouraged to make a reservation online in advance.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation)

READ: Best Indoor Things to Do in Chicago for more indoor Chicago attractions.

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 large shopping centers and departments stores, luxury stores and other popular brands).

If you are looking for unique and/or handmade items, check out there markets for your holiday shopping: Chicago Artisan Market (Ravenswood) (December 1, 2024), One of a Kind Show (December 5-8, 2024), Randolph Street Holiday Market (December 14-15, 2024) and Chicago Artisan Market (Fulton Market) (December 15, 2024).

Ride the CTA Holiday Train and 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: See transitchicago.com/holidayfleet for full details on dates, times and routes.

Cost: Regular CTA fare. See transitchicago.com for prices.

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 in December.

Where: Simon’s Tavern at 5210 N Clark St, Chicago, IL

See Christmas and Holiday Lights Around Chicago

There are many places to see Christmas and holiday light shows in Chicago and the suburbs. There are several drive thru holiday lights shows in the Chicago area or you can also drive through neighborhoods known for their holiday lights. Here are the best places to see Christmas and holiday lights in and around Chicago.

Chicago December 2024 Events

In addition to the activities mentioned above, other Chicago December 2024 events include: Chicagoland Toys For Tots Motorcycle Parade (December 1, 2024), TBOX (Twelve Bars of Christmas) Bar Crawl (December 14, 2024) and New Year’s Eve 5K (December 31, 2024).

As you can see there are many fun things to do in Chicago in December this year.

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




  1. Thanks for the information, How many days would you suggest seeing Chicago at Xmas time?

    • Would this be your first time? There is so much to do in Chicago, I would recommend at least 3 days.

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