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

Wandering what to do in Chicago this November? Here are the best things to do in Chicago in November (from a local).

November is a great month to visit Chicago. Even though the weather is getting colder, it is still comfortable enough to enjoy spending time outside. Depending on the year, you might still see some fall foliage in the beginning of the month.  The middle of November brings the start of festive Christmas and holiday activities and events which are in full swing by Thanksgiving at the end of the month.

For out of town visitors, please note that the weather in Chicago in November is very unpredictable and temperatures can vary greatly. Be prepared for fall or winter temperatures (sometimes all in one day!) as well as rain and possibly snow. Make sure to pack layers, a travel umbrella and check the weather right before your visit to know what to expect.

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly with current information and any new activities and events.

Things to Do in Chicago in November


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.

Enjoy the End of Fall Colors

There are many places in and near Chicago to admire the beautiful autumn leaves. The peak time for the best fall foliage in Chicago is usually mid to late October but you can usually still see some fall colors in the first half of November. 

You can see fall colors at some of Chicago’s most popular attractions including Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park, the Chicago Riverwalk and Lincoln Park.

If you are willing to leave the city, you can find even more spectacular fall foliage in the suburbs. One of the best spots for fall colors in the suburbs is Morton Arboretum (in Lisle about 26 miles west of downtown) which is home to more than 4,000 different types of trees among 1,700 acres. They publish a weekly fall color report every Friday on their website. Don’t miss Human+Nature, an outdoor art installation by renowned South African artist Daniel Popper which features five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures.

If you missed fall foliage in the Chicago area, head south. There will likely still be fall colors in other places of the Midwest early November making it a great time for a weekend getaway from Chicago. (This weekly fall color report keeps track of fall foliage times across Illinois and this fall foliage map by weather.com shows the progress of fall foliage in all of the United States.)



Take an Architecture River Cruise

Taking an architecture river cruise is a must when visiting Chicago and a great outdoor activity on a warmer November day. While you can go on an architecture cruise most of the year (except when the water is frozen in the winter), they tend to be less crowded in the fall.

 

Look for Street Art

Moose Bubblegum Bubble by Jacob Watts one of the most famous street art murals in Chicago

November is a great month to walk around Chicago looking for street art while also enjoying fall colors or holiday lights and more moderate temperatures.

One of the most well known Chicago murals is “Moose Bubblegum Bubble” by Jacob Watts which located at 33 E. Congress (South Wall).  This famous mural is part of the Wabash Arts Corridor and is walking distance to Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago and other tourist attractions.

Another famous mural is the Greetings From Chicago Mural at 2226 N Milwaukee Ave. You can see this mural and other street art on this street art tour.

Other neighborhoods that have a high concentration of street art include Pilsen as well as West Town.

Enjoy the Views from 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

360 CHICAGO, the observatory on the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Building, has one of the best views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. Early to mid November is one of the best times to visit as you can see panoramic views of fall colors from above.

Where: 875 North Michigan Avenue, 94th floor, Chicago, IL 60611

 

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.

 

Enjoy 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. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Garfield Park Conservatory showcases thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens.  Visitors can enjoy the lush flora and tropical temperatures indoors year-round! Their Winter Flower Show, Serenity starts on November 24.

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. Walk-ups are welcome if there is space available.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation)

Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart

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. New projections by renowned conceptual artist Barbara Kruger will be shown until November 25.

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 nightly at 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Have Fun at Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a must do if you are visiting Chicago with toddlers or kids.   A ride on the large Ferris wheel offers paranoramic skyline views of Chicago and is another great way to see the fall colors from above early in the month. (Click here to purchase a fast pass ticket and skip the long line).

Other fun attractions at Navy Pier include rides and games, restaurants, shops and the Chicago Children’s Museum.

On Saturdays during the month of November, enjoy free live music acts from a wide array of genres and styles as part of Sequence Ch!cago.


Admire Famous Works at The Art Institute of Chicago

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. (Click here to buy a skip the line ticket if you want to avoid long lines).

When: Hours are Monday and Thursday–Sunday from 11 a.m.– 6 p.m. (10–11 a.m. for members). Closed on Tuesday–Wednesday. 

Where: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Cost:  $25 for adults, $19 for seniors, students and teens (14-17); members and children under 14 are always free.

 
READ: Best Indoor Things to Do in Chicago on a Cold or Rainy Day for more indoor Chicago attractions.

Go Outdoor Ice Skating

ice skating at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago one of the best things to do in November
Outdoor ice skating rinks in the Chicago area open in November. The best and picture perfect spots to go ice skating downtown are the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink right in front of the Bean and 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 required.

Take a Holiday Tour

If your are in Chicago during late November and your time is short, there are a few tours that focus on Chicago’s holiday attractions.  For some history with your holiday tour, check out this walking tour or this Segway tour.

 

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 trip.

The market will be in two locations in Chicago: in front of Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville.

Where: 50 W Washington Street and 3635 N Clark St

When: Opens November 19, 2021. Hours vary- see official website for hours.

Cost: Admission is free.

See the City of Chicago Christmas Tree

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

The City of Chicago will put up their annual Christmas Tree at Millennium Park on November 19, 2021.

The Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park with the Christmas tree in the background

Make sure to stop by The Bean – a must on any Chicago bucket list. The Bean is located a few feet away from the tree and can even take photos of The Bean with the Christmas tree in the background.

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

When: The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be held on November 19, 2021 at 6pm (with the actual lighting at approximately 6:30pm). Millennium Park is open from 8am to 9pm daily.

Cost:  Free.

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 put up holiday decorations and attractions sometime in November.  If you want to see holiday decorations before the holiday crowds, I recommend doing your holiday shopping (or browsing) in mid November before Thanksgiving weekend.

Make sure not to miss Macy’s (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 shopping centers, luxury designers and labels, several departments stores and popular brands).

If you are looking for unique and/or handmade items, check out Sauced – Fall Night Market (November 19) and Millennium Park Art Market (November 19-21).

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

When: 4–10 p.m. on select dates starting November 19, 2021. 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.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Museum of Science and Industry (@msichicago) on


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 at 5700 S Lake Shore Drive.

When: Opens November 17, 2021

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

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. 

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

When: Opens 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.

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: Opens November 12, 2021

Cost: See https://www.chicagobotanic.org/lightscape for prices and to purchase tickets.

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.

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

When: Opens November 20, 2021

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

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

Outdoor Curling

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Gwen Hotel (@thegwenchicago)


Curling is a winter sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice or a lane towards a target. Two Chicago hotels have designed curling rinks on their outdoor rooftops. Advance reservations are required.

Kennedy Rooftop at Hyatt Place Chicago/Wicker Park (1551 W North Ave)
Upstairs at The Gwen (521 North Rush Street)

Eat and Drink in an Igloo

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by IO Godfrey (@iogodfrey)


Rooftops start opening their outdoor igloos around mid-November. Advance reservations are required as they are very popular. Some of the best outdoor igloos in Chicago include:

Kennedy Rooftop at Hyatt Place Chicago/Wicker Park (1551 W North Ave)
I|O at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago (127 West Huron Street)

November Events

In addition to the activities mentioned above, other November events include: Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF) (November 5-14), Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer (November 12-13), Sauced Night Market (November 19), City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (November 19), Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (November 19-20), Andersonville Viking Pub Crawl (November 20), Chicago Thanksgiving Parade (November 25), Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously “Caroling at Cloud Gate”) (November 26), North Center’s Black Friday Night Handmade Market (November 26) and Holiday Expo and Toy Drive at Navy Pier (November 27-28).

As you can see there are many fun things to do in Chicago in November.


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



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