The Chicago holiday season is made for memories, from annual traditions to once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Whether taking in a lights display or sipping hot chocolate after an afternoon of ice skating, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
We’ve rounded up some of the season’s highlights; for more information, just click on the links provided.
November and December
Dates vary: Millennium Park, Loop
Millennium Park will be the center of activity this holiday season:
— See Chicago’s official Christmas tree, a 55-foot blue spruce, through Jan. 9
— On Friday night, join in the carols, Nov. 25-Dec. 16.
— Ice skating is open, weather permitting, through March 5, at Millennium Park and the nearby rink at Maggie Daley Park.
While you’re downtown, head to the Art Institute for a photo op with the museum’s famous bedecked lions and check out the holiday window display at the Macy’s State Street store.
Until December 20: CTA Holiday Train
Santa, his reindeer and elves will travel to Chicago aboard the deck-out train, which will stop at train stations between November 25 and December 20. The train is scheduled to travel first on the Green Line, followed by the Orange and Brown Lines, then Red and Purple Lines, Pink Line, Blue Line and finally the Yellow Line.
Its companion, the CTA Holiday Bus, will pop up on various routes between November 29 and December 23.
Dec. 9 to Dec. 24: Music Box Christmas Sing-a-Long, Lakeview
For nearly 40 years, the Music Box Theater has been screening the holiday classics “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas,” with a twist. Before the curtain goes up, the house organist leads moviegoers through a catalog of treasured Christmas carols. Fa-la-la-la-la.
Until December 24: Christkindlmarket, Daley Plaza and Aurora locations
By means of Dec. 31: Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville, Lakeview
Modeled after the traditional outdoor markets of Germany, the Christkindlmarket offers a taste of Europe in the Midwest. The Aurora location is new this year. In Wrigleyville, visitors can pop into the adjacent (ticketed) Winterland at Wrigley Field.
Until December 25: Holiday Favorites at ChiTown Movies, Pilsen
Load up the car and head to the ChiTown Movies drive-in to catch “Home Alone,” “Elf,” “Christmas Vacation” and more on the big screen. If the ChiTown lineup is any indication, yes, Virginia, “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.
Until December 31: Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield
The zoo’s miles of lights and illuminated animal sculptures have delighted visitors for more than 40 years. Additional features include a skating rink.
Until December 29: Kohlights at the Kohl Children’s Museum, Glenview
Dubbed “mesmertastic,” the museum’s interactive display of light and color is a children’s holiday wonderland. Highlights include the Lollipop Light Lane and the 360-degree Field of Beams.
The Nutcracker 2021 from Art by MART on Vimeo.
Until December 30: The Nutcracker, Art in the Mart, Merchandise Mart
See scenes from the Joffrey Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” projected onto the Merchandise Mart’s large canvas.
By means of Jan. 1, 2023: Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park
Enjoy a dazzling display of lights in the heart of Chicago. Festivities also include ice sculptures, photos with Santa and roving carolers. New this year is a Chicago skyline display and a 165-foot-long Grand Light Tunnel. Entry is free on Mondays.
Until January 1, 2023: Let This Light Shine
No need to worry about finding parking at Let It Shine — the show is a drive-thru. There are two locations — one in Northbrook and one in Schaumburg — though the set-up for each is different from the other.
Until January 1, 2023: Sparkle Light Festival at Impact Field, Rosemont
The Sparkle experience includes illuminated villages, a children’s zone, a two-story ice slide and a free ride on the Holly Trolly.
By means of Jan. 7, 2023: Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle
Stroll along a mile-long avenue of trees lit up to display their winter beauty, accompanied by the sound of festive music. New this year is Electric Illumination, an evening experience for adults 18 and over, set to trance and progressive house music, with simultaneous light shows (December 16, 23 and 30 only) .
Until January 7, 2023: Light up the Lake at Navy Pier
Navy Pier does holiday lights like no other – indoors. Highlights of the experience include a forest maze with more than 100 lighted trees, a skating rink and a train ride in Santa’s village for youngsters.
By means of Jan. 8, 2023: Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe
The illuminated 1.25-mile path takes visitors through fascinating light installations, including a fire garden and perennial fan favorite, the Winter Cathedral.
Until Jan. 8. 2023: Amaze Light Festival at Odyssey Fun World, Tinley Park
The Amaze experience includes a million twinkling lights, a holiday market, food trucks, music, a stage show and more.
Until January 8, 2023: Christmas Around the World, Museum of Science and Industry, Hyde Park
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the museum’s beloved tradition, which began with one tree in 1942 and has now grown to 50 trees, decorated to represent the holiday traditions of countries and cultures around the world. .
Until January 8, 2023: Winter Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory, Garfield Park
This year’s theme is “Snow Day!,” with flowers arranged to create the illusion of a snow-covered garden. The centerpiece is a 12-foot-tall tree made of more than 200 white poinsettia plants.
Opportunities to shop local and support local artists and makers:
State Street Market, Loop, Nov. 18-Dec. 18.
Chicago Artisan Market, Ravenswood, Nov. 26-27.
One of a Kind, Merchandise Mart, Dec. 1-4.
Winter Market, Andersonville, Dec. 2-4.
Winterglow Holiday Market & Beer Garden at the Salt Shed, Goose Island, Dec. 2-4; December 9-11.
Holiday Uprising Market, Beverly Arts Center, Dec.
Chicago Art Department Holiday Market, Pilsen, December 9.
Dank Haus Weihnachtsmarkt, Lincoln Square, December 10.
Chicago Art Girls Holiday Pop-up, North Center, December 10-11.
Chicago Artisan Market, Fulton Market, December 11.
Holiday Market at The Plant, Back of the Yards, December 11.
Renegade Craft Fair, West Loop, December 17-18.
Randolph Street Holiday Market, West Loop, December 17-18.
Events listed are subject to change. We recommend double-checking times and locations before you head out the door.