What to do in Chicago during the Holidays

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Though Chicago is one of those cities that starts to freeze even before the winter officially begins, Chicago is also city that knows how to do Christmas and pull people out of their comfy and warm homes, and out to the streets. As the holidays are in full force, I want to share with you some of the things you can do in Chicago during the holidays whether you happen to find yourself here or would like to know what the Windy City has to offer during this cheerful season!

Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting

Here in Chicago, we like to start the holidays a little sooner and kick off the season with a formal celebratory holiday bang. If you find yourself in Chicago around the date of November 16th, you should definitely stop by Millennium Park to see the tree lighting ceremony that officially kicks off the city into the holidays. This is 60 foot, 8,200 lbs tree is donated by a Chicagoland family, and every year, has hundreds of people circling around in the cold of the night to witness the magic of the season descending upon the Windy City!

Millennium Park – 201 East Randolph Street, Chicago IL.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

From the dates of around Thanksgiving to early January, you can stop by Lincoln Park Zoo to wander around the beautifully illuminated zoo, as well as enjoy a variety of different winter activities! From ice carving demonstrations, to feeding the cows and fulfilling that childhood dream, to enjoying a spiced wine and craft beer while you stroll around the park, there is something for everyone. This event has a variety of activities throughout the day and evening, indoors and outdoors, and even special events like Zoo Years Eve and Adults Night at the Zoo. The Zoo Lights have been a tradition here in Chicago for 24 years, and has always done a great job of offering something fun for everyone! Come by, and enjoy a hot chocolate or a hot spiced wine drink, as you marvel at the 2.5 million twinkling lights illuminating and spreading even more holiday cheer from youngest to oldest. Also the entrance it is free! 

Lincoln Park Zoo – 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago IL

Ice Skating at Millennium Park

If your idea of fun includes ice skating, then definitely check out ice skating at Millennium Park! Nothing really screams Chicago like ice skating under the sight of the beautifully illuminated Chicago skyline, and here at the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink, you’ll be able to do just that.  Admission into the ice rink is free, and the skate rentals are around $13-$15 depending on if you’re planning to visit on the weekday or weekend. What’s really cool is that whether you’re a pro at skating or you’re just barely holding onto the rail like me, they have free lessons to to teach you step out of your comfort zone and onto the rink! If you come on Fridays at 11am, and Saturdays and Sundays at 9am they will have free skating lessons! The rink is open also from around late November to March. 

McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink – 1 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

It’s basically an indoor fair located inside of Navy Pier! Navy Pier for those of you who may not know, is practically a landmark here in Chicago that is located near the north side of the city.  Navy Pier used to be many things throughout history, but most notably it used to be a military pier where men in the Navy and their families used to live. Today however and during the holidays, you’ll find Winter WonderFest  which offers a variety of games including an indoor skating rink, inflatable slides, even a Ferris wheel! Endless entertainment is sure to keep you here for hours, especially when it feels like subzero temperatures outside! This is an especially great option to explore when it’s way too cold outside. Entrance tickets are $20 for adults which includes entry, a ride on the Centennial Ferris Wheel and $10 for children, also including a ride on the Centennial Ferris Wheel. 

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier – 600 East Grand Avenue, Chicago IL.


Christkindle Market at Daley Plaza 

This is our spin on a classic European Christmas market, the Christkindle Market which is a place you can’t miss! Located at Daley Plaza, you can come to this picturesque market and enjoy an Austrian strudel and hot chocolate amongst many other delicacies, while you gaze at a wide variety of European ornaments and crafts. It’s the perfect place to spend time at get that coveted instagram to show off your hot chocolate mug! 

Dayley Plaza – 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, IL.

Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry

You can have a taste of how Christmas is celebrated in different countries all over the world if you visit the Museum of Science and Industry around November-December! Every year, the Museum likes to display a wide variety of Christmas trees, and each Christmas tree is decorated with ornaments and decorations based on the country they represent. It’s definitely a really cool way to see the diversity not only in the world when it comes to celebrating this holiday, but also the diversity there is in Chicago. Definitely a must stop!

Museum of Science and Industry – 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL.

A Stroll Down State Street

Even when you’re not looking for holiday activities and events, simply just walking down the streets of Chicago will give you that holiday cheer without even looking for it. State street is one of my favorite streets to walk during this time of the year, as it is beautifully lit and is always playing Christmas holiday music all throughout.  While on State street, don’t forget to walk past Macy’s beautiful and intricate Holiday display! It’s kind of tradition around here, and they never fail to make us stop in our tracks to see the window displays. 

But what if you find yourself smack dab on Christmas day in Chicago. What is one to do? This list is a “what do to in Chicago during the holiday” list and that should include Christmas too, no?

As a bonus, I want to share with you all my favorite things to do when it seems like the whole city of Chicago is shut down on Christmas. You’d be surprised what places are still open that you can enjoy with your loved ones. 

BONUS FREEBIE ALERT: Click here to download your copy of “The Chicago Christmas Day Itinerary” and make plans to check them out if you find yourself in the city! 

I hope you all enjoy this holiday season with the ones you love the most. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like more content on things to do around Chicago! I have lived in Illinois for quite some time, and definitely have a few tips to share on visiting the city and surrounding neighborhoods! 

Until next time,

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4 Replies to “What to do in Chicago during the Holidays”

  1. I lived in Chicago and you really capture the magic of the holidays.
    Te mando un saludo, another boss chica !

    1. Thank you so much for saying that 🙂 Me alegra mucho al leer tu comentario! Saludos igualmente.

  2. This post is bringing me back in time, of when I used to live in the beautiful city of Chicago! Chicago is great in any season (Fall is my personal fav. though). However, X-mas time in Chicago is magical. I did e.v.e.r.y. s.i.n.g.l.e. o.n.e. of the activities you mention here back when I lived there and I also highly recommend them all 🙂
    Thanks for putting them together in this another great post!

    1. I completely agree! Chicago in the fall is just 😍 the city has something every season, and I think that’s one of the many reasons a lot of us appreciate the city. Thank you for your comment, I’m really happy you liked this post! 💙 stay tuned for more Chicago related travel posts to come 🙂

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