‘Tis the Season to be Shopping, Caroling & Making Holiday Memories in Chicago

August 28, 2012

Melissa McCarville
Regional Public Relations Manager

Twas the night before Black Friday and all through the streets,
People were stuffed from their Thanksgiving treats.
Lights were all hung over the Mag Mile with care,
In hopes that excited shoppers soon would be there.
The children were lined up and ready to see,
What the window theme at Macy's on State Street soon would be.
And with Mom in her ice skates and Dad about to slip,
They decided to make holidays in Chicago an annual trip.

Choose Chicago invites you to make Chicago's holiday traditions your own! With an abundance of events, shopping and family-fun happenings, you'll never run out of things to do this holiday season in the city that's Second to None.


All events are FREE unless otherwise specified

Caroling at Cloud Gate
Annual event held on Fridays, mid-November to mid-December in Millennium Park
Enjoy the beautiful voices of a variety of choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along.

Annual event: Held November 21 to December 24, 2012 in Daley Plaza
Experience a traditional German Christmas inspired by the famous Nuremberg Christmas market dating back to 1545. Visitors will find Chicago's iconic Picasso sculpture surrounded by red and white crested huts glowing with warmth and overflowing with curios. Daley Plaza is transformed at this outdoor market offering exquisite handmade gifts, unique ornaments and German delicacies like brats, goulash, potato pancakes, cookies and Gluhwein (a warm spiced wine).

Ice Skating
Open mid-November to mid-March at the McCormick Tribune Plaza at Millennium Park
Kick off Chicago's winter season with a fun-filled day of ice skating. The rink draws more than 100,000 skaters annually, and is free and open to the public. Skate rental is available for $10.

Macy's on State Christmas Traditions
Annually early November to early January at Macy's on State Street
Themed and decorated windows along State Street unveil a story of Christmas cheer. Marvel at the 45-foot Great Tree decorated with over 1,200 themed ornaments and 25,000 dazzling lights in the famed Walnut Room.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
Annual event: November 17, 2012
For the last 21 years, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival has been the largest evening holiday celebration in the U.S., jump starting the holiday season with a full day of family friendly activities, concerts by top musical artists and the best holiday shopping. The day's excitement culminates with a grand evening parade down Michigan Avenue marshaled by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, illuminating one million lights on 200 trees. The parade concludes with a grand finale fireworks show over the Chicago River.

Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest
Annual event held the first week of December though first week of January
Enjoy fun inside an enchanted 170,000 square foot winter playground! Bring the entire family for days of entertainment, Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating, huge inflatable slides, rides, and so much more. Winter Wonderfest is free to enter but the purchase of an activity wristband is required for rides and ice skating.

99th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Annual event: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 in Daley Plaza
The Tree Lighting Ceremony is a highly-anticipated event drawing people of all ages to the heart of Chicago's downtown "Loop." Live performances, festive holiday music and much more will take place as the holiday season officially commences at 5:00 pm, when the switch is flipped and the lights begin to sparkle in Daley Plaza.

Daley Plaza Santa House
Annual event: November 21 to December 24, 2012 in Daley Plaza
The Santa House serves as a replica of Santa's workshop, allowing children and families to experience the wonder of the North Pole and have their picture taken with Santa Claus throughout the holiday season. The Santa House will offer interactive activities for children to enjoy while waiting to tell Santa their holiday wishes.

Shopping along The Magnificent MileTM (Michigan Avenue) or State Street
No city does shopping like Chicago. Whether it's along the famous Magnificent Mile or on State Street (that great street), you will find everything you need for the holiday season! Additionally, watch for the newly remodeled five-story flagship Burberry store slated to open in early November along Michigan Ave. or


Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Light
Annual event held mid-November to early January at Museum of Science and Industry
A Chicago tradition since 1942. The Museum's 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the Rotunda with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees beautifully decorated by volunteers from Chicago's ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. View the trees, enjoy intermittent falling "snow" and savor the performances on the Holiday Stage by school choral groups and ethnic song and dance groups. Admission required.

A Holiday Fantasea at Shedd Aquarium
Show begins Friday, Nov. 23, and runs through Jan. 2
A festive favorite, Shedd's themed, multi-species aquatic show, A Holiday Fantasea, returns featuring your favorite marine mammals. Set among the twinkling lights in the Abbott Oceanarium, Pacific white-sided dolphins leap, beluga whales breach and sea lions and penguins saunter, showcasing their natural behaviors set to a celebratory soundtrack from around the world -- and Santa makes a special appearance! Admission required.

Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago
Annual event: November 23, 2012
Celebrate the holiday season with this Chicago family favorite as the iconic lions at the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago are adorned with traditional evergreen wreaths! Afterwards, head inside for music and family-friendly activities. Free and open to the public.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Annual event: Friday - Saturday: November 23-25, November 30-December 2, December 7-9, December 14-16, December 21-23, Daily: December 26-31, January 1-6 (2013)
Enter a winter wonderland illuminated by more than two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo's annual classic. Get a picture taken with Santa through December 23rd, prepare holiday crafts and watch ice carving. Then escape the cold and experience the climates, conditions and animals of four continents: South America, Africa, Asia and Australia in the zoo's Regenstein Small Mammal Reptile House. Free and open to the public.


A Christmas Carol
Annual event held Mid-November through December / November 17 - December 29 at The Goodman Theatre
For three decades, Charles Dickens' classic story, exceptional actors and miraculous stagecraft have made A Christmas Carol a perennial holiday favorite and beloved Chicago tradition. Audiences delight in the "Bah, Humbugs," the arrival of the ghosts, the music and dancing and Scrooge's joyful discovery of life and love. Ticket purchase required.

The Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker"
December 7-27, 2012 at The Auditorium Theater
The Tchaikovsky masterpiece, featuring the full Joffrey Company, local children's choruses, and more than 120 young dancers, creates a winter wonderland of beauty, magic and sugarplum delight! Ticket purchase required.

29th Annual Music Box Theatre Holiday Show
Annual event: Friday, December 14 to Monday, December 24, 2012 at The Music Box Theatre
One of the most popular and beloved Christmas traditions in Chicago is celebrating its 29th anniversary this year as once again The Music Box offers holiday revelers screenings of WHITE CHRISTMAS and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Santa kicks things off by welcoming the audience and, accompanied by the theater organist, leads them in the singing of the most cherished Christmas carols of all time. The lyrics are projected onto the theater's screen so no one misses a chance to sing their hearts out. Then the audience sits back to enjoy and sing along to the Christmas movie classics.
Tickets will be available for both single feature and double feature admissions. Showtimes are still to be determined.


Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour
Friday, Saturday, Sundays: November 23 - December 31, 2012
A lightly narrated 2-hour tour shows the best of Chicago's holiday lights and sights and stops at two brilliant holiday attractions! You will find yourself caroling all the way to The Magnificent Mile, Macy's Holiday Windows, John Hancock Tree, Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain, Daley Plaza Tree, the Art Institute lions and much more! Stops to explore include (30 minutes each): Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza and ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. Ticket purchase required.

Holiday traditions at the Clarke House Museum and the Glessner House Museum
Candlelight Tours at Glessner: Sat. December 8 and Sun. December 9, 2012
Clarke House Museum: Sat. December 15, 2012

Tour each historic home decorated for the holidays to reflect their time period: 1830's and 1840s at the Clarke House Museum and a Victorian-era Christmas (late 1900s) at Glessner House Museum. Admission price required.

The National Chocolate Show and Chicago Fine Chocolate Show
November 16-18 at Chicago's Navy Pier
Got a sweet tooth around the holidays? We've found the perfect place for you.The National Chocolate Show and Chicago Fine Chocolate Show will premiere as the preeminent chocolate event and the only dual consumer and trade shows dedicated to the chocolate industry in the country. Ticket Price: $25 for adults and $10 for children. Guests can enjoy and learn more about the craft of fine chocolate in addition to finding unique gifts for the upcoming holidays.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Choose Chicago's website at Or download the Choose Chicago mobile app for free, available for iPhone and Android platforms. Holiday events, dining options, arts, nightlife and much more can be found when you download via iTunes for the iPhone platform and the Google Play Store for the Droid version.

ABOUT CHOOSE CHICAGO: In February 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB) will join forces with the tourism-focused portion of the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture (COTC) to form the new organization, Choose Chicago. The combined efforts created Chicago's sole marketing and tourism organization. Choose Chicago will focus all of the city's efforts to attract visitors for business, pleasure, and culture.

Chicago welcomed 43.6 million domestic and overseas visitors to Chicago in 2011. Recently released data from the U. S. Travel Association reveals that visitors to Chicago throughout 2011 generated $12 billion in total direct spending, (up 7.8%) over 2010. That spending yielded more than $725 million in tax revenues (up 17.8%) and more than 128,000 jobs (up 3.1%) over 2010.



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