From festive neighborhood activities to twinkling holiday lights turning the city into a wondrous snow globe scene, Chicago is glorious during the winter holidays. Cherished annual events, outdoor ice skating, winter tours, retail therapy and more make it a perfect destination for all.
No visit to Chicago is complete without ice skating, a favorite winter tradition in the city. Lace up your skates and glide around the pristine McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park, open from Nov. 13 - March 6, 2016. Skating is free and open to the public, with a $10 rental fee for those without their own skates. Or, skate laps around the new Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon (pictured above), which provides skaters a rolling landscape of remarkable views from the heart of downtown Chicago from late November '15 to early March 2016.
For even more ice skating options, view our city roundup of one-of-a-kind rinks.
Walk among twinkling lights and beautifully decorated trees at the Museum of Science & Industry's annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light festivals. These gorgeous displays have wowed museum visitors since 1942, when a single tree was dedicated to the Allies of World War II. Stroll among the trees amid lightly falling indoor "snow"; enjoy live choral, musical and dance performances on the Holiday Stage; and marvel at the 45-foot Grand Tree in the museum's beautiful Rotunda.
Shop dozens of craft stalls vending traditional German American wares at Christkindlmarket, Chicago's most popular holiday market, Nov. 20-Dec. 24. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, shoppers can look forward to authentic German food and drinks, a diverse entertainment lineup and the most unique holiday shopping experience in the city. Bring home hand-blown ornaments, wooden handicrafts, beer steins and more to your loved ones, classic German gifts everyone will appreciate.
One of Chicago's finest free attractions, Lincoln Park Zoo, transforms into a holiday light spectacular each winter as ZooLights, open to the public from Nov. 27-Jan. 3, 2016 (select dates). Observe the zoo's treasured animal inhabitants while dazzling light displays sparkle all around. This is a special event for the whole family, and one your group will remember for a long, long time.
Finally, ring in 2016 with Chi-Town Rising - a new mega-event launching New Year's Eve - complete with celebrity appearances, live music and a fireworks spectacular. The heart of the celebration is the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, culiminating in a midnight countdown featuring a giant Chicago star that will ascend 36 stories up the West Tower of Hyatt Regency Chicago. You won't want to be anywhere else on New Year's Eve, toasting 2016 in style.
For more ways to experience Holidays in Chicago to the fullest, check out our Classic Chicago Holiday Season itinerary.