While Chicago’s array of New Year’s parties and fireworks are on hold this year, there are still tons of memorable ways to ring in the new year in Chicago. Here are a few of our favorite ways to celebrate, including Chicago dining options, light shows, virtual events, outdoor activities, and more for NYE 2021.

Eat out or order in

Ring in the new year with a memorable meal, whether you want to dine in a private igloo or on your couch. Chicago restaurants are pulling out all the stops for New Year’s Eve dinner, with one-night-only carryout offers, champagne toasts, luxe specials, and more. Check out some ideas below, which includes heated patios and takeout/delivery options.

  • Aba: Ring in the new year with a Mediterranean feast on Aba’s heated rooftop patio. The partially enclosed space consists of standard tables, high tops, and even private green houses.
  • Geja’s Cafe: The New Year’s Eve package at Geja’s, served on the heated patio with a covered fireplace, includes a bottle of champagne per couple plus a decadent three-course fondue dinner.
  • Virtue: Enjoy a Southern-style meal at home with these New Year’s specials. Choose from whole fried chicken or a whole branzino with sides, plus a bottle of champagne.
  • Alinea: Splurge on an unforgettable five-course tasting menu from Alinea. The feast includes creative dishes like seared scallops with jamon iberico, herb-roasted prime beef, and more.

Check out our full guide to New Year’s Eve dinner in Chicago for more options.

Catch a show

A pink cocktail from TAO
Tao, photo by Adam Alexander Photography

While Chicago’s theatres are dark at the moment, you can still catch a special New Year’s show at home. Whether you’re looking for theatre, dance, comedy, or music, these Chicago institutions are offering virtual New Year’s Eve shows so you can turn your living room into your own private theatre experience.

  • TAO virtual experience: Stream four hours of comedy, mixology, music, and more during this online party. Guests receive a party box filled with food, party favors, champagne, and more.
  • Untethered by Untitled: This chic downtown club is bringing the party to your living room. This package includes a live streamed DJ set, burlesque performances, party favors, and lots of booze to stock your bar cart.
  • House Party Drive-In in Bridgeview: Dance in your front seat at this socially distant drive-in concert, featuring live house music artists and a fireworks show outside SeatGeek stadium.
  • JOY! A Reimagined Holiday Concert: Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra’s reimagined 2020 holiday concert includes The Nutcracker Suite, featuring jazz interpretations of the beloved Tchaikovsky original.

Explore more virtual events and shows from your favorite Chicago groups.

See the lights

Driving through holiday lights

There are still a few tickets left for Chicago’s most brilliant light shows! These socially distant spectacles are the perfect way to end the year, whether you’re in the heart of downtown or checking out a nearby suburb.

  • Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum: This annual display has a small number of tickets left for New Year’s Eve and Day. And check back every Monday when they release new tickets.
  • Brookfield Zoo: This suburban zoo will be decked out in lights on New Year’s Eve as part of their Holiday Magic extravaganza. Reserve your timed ticket before you go.
  • The City of Chicago Christmas Tree: Don’t miss you change to see this towering evergreen, which will light up Millennium Park for just a few days of 2021.
  • Drive Thru Light Show: Head to suburban North Brook for this immersive light show synchronized to holiday music, all enjoyed from the comfort of your car.

Go ice skating

Maggie Daley Park ice skating

Get outside and embrace the chilly weather at these Chicago-area ice rinks. You can bring your own skates or rent some there, just remember to bring your mask and make a reservation ahead of time.

  • Maggie Daley Park: This picturesque skating ribbon that curves through the whimsical play spaces and snow-dusted pine trees.
  • Midway Plaisance ice skating rink: This neighborhood rink is located at the site of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, between scenic Jackson and Washington Parks.
  • The Forge ice skating shelf: This new adventure park in Lemont is taking reservations for their ice skating shelf for open skate or private groups.
  • Chicago Wolves Ice Rink: Skate in the tracks of the Chicago Wolves at this Rosemont ice rink. Advanced reservations are required.

Drink on a rooftop

These seasonal rooftop spaces are the perfect place to cure your cabin fever and ring in a brand new year in style. Sip festive cocktails, roast marshmallows over the fire, play a round of curling, and lounge in a private igloo. Explore our full guide to winter rooftops and check out a few of our favorites below:

  • I|O Godfrey‘s annual Winter Wonderlandis an ultra-festive space features their popular heated igloos, firepits for making s’mores, and lots of winter decor.
  • The Gwen’s winter terrace is back, with a rooftop curling rink where guests can play for up to 45 minutes while enjoying a signature curling cocktail.
  • The Kennedy in Wicker Park offers a variety of ways to stay warm this winter (like firepits, igloos, or a round of curling) all with panoramic skyline views.