Art Institute

Ring in the holiday season at the Art Institute of Chicago, our city's historic, world-class, and above all, beloved art museum. From watching the iconic lions get dressed in their seasonal best to making your own art-inspired gingerbread house, a visit to the Art Institute during the holidays is a must! Here are five special things to do at the Art Institute this holiday season, plus a few insider tips.  

Watch the lions get dressed in their holiday best at the Wreathing of the Lions

Art Institute of Chicago

Start the holidays off with a roar when the Art Institute's beloved lions don their traditional evergreen wreaths at the Michigan Avenue entrance on November 28 at 10 a.m. Complimentary hot chocolate and live music add to the holiday cheer. At 10:30 a.m., following the outdoor ceremony on the Michigan Avenue steps, families are invited to stop by the Ryan Education Center to create holiday wreaths decorated with drawings of your family's favorite holiday traditions.  


Visit the 18th century Neapolitan crèche

The Art Institute's splendid mid-18th-century Neapolitan crèche is one of the very few and finest examples of the Neapolitan holiday traditional nativity scene outside of Naples. More than 200 figures, 50 animals and 41 items of food and drink are featured in this ornate Baroque crèche.


See dollhouse-sized Thorne Rooms decorated for the holiday season

Holiday Thorne Rooms

The Thorne Rooms are magnificent year round, but during the holidays, they are especially adorable in all their teeny tiny splendor. Developed in the 1930s and '40s by dollhouse aficionado Mrs. James Ward Thorne, these ornate rooms were made in a scale of one inch to one foot and decorated with period-inspired, handmade furniture and accessories. During the holidays, they take on a completely new look. See if you can spot the miniature menorah or the teeny tiny yule log. 

Insider Tip: The free Art Institute of Chicago app will give you more insight into selected works from the museum's world-renowned collection, accompanied by slide shows, videos, archival materials, and more. 


Celebrate Holly Days

The popular Holly Days Festival will take place December 27-30. Pop into the Ryan Education Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m for a variety of family workshops and performances. Draw a character, whether human, beast, or supernatural being, inspired by the exhibitions Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections and Temptation: The Demons of James Ensor, or set out on an interactive gallery walk at 1:30 p.m.  

Insider Tip: The Art Institute offers valet service, making it easier than ever to visit the galleries with your little ones. Valet service is now available at the Modern Wing entrance every day from 10:30 a.m, when the museum doors open, until one-half hour after closing. The cost is $25 per car. 


Build your own art-inspired gingerbread house

Create an edible, art-inspired dream home with your family on Saturday or Sunday, December 13-14. Gingerbread kits, frosting, and decorating candy are included, as well as a museum filled with art to give you a little bit of inspiration. Register online or call 312-553-9675.