With the holidays in full swing, December is a magical month filled with things to do throughout Chicago. There’s plenty to keep you busy as we wrap up the year, including beloved plays and concerts, ultra-festive pop-up bars, holiday markets, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and more. Check out our list of favorite Chicago activities and events to enjoy this December 2023.

Top events in Chicago this December

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Visit Winterland at Gallagher Way (through December): Enjoy festive, family-friendly events in and around Wrigley Field, including a miniature version of Christkindlmarket.

Enjoy Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden (through December): Explore the Chicago Botanic Garden with a magical twist for the holidays, filled with immersive light installations, holiday music, and more.

Be amazed by ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo (through December): Head to Lincoln Park Zoo for an iconic holiday tradition, with thousands of lights and festive activities throughout the zoo.

Shop and dine at Christkindlmarket (through December): The German-inspired Christmas market is back in Daley Plaza, with mugs of mulled wine and plenty of holiday charm.

Explore holiday traditions from around the world (through December): The holidays are headed to the Museum of Science and Industry for a special exhibit featuring a four-story, floor-to-dome grand Christmas tree.

Go ice skating in Millennium Park (through December): Skate with a city view at Millennium Park’s free-admission ice rink in the heart of bustling downtown Chicago. 

Check out the Winter Flower Show at Garfield Park (through December): The Garfield Park Conservatory’s annual Winter Flower Show is a feast for the senses (and a great way to warm up on a winter day).

Don’t miss Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum (through December): The tenth-annual event covers fifty acres of the Arboretum, filled with a spectacle of light, sound, and color. 

See the winter fireworks at Navy Pier (through December): This year, Navy Pier will be hosting weekly winter fireworks on the lakefront every weekend throughout December.

Explore more: Experience authentic Chicago traditions with these neighborhood holiday events.

More events in Chicago this December

Millennium Park Ice Skating
Millennium Park Ice Skating; photo by Abel Arciniega

Join the Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (Dec. 1, 8, and 15): Sing your heart out alongside a variety of choir and ensemble groups at the annual Millennium Park holiday sing-along. 

Shop and explore at the Pre-Kwanzaa Marketplace (Dec. 1 – 2): Along with plenty of holiday shopping, this free market in Woodlawn features drummers, live music, food, and more.

Eat your way around Italy (Dec. 2): Celebrate the cuisine of Italy (and Eataly Chicago’s 10th birthday) with this special holiday taste-around event. 

Attend a pop-up concert in a Gilded Age mansion (Dec. 2, 9, 18, and 21): The Driehaus Museum will be hosting a series of free holiday-themed concerts, celebrating the music of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and more.

Shop an all-day Christmas bazaar (Dec. 3): The Irish American Heritage Center is kicking off the holidays with this day-long event featuring shopping, music, dance, and a visit from Santa. 

Get tickets for Mariah Carey at the United Center (Dec. 3): Is there anyone more synonymous with Christmas music than Mariah Carey? The iconic diva brings her Christmas show to Chicago.

Sing along at the Old Town School of Folk Music (Dec. 3): Now in its 25th year, this annual family-friendly holiday sing-along event is sure to put you in a festive mood.

Ride the ‘L’ train with Santa Claus (through December): Multiple CTA trains and buses are transformed into a true winter wonderland to get riders of all ages excited about the holidays.

Shop at the One of a Kind Holiday Show (Dec. 7 – 10): Browse the art and offerings from over 500 artists at this annual holiday market that’s celebrating its 22nd year in Chicago.

Don’t miss a Magical Cirque Christmas (starts Dec. 7 – 28): Get in the holiday spirit with a special Cirque du Soleil Christmas show at the Chicago Theatre featuring a variety of dazzling performances alongside classic holiday tunes.

Float down the Chicago River in a hot tub boat (starting Dec. 8): This winter, sit back and enjoy the view in a new floating hot tub from Chicago Electric Boat Rentals.

Join the Christmas Sing-along at the Music Box (starting Dec. 8): This year is the 40th anniversary of the local-favorite event at the Music Box, which includes a double feature of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.

See a one-night-only tap performance (Dec. 9): M.A.D.D. Rhythms and Chicago Tap Theatre are coming together for a Winter Wonderland show featuring some of the city’s best tap dancers at the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

Find gifts at the Hyde Park Holiday Market (Dec. 9): Held at The Promontory, this one-day market features unique art, wellness products, stocking stuffers, and more.

Attend a free Hanukkah celebration (Dec. 10): A free event outside Wrigley Field, Fourth Night Fourth Light will include a menorah lighting, live entertainment, games, food, and more.

Celebrate Hanukkah with drag queen story time (Dec. 10): Head to The Understudy Coffee & Books in Andersonville for this family-friendly candle lighting and book reading, hosted by Drag Bubbie Merriam Levkowitz. 

Embark on a culinary journey through Chinatown (Dec. 10 and 17): Taste your way around one of Chicago’s best culinary neighborhoods, from Hong Kong dim sum to spicy Szechuan.

Go see Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Dec. 11 – 31): This family-friendly live performance is based on Eric Kimmel’s popular book, telling the story of a traveling troupe of actors who help bring the magic of Hanukkah to life. 

Experience a one-of-a-kind Swedish tradition (Dec. 13): The St. Lucia Festival of Lights is a candle-lit procession that brings holiday cheer and song to the charming Andersonville neighborhood each year. 

Leave the kids at home for Adults Night Out at the zoo (Dec. 14): Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual Holidaze at the Zoo event offers an adults-only experience with live DJ music, ice carving, pop-up food and drink offerings, and more.

Hear a holiday concert by a modern orchestra (Dec. 15): Chicago Sinfonietta will be performing a medley of classic and contemporary holiday tunes at the stunning Auditorium Theatre.

See local artists at work at Bridgeport Art Center (Dec. 15): This multi-level artist incubator hosts open studio events every third Friday, when you can wander through various workshops showcasing a variety of mediums.

Don’t miss Merry Merry, Chicago at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Dec. 15 – 23): Get into the spirit with this holiday tradition, featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing familiar carols and songs.

Browse the Renegade Craft Fair (Dec. 16 – 17): Morgan Manufacturing is home to this year’s winter-themed craft fair, featuring goods from curated local artists and food and drink specials.

See a modernized Christmas ballet (Dec. 17): Black Girls Dance presents Mary: A Holiday Dansical, a reimagined version of the classic story told through contemporary dance.

Take the kids to see the Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party (through Dec. 24): Beatrix Potter’s iconic novels come to life throughout a holiday tea party show at the Chicago Children’s Theatre.

Take an architecture-focused holiday walking tour (through December): Join the Chicago Architecture Center for a festive walking tour of Chicago holiday icons like Macy’s on State Street and the Palmer House.

Be enchanted by the Immersive Nutcracker (through December): Lighthouse Artspace in Chicago transforms into the Immersive Nutcracker exhibit, including the music and imagery from the beloved story.

Take a ride on the Polar Express (through December): Fans of the classic holiday tale won’t want to miss the real-life train ride that recreates the magic of visiting the North Pole at Union Station.

Head back in time with Downton Abbey: The Exhibition (through December): Fans of the Downton Abbey series will want to head to Skokie for a special exhibition journey showcasing sets, costumes, and memorabilia from the popular TV series.

Go ice skating on the roof of The Peninsula Hotel (through December): What better backdrop for ice skating than the skyscrapers and holiday lights of The Mag Mile? The rooftop ice rink is back at the Peninsula Hotel, and you can enjoy warm drinks and snacks at the chalet after skating.

Book a cozy lodge at the Fairmont Chicago (through December): The Fairmont Chicago brings the après-ski vibes with their winter lodge featuring seasonal drinks and fondue.

Check out Disney 100: The Exhibition (through December): Enjoy the timeless magic of Walt Disney at this new exhibition with over 250 artifacts and memorabilia from beloved movies.

Visit The Sweetest Santa on the Mile (through December): Water Tower Place transforms into a candy-filled pop-up experience throughout December, bringing plenty of photo opps and visits with Santa

Enjoy a string quartet by candlelight (through December): The historic Stan Mansion in Logan Square hosts bewitching candlelight concerts featuring holiday-inspired music.

Celebrate the holidays at Eight Crazy Nights pop-up bar (through December): It’s hard not to love a pop-up bar, especially one that’s Hanukkah-themed and features a special themed menu.

Drive through the Light of Christmas show (through December): Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of the White Sox, will become a drive-through holiday display with over one million lights that can be enjoyed from the warmth of your car.

Travel to Bedford Falls for the holidays (through December): It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago, one of the longest-running holiday plays in Chicago, brings the classic Frank Capra tale to life at the American Blues Theater.

Admire the Sparkle Lights Festival in Rosemont (through December): Impact Field in Rosemont will be transformed into five illuminated lights villages, featuring a holiday train, 3D features, and more.

Catch the latest show from Art on THE MART (through Dec. 30): Head to the Chicago Riverwalk to see the world’s largest digital art display, now showing a new winter show.

Get in the spirit at Jack Frost in Fulton Market (through Dec. 31): The massive holiday pop-up returns, but this year heads to Fulton Market, transforming into a winter wonderland featuring ice skating, cocktails, ax throwing, bumper cars & more.

Try rooftop curling at the Gwen Hotel (through December): Enjoy cocktails and curling on the rooftop terrace of The Gwen on Michigan Avenue.

Get in the holiday spirit at Frosty’s: A Christmas Bar (through December): Filled with extensive holiday decor, it’s hard not to feel festive at Frosty’s pop-up bar, which includes four bars and three levels of decor, food, and drink.

Celebrate holiday magic at Brookfield Zoo (through Dec. 31): Head to the Brookfield Zoo for a light-filled display that includes over two million lights, a skating rink, illuminated animal sculptures, and more.

Experience a Chicago tradition at A Christmas Carol(through Dec. 31): This year is the 45th annual rendition of the heart-warming holiday tale that tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge at the acclaimed Goodman Theatre.

Go ice skating at Maggie Daley Park (through December): Glide across the ice with a city view at the whimsical Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon.

Explore more: Ring in 2024 in Chicago with these top New Year’s Eve parties and events.