Winter is a magical time to visit Millennium Park. This iconic lakefront park in the heart of the city is home to some of Chicago’s most beloved holiday events and winter activities, like the city’s official Christmas tree and free ice skating beside The Bean. And it’s so much more than just a park — the Millennium Park campus is home to a variety of cultural gems, like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Harris Theater.
Here’s our guide on the best things to see and do at Millennium Park this winter.
Cloud Gate aka “The Bean”
One of Chicago’s most iconic pieces of art, The Bean is the crown jewel of Millennium Park. And one of the best times to see it is in winter, when the silvery sculpture is dusted with snow and shining with the surrounding holiday lights. Snap a snowy selfie before exploring the rest of the Millennium Park campus.
- Caroling at Cloud Gate (Nov. 29, Dec. 6, Dec. 13, Dec. 20)
Chicago Christmas Tree
The city’s official Christmas tree brings a big dose of holiday magic to Millennium Park. The towering tree is bedecked in dazzling lights and jumbo-sized ornaments, making a gorgeous photo opp against the glittering city skyline. Don’t miss the official tree lighting ceremony, which features music performances, a visit from Santa Claus, and more. The tree, which is located in the park’s Wrigley Square on Michigan Avenue, will stay up in Millennium Park through early January.
- 106th Annual Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony (Nov. 22)
- Millennium Park Art Market (Nov. 22 – 24)
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Grab some skates and hit the ice in the heart of downtown Chicago. Twirl and glide under the iconic The Bean sculpture within view of the snow-covered skyline. Located just off Michigan Avenue, the rink offers free admission for all. Skate rentals are available for $13 on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is open from Nov. 15 through March 2020, weather permitting.
- Free ice skating lessons (weekend and select holidays)
- Ice rink DJ nights (Dec. 6 & 20, Jan. 3 & 17, Feb. 7 & 21, March 6)
Art Institute of Chicago
The renowned Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country. Located directly south from Millennium Park, the Art Institute is the perfect place to warm up in the winter. Take the floating walkway from Millennium park to the Modern Wing, or head to the main entrance on Michigan Avenue to see the iconic lion statues. Once inside, explore exhibits filled with some of the world’s most famous masterpieces, with works from Monet, Picasso, O’Keefe, Warhol, Renoir, and beyond.
Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park, which neighbors Millennium Park, is a winter wonderland of all-ages fun. The centerpiece of the award-winning park is the Skating Ribbon, a winding pathway of ice that twists and turns through soaring pines and whimsical play equipment. The Skating Ribbon is open from mid-November 2019 through March 2020, weather permitting. Admission is free, skate rentals are available for $13 on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays.
- Holiday Skate with Santa (Dec. 14)
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
The Harris Theater is Millennium Park’s hub for dance, music, and the performing arts. The stunning, intimate venue brings in a diverse array of performers from around the world, and hosts several of Chicago’s most beloved holiday shows. The theatre is also home to several resident companies, like the Chicago Philharmonic and Hubbard Street Dance. Harris Street Theater is located at 205 E. Randolph St. on the northern edge of Millennium Park.
- Holidays: Marcus Roberts Trio with Chicago Philharmonic (Dec. 8)
- Apollo Chorus: Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 14 – Dec. 15)
- Do-It-Yourself Messiah (Dec. 16 – Dec. 17)
Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center is jam-packed with art exhibits, family-friendly events, and classical concerts – all for free. Take a break from the cold and come explore this cultural gem, housed in a gorgeous landmark building that’s home to the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome. Catch a free tour or wander around on your own. The Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington St., just across the street from Millennium Park.
- Dance-Along Nutcracker (Dec. 8)
- Scrooge & Marley film screening (Dec. 18)
- Chicago Architecture Biennial (Through Jan. 5)