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‘Tis the season to be merry and bright! Celebrate this colorful time of year with the city's luminous events and decorative holiday traditions.

Here are 12 of our all-time favorites. 

Christkindlmarket Chicago

1. Christkindlmarket | Nov. 17 - Dec. 24, 2017

Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago becomes a bustling mini village filled with red-and-white huts covered in twinkling lights and garlands. This tradition — which celebrates 22 years in 2017 — is inspired by the Nuremberg Christmas Market in Germany. Browse the stalls to shop for handcrafted holiday gifts (ornaments, knit caps, cuckoo clocks, and more), while enjoying spiced wine, strudel, sausage and other traditional treats.   

2. Christmas Around the World - MSI | Nov. 16, 2017 - Jan. 7, 2018

As is tradition, the Museum of Science & Industry's 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the Rotunda, decked out in 30,000 lights. Surrounding it are more than 50 smaller trees beautifully decorated by volunteers from Chicago communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. The occasional falling of "snow" adds to the fun. 

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

3. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival | Nov. 18, 2017

After a day filled with family friendly activities, a nighttime parade turns the stretch of Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Oak Street into Chicago's brightest shopping district. The Mag Mile's hotels and shops light up in a glorious display of more than one-million lights, adorning the boulevard's 250 trees. The accompanying procession is a show-stopper led by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World Resort, followed by festive floats and a cast of characters. A fireworks display over the majestic Chicago River keeps the festivities going well into the evening.

4. City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony | Nov. 17, 2017

This year marks the City of Chicago's 104th anniversary of Christmas Tree Lighting, taking place at Millennium Park. This highly anticipated event draws people of all ages to see the 50-foot evergreen aglow in the reflection of "The Bean" across the way. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m., with the tree lighting at Michigan Avenue and Washington Street officially happening at 6 p.m.

ZooLights Chicago

5. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo | Nov. 24, 2017 - Jan. 7, 2018

This spectacular holiday celebration transforms Lincoln Park's free lakefront zoo into a winter wonderland. The 23rd edition will illuminate the grounds with more than two-million lights, including larger-than-life illuminated animal designs. Holiday crafts and activities, and, of course, sweet treats, round out the fun. Be sure to swing by the Helen Brach Primate House for a visit with Santa Claus. Take a ride on the Lionel Train Adventure through the snowy birch forest and craggy canyon. Or go ice skaing past ponies and goats at the rink at Farm-in-the-Zoo.

6. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier | Dec. 1, 2017 - Jan. 7, 2018

The 17th annual festival is Chicago's coolest, biggest and best INDOOR playground. There's an ice skating rink, Ferris wheel, carousel and huge inflatable slides spread across 170,000 square feet — and the decor is just as spectacular as the views. Massive snowflakes and thousands of icicle lights dangle from the ceiling, over 400 evergreens in all their trimmings add more holiday glitz, and giant candy canes, gingerbread houses and snowmen border the rides.

Holiday Magic Brookfield Zoo 

7. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo | Select dates Dec. 2 - 31, 2017

Chicagoland's largest lights festival features more than one-million twinkling lights throughout the sprawling 216-acre suburban zoo. Select animal exhibits will remain open into the evening, as will zoo restaurants and gift shops. Enjoy a full schedule of live entertainment: singing to the animals, professional ice-carving demonstrations, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, magic shows, a friendly 38-foot talking tree, costumed characters, and a model train display.

8. St. Lucia Festival of Lights | Dec. 12, 2017 

Drawing on its Swedish roots, the North Side neighborhood of Andersonville conducts a candlelight procession along Clark Street, kicking off at the Swedish American Museum. Look out for the specially chosen "Lucia Girls" leading the crowd. Dressed in long white robes and adorned with beautiful crowns of candles, they sing "The Lucia Song" and invite children and adults to join in their walk. Afterwards, celebrate at the museum with family-friendly entertainment.

9. CTA Holiday Train | Nov. - Dec. 2017 

There's nothing more thrilling than catching the brightly lit 'L' Holiday Train, whizzing down the tracks! On select weekdays and over the weekends before Christmas, Santa dashes through the city in his sleigh (atop a flatbed train car) pulled by decorated, peppermint-scented passenger coaches. At certain stops, jolly train conductors dressed in elf costumes take photos of kids with Santa and hand out candy canes. Holiday music plays throughout the six cars, which are tricked out with holiday-patterned upholstery and garland-wrapped poles. Check the CTA website for an updated schedule.

 Macy's State Street Windows

10. Macy's Holiday Window Exhibits | Nov. 2017 - Jan. 2018

This is the epicenter of magic on Chicago's "Great Street." Macy's on State Street is an essential holiday shopping destination. Outside, however, is where the real magic happens. Peer into large windows exquisitely decorated by a dedicated team of painters, welders, costume-makers, engineers, visual artists and carpenters. Combining traditional old-school artistry with gorgeous visual elements, the windows are filled with imaginative scenes. 

11. Lightscape: A Multisensory Experience on State Street | Nov. - Dec. 2017 

This one-of-a-kind light and sound installation creates vivid patterns of color, choreographed to music along the sidewalks of State Street. The displays are programmed to change with every season, offering visitors a new and festive experience with each trip to the Loop shopping district.

12. Wonderland Express at Chicago Botanic Garden | Nov. 24 2017 - Jan. 7 2018

The Chicago Botanic Garden definitely knows how to put the "wonder" in "wonderland." Wonderland Express features toy trains that wind their way through plantings, onto overhead bridges, and past more than 80 miniature recreations of Chicago's most famous buildings and landmarks, from the The Bean (Cloud Gate) to Wrigley Field. These unbelievably detailed replicas are handcrafted by "railroad garden guru" Paul Busse and his team at Applied Imagination, and are constructed using natural materials such as gourds, pine cones, bark, acorns, pods, seeds, grains, grasses — and other "bits of nature." Best of all? Indoor snow!


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