Top 10 Chicago Holiday Traditions

Celebrate the festive holiday season like a local in Chicago.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Celebrate the joyous season like a local by joining in some of Chicago’s top 10 holiday traditions, from shopping for ornaments at Christkindlmarket to skating under the stars at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park and catching a glorious performance of The Nutcracker by the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet.

Top 10 Chicago Holiday Traditions Map

1 Millennium Park

Millennium Park is the epicenter of holiday fun in Chicago. See the lighting of the city’s sparkling Christmas tree, skate at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, join in caroling at Cloud Gate or the Do-It-Yourself Messiah at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, and check out Lurie Garden in wintertime.

2 Wreathing of the Lions

The Wreathing of the Lions has been a tradition at the Art Institute of Chicago for more than 25 years. Watch as cheery holiday wreaths are placed on the regal lion statues on the museum steps (where they’re up all season), then head inside for art-making activities.

3 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is a full day of fun, kicking off with family entertainment and activities along Michigan Avenue during the day that lead up to the magical evening parade led by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

4 Christkindlmarket

Christkindlmarket Chicago is an authentic German holiday market, complete with charming wooden stalls, set in the midst of Daley Plaza. Stroll the market with a cup of warm, spiced wine as you shop for unique holiday gifts and ornaments.

5 Skating Ribbon

Glide along the winding Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, where on special days you can have breakfast and ice skate with an impressively agile Santa, plus catch carolers serenading the crowds on Sunday afternoons.

6 Macy's on State Street

Take a walk along historic State Street to see the whimsical holiday windows unveiled for the past 50 years by Macy’s on State Street. Then duck into the department store and have lunch in The Walnut Room under the magnificently decorated Great Tree, which celebrates its 111th-anniversary lighting in 2018.

7 ZooLights

Ooh and ahh at the dazzling animated light displays during ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, where you’ll also find free crafts for kids, frosty beers for the grown-ups, live ice sculpture carving and visits with Santa Claus.

8 The Nutcracker

The Joffrey Ballet’s glorious performance of The Nutcracker at the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is an enchanting production that boasts lavish costumes, beautiful choreography and a mesmerizing musical score played by a live orchestra.

9 Winter WonderFest

The whole family will be delighted by Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. A sprawling indoor winter wonderland is festively decked out for the holidays and features carnival rides, an ice skating rink, and selfies with Santa.

10 New Year's Eve

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in style in Chicago, where parties are held everywhere from glamorous downtown hotel ballrooms to hip restaurants and nightclubs. Don’t miss the fireworks at Navy Pier that glitter above the skyline.

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