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10 Free Things to Do in Chicago 

December 2018

You don't need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of culture and fun in Chicago. Here are just 10 FREE festivals, exhibitions, concerts and events to enjoy around the city this month.

1. MARVEL AT THE CITY OF CHICAGO CHRISTMAS TREE

Millennium Park Christmas Tree

Through Jan. 7, 2019
Head to Millennium Park to see the glittering tree against the city’s sparkling skyline. The city’s 105th Christmas tree is a 60-foot Norway Spruce that’s 48 years old and clocks in at 8,200 pounds. The tree will remain lit nightly through Jan. 7. 201 E. Randolph St.

2. SEE THE ART ON THEMART HOLIDAY PROGRAMMING

Holiday display at Art on theMART

Through December 2018
In December, the world’s largest digital art projection will incorporate winter holiday images into its regular show. The six festive images will animate for a minute and a half between the contemporary artworks that make up the two-hour program. The mind-boggling display lights up the Chicago river from 7 – 9 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza.

3. WANDER THROUGH THE MAGICAL Christkindlmarket

Christkindlmarket

Nov. 16 - Dec. 24
Walk through rows of gorgeous ornaments, German specialties, and handmade gifts at this open-air Christmas market in Daley Plaza. The annual favorite runs from Nov. 16 through Dec. 24 and will include plenty of live music, traditional displays and holiday charm. 50 W. Washington St.

4. TAKE A FREE WINTER WALKING TOUR

Through Dec. 29
Just because it's winter doesn't mean you can't go on foot. Free Chicago Walking Tours recently launched two new winter expeditions. One will explore the Chicago Pedway system that crisscrosses underneath the city (and keeps walkers warm in the winter months). The second will be a Holiday Tree & Light Tour where guests can get a guided tour of the Loop and River North neighborhoods bedazzled for the holidays.

5. EXPLORE A CHICAGO MUSEUM

Field Museum

Various dates
Warm up (and learn something new) at one of Chicago’s world-class museums. Two of the city’s most popular institutions are offering free general admission to Illinois residents in December:

Adler Planetarium: December 1, 3 – 7, 10​​ 
Field Museum: Dec. 16

6. Sing along at Caroling at Cloud Gate

Caroling at the Cloud Gate

Dec. 7, 12 and 14
Bundle up and belt out some holiday classics alongside local Chicago choral groups. Hundreds gather around Cloud Gate (commonly known as "The Bean") in Millennium Park to spread some holiday cheer through everyone’s favorite holiday carols. Caroling will take place from 6:00 to 7:00 pm on Friday, Dec. 7, Wednesday, Dec. 12 and Friday, Dec. 14. 201 E. Randolph St.

7. MARVEL AT MILLIONS OF LIGHTS AT ZooLights

zoolights

Nov. 23 – Jan. 6
It’s the most magical time of year to be at Lincoln Park Zoo. Millions of twinkling lights transform the zoo into a winter wonderland, with visits from Santa, incredible 3D displays, live ice sculpture carving, strolling carolers, musical light shows and more. The free display will be on select nights from Nov. 23 through Jan. 6. 2001 N. Clark St.

8. Glide along at free ice skating rinks

Nighttime Ice Skating

Mid-November through March
Practice your best figure eights at the free McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Skaters of all ages and abilities can glide along under the reflected glow of The Bean. At neighboring Maggie Daley Park, the ice ribbon takes skaters under snowy pines and around towering climbing walls. Admission is free, skate rentals available. 201 E. Randolph St.

9. Take in the colors at the Holiday Flower Show

Holiday Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory

Nov. 23, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019
The theme of this year’s Holiday Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory is “Tickled Pink”. Along with the traditional holiday evergreens, the indoor conservatory will be overflowing with poinsettias in every shade of blush. Pink lights and and other pink plants complete the rosy glow. 300 N. Central Park Ave.

10. Watch Chicago's New Year’s Eve Fireworks

Navy Pier Fireworks

Dec. 31
A new fireworks display will light up both Chicago's waterfronts for the first time this year. The free fireworks show along the Chicago river and at Navy Pier on the lakefront will be coordinated to music to create one spectacular display. Learn more about viewing locations and partner events.

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