Chicago is one of the great cities of the world for holiday celebrations. The changing seasons bring exciting festivals, inspiring exhibits and outdoor fun throughout the city. And Chicago comes alive with shopping, song, and streets lined with twinkling lights. You may even see a blanket of snow on our festive garland.

NEW this season: Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park combine to become a festive "Winter Campus" home to Chicago's official Christmas Tree lighting, and the riverfront sets the scene for a spectacular New Year's Eve countdown outdoors, "Chi-Town Rising".



Ice Skating - Millennium Park / Maggie Daley Park / Peninsula Sky Rink

2015-16 Dates: Open late November to early March   

Kick off Chicago's winter season with a fun-filled day of ice skating at Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. The rink draws more than 100,000 skaters annually, and is free and open to the public. Skate rental is available for $10.

Or, try out the new ice skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, a winding, quarter-mile-long loop celebrating its 1-year anniversary this winter.  

At Peninsula Hotel, the skating rink is open to hotel, restaurant and spa guests daily. Here, you can glide four stories above Michigan Avenue, with views of Chicago's iconic 875 N Michigan (formerly the John Hancock Center) building and The Magnificent Mile. Fees collected are donated to two children's charities. 


Caroling at Cloud Gate - Millennium Park

2015 DATES: Fridays, November 27 - December 18

A Chicago holiday tradition.  Enjoy the beautiful voices of a variety of choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along.


Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour

2015-16 DATES: November 27 - January 3 (dates & times vary)

A lightly narrated 2-hour tour shows the best of Chicago's holiday lights and sights and stops at two brilliant holiday attractions! You will find yourself caroling all the way to The Magnificent Mile, Macy's Holiday Windows, John Hancock Tree, Navy Pier, Daley Plaza Tree, the Art Institute lions and much more!  Stops to explore include (30 minutes each): Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza and Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo.



Christkindlmarket - Daley Plaza

2015 DATES: November 20 - December 24

Experience a traditional German Christmas inspired by the famous Nuremberg Christmas market dating back to 1545. Visitors will find Chicago's iconic Picasso sculpture surrounded by red and white crested huts glowing with warmth and overflowing with curios. Daley Plaza is transformed at this outdoor market offering exquisite handmade gifts, unique ornaments and German delicacies like brats, goulash, potato pancakes, cookies and Gluhwein (a warm spiced wine).


Shopping along The Magnificent MileTM (Michigan Avenue) or State Street

No city does shopping like Chicago.  Whether it's along the famous Magnificent Mile or on State Street (that great street), you will find everything you need!



A Christmas Carol - Goodman Theatre

2015 DATES: November 14 - December 27 

For three decades, Charles Dickens' classic story, exceptional actors and miraculous stagecraft have made A Christmas Carol a perennial holiday favorite and beloved Chicago tradition. Audiences delight in the "Bah, Humbugs," the arrival of the ghosts, the music and dancing and Scrooge's joyful discovery of life and love. 


A Charlie Brown Christmas - Broadway Playhouse

2015-16 DATES: November 14 - January 3

Charles Schulz's lovable Peanuts characters come to life on the Broadway Playhouse stage this winter, on a mission to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown and friends will bring audiences holiday cheer and remind them that love and family mean more than commercialized gimmicks of presents and decorations.


The Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker" - The Auditorium Theater

2015 DATES: December 4-27

The Tchaikovsky masterpiece, featuring the full Joffrey company, local children's choruses, and more than 120 young dancers, creates a winter wonderland of beauty, magic and sugarplum delight!


CSO's Merry Merry Chicago with the Von Trapps - Symphony Center

2015 DATES: December 18-23

CSO's Merry Merry Chicago with the Von Trapps is just the ticket for heartwarming holiday cheer. The merry musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and special guests are joined by the talented von Trapp family great-grandchildren of the family depicted in "The Sound of Music." The joyous celebration features timeless carols, a sing-along of holiday favorites including "Christmas in Chicago," and a certain someone visiting from the North Pole! 



Macy's on State Christmas Traditions

2015 Dates: November 5 - December 31

Themed and decorated windows along State Street unveil a story of Christmas cheer.  Marvel at our 45-foot Great Tree decorated with over 1,200 themed ornaments and 25,000 dazzling lights in the famed Walnut Room. 


Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Light - Museum of Science & Industry

2015-16 DATES: November 19 - January 3

A Chicago tradition since 1942.  The Museum's 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the rotunda with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees beautifully decorated by volunteers from Chicago's ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. View the trees, enjoy intermittent falling "snow" and savor the performances on the Holiday Stage by school choral groups and ethnic song and dance groups.


Holiday Tea at the Drake Hotel

2015-16 DATES: November 20 - January 3; 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Continuing its longstanding tradition of afternoon tea, Palm Court offers "Holiday Tea" from November through December.  Visitors will enjoy festive holiday pastries, a harpist will play daily, and for "The 12 Days of Christmas" Carolers will serenade guests in the magnificently decorated winter wonderland.


Thorne Rooms decorated for Christmas at the Art Institute of Chicago

2015-16 DATES: November 20 - January 10

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, each room is decorated with holiday traditions from the time period.


Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

2015 DATE: November 21

The largest evening holiday celebration in the U.S., jump starting the holiday season with a full day of family friendly activities, concerts by top musical artists and the best holiday shopping. The day's excitement culminates with a grand evening parade down Michigan Avenue marshaled by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, illuminating one million lights on 200 trees. The parade concludes with a grand finale fireworks show over the Chicago River.


Tree Lighting Ceremony

2015 DATE: November 24 

The official City of Chicago Christmas Tree will be lit at dusk in its new location at Millennium Park, and following this seasonal kick-off celebration, visitors also can meet with Santa at the Millennium Park Welcome Center.


McDonald's® Thanksgiving Parade

2015 DATE:  November 26 (U.S. Thanksgiving Day)

Ronald McDonald, Santa and a cast of thousands march down State Street as over 400,000 people line the route from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street. Whether you're gazing at the gigantic helium balloons, moving to the beat of the marching bands or waving at the entertainers in decorative floats, there is fun for all at the biggest holiday parade in the city and the only one in Chicago to feature inflatable balloons every year.


Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago

2015 DATES: November 27 

Celebrate the holiday season with this Chicago family favorite as the iconic lions at the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago are adorned with traditional evergreen wreaths!  Afterwards, head inside for music and family-friendly activities.


ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

2015-16 DATES: November 27 - January 3 (select evenings/weekends only)

Enter a winter wonderland illuminated by more than two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo's annual classic. Get a picture taken with Santa through December 23rd, prepare holiday crafts and watch ice carving. Then escape the cold and experience the climates, conditions and animals of four continents: South America, Africa, Asia and Australia in the zoo's Regenstein Small Mammal Reptile House.


Lawry's Dinner and "A Christmas Carol" Live

2015 DATE: November 29

Enjoy the charming sounds of costumed performers dressed in traditional Victorian attire as they entertain with Christmas Carols at the equally historic Lawry's, The Prime Rib. This special event also features a four-course prime rib dinner before heading out for a night of theatre to watch live performance of A Christmas Carol.


Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest

2015-16 DATES: December 5 - January 10

Enjoy more time to have more fun inside an enchanted 170,000 square foot winter playground! Bring the entire family for days of entertainment, Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating, huge inflatable slides, rides, and so much more.


Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

2015 DATES: Saturdays and Sundays, December 5-6, 12-13, 19-20                     Saturday - Thursday, December 26-31

Chicagoland's largest light festival featuring over one million twinkling lights, animated light displays and a laser light show.


Holiday Traditions at Clarke House and Glessner House Museum

Experience a traditional 10th century Christmas at Clarke and Glessner House Museums and learn about the origins of many of our beloved Christmas traditions.


Chi-Town Rising New Year's Eve Celebration

A free, outdoor party in the heart of downtown will make for a New Year's Eve to remember. See Chicago's star rise sky-high for a special countdown on December 31 outside the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Live music stages and multiple celebrations will spill out from this main party central along the riverfront, with VIP packages and viewing parties available from several partner hotels.

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