The holidays are a magical time of year in Chicago. Bring your group to share in some of the city’s beloved seasonal traditions that include everything from the festive Christkindlmarket to the Joffrey Ballet’s enchanting production of The Nutcracker and dazzling animated lights displays at Lincoln Park Zoo.
1. Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
A holiday tradition since 1942, the Museum of Science and Industry celebrates its annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light from Nov. 14 – Jan. 5, 2020. You’ll be awed by the glittering four-story Grand Tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays representing the holiday traditions of cultures from around the globe. On the weekends, catch live international music and dance performances. Make an advance prepaid group reservation for 15 or more to qualify for special discounts, tours, and experiences.
Stroll through a holiday village inspired by Germany’s Christmas markets at Christkindlmarket Chicago in downtown Daley Plaza from Nov. 15 – Dec. 24. Rows of quaint wooden stalls decked with twinkling lights sell handcrafted holiday gifts like glass ornaments, warm spiced wine, gingerbread, and other traditional German treats. A second city location, Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville at Winterland at Gallagher Way, is located next to historic Wrigley Field and offers the same holiday charm from Nov. 22 – Dec. 31.
3. A Christmas Carol
See the Goodman Theatre’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from Nov. 16 – Dec. 29. This holiday favorite features jubilant musical numbers and a timeless message about kindness, compassion, and redemption. Discount tickets are available for groups of 15 or more for select performances.
4. Millennium Park
Millennium Park is the epicenter of holiday fun in Chicago. See the lighting of the sparkling City of Chicago Christmas Tree on Nov. 22. On Nov. 29 and Dec. 6, 13, and 20, sing holiday tunes with local choral groups during Caroling at Cloud Gate, with “The Bean” sculpture as a picturesque backdrop.
5. BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival offers a weekend of festivities, kicking off on Nov. 22 with live entertainment and holiday activities at Lights Festival Lane in Pioneer Court. On Nov. 23, a day full of holiday fun along North Michigan Avenue leads up to the dazzling evening parade led by Mickey Mouse, as he magically illuminates more than one million lights along the famous street.
6. Wreathing of the Lions
The Wreathing of the Lions has been a tradition at the Art Institute of Chicago for more than 25 years. On Nov. 22, sip free hot chocolate and watch as cheery holiday wreaths are placed on the regal lion statues on the museum steps, then head inside for art-making activities. Discounted museum admission, guided tours, and customized lectures are available for groups of 15 or more.
Direct from London, Lightscape makes its U.S. debut at the Chicago Botanic Garden in north suburban Glencoe from Nov. 22 – Jan. 5, 2020. This mile-long, illuminated trail comes to life at night with vivid color and sound. See a playful choir of singing trees, walk through a sparkling tunnel of light, and marvel at a garden of fire fragrant with frankincense. Purchase tickets in advance for groups of 15 or more.
Ooh and aah at the dazzling animated lights displays during the free ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo from Nov. 29 – Jan. 5, 2020, where more than two million lights transform the zoo into a glittering winter wonderland. There’s also frosty craft beers, live ice carving, strolling carolers, and musical light shows. Look for special ticketed events on select dates, such as the Holiday Market on Dec. 3.
9. The Nutcracker
The Joffrey Ballet’s glorious performance of The Nutcracker is presented Nov. 30 – Dec. 29 at the historic Auditorium Theatre. The enchanting story has been reimagined by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, taking place during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The production boasts lavish costumes, beautiful dancing, and a mesmerizing Tchaikovsky score played by a live orchestra. Discount tickets are available for groups of 10 or more.
10. Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest
The young and young at heart will be delighted by Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier, held Dec. 6 – Jan. 12, 2020. This sprawling indoor winter playland is festively decked out with sparkly decorations and features carnival rides, giant slides, an ice skating rink, holiday-themed activities, selfies with Santa, and much more. Discount tickets to Navy Pier events and attractions are available for groups of 20 or more.