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Celebrate the holidays Chicago style

Bring your group to Chicago from November through early January to celebrate the most magical time of the year, with dazzling theatre and dance performances, charming outdoor holiday markets, twinkling museum exhibits, and ice skating in Millennium Park. We’ve created a one-day downtown itinerary to make it easy for your group to experience the best of Chicago’s favorite holiday traditions.

Morning

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Start your visit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park and join in the annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light celebration from Nov. 16 through Jan. 4, 2023. 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, including Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and St. Lucia Day. 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.

Afternoon

Head to Macy’s on State Street and have lunch in the historic Walnut Room, the first-ever restaurant to open inside a department store. The beautifully decorated Great Tree, lit from Nov. 5 – Jan. 8, is the dazzling centerpiece of the elegant restaurant, which recently celebrated 115 years of serving hungry shoppers. After lunch, view Macy’s holiday windows, which have been a Loop tradition for more than 50 years. Each year Macy’s features a different theme, with its storefront windows charmingly designed to tell a whimsical holiday story as visitors move from one display to the next.

Friends at Christkindlmarket
Christkindlmarket

Do some gift shopping at the nearby Christkindlmarket Chicago in Daley Plaza, open from Nov. 18 through Christmas Eve. The free Christkindlmarket was inspired by a traditional German Christmas market and has become a beloved Chicago holiday must-do. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine while browsing the festively decorated booths offering artisan gifts like handcrafted ornaments and wooden toys, along with authentic German food and drink. There’s also live traditional German music.

Ice skaters at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park.

Then, go ice skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, which is a postcard-perfect winter wonderland. The scenic rink offers panoramic views of the snow-dusted Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), the twinkling City of Chicago Christmas Tree, and the breathtaking city skyline. The rink is open daily from Nov. 18 through March 5, 2023, weather permitting. Admission is free, but online reservations are required. Skate rentals are available.

Maggie Daley Park ice skating

Or glide along the Skating Ribbon in next-door Maggie Daley Park. The path of the Skating Ribbon, which curves through whimsical play spaces and snowy pine trees, is twice the length of a lap around a traditional ice rink. The Skating Ribbon is open from Nov. 18 through March 12, 2023 (weather permitting). Skate rentals are available. Free online reservations are required.

Evening

Chicago offers many thrilling holiday shows, with discounted tickets available for groups. This year marks the 45th anniversary of A Christmas Carol performed at the Goodman Theatre during the holiday season. This Dickens classic, presented from Nov. 19 through Dec. 31, features amazing sets and award-winning actors. The Nutcracker is performed by the Joffrey Ballet at the Civic Opera House from Dec. 3 – 27. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, this enchanting production features gorgeous costumes and glorious dancing. Broadway In Chicago presents A Magical Cirque Christmas at the CIBC Theatre from Dec. 6 – 11. An international cast of talented cirque artists — including acrobats and illusionists — entertains audiences with spellbinding performances set to live holiday music.

Or spend the evening wandering among the dazzling animated light displays of ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo, held from Nov. 19 – Jan. 1, 2023. More than two million glittering lights illuminate the zoo grounds with everything from larger-than-life animal designs to light shows synced with holiday music. There’s also craft beer and cocktails, seasonal snacks, and carolers and ice carving on the weekends. Entry is free on Monday, with a $5 admission fee charged Tuesday through Sunday. Timed-entry tickets are required on all days.

Find even more ways for your group to enjoy the holidays in Chicago.

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