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Top 10 Things to Do in Chicago During Christmas


Chicago is a city that truly comes alive during the Christmas season. From dazzling holiday lights to festive events, there is no shortage of things to do and see in the Windy City. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, this guide will help you make the most of your Christmas experience in Chicago.

1. Marvel at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Kick off the holiday season by attending the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. This annual event features a parade, live music, and a spectacular lighting ceremony along Michigan Avenue. Join the thousands of spectators as the city’s iconic shopping district is transformed into a winter wonderland.

Tip: Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot and bundle up to stay warm!

2. Ice Skate at Millennium Park

Experience the magic of ice skating in the heart of downtown Chicago at Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Surrounded by the city’s stunning skyline, this iconic rink offers a picturesque setting for a fun-filled day with family and friends.

Tip: Visit during the evening to enjoy the rink’s enchanting lights and the beautiful cityscape.

3. Visit Christkindlmarket

Immerse yourself in a traditional German Christmas market at Christkindlmarket. Located in Daley Plaza, this festive market features over 50 vendors selling unique gifts, delicious food, and warm drinks. Don’t forget to try the famous hot spiced wine, Glühwein!

Tip: Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds and explore the market at a leisurely pace.

4. Enjoy the Holiday Themed Shows

Chicago offers a variety of holiday-themed shows that are perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit. From the beloved “The Nutcracker” ballet to festive concerts and comedy shows, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Tip: Check the schedules of popular theaters like the Chicago Theatre and the Auditorium Theatre for their holiday show lineups.

5. Take a Festive Stroll at Lincoln Park Zoo

Experience the magic of the season at Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights. This annual event transforms the zoo into a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling lights, holiday displays, and seasonal activities for all ages.

Tip: Bundle up and take a stroll through the zoo to admire the dazzling lights and catch a glimpse of the animals.

6. Indulge in Holiday Treats

Christmas is the perfect time to indulge in delicious holiday treats. Visit the famous Garrett Popcorn Shops for their limited-edition holiday flavors or satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to one of Chicago’s many artisanal chocolate shops.

Tip: Don’t miss out on trying a traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizza while you’re in town!

7. Explore the Christmas Markets

In addition to Christkindlmarket, Chicago is home to several other Christmas markets that offer unique shopping experiences. From local artisans to international vendors, these markets are a treasure trove of one-of-a-kind gifts and holiday decorations.

Tip: Visit the Randolph Street Market’s Holiday Market for a mix of vintage finds and handmade crafts.

8. Attend the Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

Experience the magic of “The Nutcracker” ballet performed by the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet. This beloved holiday tradition brings Tchaikovsky’s enchanting score to life with stunning choreography and elaborate sets.

Tip: Book your tickets in advance to secure the best seats for this iconic performance.

9. Visit the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry hosts an annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit. Explore the beautifully decorated trees and displays representing different cultures and holiday traditions from around the globe.

Tip: Check the museum’s website for special events and performances happening during the holiday season.

10. Witness the Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting

Join the festive crowd at Millennium Park for the official lighting of Chicago’s Christmas tree. This iconic event marks the start of the holiday season and features live music, fireworks, and a visit from Santa Claus himself.

Tip: Arrive early to secure a good spot and enjoy the pre-show entertainment.


Chicago offers a plethora of activities and events to make your Christmas season truly memorable. From festive markets to enchanting performances, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Embrace the holiday spirit and create lasting memories in the vibrant city of Chicago.


Q: What are the dates for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival?

A: The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival usually takes place in late November or early December. Check the official website for the most up-to-date information.

Q: Are there any admission fees for ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo?

A: No, ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is a free event. However, some activities and attractions may require a separate fee.

Q: Can I buy tickets for “The Nutcracker” ballet online?

A: Yes, tickets for “The Nutcracker” ballet by the Joffrey Ballet can be purchased online through their official website or through authorized ticketing platforms.

Q: Is ice skating at Millennium Park free?

A: While ice skating at Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is free, skate rentals are available for a fee.


– Plan your visit to popular attractions and events in advance to secure tickets and avoid long lines.

– Dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes for outdoor activities.

– Take advantage of public transportation to navigate the city easily.

– Don’t forget to try some of Chicago’s famous holiday treats and delicacies.

Remember, the key to enjoying your Christmas in Chicago is to embrace the festive spirit and make the most of the city’s holiday offerings. Share your experiences with others and spread the joy of the season!

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