Chicago miraculously transforms into a winter wonderland right around the holiday season. Lights are hung and illuminate joy in our city streets, seasonal goodies fill our stomachs with warmth, and events charm our locals and visitors alike. Despite the cold temperatures outside, it is a time to radiate of holiday happiness and partake in the city’s fabulous festivities. To help you do so, we’ve curated the 12 best places to experience a true Chicago holiday. Hit as many as you can in one day or give each one it’s own day for your own Chicago-themed 12 days of Christmas.
The Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany inspired what has now become a Chicago winter must. Each of the outdoor booths carry their own slice of tradition, be it a steaming cup of glogg (spiced wine), German Leberkaese (beef and pork loaf with sauerkraut), or handmade ornaments. It’s also a stop on our Holiday Lights Tour!
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at MSI
The Museum of Science and Industry puts on an exhibit of grandiose scale in honor of how people celebrate the holidays around the world. An array of events and trees decorated with the customs of different cultures make this extraordinarily memorable.
Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest
Navy Pier presents this indoor winter extravaganza in the name of all things fun and festive. The rides, slides, and Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating rink are bound to keep you and your family thoroughly entertained.
[Image: Heidi Zeiger Photography]Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink]
Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Zip or slip around the heart of the city, depending on your ice skating abilities, right next to the iconic bean. Especially at night, the rink transports you to a holiday movie-like setting in a family friendly environment
The Lincoln Park ZooLights
Let the Zoolights Dazzle you with every direction you turn. Enjoy the marvelous display in trees, carpeting the ground, and pretty much anywhere you could imagine. These lights are sure to create a special aura of holiday magic. This is also another one of our Holiday Lights Tour stops!
The Walnut Room at Macy’s
Sink your teeth into the holiday season while feasting your eyes on one of the most spectacular tree displays in the city. This particular tree is a whopping 45 feet tall and is decked out in 42 LED star ornaments.
Caroling at Cloud Gate
Warm up those pipes this frigid winter and join one of these local Chicago Choral groups in a holiday concert/sing along in front of Cloud Gate. Few things are this overwhelmingly gleeful.
The Best Toy Shops in the City
Prepare for gift giving season in the best way– shopping for gifts. Honestly, looking for just the right toy for the children in your life may very well be more fun than actually playing with the toys themselves.
Seeing Santa Claus
The ho-ho-holiday is never the same without a visit to the man himself, Santa Claus. We recommend visiting him at the Santa House in Daley Plaza, because it is free AND you can swing by the Christkindlmarket.
St. Lucia Festival of Lights
An Andersonville tradition, this candle-lit procession is a Swedish event that invites all to join in. The chosen “Lucia Girls” lead the procession wearing crowns of candles and ethereal white robes. Afterwards, attend the Lucia celebration at the Swedish American Museum.
Watch a Holiday Play
Enjoy holiday stories as they come to life onstage this season. Ranging from A Christmas Carol to A Charlie Brown Christmas, there’s bound to be something that you’ll enjoy.
The Holiday Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago
Peer through elaborately decorated miniature rooms modeled after the 13th century for a new perspective on the holiday season. The most complex room is the English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, distinguishable from the rest by its Christmas tree.
We hope our list of 12 holiday events helps instill the holiday spirit in your December plans! Creating a special holiday holiday crawl with one of our private trolleys might be a great way to visit a few of these spots. Happy Holidays!