The Top Things to do in Chicago During the Holidays


Even though the McCallister family made every effort to leave Chicago in the Christmas family classic that is Home Alone (and the various sequels), the movie did great things for showing how the city is a perfect place to head to if you want a winter wonderland. Due to its position in Illinois, the winters can get mighty cold and you are almost guaranteed snowy landscapes and traditional wintery scenes.

Everyone is really happy in Chicago during the season and there are loads of things to get up to. Here, we take a look at some of the top things to do in the city during the holiday season. There are a myriad activities available, both traditional and new things and we suggest you do a good deal of research before heading out. Some of the things that you really shouldn’t miss however include seeing the central Christmas tree, going ice skating and at least some of the Christmas markets and exhibitions. Happy holidays!

Visit the Official Christmas Tree

The lighting ceremony took place on November 18th this year, but you can still go and visit the tree. It is well worth checking out. The 69 foot Norway Spruce, which has come from Wauconda in Illinois, can be found in Millennium Park. It is the 103rd official tree to go up and was chosen from over 120 nominations. The tree is covered in 48,375 multi colored lights and at the top is an amazing star. Visiting the tree will be a truly magical moment and highly memorable. You might even get that amazing feeling that Kevin and his mother felt in Home Alone when they experienced their reunion in New York (albeit being in Chicago!). If you have the whole family with you, why not sing some carols?

Eat, Drink, Buy gifts and be merry at the Christkindlmarket

The Christkindlmarket was inspired by the traditional German festive markets in Europe, specifically the Numeremburg market that was founded in 1545. You can buy cuckoo clocks and wooden items, tuck in to sausages and sauerkraut, and of course make the most of the German beer. There are also waffles, hot wine, sweets and much more. This will surely get you into the Christmas spirit. It is located at the Daley Plaza until 23rd December.

See the Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Every night, the first 1000 people through the gates at Lincoln Park will receive complimentary glasses to view these amazing lights, in what has become a bit of a tradition in the city. There is also ice sculpture on display with carving demonstrations and you can try out some ice skating on the zoo’s own ice rink. This is a great thing to do with the kids. As well as seeing the lights, you can also go and check out the animals.

Go Ice Skating at one of the many indoor and outdoor skating rinks across the city

You will find numerous venues across the city where you can try out your figure skating (or just have some fun!). The outdoor rinks include Millennium park, Maggie Daley Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Wentworth Park. The indoor rinks can be found at the Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier, the Centennial Ice Ricks at Wilmette, the Glenview Ice Center, the Skatium Ice Arena and the McFetridge Sports Center. Ice skating is a really fun and traditional thing for locals and visitors alike to get stuck in with during the festive season. Why not join the crowds and put your skates on?

Spend some time on Michigan Avenue

Michigan Avenue is a major location in the city which runs at 100 east on the Chicago grid. Known as the ‘Magnificent Mile’, it really comes to life during the holiday season. It will be easy to get into the festive spirit here. It is home to many of Chicago’s major cultural institutions, including the Auditorium Theatre, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Symphony Center.

Go to see ‘The Nutcracker’

Every year, the Joffrey Ballet put on a magnificent performance of Tchaikovsky’s classic The Nutcracker. A Christmas show really gets everybody in the family in the Christmas spirit. The show is reasonably expensive but it is totally worth it and will be really memorable. As well as the Joffrey company, more than 120 young dancers from the Chicago area take to the stage and they are also joined by several local children’s choruses who sing their hearts out. A brilliant experience.

Have a drink at Butch McGuire’s

This famous bar is worth visiting if you want to relax with friends and a few drinks. They also serve great food.

Experience a Classical Masterpiece with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago as they present Handel’s Messiah

On December 10th and 11th the Apollo Chorus of Chicago will be singing Handel’s Messiah. The choir is 143 years old and a Chicago institution by itself. This will be truly magical. The performances take place at a different location each night, firstly at the Orchestra Hall and then at the Harris Theater on the second night. You will need to book your tickets ahead but this is really not to be missed. 

Head to the Music Box for a Christmas Show

Watching cheesy Christmas movies is all part of the festive season. At the music box, you can watch movies on the big screen, with double features of It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas through December. This is a really fun thing to do, will certainly get you in the Christmas spirit, and it is also quite cheap to do. Santa will be available to greet you and you can have a sing song during the intermission, with carol singing a traditional feature.

As you can see, there is a hugely diverse amount on offer in this magical city in the holiday period. Do some prior planning and you will be able to construct an itinerary of festive events like you have never experienced before. Hopefully it will snow, to make your holiday time even more special. Smile, enjoy yourself and make the most of what is and always will be the most wonderful time of the year.


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