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Christmas In Chicago


Chicago city skyline at nightChristmas in the Windy City! Chicago lights up for the holidays - quite literally. The season kicks off with the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, as thousands of bulbs illuminate the trees along North Michigan Avenue and fireworks glow in the night sky. Daley Plaza is bright and active as home to the annual Christkindlmarket. And over 50 decorated trees fill the Museum of Science and Industry for their Holidays of Light celebration. Add ice skating and holiday theater and you have the makings for a fantastic holiday get away.

Things to Do

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Christmas TreeNovember 18 & 19, 2016. Start off the holiday season with two days of entertainment and family activities. The Tree-Lighting Parade down Michigan Avenue and fireworks over the Chicago River happens Saturday evening. The trees along North Michigan Avenue stay lit throughout the holiday season. More Info.

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Family fun, with an indoor ice skating rink, entertainment, and an indoor ferris wheel and other rides. Admission is free, but you'll need to purchase a writsband to for rides and attractions. 2016/2017 dates are December 2, 2016 - January 7, 2017. More info.

Christkindlmarket Chicago

This traditional German holiday outdoor market, first held in 1996, has become a Chicago tradition. A great place for gift shopping, plus there's traditional German food and beverages. Held at Daley Plaza, between Washington, Clark and Dearborn Streets. The 2016 dates are November 18 - December 24. More info.

Note: Chicago's official city Christmas tree was traditionally located at Daley Plaza. The city decided in 2015 that the city tree would be relocated to Millennium Park.

City Tree Lighting

The city's official Christmas tree has moved from Daley Plaza to a new location in Millennium Park, near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. The 2016 tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for November 18th, at 6:00 p.m.. More information.

Millenium Park Ice Skating

Ice skatesThe McCormick Tribune ice rink's 2016-2017 dates are November 18, 2016 through March 5 2017 (weather permitting). Skating is free at this very popular rink and skates are available to rent for $12. Located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets. More Info.

Caroling at Cloud Gate

Enjoy sing-along caroling with local Chicago choral groups on Fridays, November 25, and December 2, 9, & 16. 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. At Millinium Park's Cloud Gate (also known as "The Bean", located in the northern portion of the park). Details.

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

A holiday tradition since 1942. See the museum's 45 foot Grand Tree in the Rotunda, surrounded by over 50 smaller trees, all decorated to represent the cultures and traditions of Chicago's ethnic communities. There are performances by school choirs and ethnic dance and music groups scheduled throughout the event. Holiday displays open November 17, 2016. More Info.

Macy's Christmas Tree & Windows

Santa on a ladder, putting the star on a Christmas treeMacy's at State Street puts on a nice display for the holidays. The centerpiece is the Great Tree in the Walnut Room. The tree in this location is a holiday tradition that goes back over 100 years and dates back to the original Marshall Field store. The Walnut Room, on Macy's 7th Floor, is beautiful restaurant that has been hosting tea service since 1907. The 2016 Great Tree Lighting in the Walnut Room is November 5 at noon.

Animated holiday window displays are featured along the storefront and Macy's Santaland provides a fun place for the kids to visit Santa.

November 5 - December 31, 2015.

Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The path through the park to the Wonderland Express is lit for the holidays with over 750,000 bulbs. There are greenhouses full of poinsettias and other tropical plants. And the main attraction is a railroad garden display of Chicago in miniature. See the city's most famous landmarks crafted from natural materials such as twigs, bark, seeds, and grasses. More info.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

Lincoln Park Zoo lights up for the holidays. There are ice carving demonstrations, musical light shows, holiday crafts, ice skating, and visits with Santa. And, of course, you can see visit with the animals too. Check the Lincoln Park Zoo website for details, dates and hours.  

Morton Arboretum

Morton Aroboretum celebrates the holidays with "Illumination: Tree Lights", turning the arboretum's woodlands into a winter wonderland. Visitors can walk a mile-long path through the woodland light show. November 18, 2016 - January 2, 2017. More information.

Holiday Shows

The Nutcracker

The Joffrey Ballet performs the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon's re-imagined version of The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre December 10 - 30. This new version is set at Chicago's 1893 World's Fair. More information.

The House Theater presents a ballet-free version of The Nutcracker at the Chopin Theatre through December 30. This modern re-telling of the classic story makes use of choreographed theater, puppetry, and original songs to create a unique experience. More information.

The Do-It-Yourself Messiah

This holiday tradition has been happening for over 30 years. The audience, seated according to voice range, sings the choral parts along with a full orchestra and professional soloists. December 20 & 21, 2016 at the Harris Theater. Tickets go on sale starting at noon November 15, 2016. More Information.

The Christmas Schooner

This is a holiday traditon unique to Chicago. "The Christmas Schooner" is a musical that tells the story of a "Christmas tree ship" that brought trees from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago's German immigrants. The show is based on the real life story of a ship that sunk trying to deliver Christmas trees during a storm. "The Christmas Schooner" plays at The Mercury Theater November 30 - December 31, 2016. More Information.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" will be performed at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place for the 2016 holiday season. The show is an adaptation of the popular TV special and will be performed by the Emerald City Theatre Company. Performance dates are November 11, 2016 through January 8, 2017.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol has been performed at Chicago's Goodman Theater for over thirty years. The 2016 season production is Novmeber 19 - December 31. The lavish production is fun for the entire family. More information.

It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago

American Blues Theater at the Greenhouse Theater Center presents It's a Wonderful Life November 18 - December 31. The American Blues Ensemble's 1940s radio broadcast-style version of It's a Wonderful Life is a Chicago tradition. No performances on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. More information.


The Palmer House Hilton -  One of Chicago's oldest hotels, with big, grand lobby. A short walk to Daley Plaza and the Christkindlmarket. Steps from Millennium Park (with ice skating) and State Street Shopping. See Rates.

Hotel Allegro Chicago - Modern hotel in the theater district. Close to the Goodman Theatre (A Christmas Carol) and close to Daley Plaza (Christkindlmarket). View Rates.

Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers -  Located on the water, near Navy Pier. Within walking distance of Millennium Park and the Loop. Rooms have great views of the lake, river, or city skyline. View Rates.

See More Chicago Hotels - A full listing of Chicago hotels. To find the hotels closest to a particular place, go to the Chicago hotels page and scroll down to the "Landmarks and Attractions in Chicago" list in the left margin. Click on a place and the closest hotels will be mapped and listed for you.