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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.

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Things to Do

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival 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 happen on Saturday evening. The trees along North Michigan Avenue stay lit throughout the holiday season. November 16 & 17, 2018.

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Winter Wonderfest is a huge indoor playground with 170,000 square feet of rides, slides, and holiday decorations. There's an indoor ice skating rink, trackless train, carousel, and more. Admission is free, but you'll need to purchase a writsband to for rides and attractions. 2018 dates have not yet been announced.

Christkindlmarket Chicago

Chistkindlmarket, a traditional German holiday outdoor market, held in Chicago's Daley Plaza, is a holiday season tradition. It's a great place for gift shopping, plus there are traditional German food and beverages to enjoy. Drinking hot spiced wine from a souvenir mug at the Christkindlmarket should be on everyone's to-do list.

Christkindlmarket is held at Daley Plaza, between Washington, Clark and Dearborn Streets. The 2018 dates have not yet been announced, but the market usually begins by mid-November.

City Tree Lighting

The city's official Christmas tree is located in Millennium Park, near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. The 2018 tree lighting date November 16th.

Millenium Park Ice Skating

Ice skatesThe McCormick Tribune ice rink is open from mid-November to early March (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.

Caroling at Cloud Gate

Sing-along caroling with local Chicago choral groups takes place on Fridays during the holiday season. At Millinium Park's Cloud Gate (also known as "The Bean", located in the northern portion of the park).

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

The Christmas Around the World exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry as been 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 holiday traditions from cultures around the world. November 15, 2018 - January 6, 2019.

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 started over 100 years ago 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.

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

Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botantic Gardens celebrates the holiday season with their annual Wonderland Express. 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. November 23, 2018 - January 6, 2019.

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. 

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 16, 2018 - January 1, 2019

Holiday Shows

The Nutcracker

The Joffrey Ballet performs the Christopher Wheeldon's re-imagined version of The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre, December 1 - 30, 2018. This version of The Nutcracker is set at Chicago's 1893 World's Fair. Hotels near Auditorium Theater.

Ballet Chicago stages their traditional production of The Nutcracker on the Athenaeum Theater Main Stage, December 7,8,9,14,16,& 16, 2018. Hotels near Athenaeum Theater.

The Do-It-Yourself Messiah

The Do-It-Yourself Messiah is holiday tradition has been around for over 30 years. The audience, seated according to voice range, sings the choral parts along with a full orchestra and professional soloists. Hotels near the Harris Theater.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol has been performed at Chicago's Goodman Theater for over thirty years. The 2018 season production is November 17 - December 30. The lavish production is fun for the entire family. Hotels near the Goodman Theater

It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago

The American Blues Theater at the Greenhouse Theater Center presents It's a Wonderful Life November 15, 2018 - January 6, 2018. The American Blues Ensemble's 1940s radio broadcast-style version of It's a Wonderful Life has been entertaining theater-goers for years. No performances on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. More information.

The Annual Music Box Christmas Double Feature & Sing-A-Long

The Music Box Theatre's annual Christmas Double Feature and Sing-a-long features "It's a Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas". Santa makes an appearance and there's a carol sing-a-long before the movie.


Hamilton isn't a holiday show, but the hit musical is playing at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago through the holiday season. Tickets are available online through TicketMaster


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.