11 Things to do in Chicago for the Holidays

There’s no place like home for the holidays, and if you call Chicago home, then this is definitely the case! We’ve put together a list of our favorite things to do during the holidays in the city.

1. The Christkindlmarket and Daley Plaza Tree

Inspired by the original market in Nuremberg, Germany, the Chicago Christkindlmarket brings one of the most precious German and European traditions to the heart of our city! It’s the largest open-air Christmas festival here, and has been held at the Daley Plaza since 1997.  Since November 26th, the stunning tree has been lit up, adding to the magic of the market. You’ve only got until December 24th to check it out!

2. Ride the CTA Holiday Train

During select dates in November and December, Santa Clause comes to town by way of  the CTA. The outside of the train is decorated with seasonal holiday images and twinkling lights. Bows, garland and lights adorn the inside of each car, and Santa waves to boarding passengers from his sleigh. During this time, CTA employees also embrace the season by collecting donations and distributing food baskets to community organizations throughout the city.

3. See the lights at the Lincoln Park or Brookfield Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights FestivalSee the magical light display at the Brookfield Zoo until December 31st, or at the Lincoln Park Zoo until January 5th! Members of the Brookfield Zoo get in for free, otherwise regular admission fees will apply. If you go with Lincoln Park, the ZooLights will be free of charge, and also features seasonal activities throughout the grounds.

4. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Full of fun for adults and children alike, Winter WonderFest runs through January 12th. While admission is free, activity wristbands will run from $13-$20, depending on whether you choose to include ice skating in your outing. Patrons can choose between zip lining, riding the hot cocoa cups, visiting with Santa or cookie decorating, just to name a few!

5. See the Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet

One of Chicago’s most beloved holiday traditions, the Nutcracker will run until December 28th, so get your tickets soon! The #1 Nutcracker show in America, the glamorous show is perfect for all ages. This is definitely one of the most memorable shows to see in Chicago.

6. Ice Skate around Millennium Park

While this is something you could do at anytime this winter, there’s something about skating beneath Christmas lights that makes the experience that much better. Admission is free, and skate rental is only $10! Open weeknights until 8pm, and on weekends until 10pm until January 5th, this is a great way to get outside and actually enjoy the cold!

7. Browse the window displays and visit the Walnut Room at Macy’s

Window shopping takes on new meaning when its Christmastime at Macy’s! This year’s theme is ‘The Magic of Christmas’, so take a stroll down State Street and experience it for yourself. Santaland will be in the Kid’s Department until Christmas Eve, and if you’re feeling really spirited, stop by the Walnut Room to see the gorgeous tree and sample from the holiday menu. During the season, no reservations are accepted, so plan accordingly!

8. Go Ugly Christmas Sweater crazy!

Unfortunately, the Ugly Sweater Run, and Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl have both come and gone this year, but make sure to pencil them in for 2014! In the meantime, throw your own party, or take advantage of all the people who are getting rid of their 2013 getups, and get your wardrobe lined up for next year!

9. Sleigh Rides at Harmony Park in Arlington

If you’re venturing out to the suburbs at all, this is a great event to take advantage of! There are free sleigh rides in downtown Arlington Heights on December 19th and 20th. Bundle up and head out for a relaxing evening aboard a fully decked out sleigh anytime between 5:30 and 8:30pm.

10. See ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Goodman Theater

One of the most classic Christmas stories is playing live in the theater district! With showtimes only until December 28th, time is running out to experience the show. The website boasts a lot of new and improved onstage magic, so get your tickets now and celebrate the season with theater.

11. New Years Eve fireworks at Navy Pier

The holidays definitely extend past Christmas, so ring in the new year with a stunning lakefront fireworks show at Navy Pier! You can experience the show from one of many cruises, or on land. Either way, you’ll be in for a treat.


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