Top 6 Classic Chicago Holiday Events

Looking to make the most out of the upcoming holiday season? These six events will keep you entertained and full of holiday cheer.

Looking for things to do for the holidays in Chicago? Whether you live in the city or the suburbs, remember these Christmas classics.

Christmas Around the World & Holiday of Lights

What: This Museum of Science and Industry event began in 1942 with just one tree dedicated to the Allies of World War II. Today, the event includes a 45-foot tall Grand Tree with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments adorning it. Additionally, the event will feature 50 smaller trees representing various cultures and holiday traditions. 

Where: Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive

When: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, to Sunday, Jan. 6

Cost: included with general admission of $15 per adult

More info: Visit the MSI Chicago website

Ice Skating at Millennium Park

What: The rink has brought together more than 100,000 skaters each year for the past 11 years of operation.

Where: Located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison streets

When: Friday, Nov. 16, through mid-March

Cost: Free admission, skate rental for $10

More info: Visit the city's tourism site

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

What: This annual event will feature day-long entertainment, with family-friendly activities, concerts and a fireworks show over the Chicago River. The Tree-Lighting Parade will be marshaled by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Where: Along Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, Chicago

When: Saturday, Nov. 17

Cost: Free

More info: Visit The Magnificent Mile's website

Santa in the Sky

What: This event will feature Santa and his special helper, John Hancock Observatory mascot Seemore Miles. Other activities will include free face painting, various holiday activities, free family photos and one free child's ticket to the Shedd Aquarium.

Where: John Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan Ave.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 17-18 and Nov. 23-25; 1 to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in December through Dec. 24

Cost: Free with standard admission to the Hancock

More info: Visit the Santa in the Sky website


What: This traditional German-American holiday market will include shopping, German food and beverages, holiday entertainment, and "Kinder Korner" activities for children, among other holiday fun.

Where: Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago

When: Varying hours, Tuesday, Nov. 20, to Monday, Dec. 24

Cost: Free

More info: Visit Christkindlmarket's website

Zoo Lights

What: Besides a stunning display of lights, this annual family-oriented event will feature holiday crafts and activities, animal encounters, 3D displays, live ice carving, carousel and train rides, and a musical light show. Santa will be available for photos until Dec. 23, and the first 1,000 attendees each night will receive holiday specs.

Where: 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago

When: Nov. 23–25, 30; Dec. 1–2, 7–9, 14–16, 21–23, 26–31; Jan. 1–6

Cost: Free

More info: Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo's website

Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

What: This self-described "winter extravaganza" will feature indoor ice skating, rides, an indoor ferris wheel, an extreme ice trail ropes course, a vehicle display, a Reindeer Express Ride, a Winter Wonderfest Junior and more.

Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

When: Friday, Nov. 30 to Sunday, Jan. 6

Cost: Admission is free, but Activity Wristbands will be required for various rides and attractions. Premium wristbands will cost $20; regular wristbands, $16.

More info: Visit Winter WonderFest's website

Oswego Resident November 10, 2012 at 03:10 PM
The museum of science and industry is the best museum in Chicago. We look forward to going every year. Its so big with so many activities that we have never been able to see the whole place in one visit!
Carol Anaski-Figurski November 10, 2012 at 09:08 PM
what a great list thanks for sharing
Coach W. November 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I did 5 of 6 - never heard of Santa in the Sky - may have to check that out this year. How could they have left out the Geneva Christmas Walk? Best part of the holidays in the Chicago area!
Eliza November 14, 2012 at 05:14 PM
This is a decent list, but I'm looking for something a bit more original. Last winter I took an awesome walking tour with Chicago Detours that explored the interior architecture of downtown, and it was a blast! What are more cool things like that I can do downtown during the winter without being stuck outside in mobs of tourists???


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