It may be colder in Chicago now, but things are about to get a lot merrier! Whether you’re in the mood for dazzling lights, ice skating, entertainment, or some shopping, we break down a handful of Chicago holiday events by light shows, activities, and Christmas markets. Be sure to check the event links for details on ticketing, pricing, transportation, and more.
Odyssey Fun World, Tinley Park | Ongoing through January 8
This family-friendly light festival allows visitors to walk through themed worlds, snack on holiday treats, and go tubing down an icy slope.
Merchandise Mart | Ongoing through December 30
If you can’t make it to the live show, scenes from The Nutcracker as performed by the Joffrey Ballet will be projected onto the Merchandise Mart along with Tchaikovsky’s score.
Brookfield Zoo | Ongoing through December 31
The Brookfield Zoo hosts its own light festival with a helping of holiday magic and over two million twinkling lights.
Morton Arboretum | Ongoing through January 7
Visitors to this light display at the Morton Arboretum can walk a one-mile path lined with music and light effects designed to bring out “the beauty of trees in winter.” Like the Lincoln Park Zoo, there are adults-only nights as well as a beer festival.
Navy Pier | Ongoing through January 7
If you don’t want to brave the cold temperatures, you can catch this indoor light show at Navy Pier. Explore the interactive light display or lace up your skates for the ice rink.
Chicago Botanic Garden | Ongoing through January 8
Walk through sparkling displays of light, music, and fire at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual holiday light show. This year has a new path and new installations from international artists.
Lincoln Park Zoo | Ongoing through January 1
Lincoln Park’s ZooLights returns with lights, ice sculpture carving, a light maze, ferris wheel, and plenty more activities at this annual tradition. General admission is free on Mondays, and $5 for the rest of the week. There are additional events, including a Sensory-Friendly Night, BrewLights and Adults Night Out.
Goodman Theatre | Ongoing through December 31
This holiday tradition is back at the Goodman Theater, with actor Larry Yando returning for his 15th year as Ebenezer Scrooge.
2343 S. Throop St. | Ongoing through December 25
See classic holiday movies at this drive-in theater in Pilsen. They’re showing everything from Elf and Home Alone to A Muppet Christmas Carol and Die Hard.
Museum of Science and Industry | Ongoing through January 8
It’s the 80th anniversary of this Christmas exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Explore how Christmas is celebrated around the world with more than 50 trees representing different cultures and countries.
Various Locations | Ongoing through December 23
All aboard the CTA’s most festive tradition. The decked-out holiday train and buses will be making their way across Chicago through December 23. See the schedules for the train and the bus.
Various Locations | Ongoing
Lace up your skates and head to one of several ice rinks in Chicago. There’s the classic Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon option, or the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Winterland at Gallagher Way has its own rink, as do various neighborhood parks, including McKinley Park, Midway Plaisance, Mt. Greenwood Park, Warren Park, and Wentworth Park. Light up the Lake at Navy Pier (see above) also has an indoor rink.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra | December 17-23
Get your holiday music kick with a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alastair Willis and with vocals by Jessica Vosk.
Joffrey Ballet | December 3–27
Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker returns once more to the Joffrey Ballet. With an emphasis on Chicago’s own history, Marie’s fantastical journey takes her to Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Go behind the scenes of the Joffrey Ballet’s new Nutcracker and its making at wttw.com/nutcracker.
Garfield Conservatory | Ongoing through January 8
This winter flower show at the Garfield Conservatory will have a variety of flowers––such as geraniums, pansies, poinsettias, and more–– in colors of white, silver, and pink to create “an illusion of a snow-covered garden.”
Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field | Ongoing through January 8
Games, rides, an ice rink, and access to Wrigley Field are all part of Winterland at Gallagher Way, which is located near Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville (see more below). Visitors can go tubing down an ice slide or take the “Infield Express” as part of this ticketed event.
Catalpa Avenue and Clark Street | December 2–4
Visit this Swedish-style market in Andersonville, with Swedish and vintage vendors, Glögg and roasted nuts, and pictures with Santa.
Daley Plaza, Wrigleyville, and Aurora | Ongoing through December 31
Chicago’s beloved German Christmas market returns for another year of hot chocolate, mulled wine, and a variety of vendors. There are three locations to choose from: the classic Daley Plaza, Wrigleyville, and RiverEdge Park in Aurora. Dates vary by location.
4740 N. Western Ave. | December 10
This indoor, German-style Christmas market in Lincoln Square will have lots of local vendors, food, and drinks.
1341 W. Randolph St. | December 17–18
More than 100 vendors will be at the Randolph Street Market for holiday shopping, where shoppers can find both vintage and modern gifts, housewares, clothes, art, and more.
35 S. State St. | Ongoing through December 18
Take your holiday shopping indoors with this holiday market on State Street. Browse local vendors alongside entertainment and other activities.
The Salt Shed | December 2-4, 9-11
Chicago’s newest outdoor concert venue is the location for this holiday market and beer garden. Artisan vendors, fire pits, hot cocktails, and s’mores kits will be on hand.