Holiday Events in Chicago

As the holiday season approaches, Chicago transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a myriad of festive events and activities for residents and visitors alike. Whether you’re a seasoned Chicagoan or new to the city, there’s something special about celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Windy City. Join us as we explore the top holiday events that will make your Chicago experience truly unforgettable.

1. Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

The holiday season officially kicks off in Chicago with the enchanting Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. This event marks the beginning of the festive season with the illumination of a massive Christmas tree. This year, the 110th City of Chicago Christmas Tree, a stunning 45-foot Colorado Blue Spruce donated by the De La Cruz family of Darien, IL, will take center stage.

Presented by Powering Chicago with support from the Millennium Park Foundation and the Pritzker Foundation, the 2023 Tree Lighting Ceremony promises to be a magical evening.  Plus, there’s a new addition this year—a main stage on Washington St. at Michigan Ave., adjacent to the Chicago Cultural Center. The main stage will host delightful holiday programming followed by the traditional Tree Lighting Ceremony and a spectacular fireworks display.

Details for the Tree Lighting Ceremony:

  • Date: Friday, November 17
  • Location: Main stage on Washington St. at Michigan Ave., adjacent to the Chicago Cultural Center
  • Schedule:
    • 5:00 – 6:00 pm: Pre-Show
    • 6:00 – 6:30 pm: Tree Lighting Ceremony & Fireworks
    • 6:25 pm: Christmas Tree is illuminated
    • 6:30 – 7:00 pm: Post Show
  • For more information, visit here.

2. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Starting around Thanksgiving weekend, the Lincoln Park Zoo undergoes a magical transformation into a winter wonderland known as ZooLights. Millions of twinkling lights, holiday displays, and festive activities await visitors of all ages. This enchanting event runs from November 17, 2023, through January 7, 2024.

Mondays are special at ZooLights, offering free admission (reservations required). Make sure to secure your tickets for this heartwarming holiday experience.

For more information, visit here.

3. Christkindlmarket

Immerse yourself in the charming ambiance of a traditional German-inspired Christmas market at Christkindlmarket. This beloved market typically opens in late November and continues through December, providing an enchanting outdoor experience for the whole family.

As you explore the market, you’ll be greeted by the delightful aroma of roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst, and hot spiced wine. The sound of festive music and the glimmer of sparkling Christmas ornaments create a cozy atmosphere that will truly captivate your senses.

Christkindlmarket has multiple locations, including Chicago, Wrigleyville, and Aurora, and admission is always free. Don’t miss this opportunity to shop for unique gifts, indulge in traditional food and drinks, and soak in the holiday spirit.

Chicago Location:

  • Dates: November 17 – December 24
  • Hours:
    • Sunday through Thursday: 11 am – 8 pm
    • Friday through Saturday: 11 am – 9 pm
  • Special Hours:
    • Thanksgiving (November 23): 11 am – 4 pm
    • Christmas Eve (December 24): 11 am – 4 pm
  • Location: Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602

Wrigleyville Location:

  • Dates: November 17 – December 31
  • Hours:
    • Monday through Thursday: 3 pm – 9 pm
    • Friday through Saturday: 11 am – 10 pm
    • Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm
  • Special Hours:
    • Thanksgiving (November 23): 11 am – 4 pm
    • Christmas Eve (December 24): 11 am – 4 pm
    • Christmas Day (December 25): CLOSED
    • December 26 through December 28: 11 am – 9 pm
    • New Year’s Eve (December 31): 11 am – 4 pm
  • Location: Gallagher Way, 3635 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613

4. Ice Skating Rinks

Chicago’s winter wonderland wouldn’t be complete without its charming ice skating rinks. These seasonal rinks are cherished by locals and visitors alike, offering a perfect way to embrace the winter chill while surrounded by the city’s iconic landmarks.

  • Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon: Opening on November 17, this picturesque skating ribbon, located next to Millennium Park, winds its way through whimsical play spaces and snow-dusted pine trees. Skate rentals and skate assists are available, with online reservations required. For more information, visit here.

  • McCormick Tribune Ice Rink: Located in Millennium Park, this iconic skating rink has been a must-do for winter visitors to Chicago for over two decades. Enjoy breathtaking views of the city skyline while gliding around the ice. Admission is free, but online reservations are required. Skate rentals are also available. For more details, visit here.

  • Winterland at Gallagher Way: Chicago’s Wrigley Field is transformed into a winter wonderland, featuring a family-friendly ice rink and other holiday attractions. Skating at Gallagher Way is available from November 21 to January 7 (weather permitting), and skate rentals are offered. For additional information, visit here.

5. Holiday Shows and Performances

Chicago’s theaters come alive with holiday-themed shows and performances that are sure to enchant audiences of all ages.

  • An Evening with Chevy Chase and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Join in on the fun at The Chicago Theatre on Sunday, November 26, 2023, at 5:00 pm for an unforgettable evening of holiday cheer. Experience a special screening of the timeless classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, followed by a live conversation and Q&A with Chevy Chase and his wife Jayni. Doors open at 4:00 pm. For more details, click here.

  • Merry, Merry Chicago!: On Sunday, December 17, from 1 to 3 pm, head to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at 220 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, for a heartwarming holiday performance. Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will delight the audience with familiar carols and festive holiday songs, including classics like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Sleigh Ride.” You’ll also have the pleasure of witnessing the sensational Ashley Brown, who originated the title role of Mary Poppins on Broadway and is celebrated as “the most versatile and noteworthy young talent on the Broadway stages” by Showbiz Chicago. Thomas Wilkins will conduct this joyful celebration, sure to inspire holiday cheer in listeners of all ages. Don’t miss this musical extravaganza. For additional details, check here.

  • ‘Twas the Night Before… by Cirque du Soleil: Get ready for a dazzling holiday spectacle! Cirque du Soleil presents “Twas The Night Before Christmas” at The Chicago Theatre on Saturday, December 16, from 1 to 5 pm. This is Cirque du Soleil’s 49th original production and its first-ever holiday-themed show. Based on their remarkable track record, you won’t want to miss this mesmerizing performance that promises to be a feast for the senses. Grab your winter coat and prepare to be enthralled. Learn more here.



6. Holiday Markets

Chicago’s holiday markets and pop-up shops offer a fantastic opportunity to find unique gifts, savor festive treats, and immerse yourself in the holiday spirit.

  • Willis Tower Holiday Marketplace: From December 5 to 7, 2023, between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, head to the iconic Willis Tower for their annual Holiday Marketplace. Discover an eclectic array of artisans and vendors, along with special offerings from Catalog retailers. After your shopping spree, enjoy a fire-roasted lunch at Kindling Downtown Cookout & Cocktails or take in breathtaking city views from the SkyDeck. For more information, visit here.

  • Randolph Street Market: On November 18 and 19, 2023, from 10 am to 5 pm, and in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, the lively European-style Randolph Street Market returns. This event features more than 125 antique and vintage dealers, artists, fashion designers, food makers, and much more. It’s the perfect place to find a truly unique gift for everyone on your list. Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance for this extraordinary shopping experience. Learn more here.

  • Chicago Artisan Market: The Chicago Artisan Market showcases the best of Chicago and the Midwest in food, fashion, home goods, and art. This festive holiday market pops up in both Ravenswood and Fulton Market on various dates in November and December. Explore small businesses and independent makers, and discover how they craft their unique products, art, and confections. Don’t miss this opportunity to support local artisans and find exceptional holiday gifts. Learn more here.

  • Windy City Made Holiday Market at the Stan Mansion: On December 2nd, from 11 am to 5 pm, shop local in Logan Square at the historic Stan Mansion. This highly anticipated Windy City Made vintage and artist market returns for its second year. Get into the glittery holiday spirit as you browse more than 60 local artists, artisans, and vintage vendors offering unique gifts and entertaining must-haves. The Art Deco ballrooms of the Stan Mansion come alive with art, vintage treasures, and tasty holiday cocktails. Don’t miss this festive gathering. Learn more here.

7. Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

  • Finally, if you’re in Chicago for Thanksgiving, don’t miss the iconic Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. This beloved event takes place on Thursday, November 23, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CT. The parade route runs along State Street, from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph. Join the festivities and be part of the grateful hearts gathering to celebrate this special holiday.


I hope you find this guide helpful in experiencing the magic of the holidays in our beautiful city. Whether you’re attending the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, strolling through festive markets, or enjoying captivating performances, there’s no shortage of ways to make cherished memories during this special season in Chicago. Happy holidays!