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Christmas in Chicago: 5 Activities to Do During the Holidays in Chicago, IL

December 1, 2021

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Christmas in Chicago is a magical time, with ice skating, lights, markets and more. If you live in the Chicago area and want to enjoy fun activities this holiday season, check out our helpful list of the best things to do in Chicago around Christmas.

Best things to do in Chicago during the holidays

  1. Christkindl Market. There’s a reason this tends to top people’s Christmas lists of best things to do in Chicago during the holidays. Since 1996, this German-style market has welcomed vendors from around the world who sell a wide variety of wares along with German food and hot drinks. The market opens every year on Nov. 19 and runs through Christmas Eve, with locations in Daley Plaza and in Wrigleyville. It’s considered the most authentic traditional holiday market of its kind outside of Europe, offering a unique shopping experience, family-friendly events and intercultural activities.
  2. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape. From Nov. 12 through Jan. 22, this popular holiday event allows visitors to explore the Chicago Botanic Garden after dark. Billing itself as an Instagram-worthy immersive experience, Lightscape features singing trees, a glowing Winter Cathedral, and a number of new installations. Many people consider this one of the best places in Chicago to see Christmas lights. If this sounds like your kind of event, buy your tickets early; the event sold out last year.
  3. Ice skating in Millennium Park. If Millennium Park sounds familiar, that’s because it’s home to the iconic Cloud Gate, better known as “The Bean.” In the winter, the park is also home to two unique public ice skating parks. The first is the McCormick Tribune skating rink, which offers views of the downtown skyline and the Christmas lights on the city of Chicago’s Christmas tree. Admission is free but online reservations are required. Skate rentals are available. The second is Maggie Daley Park with its Skating Ribbon that meanders through pine trees, play spaces and climbing walls. The path is about a quarter-mile long and has the capacity for 700 skaters. If you have your own skates it’s free, but everyone must make a reservation.
  4. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. OK, forget what we said before: THESE are the best Christmas lights in Chicago. ZooLights features hundreds of luminous LED displays and seasonal experiences, including moving displays set to music, all under the glow of millions of lights. Adults will particularly enjoy special events like a themed pop-up bar, adults night out and more.
  5. The Polar Express Train Ride in Chicago Union Station. First there was a children’s book, and then an animated movie starring Tom Hanks. For people who can’t get enough of this beloved story, this one-hour train ride is an interactive theatrical experience, with music from the motion picture soundtrack, dancing chefs and carolers, and a passenger readalong of the original book. 
  6. Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light. The Museum of Science+Industry Chicago began holding this event in 1942, displaying one single tree for the holidays. Almost 80 years later, this beloved annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. Santa himself makes a stop at the museum, posing for souvenir photos in the Holiday Store. It truly is one of the best things to do in Chicago during the holidays.
  7. Take a tour of St. Joseph Village of Chicago. Wouldn’t it be lovely to spend your next Christmas in Chicago living where you’re surrounded by warm and friendly residents, with caring staff members always on hand if you need a bit of extra attention? Our community has so much to offer you — not just during the holidays, but all year long. 

We invite you to contact us to schedule your personal tour of our community. If you come during the holidays, we’ll treat you to a cup of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies! Or take a convenient virtual tour while staying cozy and warm at home.