Upcoming Holiday Events & Festivals in Chicago
People who have never been to Chicago in the winter wonder how and why Chicagoans deal with the snow, ice, and biting wind year after year. But people who live here know that the winter is a special time when the city comes alive with holiday cheer. From the breathtaking lights on the Mag Mile to caroling at Millennium Park, this is how we deck the halls in the Windy City.
11/8/14- 1/11/15 Holiday Displays at Macy’s on State Street
For over 100 years, Macy’s On State Street (111 N. State St, http://l.macys.com/chicago-il?cm_mmc=macys_places-_-Chicago-_-n-_-215) has been a time honored part of the holidays in Chicago. Marvel at the festive window displays (themed, “The Journey of a Christmas Wish” this year), then head inside for a look at the elaborately decorated 45-foot Great Tree. If you’re feeling lucky, try to snag a table at the famed Walnut Room restaurant on the 7th floor for the trademark pot pie, the perfect meal after a long day of holiday shopping.
11/13/14-1/14/15 Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Did you know that rice porridge with plum juice is the traditional Christmas Eve breakfast in Finland? Or that Santa Claus is actually a woman—if you’re Italian? Celebrate these and many other unique holiday traditions of over 50 cultures at the 73rd annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S. Lake Shore Dr, http://www.msichicago.org/whats-here/exhibits/christmas-around-the-world/).
11/14/14-3/7/15 Ice Skating in Millennium Park
One of the few perks to the wintery weather is ice skating outdoors at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park10.html), now in its 13th year. Skating is free to all and offered well through the holiday season, and skates are available for rent on-site. So head over with a warm coat and gloves (and possibly some kneepads!) and get ready to feel like a kid again.
Inspired by the centuries-old Christmas markets in Germany, the Christkindlmarket (http://www.christkindlmarket.com/) has been a popular holiday tradition in the heart of downtown Chicago since 1996. Held in Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington St), visitors can expect to find German-inspired gifts and specialty items, kid-friendly activities like scavenger hunts, and adult-friendly German beer and wine.
11/22/14 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
It just doesn’t feel like the holidays until the lights go on. This year, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (http://www.themagnificentmile.com/events/lights-festival/), the nation’s largest evening holiday celebration, will be held on 11/22/14. During the day, enjoy family-friendly activities and a concert with top artists such as Debbie Gibson (Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave, 11:00 am-3:30 pm). Afterwards, head to the Tree Lighting Parade (stating on Michigan Ave and Oak St at 5:30 pm) to watch the Mag Mile lights dazzle for the very first time this holiday season.
11/25/14 Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Santa House Opening
Just a few days later on 11/25/14 marks the 101st anniversary of the lighting of the Christmas tree at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington St, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/tree0.html). Enjoy live performances, holiday music, and of course spectacular lights at this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. From 11/25/14-12/24/14, you can also tell Santa how nice or naughty you’ve been at the revamped Santa House (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/santa_house.html), appropriately located close to the Christmas tree in Daley Plaza.
11/28/14-12/19/14 Caroling at Cloud Gate
Holiday caroling returns every Friday at 6: 00 pm from 11/28/14-12/19/14 at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/caroling_at_cloudgate.html). Free and open to the public, the weekly hour-long performances are led by renowned local choirs, though hundreds come to sing along and join in the holiday cheer.
On 11/28/14, watch the holiday lights at Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N. Clark St) turn on for the first time this season to kick off the annual ZooLights celebration (http://www.lpzoo.org/events/calendar/zoolights). This also marks the beginning of many other festive activities at the zoo, including ice skating (through 3/1/15) and the first ever BrewLights beer tasting event (12/3/14).
11/29/14-12/22/14 Holiday Lights Segway Tours
Since reindeer and one-horse open sleigh rides are hard to come by, a Segway Tour of the city lights might possibly be the next best thing. Bundle up for one of the most up-close, breathtaking views of the city lights on the Mag Mile and the Christmas tree display in Daley Plaza. Check out Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours (http://chicagosegways.com/specialty_holiday.html) and Segway Experience of Chicago (http://mysegwayexperience.com/tours-holiday-lights.php) for more info.
12/4/14-12/7/14 One of a Kind Show and Sale and Holiday Shopping
Sick of the Black Friday holiday shopping madness? Stay home and indulge in Thanksgiving leftovers this year instead. There’s ample opportunity to find unique holiday gifts at the One of a Kind Show and Sale (http://www.oneofakindshowchicago.com/) at the Merchandise Mart (222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza). Shop over 600 artists from across North America for one-of-a-kind presents that family and friends will be sure to appreciate. For other holiday craft fairs that weekend (12/6/14-12/7/14), be sure to also check out the Julmarknad Christmas bazaar at the Swedish American Museum (5211 N. Clark St, http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/events/annual.php) and the Renegade Craft Fair in Bridgeport (1200 W. 35th St, http://www.renegadecraft.com/chicago-december-market-details).
12/5/14-12/28/14 The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is one of the most beloved holiday traditions in Chicago and around the world, and the Joffery Ballet’s (http://www.joffrey.org/nutcracker) rendition at the Auditorium Theater (50 E. Congress Pkwy) never disappoints. Make sure to plan early, since tickets to these popular performances go fast.
12/5/14-1/11/15 Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
There are few sights in Chicago as iconic as Navy Pier, which becomes even more magical under the holiday lights. Take part in the 14th annual Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave, http://www.winterwonderfest.com/index.php), Chicago’s biggest and best indoor playground complete with ice skating, rides, Santa, and much more.
12/31/14 Navy Pier New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Chicago’s only lakefront fireworks to celebrate the New Year will be held, as always, at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave, http://www.navypier.com/things2do/entertainment/nye.html) and will be free to all. Join in as we bring 2014 to a close and ring in 2015!