Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer! Ah, it really is my favorite time of year. Downtown is dressed up in lights. The holiday train is making its daily runs. Santa’s helpers (because the REAL Santa is at the North Pole prepping for the big day) are roaming the malls. Christmastime is truly here! It’s no secret that I LOVE Chicago and that I LOVE Christmas. So of course I love Chicago during Christmastime! There’s no shortage of fun and festive things to do in the city during the holiday season.
Here’s 12 things to do in Chicago during the holidays:
Visit the Macy’s Holiday Windows on State Street (Cost: Free). Nothing gets me in the holiday mood more than visiting the Macy’s Holiday Windows! They’re fun, festive, and most importantly it’s FREE!
Attend the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (Cost: Free). The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is an annual event celebrated in Chicago on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. There’s a ton of holiday themed floats, cool music and live performances and it’s basically Chicago’s way of kicking off the holiday season!
Explore Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier (Cost: Free – $20). Each holiday season Navy Pier transforms into a winter wonderland with an ice skating rink, rides, games, and lots of other fun winter attractions (like tubing)! General Admission for this event is $20 for adults, $10 for children under 42″ and seniors age 65+, and kids under 36″ are free!
Check out the Art institute of Chicago (Cost: Free – $25). Each holiday season the Art Institute lions get a little more festive with the addition of giant wreaths. The Art Institute itself also gets more festive with its Holiday Thorne Rooms exhibit. Remember, The Art Institute is FREE for Illinois residents on Thursdays.
Get Tickets to a Christmas Show (Cost: Varies). There is NO shortage of amazing holiday themed shows, plays, concerts or musicals going on in Chicago during this time of year. From A Christmas Carol, to The Nutcracker, to Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to Cirque Dreams Holidaze (which was amazing by the way), there’s something for everyone!
Be dazzled by ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo (Cost: Free). ZooLights is an annual winter event held at Lincoln Park Zoo were guests can view gorgeous light displays, see cool nightly ice carving demonstrations, sip hot cocoa and enjoy ice skating on the zoo’s rink. And did I mention it’s FREE!
Explore Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry (Cost: Free – $57.95). Christmas Around the World is an annual holiday exhibit that features over 50 trees and displays! Each tree represents different places and cultures throughout the world. Trust me, this exhibit is a must see!
Ice Skate at Millennium Park (Cost: Free – $15). It isn’t the holidays without a little ice skating, am I right? There are lots of amazing ice skating rinks throughout the city but ice skating at Millennium Parks with Chicago’s skyline in the background can’t be beat. Skating is FREE and open to the public, however there is a fee to rent skates!
Ride the Holiday Train (Cost: Varies). Does it get more festive than riding a train operated by Santa himself?! I think not!
Window shop at the Christkindlmarket (Cost: Free). You don’t always have to spend, spend, spend during the holidays. Windows shopping is always an option!
Play the “Tree Game” (Cost: Free). When I was younger my family and I made up this little game we liked to call the “tree game.” Basically we explored downtown Chicago looking for all the different Christmas trees decorated and scattered throughout the city. There’s so many festive trees to see and admire around the city. The one pictured above is at City Hall.
Take a Festive Holiday Tour (Cost: Varies). I know what you’re thinking, “I want to do everything on this list!”. Don’t worry, I got you! You can explore Chicago by wheels this holiday season with the Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour. The tour is a 2.5 hour journey, visiting ZooLights, The Mag Mile, Millennium Park and Macy’s holiday windows.