Chicago Guide to the Holidays

There’s no city quite like Chicago to spend the holiday season. Make the holiday season in Chicago festive with Christmas markets, ice skating, musicals and so much seasonal fun. There is something special about Christmas in Chicago, so here is a Chicago Guide to the Holidays.

CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Tiaras & Tantrums #ChristmasinChicago #ChicagoChristmas

There is something about winter in Chicago, yes, it is cold; but Christmas in Chicago is so worth all the layers of coats, hats and mittens you need towear to enjoy all the festivities this amazing city offers. From the Festival of Lights before Thanksgiving to New year’s Eve, there is somethign to do every single weekend during The Silly Season. Your family will create traditions and memories. Here is my Chicago Guide to the Holidays to celebrate Christmas in Chicago.

I would say the Holiday Season in Chicago officially kicks off with the lightening of the Chicago Christmas Tree and The Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago. Be sure to take a day trip to Chicago on November 23 to watch as the holiday wreaths are placed on the regal lion statues on the Art Institute of Chicago.

City of Chicago Christmas Tree

The City of Chicago Christmas Tree used to be at the Daley Plaza, but moved to Millennium Park a few years ago. If you would love a photo in front of the 60-foot Norway Spruce, be sure to stop by and see the Chicago Christmas Tree at Wrigley Square, Michigan Ave. & Randolph St.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Chicago Christmas Tree in Millennium Park

Venue Name: Chicago Christmas Tree Address: Millennium Park Price: Free HOURS: November 16, 2018 - January 6, 2019

Christkindlmarket

The Chicago Christkindlmarket is a giant open-air market inspired by the seasonal tradition that also occurs throughout Germany (and a lot of Europe). At the Christkindlmarket each year there are a number of the same pop ups, and new ones as well. There are a number of handcrafted items from Germany such as ornaments, toys, cuckoo clocks, steins clothing items. We have purchased a lot of our wool hats and gloves there. Each year, my daughter have collected glass ornaments and a new Steiff stuffie. That is our yearly tradition.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Christkindlmarket holiday market in Chicago

GO HUNGRY! That is my best advice. Try the potato pancakes, eat one of the biggest hot pretzels, snaffle on a schnitzel and try a variety of the chocolate-covered treats. My kids love the the chocolate covered fruits and the nutella crepe the most. My husband goes to the Christkindlmarke exclusively for steaming mugs of Glühwein. I detest this traditional hot spiced wine, but he indulges every single year and has amassed a new mug every year for the past two decades!

The Christkindlmarket holiday market is located in the Daley Plaza in Chicago and there is also one in the suburbs in Naperville. We have always visited the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, it is not to be missed!

Venue Name: Christkindlmarket Address: Daley Plaza, Loop Chicago Price: Free HOURS: 4:30-9 pm November 16 - December 24 Sunday - Thursday: 11am to 8pm Friday and Saturday: 11am to 9pm. Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve 11am–4pm

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

I can still remember when the ice skating rink first opened in Millennium Park 18 years ago. It was very exciting and it still is the place to skate in the winter in Chicago. Everyone can skate under the Chicago skyline at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park.

Chicago Guide To the Holidays Ice Skating at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park

Most Thursday, the ice rinks hosts Theme Nights which are always super fun. During the evenings and on weekends, the rink is very busy and you may have a wait time. Admission to the rink is free, but if you don't own a pair of skates, you'll have to pay to rent some. McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park hosts free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sunday at 9am. The skate rink is open through early March 2019.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park

Venue Name: McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink Address: 55 N Michigan Ave 
Chicago  Price: Admission: free Skate Rental: $13–$15 HOURS: Mondays–Thursdays, noon–8pm Fridays, noon–10pm Saturdays & Sundays, 10am–9pm

Maggie Daley Park The Skating Ribbon

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon

The McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink has a partner in crime these days at the Maggie Daley Park The Skating Ribbon. The Skating Ribbon opened its doors only 4 years ago and it has been a Chicaog favorite ever since. This quarter-mile circuit rink is so much fun for family activities! The rink opens on November 16 and you can snag a Fast Pass for $40 and skip the l-o-n-g lines!

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon

Venue Name: Maggie Daley Park Address: 337 E Randolph St Chicago  Price: Admission: free Skate Rental: $13–$15 HOURS: 6am-11pm daily

HOT COCOA and DONUTS and CREPES

Once you have skated your little hearts out, hand in your skates and bundle back up and walk down Michigan Ave towards Stan’s Donuts and Nutella. Order the plain Nutella crepe and a hot cocoa from Nutella. Don’t expect a rush order either. Nutella is always packed and always (like always) very, very slow), but the crepes are worth the wait. Then walk right next door to Stan’s Donuts and grab my kid’s favaorite, the Chocolate Pocket with Nutella and bananas or my favorite, the Pistachio Donut. Nutella does not have the best hot cocoa, but, the location is convenient to Millennium Park. If you feel like taking a cab for the BEST hot cocoa, head over to Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square OR Mindy's Hot Chocolate in Bucktown.

CAROLING at Cloud Gate

There are so many great holiday events at Millennium Park each year in Chicago and Caroling at Cloud Gate is surely one not to be missed. Bundle up and be ready to sing along with the holiday classics as local Chicago choral groups lead hundreds of visitors in Christmas songs.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Caroling at Cloud Gate

Venue Name: Caroling at Cloud Gate Address: Millennium Park, Cloud Gate Price: Free Admission 6-7pm HOURS: Fridays, November 23 & 30, December 7 & 14, Wednesday, December 12

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

The winter holidays also ‘officially’ begin in Chicago with the ZooLights Opening Night. Next Friday, November 23, they flip the switch on ZooLights! Promptly at 4:25 pm, the official lighting ceremony at the stairs to Wild Things gift shop begins and kicks off the ZooLights festivities.

 12/20/15 7:13:14 PM -- Chicago, IL, USA

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights


© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

If you are feeling a bit of the bahhumbugs this season, head over to ZooLights and you will instantly be lifted up with all the glimmering lights.  ZooLights brings their holiday magic to Lincoln Park Zoo each December, with Musical light shows and so much more. There is even a holiday market, candy cane lane and Santa will be there for children’s wishes as well.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago Guide to the Holidays ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

With approxiamtely 2.5 million holiday lights blanketing the ground, trees, fences and buildings, this is one festival of lights not to miss if you are visiting Chicago in December. It’s FREE, which is even better! There are also other attractions, such as ice carving, special events and experiences, Family Nights (AND ALL KIDS EAT FREE AT Park Place Café on Monday evenings), trains rides, carousel spins, 3D displays, shopping, strolling carolers a variety of snacks are available for purchase.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago Guide to the Holidays ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Venue Name: Lincoln Park Zoo Address: 2001 N Clark St Chicago Price: Free HOURS: 4:30-9 pm

November 2018: 23, 24, 25 and 30
December 2018: 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 & 31
January 2019: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6

Wndr Museum

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Tiaras & Tantrums Wndr Museum

So here is a new place to visit here in Chicago. The Wndr Museum. The Wndr Museum features a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room. This museum lets everyone explore a new genre of immersive art experiences, like a Zero-Gravity Ball Pit. There are 10 additional rooms, and even more immersive art & science experiences.

Venue Name: Wndr Museum Address: 130 W. Monroe St. Chicago Price: $32.00 HOURS: 4:30-9 pm1

The Great Tree at The Walnut Room

A Chicago Holiday Tradition that will never go away (at least I hope not) is children visiting The Walnut Room. These children then grow up and take their own chidlren to The Walnut Room. Generations have been the Great Tree at Marshall Fields AKA Macy’s The Walnut Room for more than a century.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays The Great Tree at The Walnut Room

My tip, arrive very early and get in line because The Walnut Room does not take reservations. Seating is first come first serve. The restaurant is on the seventh-floor inside Macy's (formerly known as Marshall Fields). The 45-ft Great Tree has 3,000 ornaments can be viewed from outside the restaurant. But, go have lunch in The Great Room and enjoy the classic, Mrs. Hering’s Chicken Pot Pie. It is delicious!

Venue Name: The Walnut Room Address: Auditorium Theatre, Loop Price: $35-$174 HOURS: Dec 1 2018-Dec 30 2018

Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier

We have been taking our children to the Winter Wonderland for more than a decade at Navy Pier in Chicago. My kids ask every year when we are going to visit. The Festival Hall Winter Wonderland hosts a variety of attractions and rides.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier
Chicago Guide to the Holidays Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier

This year marks the 18th annual Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. The Winter Wonderland covers 170,000 square feet of FUN! Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance online for special savings AND because once you arrive - the line is SO L-O-N-G!!

There is the Alpine Slide, The Arctic Express Train Ride, Artic Plunge, Create a Cookie (my daughters FAVORITE activity) , Candy Cane Lighthouse , the Cliff Hanger, Dashers Crashers Bumper cars {which all three of my kids adore!}, Hot Coca Cups ride, inflatable Ice Palace, and interactive climbing walls.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier
Chicago Guide to the Holidays Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier

There is also an indoor ice skating rink, Jingle Gym for all the little people, a Kringle Carousel, various bounce houses, mini golf course, a 15-foot-high “snow” tubing hill (which is probably one of the most fun attractions), Wonder Whirl (like a tilt a whirl), Zero Gravity ride (my son’s absolute favorite ride EVER).

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier
Chicago Guide to the Holidays Winter Wonderland Fest at Navy Pier

In addition, there is the opportunity to visit Santa and Mrs Claus, sit in a giant rocking chair, take a photo in front of the 42-foot magnificent giant tree OR in a beautiful sleigh and if you are brave, climb giant rocking horse! 

Venue Name: Winter Wonderland Address: Navy Pier/Festival Hall 600 E. Grand Ave Chicago Price: $20 - $26 Dates: NOVEMBER 30, 2018 – JANUARY 6, 2019

HOLIDAY MUSICALS IN CHICAGO

Whilst spending time in Chicago during the holiday season, seeing a musical is a great entertainment opportunity. During the holiday season, Chicago hosts a few holiday musicals that are always a joy to see.

The Nutcracker

Going to The Nutcracker Ballet in Chicago over the holiday season is a tradition. There are so many different performances at various theaters across the city and suburbs. No matter where you want to see The Nutcracker Ballet, just be sure to see at least one performace. The higlight of course would be to see The Nutcracker in Chicago at Joffrey Ballet.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays The Nutcrack Joffrey Ballet Chicago

Venue Name: The Nutcracker Address: Macy’s State Street Chicago Price: $25.95 & $13.95 Dates: Dec 1 2018-Dec 30 2018

A Christmas Carol

Chicago’s Goodman Theatre will be once again hosting A Christmas Carol this holiday season. A Christmas Carol is a holiday must-see in you are in Chicago during the holiday season. Catch Ebenezer Scrooge’s discover acts of kindness, compassion and redemption. A Christmas Carol is still the best Christmas story ever told.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre

Venue Name: A Christmas Carol Address: Goodman Theatre Chicago Price: $40-$120 Dates: Nov 17 - Dec 30, 2018

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

Dr. Seuss' beloved holiday tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a holiday classic! 

Venue Name: How the Grinch Stole Christmas Address: 175 N State St. Chicago The Chicago Theatre Price: $65- $105 Dates: Nov 16, 2018 - Nov 25, 2018

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

See trees in a different light at Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum this holiday season in Chicago. Even though Morton Aoretum is located outside of Chicago, in Lisle, the Illumination: Tree Lights exhibit is one to visit. Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum. Color surrounds visitors on the one-mile paved path amoungst interactive lighting effects that highlight the beauty of Morton Arboretum trees during this holiday season. Enjoy seasonal music, interactive lighting shows, and there is even a crackling fire with drink available for purchase as well as s’mores.

Chicago Guide to the Holidays Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Chicago Guide to the Holidays Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Chicago Guide to the Holidays Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Chicago Guide to the Holidays Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

This year offers fresh twists on favorite experiences and surprising new sights, including art from HYBYCOZO–amazing treelike sculptures that spread intricate designs of light. Hug a tree to see how it responds, let starlike lights wash over you in a grove of trees, and watch multicolored lights dance to symphonic music.

Venue Name: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum Address: 4100 Illinois Rte 53 Lisle Price: $18–$23 HOURS: Daily 7am–sunset Saturday, November 17, 2018 through Tuesday, January 1, 2019 

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry

There really is nothing like visiting the MSI (Museum of Science and Industry) during the holiday season. My family adores visiting MSI and seeing all the decorated Christmas Trees from Around The World. There are over 50 trees all over MSI and all are included in the museum entrance fee.

Photographer

Venue Name: Christmas Around the World Address: MSI 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr Chicago Price: $12.95 - $21.95 (save $2 per ticket if you order online- wihc I suggest because the lines during the holidays are super long!!) HOURS: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm Thurs, Nov 15-Sun, Jan 6: open during regular museum hours

Holiday Breakfast at the Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium's holiday breakfast features a delicious breakfast with Santa. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ 4-D Experience, children's exhibit, Polar Play Zone, and an aquatic presentation. This holiday event includes holiday crafts and photos with Santa, breakfast in the Bubble Net, Polar Express 4-D experience, aquatic presentation, and more.

Venue Name: Holiday Breakfast Shedd Aquarium Address: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr Chicago Price: $39.95 - $54.95 (save $2 per ticket if you order online- wihc I suggest because the lines during the holidays are super long!!) HOURS: Sun, Dec 2, 9, 16 & 23; Sat, Dec 15 & 22


Whether you have lived in Chicago for 30 years, or it is your first time spending the holidays in Chicago, or you may even be spending another winter holiday with family here in the Windy City; whatever the the reason, Chicago make this magical time of year special. This Chicago Guide to the Holidays will help you make the most of your holiday this year that you’ll never forget!

Chicago Guide to the Holidays #christmasinChicago #Chicagochristmas Tiaras & Tantrums
Chicago Guide to the Holidays #christmasinChicago #Chicagochristmas Tiaras & Tantrums