Christmas in Chicago! 20 festive things to do during the Christmas season!

August 3, 2021

Are you visiting Chicago at Christmas time? If so, you might be looking for things to do during Christmas in Chicago!

Chicago is one of the most festive cities in the USA during December. Spending Christmas in Chicago is wonderful, and you’ll be absolutely in your element if you love holiday festivities and all that goes along with the festive season!

After all, some of our favorite Christmas movies are set in Chicago (we’re looking at you, Home Alone!) so you just know Chicago is a city that ramps up the festivity. Spending Christmas in Chicago is super special – and hopefully the suggestions on this list will give you plenty of ideas for what to do and where to go!

So, let’s get into it!


Here’s our guide to spending Christmas in Chicago!


Christmas Around the World

First on our guide to spending Christmas in Chicago, it’s Christmas Around the World. Chicago museums are gorgeous at the best of times. However, they really take things to the next level during the festive season.

If you want to experience the best of Christmas in Chicago, then you need to head to the Museum of Science and Industry. This famous location features the annual Christmas Around the World display, which shows off 50 incredible decorated trees.

These trees all represent different country traditions, so you can learn more about the wonders of Christmas across the globe in one handy exhibition. Be sure to take plenty of time to look at the Grand Tree; each year, this wonderous, nearly 50-foot-tall tree is decorated with thousands of twinkling lights. It’s truly a sight to behold, so don’t miss out if you’re spending Christmas in Chicago this year!

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Visit the Marshall Field’s Building

The Marshall Field’s Building always has a glorious display that you should check out if you’re spending Christmas in Chicago. Starting just before December hits, this building creates an amazing Santaland that features elves, games, and of course, a meet-and-greet with the main man! 

Although Santaland is the main draw of visiting the Marshall Field’s Building, many people also enjoy checking out the ornate window displays nearby.

Much like New York’s 5th Avenue, Chicago’s streets really go all out when it comes to the festive season. Be sure to bring your camera and your sense of fun along to the Marshall Field’s Building – believe us, it’s a lovely way to celebrate Christmas in Chicago. 


Head to Millennium Park for the tree lighting

One of the top things to do if you’re spending Christmas in Chicago is to watch the famous tree-lighting ceremony at Millennium Park. The city’s largest tree stands (it comes in at over 50 feet!) near the famous Chicago Bean, and each year, Chicagoans flock to watch the ceremony. 

There are usually performances and plenty of music during the tree lighting ceremony, so be sure to arrive with time to spare to ensure that you get a good vantage point.

After you watch the ceremony, we highly recommend taking a gentle stroll around the park itself. It’ll be chilly, so wrap up warm! This is an amazing option for things to check out during Christmas in Chicago.


Visit Goose Island for the Jack Frost Winter Walk

Next on our list of things to do in Christmas in Chicago, it’s the Jack Frost Winter Walk. Visitors to the city absolutely adore the Jack Frost Winter Walk and Christmas Tree Farm on Goose Island.

This awesome seasonal pop-up offers plenty of festive fun, and each year they offer mazes, bouncy castles, photo opportunities, bumper cars, and even axe throwing! It’s a weird and wonderful festive treat that you should certainly pop on your list of things to do at Christmas in Chicago.

If you get peckish, then you’ll be pleased to know that the Jack Frost Winter Walk features plenty of food and drink trucks for hungry diners. A Christmas miracle!

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Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights

If you’re on the hunt for something mesmerizing to do at Christmas in Chicago, then be sure to check out ZooLights.

Presented annually at Lincoln Park Zoo, this wonderful display of lights is a must-see for any tourist or local. As well as giving visitors a dazzling light display, ZooLights is one of the best things to do at Christmas in Chicago as it also has various seasonal activities on offer for kids and adults alike.

You won’t be able to see much of the animals during ZooLights as the exhibits won’t be open for the event. However, you might catch a glimpse of them if you’re lucky! Such a great choice for spending Christmas in Chicago.


Visit the Christkindl Market

We couldn’t write a guide to Christmas in Chicago, and not mention this epic Christmas market! Traditional Christmas markets just make you feel festive. Chicago’s very own Christkindl market will make you feel as though you’ve stepped right into Bavaria.

Featuring classic food and drinks such as mulled wine and gingerbread, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Don’t forget to pick up a few Christmas gifts while you’re here; the market features some lovely handmade trinkets that make excellent and unique gifts. This is one of the best things to do during Christmas in Chicago.


Ice Skating!

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without some ice skating. Grab your skates and head to Maggie Daley Park if you’re spending Christmas in Chicago; we can assure you, it won’t disappoint! The rink at Maggie Daley Park is free, so all you’ll need to do is book a spot online and skate away.

But there are quite a few ice-skating rinks in Chicago, so you could essentially check off a different one each day of your trip if you fancied!

Be aware that it does get extremely cold during Christmas in Chicago, so be sure to grab a hat, scarf, gloves and anything else you’ll need to keep warm. Trust us, although the rink is gorgeous, you won’t want to end your trip early on account of being too chilly. 


Have a meal at the Walnut Room

Who doesn’t love a great meal and an enormous Christmas tree? When you’re in Christmas in Chicago you’ve got to check out this amazing one!

The Walnut Room at Macy’s is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city, and certainly deserves a spot on anyone’s list of things to do at Christmas in Chicago. You can either grab a drink or enjoy a full table-service meal at the Walnut Room. It’s slightly pricey, but well worth it. 

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Look at the Christmas Lights at Art on theMART

One of the more unique things to do for Christmas in Chicago is pay a visit to Art on theMART. You’ll probably never have seen anything quite like this attraction, as it’s the biggest digital projection of art in the entire world. The art that’s projected is usually contemporary in nature, and guests will be treated to 30 minutes of projections twice an evening. 

You can easily catch the show from the Chicago Riverwalk, and it’s free for all! If we’re being honest, this may be one of our favorite free things to do for Christmas in Chicago. It’s magical, it’s mystical, and it costs absolutely nothing!


Try and spot the CTA Holiday Train

We love the CTA Holiday Train. As one of the lesser-known things to do during Christmas in Chicago, we had to give it a mention. Although it’s a simple thing, you’ll be wave to the CTA holiday train during the month of December and see Santa riding through the city.

The special train is decorated with thousands of lights, so it really is an incredible sight to see. Sure, it’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s one of those things that you just have to do if you’re spending Christmas in Chicago. 


Get some shopping done

Although there are plenty of awesome light displays during Christmas in Chicago, there are also a great deal of shopping opportunities! If you haven’t grabbed all your gifts for the holidays yet, then why not visit Chicago’s Magnificent Mile?

This famous shopping street features everything from classic designer stores to beautifully decorated department stores. Whatever you’re on the hunt for, we can guarantee that you’ll find it here for Christmas in Chicago. 


See the beautiful lights at The Morton Arboretum

Another fantastic place to see lights at Christmas in Chicago is the Morton Arboretum. Starting at the end of November each year, this immersive experience is perfect for families.

The light display usually runs to the beginning of January, so you have plenty of time to visit during the festive season! All lights are said to be sustainable, making it the perfect way to be conscious. 

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Visit the Christmas Bar at Goose Island

If you’re going to be spending Christmas in Chicago and are on the hunt for a festive tipple, then be sure to visit Goose Island on Evergreen. Each year, visitors will find Frosty’s Christmas Bar emerge. For obvious reasons, this isn’t a year-round attraction. However, when Christmas in Chicago arrives, so does Frosty’s!

This bar offers unique drinks and various themed photo opportunities. So, if you’re looking for a festive place to visit that’s also great for the ‘gram, then this is an ideal thing to add to your list of things to do at Christmas in Chicago. 


IO Godfreys

Believe it or not, Chicago does have year-round rooftop bars. And if you’re in the mood for something a bit different during your trip to Chicago at Christmas… Then we think you’ll love this. Christmas in Chicago is amazing, and this is an epic choice to add to your list of things to do during Christmas in Chicago.


Stay at a themed hotel

Those looking to relax and unwind may want to spend this Christmas in Chicago in a hotel room. If you’re looking to keep things festive, then the Godfrey Hotel is an excellent place to book.

Presenting guests a veritable Winter Wonderland on its gorgeous rooftop, it gives you the opportunity to duck in and out of festivities as you please. You can grab some awesome cocktails and sit by the firepit, or opt for some ooey, gooey s’mores! 


Go Christmas tree spotting

Christmas in Chicago is kind of a big deal… so you can expect to see and find many Christmas trees around the city. One of the most lovely (and free!) things you can do at Christmas in Chicago, is to go Christmas tree hunting! Set out to find as many of the city’s Christmas trees as you possible can!

Top tip: One of our favorite Christmas trees in Chicago has to be this show-stopper on Michigan Avenue…


Catch a Christmas Drive-In Movie

If you love a good Christmas movie, then you absolutely need to catch your favorite flick at a drive-in movie theater! Christmas in Chicago is always magical, but being able to catch Love, Actually or Elf with a bunch of snacks in your car is sure to be an experience to remember. 

Both ChiTown Movies in Pilsen and the Lincoln Yard Drive-In are excellent locations for tourists and locals. Both theaters feature great movies, but we recommend checking out showings before driving over. This is a unique and fun option for things to do during Christmas in Chicago.


Take a stroll through some residential neighborhoods

OK, our next suggestion for things to do during Christmas in Chicago, it’s taking a stroll through some of the city’s suburban neighborhoods.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably appreciate having a nosy at other people’s home, and strolling through some of the post suburban neighborhoods is so beautiful when they have all their Christmas lights and Christmas decoration out on show! It’s a perfect choice for things to do during Christmas in Chicago.


Snow covered Bean!

Ok, this next idea for things to do during Christmas in Chicago, is visit the Bean! The Bean sculpture is one of the most iconic parts of Chicago, and this doesn’t change during Christmas!

If you’re lucky enough to get some snow whilst spending Christmas in Chicago, then you need to go and get a photo of the Chicago Bean covered in snow! It’s magical!


Sledging!

If you’re spending Christmas in Chicago and you want to release your inner child, then you need to give sledding a try! Every Christmas holiday, when the snow falls, you get amazing parts of the city that are the perfect sledging locations.

You’ll find locals and tourists flocking to these areas to enjoy some snow-fuelled fun. Cricket Hill at Montrose Harbor is a popular choice, as is Palmisano Park in Bridgeport.


Hopefully this list of things to do in Christmas in Chicago has been helpful!

As you can see, spending Christmas in Chicago is a lot of fun! And there are so many wonderful activities to enjoy around the city to make Christmas in Chicago even more special!

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