Here is a list of some of the things you can add to your Christmas itinerary while in Chicago:
1. Be prepared to be mesmerised by the ZooLights
An absolute treat if you are with children, Lincoln Park Zoo is known to host an annual event known as ZooLights wherein the entire property is lit up with about 2.5 million bulbs. You can stroll around the park, admire all the decorations and even click some photographs; the animals are usually all inside. What’s more, you can take advantage of the adults-only night out at the zoo wherein you’ll be able to sip on some hot chocolate or even wine (you’ll need tickets) or catch the A Charlie Brown Christmas tribute concert.
Where to find: 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, United States
2. Pay a visit to the Great Tree at Macy’s
If you want to be left speechless, make sure to go to the Walnut Room Restaurant at Macy’s and stare at its massive and beautifully decorated Christmas tree, also known as the Great Tree. Not only is the tree fully lit up in multi-coloured lights, but the entire room is adorned with a lot of decorations, all adding to the festive joys. Stop to click a picture with the tree or better still, order something to eat at the restaurant.
Where to find: 111 N State St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States
3. Put on Your Skates and Go Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park
How can you spend Christmas in Chicago without going ice skating? The Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago is home to the Skating Ribbon, a winding path which is bigger than a traditional rink, offering a gorgeous view of the city skyline. What’s more, the Ribbon is open till March and will let you skate your heart out even on holidays like Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for a certain amount of time. While admission is generally free, you will have to pay for renting the skates.
Where to find: 337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States
4. You simply have to go see the Official Christmas Tree of the City of Chicago
You will most probably come across a number of elaborately decorated trees throughout the city but one that you simply have to go and see is the one in Millenium Park. Set up at the centre of the park, it is the official Christmas Tree of the City of Chicago and is decorated with lights and ornaments, set amidst the snow. You can walk around the park or stop to take pictures with the massive tree.
Where to find: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States
5. Take a Trip to the Famous Christkindlmarkt
Christkindlmarkt is a very popular street market set up in Daley Plaza every year around Christmas and attracts millions of visitors every year. No Christmas in Chicago can be complete without a visit to this market, which originally originated in Germany. It hosts a variety of vendors not just from the city but also from countries like Austria, Germany and Ukraine, all selling a wide range of products like toys, holiday ornaments, decorations, baked goods, meat, wine, beer etc. Moreover, you’d be greeted by a Santa house, a nativity scene, and entertainment in the form of Christmas choirs, and brass bands as well as dance performances.
Where to find: 50 W Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States
6. Indulge in some Delicious Festive Eating!
One thing you cannot do during Christmas is forgotten to engage in some holiday eating. Not only do people cook elaborate meals at home, but most restaurants, cafes and bakeries offer a wide variety of delicious treats like hot chocolate, Christmas cakes, muffins, gingerbread, cookies, pies, pudding, and also full-blown meals. It is a wonderful time to go into these establishments since they are beautifully decorated with tiny trees, lights, ornaments and often have some music playing in the background, adding to the holiday spirit.
Where to eat: Mindy’s Bakery, XOCO, STK Chicago, The Albert, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeka, NoMi
7. Spend Some Money Finding Gifts for your Loved Ones
The holidays are a time of gift-giving and if you are in Chicago around Christmas, you’d find yourself with a plethora of options when it comes to finding stores with great discounts. When you are buying gifts in bulk, it makes sense to look for deals and there are many high-street, designer and outlet stores, and markets selling clothing, accessories, candles, decorations and home decor at either discounted prices or offering gift bundles. Moreover, there are a lot of restaurants, bakeries and cafes which sell Christmas treats like cakes, cookies, gingerbread, muffins and more.
Where to shop: Christkindlmarkt, Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Macy’s, 900 North Michigan Shops, Water Tower Place, Chicago Premium Outlets
8. Get a Glimpse of a Holiday Classic: The Nutcracker
Undoubtedly a Christmas favourite, The Nutcracker, a two-act ballet performance based somewhat on E.T.A. Hoffman’s story is one which comes to life every year. If you are celebrating Christmas in Chicago, it goes without saying that you at least need to catch some bits of this classic, and a number of major establishments are hosting virtual events for the same. The facade of the Merchandise Mart will light up with vibrant colours for about 30 minutes displaying scenes and images from the production. The Ruth Page Centre for the Arts, as well as Joffrey Ballet, will host immersive events and also project some behind the scenes clips, interviews and other fun activities.
Where to find: 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654, United States (The Merchandise Mart)
9. Take a Stroll amidst Chicago Botanic Garden’s breathtaking display of lights
There is something about bright lights which instantly put you in a festive mood, and if you are looking to find a place with a beautiful Christmas lights display, head over to the Chicago Botanic Garden. Every year, the forest preserve organises a display of festive lights, an after-dark experience! This includes a set of installations such as a brightly lit up 110-foot long tunnel, trees covered in bulbs singing holiday songs, as well as 5 installations by Chicago-based artists, such as ‘Pride and Promise’ by Tanner Woodford.
Where to find: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022, United States
10. Walk around the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas exhibit
If you enjoy visiting exhibitions, the Museum of Science and Industry is the place to be around Christmas owing to its ‘Christmas Around the World’ exhibit. Every single year, the museum sets up a 45 feet tall tree covered in over 30,000 lights along with multiple other trees around which represent the various communities living in Chicago as well as their holiday traditions. Not only that, if you wish to get a glimpse of traditions pertaining to other holidays around the world, don’t forget to check out the ‘Holidays of Light’ exhibit.
Where to find: 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637, United States
11. Make sure to Experience Holiday Magic at the Brookfield Zoo
During Christmas time, the Brookfield Zoo becomes the site of festivities and merrymaking; all the trees, structures and fences are completely covered up in multi-coloured bright lights. You can walk around appreciating all the decorations and can also walk through a tunnel, about 600 feet long, adorned with lights which are synchronised to music, partake in a fun Game of Gnomes scavenger hunt and even get to see a number of large animated animal sculptures. Furthermore, Holiday Magic sets up multiple concession stands which sell treats like funnel cakes, hot cocoa, wine and pizza.
Where to find: 8400 W 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513, United States
12. Have a bright drive-thru experience in Northbrook Court
If the idea of getting out and walking around to explore the brightly lit parks and streets in the snow isn’t too tempting, Northbrook Court offers an alternative. Situated north of downtown Chicago, it organises a drive-thru light show called Let It, Shine. You get to sit in a car and drive through illuminated tunnels while marvelling at all the bright light fixtures synchronised to holiday classics, glowing snowmen and installations, sparkling candy canes, archways and much more.
Where to find: 1515 Lake Cook Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062, United StatesMake sure to take advantage of as many things as possible, that the city has to offer, around the holiday season, so that your Christmas in Chicago is unforgettable!