Chicago Holiday Events You Can’t Miss
The festive season is once again upon us here in Chicago, and the Windy City is hosting some amazing holiday events this year. From the lighting of the “official” Chicago Christmas tree, to holiday lights synchronized to music at the zoo, to ice skating rinks under sparkling lights, to a traditional German Christmas market that makes you feel like you’re in Europe, Chicago has you covered this holiday season.
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Watch the Lighting of the Chicago Holiday Tree
Chicago’s “official” Christmas tree will be erected on Nov. 19, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s lighting ceremony will feature entertainment from Dreezy Claus and Sister Claus, music by DJ Selah Say, Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, Brian McKnight, and Chicago Soul Spectacular, as well as performances by Kenwood School of Ballet, the Chicago Opera Theater, and Cirque du Soleil. Concessions will be available throughout Millennium Park.
The tree will remain illuminated through the new year until Jan. 9, 2022. If you miss the opening celebration, you can still bring the family to see the lights throughout the holidays. Plan an excursion to see the tree and join the Millennium Park Sing-Along (previously Caroling at Cloud Gate), Fridays at 6 p.m. from Nov. 20 to Dec. 17 (with a special Sunday edition on Dec. 12). Sing along to holiday favorites and new variations at this inclusive festive event. While you’re in Millennium Park, visit some of the other attractions, such as the art galleries, museums, or skate rinks.
See the Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
What’s better than a day at the zoo? A visit to the zoo complete with holiday lights and joyful seasonal music! The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Lincoln Park Zoo for the ZooLights display. Entry costs $5, but there is also free entrance on Mondays and Tuesdays. Be sure to arrive early to enjoy this festive event, as admission is limited.
Updated this year, ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo will include an 18-foot Christmas tree and a new lights show on the South Lawn. Be sure to take the kids for photos with Santa, then the adults can head to Snowy’s Spirits & S’mores pop-up bar for spiced wine, beer, and themed cocktails. There’s also hot cocoa, snacks, and shopping for the whole family. With over 2.5 million lights synchronized to holiday music, this historic zoo is a must-see destination from Nov. 21, 2021, to Jan. 2, 2022.
Visit a Traditional European Christmas Market
The world has been almost closed for the last year and a half, but you can still travel to Germany at the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza from Nov. 19 to Dec. 24. Experience the buzz of an authentic European-style Christmas market right here in Chicago, with free admission to all guests. Stalls hosted by local and international vendors will entice you with everything from bratwurst to hot spiced wine, roasted nuts, arts and crafts, gift ideas, holiday music, and more.
Christkindlmarket is perhaps the most authentic traditional holiday market outside of Europe, so it’s definitely worth a visit this holiday season. Bundle up and gather your family and friends, make sure you have a little extra jingle in your pocket for the holiday treasures you’ll find, and head to the market for shopping and festivities.
Lace Up and Ice Skate in the City
If outdoor activities are your thing this holiday season, consider lacing up your skates and heading to one of the famous open-air ice skating rinks in Chicago. Placed right in front of the iconic Cloud Gate, McCormick Tribune Ice Rink sparkles under twinkling lights and joyful visitors reflected in The Bean’s shining surface. Admission to the rink is free, but you do need reservations in advance (book online). Nearby there’s also the Maggie Daley Park skating ribbon, which is twice as long as a traditional rink, giving you more time and space to enjoy the wintry experience.
To add to the experience, see if you can arrive on a snowy day and stick around until sunset for the holiday lights. There’s nothing like skating at the holidays with snow falling all around and twinkling lights welcoming the festive season. Be sure to grab a cup of cocoa after at one of the nearby cafes. Bring your own skates, or rent from their facilities.
Catch a Ride on the Polar Express Train
For a unique and memorable holiday experience, take a ride on the Polar Express Train departing from Chicago Union Station. Sing along to music from the motion picture, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and watch characters from the story as the book is read aloud. Costumes, decorations, light displays, and memorabilia from the story will surely amaze children and adults alike. Different classes of tickets allow you to have a more VIP experience if you prefer. This magical re-enactment is certainly a unique holiday experience for the Chicago area. Tickets can be booked on the Polar Express Train Ride website.
Stay Safe and Warm This Holiday Season
This holiday season, Chicago will host almost endless festivities to cover every interest. Whether you want to listen to music, catch a performance, bask in twinkling lights, or ice skate, there’s something to entertain every member of the family this holiday season. So grab your friends and family, get everyone dressed in tacky holiday sweaters, and head to one of these seasonal events. We know there are plenty of holiday traditions in Chicago, so let us know if we missed one of your favorite attractions!
Image via Flickr by chrismetcalfTV