Christmas in Chicago is a special time of year, with lots of festive activities & events all month long to get you into the holiday spirit!
Whether you are looking to start new family Christmas traditions or partake in old ones, browse our interactive map & calendar for Chicago Christmas events, holiday light displays and kid-friendly Christmas shows near you. Find out where you can go ice skating or cut your own Christmas tree, too, for even more seasonal family fun.
What are your family's favorite things to do for Christmas in Chicago? Like & review your picks below, and add any that are still missing!
South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority - "A Christmas Story" Comes Home
Kristy Pepping: Come to the Indiana Welcome Center for "A Christmas Story" Comes Home exhibit which is six animatronic window displays from Macy's Department Store in New York. Each has a different scene from "A Christmas Story," that classic Christmas movie byJean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark which is based on Shepherd's experiences growing up in Hammond, Indiana.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at MSI
Included with admission
This annual display from one of Chicago's must-see museums for kids explores rich holiday traditions from around the globe. There are over 50 trees and displays representing a variety of cultures and traditions, including a floor-to-ceiling Grand Tree with thousands of twinkling lights.
Light Up The Lake at Navy Pier
Erin P.: Navy Pier hosts the largest indoor and outdoor holiday experience in Chicago. Explore the Pier’s dazzling outdoor lakefront light displays. Experience the joy of outdoor ice skating with a breathtaking backdrop of Lake Michigan. Cozy up with loved ones and roast smores by the toasty firepits. Ignite your creativity at their holiday workshops, and so much more. Includes both free and ticketed events.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra - Merry, Merry Chicago!
Brigitte Nohra Miller: Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and special guests share music of the holiday season in this festive Christmas show for the whole family. The show runs 1 hour and 50 minutes.
The Walnut Room
Sarah D.: The Walnut Room is a classic Chicago destination. Located in Chicago's historic Marshall Fields on State Street (now Macy's), the Walnut room is known during the holidays for its spectacular décor and special holiday menu. Bring your little ones to enjoy a festive holiday lunch alongside the 45-foot Great Tree while enjoying the musical joy of the season. Reservations are required.
'Twas the Night Before... by Cirque du Soleil (The Chicago Theatre)
Upparent: A holiday spectacular with acrobatic feats for the whole family to enjoy.
Mrs Claus! A Holiday Musical (Chicago Kids Company)
CKCAngi: Chicago Kids Company’s holiday classic celebrates the 23rd year of MRS. CLAUS! A HOLIDAY MUSICAL. This show is so popular that we decided to present it in TWO different theaters this December. Get your tickets early…many shows sell out!
It’s almost Christmas, and Santa’s list is missing! Join Mrs. Claus and the Elf Class of 2023 as they try to find it in time to save Christmas. Who stole the list? How will they get it back? Will Mrs. Claus save the day? Chicago Kids Company’s biggest and most colorful show will put you in the Holiday Spirit in no time!
Goodman Theater - A Christmas Carol
Erin P.: Your family can watch as Ebenezer Scrooge journeys through Christmas Eve to discover the true meaning of Christmas in the classic story, A Christmas Carol. The whole family will love the music and dance that bring this performance to life.
Dates & hours vary by location
Gina I.: Inspired by the Christkindlmarket in Germany, Christkindlmarket is an enchanting holiday village and beloved tradition during Christmas in Chicago. Enjoy a unique shopping experience featuring a variety of handmade and European goods. Vendors also serve roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst, hot chocolate and hot spiced wine. In addition to the classic downtown Chicago market, you'll also find Christkindlmarket in Wrigleyville and Aurora.
Joffrey Ballet - The Nutcracker
Brigitte Nohra Miller: This annual holiday tradition celebrates the magic of the season and the rich cultural heritage that makes Christmas in Chicago so special.
The Nutcracker (Joffrey Ballet)
maggie sullivan: This holiday season, The Joffrey Ballet celebrates the return of Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s magical production of The Nutcracker. Set in Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, The Nutcracker highlights the rich cultural heritage of Chicago and the wonder of the season. A beloved Chicago tradition for the entire family to enjoy, The Nutcracker will be presented at the historic Lyric Opera House.
The Nutcracker opens as young Marie and her mother, a sculptress creating the Fair’s iconic Statue of the Republic, host a festive Christmas Eve celebration. Magic is on the horizon for young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince, thanks to a visit from the charming but mysterious Great Impresario. At the stroke of midnight on a snowy Christmas Eve, when the lines between fantasy and reality blur together, Marie sets out on an unforgettable journey through Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, a marvel of sights, sounds, and enchantment.
Art on THE MART: 2023 Season of Light
Looking for free things to do for Christmas in Chicago? Art on THE MART transforms one of Chicago's notable landmarks, THE MART (formerly known as The Merchandise Mart), into a permanent, larger-than-life canvas. During the holiday season, enjoy their Season of Light display nightly at 7:30pm. Performances are free for all to enjoy, and can be best viewed from The Chicago Riverwalk between Wells and Lake St.
The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle
Antonio.Konja: The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle is the ultimate holiday experience for the entire family! Your family will be enchanted by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s sweeping music, including iconic selections like “The March of the Toys” and “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as they are immersed in holiday wonder!
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Free on Mondays
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is definitely one of the most popular things to do for Christmas in Chicago, with luminous displays and holiday activities throughout the zoo grounds. The Pepper Family Wildlife Center will transform into the North Pole, hosting visits with Santa alongside the zoo’s holiday tree and festive décor.
WNDR Museum - Winter WNDRland
ardenc: WNDR Museum, Chicago’s original immersive art and technology experience, invites guests to immerse themselves in the magic of the holiday season with the return of its Winter WNDRland celebration. WNDR’s most loved exhibits like Masterpiece, Terres(tri)al, and Lumens will be transformed by a shimmering blanket of snow and ice, enveloping guests in the enchanting embrace of the cold.
The Christmas That Almost Wasn't (AlphaBet Soup Productions)
Location varies by date
Upparent: A group of life-sized toys set out to save Christmas in this traveling children's theater show by AlphaBet Soup Productions. Be sure to click through to the website to see which dates the show will be playing at each theater.
Salt Creek Ballet - The Nutcracker
Brigitte Nohra Miller: The magic and music of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince are as Christmas as mince meat pies and mistletoe. With captivating sets and mesmerizing dancers, the Salt Creek Ballet's rendition of the Nutcracker is sure to be a family favorite this holiday season. With shows running at three different venues, make sure to catch one of the performances.
Beyond the Nutcracker by School of Ballet 5:8
RebeccaHuang: A classic holiday tradition with a Ballet 5:8 twist. Join Emma and Uncle Abrahms as they embark on a miraculous journey through time and discover what Christmas is all about.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Holiday Magic is one of Chicagoland’s longest-running lights festivals, with over two million twinkling LED lights. Along with the light displays (including a tunnel light show!), families can enjoy photo ops, letters to Santa, roaming carolers, ice carving and more. Advance reservations are required for all, except for members entering through the North Gate. Admission to Holiday Magic is free for all members.
Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
One of Chicago's favorite botanic gardens presents Lightscape, bringing the night alive with color, imagination and sound, from a playful choir of singing trees to a spectacular Winter Cathedral. This is one of the most popular places to see Christmas lights around Chicago, and tickets sell out quickly so buy yours early to guarantee a spot!
This immersive experience at the Kohl Children's Museum allows kids to interact with light and color as they explore hues and patterns in this interactive holiday light installation. The light display is an indoor and outdoor experience, and includes admission to the museum's wonderful indoor exhibits as well.
Sparkle Light Festival
Carolina E: The Village of Rosemont is thrilled to announce the return of Sparkle Light Festival at Impact Field, the premier holiday destination for family fun. This year Sparkle Light Festival will feature a brand new, completely redesigned layout and the addition of an ice skating rink. Visitors are invited to make magical memories while enjoying breathtaking displays of millions of holiday lights alongside a variety of activities. Sparkle Light Festival will open on Friday, November 17 and will run through Sunday, December 31.
Sparkle Light Festival guests will stroll through five illuminated villages including the Frozen Forest, Snowflake Circle, Winter Wonderland, the North Pole and Deck the Walls. Guests are invited to visit Santa Claus, ice-skate with friends, enjoy free train rides on the “Holly Trolly” train, and go tubing down the Alpine Slide. Festive food and beverage options will also be available.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Drury Lane Theatre)
Upparent: This production of the classic Christmas tale is only one hour long, and perfect for children of all ages to enjoy! On select dates, you and your family are invited to have breakfast or dinner with Santa, too.
Dancenter North - The Magic of the Nutcracker
Brigitte Nohra Miller: Come and see Lake County’s largest and most sumptuous performance of the holiday favorite, The Nutcracker. This grand performance is known for its inclusion of internationally renowned guest artists supported with over 100 performers. A short version, "Clara's Dream," will be performed for young audiences at Libertyville High School. Full-length shows will be performed at Libertyville High School and Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.
Arlington Heights Concert Band - Holiday Favorites
Yoli B: I crave Christmas music this time of year and the Arlington Heights Concert Band perfectly satisfies that craving! This Christmas concert in the Chicago suburbs will have all of your holiday favorites and get you into the spirit of the season.
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre - A Christmas Carol
Age 3 & up
Brigitte Nohra Miller: Join Scrooge on his journey as the three ghosts of past, present and future get him to have a second look at his actions and how he is affecting the lives of people surrounding him especially his employee's family, the Cratchits.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
Explore 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees during this one-of-a-kind spectacle of color, light, and sound along a 1-mile paved walking path. Ticket prices can go up over time up depending on availability, so get yours early for the best price.
Vintage Holidays in Long Grove
Kristy Pepping: If you are looking for a small-town holiday experience, the Village of Long Grove invites you to stroll around its quaint downtown area, which will be featuring horse-drawn carriage rides on the weekends, open houses and promotions by local merchants, and holiday caroling and Santa visits at set times throughout the season.
Festival of Lights & Tree Sale at Cosley Zoo
Cosley Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights, an amazing selection of Christmas trees, wreaths and greenery, and hot chocolate.
Downtown Naperville is converted into a holiday lights extravaganza with lighted trees, large holiday-themed figures and a combination of other holiday displays. Visit Naper Lights to get your 3D Viewing glasses to enjoy the full effect of these spectacular Christmas lights in Naperville! Whether permitting, you can also take a picture with Santa by the great tree on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Downtown Geneva Christmas Carriage Rides
Yoli B: Have a holly jolly Christmas in downtown Geneva! Your whole family can enjoy free carriage rides every weekend in December leading up to Christmas as part of their annual Christmas Walk, with a slew of festive activities to kick off the holidays that first weekend in December.
Santa's Village Magical Christmas Drive Thru Experience
This Santa-themed amusement park is open year-round, but at Christmas-time you can also enjoy a drive thru experience with over 2 million lights set to music, festive displays, live animals, and of course, the big man himself! At the end of the trail you can park your car to take photos, and enjoy hot chocolate and yummy funnel cakes for purchase. Online reservations are required.
Blackberry Farm - Holiday Express
Erin P.: Santa and his elves will be at Blackberry Farm each weekend, collecting children’s wish lists at the Carriage Museum. There’s a sleigh full of other activities including holiday stories, crafts and treats.
Woodstock Opera House - The Nutcracker
Brigitte Nohra Miller: Come enjoy the magic of the holiday season as the Judith Svalander School of Ballet transforms the Opera House stage into a realm of fantasy.
Primary photo: Eric James Walsh
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