What to do in Chicago during the holidays

What to do in Chicago during the holidays

If you can’t make it all the way to NYC for the holidays, Chicago is your next best bet for festive holiday vibes. Chicago has something for everyone, including holiday theater productions, a giant German market, kids activities and more. Check out our recommendations for what to see and do in December in Chicago, below!



A tradition in the city of Chicago since 1996, Christkindlmarket is the perfect December activity to get you in the holiday spirit. Tourists and locals alike flock to this special open-air market outside of Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago for handmade Christmas decorations, treats, and gifts. In addition to unique gifts and decor, visitors will love the festive German delicacies like sausage and potato pancakes or mulled Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine. You won’t have to worry too much about the cold when you’re sipping on homemade soups and other cold-weather delicacies. Feel like you just transported to Nuremberg, Germany when you spend a couple of hours here. We recommend popping in during the day if you can to avoid long lines and crowds.


Christmas Bars

One of the very best things to do in Chicago in December is to laze away an afternoon or evening at one of their holiday pop-up bars. There are so many to choose from, but no matter which one you pick, you can’t go wrong. Our favorite is Frosty’s Christmas Bar in Lincoln Park. This is the only holiday pop-up bar where you’ll find Singing Santa every hour, on the hour. In addition, there are three levels of fun and you can stay until 4 AM. If you’re looking for more of a hole in the wall, try Butch McGuire’s in the Gold Coast area. Known as “the godfather of Christmas pop-ups”, this dive has been decking out in Christmas decor for three decades now. For something a little in-between the club vibes at Frosty’s and the down home charm of Butch McGuire’s, we suggest Miracle. Located at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago’s River North, this classy Christmas lounge is perfect. In addition, Miracle has some of the best holiday-themed drinks and cookies.


ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo really puts on a show for the holidays! ZooLights is a treat for the whole family, when Chicago’s beloved zoo transforms into a winter wonderland with twinkling bulbs and themed displays throughout the entire park. Visit on one of their specialty nights for even more fun, like BrewLights. BrewLights is open for everyone 21 years or older and for $35, you can drink unlimited beer samples from some of the best breweries around the city of Chicago. The fun continues past Christmas day, with the Zoo Year’s Eve celebration on December 31st.


Festive Theater Productions

Join in the fun throughout the city with one of these festive theater productions. At Goodman Theatre in Chicago’s Loop, catch the annual holiday production of Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. This show runs until December 30th.

Also in the Loop, you can catch Auditorium Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker. This brand new rendition by Joffrey Ballet is set in Chicago against the backdrop of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. You don’t want to miss this unique version of the Christmas classic!

Finally, you can catch the Music Box Christmas Double Feature if you venture farther north to Wrigleyville to the Music Box Theatre.


Millennium Park Holiday Activities

Millennium Park is pretty photogenic no matter what the season, but it really comes to life for the holidays. To take in the views of the entire park, we suggest you stop in Cindy’s Rooftop for a drink to warm you up. Then, head down in the action with ice skating at McCormick Tribute Plaza & Ice Rink. The skyline looks absolutely breathtaking from the ice, with every tree lit up to the nines and some of the best Christmas trees in the city. This is another holiday activity in Chicago where it’s best to go during the day to avoid crowds. Need a refresher course on skating? Join the fun on Fridays at 11 am or weekends at 9 am for free skating lessons.

After you do some ice skating, head to Cloud Gate (also known as “The Bean”) for some unbeatable holiday cheer and caroling. Join in the fun with this series of winter concerts and sing-alongs, all December long. It’s free to attend and just a short walk from the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink!


Call us today at 402-281-3022.