How to Celebrate the Holidays in Chicago

Chicago is a city that loves to celebrate. From dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day to watching an impressive firework display over Lake Michigan, residents always get a chance to celebrate some kind of world-famous tradition. This is especially true during the holidays. While our winters can be harsh, they provide the perfect backdrop to stunning light displays, ice skating, festive markets, and more. Whether you’re a full-time Chicago resident or have been temporarily relocated, there are some things you won’t want to miss. To help you navigate the intricacies of winter planning, here’s how to celebrate the holidays in Chicago with 13 of the best things to do.

1. Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

Kickoff the holidays with the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. This year, the parade will be held on November 28th from 8:00 am until 11:00 am on State St., from Congress to Randolph. The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade is filled with large balloons, festive floats, full-scale marching bands, and a number of performances to get the holiday season started.

2. Turkey Trot Chicago

If you’re looking for something a little more active, join the Turkey Trot—Chicago’s annual turkey day run. This event is great for the whole family and includes far more than running. You can participate in turkey bowling, outdoor games and activities, and even a costume contest. The Turkey Trot is held on November 28th in Lincoln Park.

3. Christkindl Market

Get ready to gear up for the annual Christkindl Market, which has returned in 2021. This German-inspired holiday market is held in Daley Plaza between November 19th and December 24th, giving you plenty of time to explore, shop, and try a variety of German food and warm beverages. Be sure you get one of the famous boot mugs for your hot cocoa or mulled wine.

4. The Chicago Tree Ceremony

The annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is not to be missed this holiday season. It marks the beginning of true holiday season in Chicago and is accompanied by several special guests and performances. The lighting of the tree will commence on November 19th beginning at 6:00 pm in Millennium Park. Make sure you get there early to get a spot and avoid driving around the city as there will be several street closures.

5. The Nutcracker

If you enjoy ballet, the holiday classic of Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker is not to be missed. This is a great indoor event has a plethora of fantastic costumes, plenty of local cast members, and is now retold with a little Chicago twist.

6. Chicago Botanic Garden Lightscape

On the north side of the city, Chicago Botanic Gardens hosts their annual Lightscape—an impressive display of holiday themed lights. It’s an outdoor experience that’s constructed along a 1.25-mile path and has plenty of family friendly installations for you to explore. If you want to experience this, make sure that you book tickets sooner rather than later as they tend to sell out. It runs from November 12th until January 2nd.

7. Trolley Tour of Chicago

For those that would prefer to check out the sights in a moving vehicle, consider taking a Trolley Tour. The Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. offers holiday light tours that showcase all of the city’s best displays. Make sure to check hours early and book in advance to secure your spot.

8. Light Up the Lake

Navy Pier is known for its holiday celebrations, which is why they’re beginning a new winter tradition with the 2021 premier of Light Up the Lake. This will be an indoor experience so you can get a break from the frigid air. There are over 600,000 lights, an ice rink, a beer garden, train rides for children, gift markets, and even an opportunity to visit Santa’s Village. To make this an even better experience, there are opportunities for sit-down dining featuring holiday-themed foods alongside signature cocktails for adults. This event runs from November 26th until January 2nd in Festival Hall.

9. Macy’s Window Displays

This year, as always, one of the best ways to celebrate the holidays in a more relaxed fashion is to stroll around Michigan Avenue and check out the Macy’s window displays. Every year, Macy’s designs extravagant displays that are sure to interest both children and adults alike. Inside, you can find The Great Tree, plenty of shopping, and even a restaurant.

10. Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

If you want to get out of the city for a few hours and immerse yourself in a totally different world, check out Illumination at the Morton Arboretum. Held in Lisle, IL—about 40 minutes from the city—the Morton Arboretum offers musical accompaniments to impressive light displays. There are fire pits along the way and even live performances during the weekends.

11. Museum of Science and Industry’s Holiday Exhibit

The Museum of Science and Industry hosts a Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit each year during the holidays. This includes museum-wide decorations, holiday traditions from around the world, themed trees, and magical snow that falls from the ceiling every hour. There are also performances held on the weekends.

12. Ice Skating at Millennium Park

Millennium Park is the perfect place to celebrate the holidays. You can enjoy the impressive Chicago Tree with a cup of hot chocolate or lace up your skates and take in the sight of Chicago’s skyline and the infamous bean. If possible, skip the line and jump on the ice for free with your own skates. Otherwise, be prepared to wait in line and pay about $15 for skate rentals. When you’re ready to try something new, head to the Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon for some variety.

13. Zoo Year’s Eve

Lincoln Park Zoo hosts a variety of events throughout the holiday. While many are aware of their ongoing Zoo Lights, Lincoln Park also offers a Zoo Year’s Eve event. Ring in the New Year while surrounded with millions of beautiful LED light displays and plenty of animals both indoors and out. Admission to Zoo Lights is free on Mondays and Tuesdays from November 19th until January 2nd, with a $5 fee Wednesday through Sunday.

While the holiday season in 2020 wasn’t what we were used to, Chicago is getting closer and closer to resuming all regularly scheduled events. We’ve welcomed back theater and outdoor markets, ice skating and light displays. Regardless of if you’re a full time resident or staying in temporary corporate housing in Chicago, there’s plenty of options to fill your holiday schedule. If you’re still in the process of moving to Chicago, take the time to research and find a neighborhood you love. Corporate Suites Network has a variety of properties spread throughout the different neighborhoods in Chicago. Our prime locations and luxury amenities provide our residents with everything they need so they can truly take advantage of their spare time this holiday season without causing disruptions to their work. To learn more about our property locations, or to request more information about Corporate Suites Network’s properties, call or email us today.