Chicago Holiday Events 2013: The Top Ten Things to do in Chicago this Holiday Season

Chicago Holiday Events 2013: The Top Ten Things to do in Chicago this Holiday Season
Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights...a perfect 10

The Top Ten things to do over Chicago's 2013 holiday season, not surprisingly, are the same old, same old, traditional favorites that the city celebrates annually.  Chicago, as anyone who lives here can attest, has no shortage of events, be it summer festivals or Oktoberfests, but when the holiday season goes into high gear Chicago goes hog wild with a non-stop calendar of holiday happenings.

There's fireworks, parades, tree lightings, pop-up programming, an indoor Ferris wheel, dance, concerts, theater, ice skating and more. Show Me Chicago will be covering Windy City holiday events--ad nausum--leaving no stone unturned from now until the New Year.

We're kicking off our holiday coverage today with a roundup of the top ten events--the ones that draw the largest crowds and get the most buzz. These make a great starting point for your holiday pleasures...but if they're not your thing, no worries, there's lots more coming.

For list of events continuing after December 25, click here.

1. The 22nd Annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

magmileFireworksFor some the Macy's Great Tree Lighting, which took place November 2, kick starts the holiday season in Chicago. For others it's The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival which will turn the Mag Mile into a winter wonderland on Saturday, November 23.

Over one million visitors are expected for the highly anticipated event that features special happenings throughout the day--with musical performances on the BMO Harris Bank Stage, located at Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Avenue from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.--followed by the spectacular parade that steps-off at 5:30 p.m. from Oak & Michigan with the grand finale fireworks show over the Chicago River lighting up the skies with 10,000 firework shells blasting off at 6:55 p.m.

2. The Apollo Chorus Performs Handel’s “Messiah” at Harris Theater and Symphony Center

This classic performance is a tradition for many. The Apollo Chorus will perform Handel’s “Messiah” its signature piece in two of Chicago’s most elegant spaces: on Saturday, December 7 at 3 p.m. at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., and on Saturday, December 21 at 3 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Street.

3. Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza

A Chicago favorite--Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza

A Chicago favorite--Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza

Inspired by the original Chriskindlesmarkt in Nurnberg, Germany that dates back to 1545, Chicago's Christkindlmarket first came to Daley Plaza in 1996 and has become a favorite ever since. The open-air European market features traditional wooden huts filled with holiday ornaments, nutcrackers, handmade sweaters, children's toys, jewelry, cuckoo clocks, German foods, choirs, carolers, and an opening ceremony. You can shop to your heart's content with goods from over 55 vendors then grab a bratwurst, an apple strudel, hot chocolate or a beer and take it to the Grand Timber House or the festival tent where you can warm-up and dine at a table. If you are the hardy type, there are also a number of outdoor tables.

The Christkindlmarket Chicago will be open daily from November 26 through December 24.  Opening Hours: Sun. - Thur. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fri. - Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Special Opening Hours: Thanksgiving Day: Nov. 28, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Christmas Eve: Dec. 24, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

4. Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo 

Sure to brighten your spirits is the not to be missed ZooLights a "must see" on our holiday calendar. No matter how cold the night, you'll be warmed by the magnificent light displays throughout the zoo plus special activities, Santa and, of course, the zoo's resident animals.  The lights will be turned on for this free holiday event on November 29.  The Zoo Lights will continue to shine Fridays through Sundays until December 13, at which point the lights will be turned on nightly (except December 24 and 25) until January 5.   If you want to catch Santa, make sure to get there before December 23 as after that he heads back to the North Pole to make sure his reindeer are ready for their big night on  Christmas Eve. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

5. Christmas Around the World & Holiday of Lights

Experience Christmas around the world without leaving Chicago at The Museum of Science and Industry.  The event that began with one tree in 1942 has ballooned into 50 trees representing various cultures and holiday traditions from across the globe plus a huge 45-foot tall Grand Tree with more than 30,000 twinkling lights and 1,000 ornaments adorning it. Christmas Around the World opens Thursday, November 14 and continues through January 5, 2014 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive.

6. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Families can experience a real "winter wonderland" at Navy Pier's annual Winter WonderFest event. Ice skate indoors, take the Arctic Plunge, ride the indoor Ferris wheel, ride the Reindeer Express train, enjoy live entertainment and more at the Pier's festive Winter WonderFest from December 6 through January 12, 2014.

7. The Art Institute of Chicago's Wreathing of the Lions


The Annual Wreathing of Chicago's beloved bronze lions, that have been guarding the doors of the Art Institute of Chicago since its opening in 1893, is something to roar about. This years wreathing ceremony will take place outdoors in front of the museum at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, November 29, with special holiday activities and exhibits scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside.  111 S. Michigan Avenue.

8. The official City of Chicago Tree Lighting

Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame member Darlene Love will headline at this year's centennial Christmas/Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony taking  place on Daley Plaza, Tuesday, November 26.  The lighting program also includes the Joffrey Academy of Dance performing an excerpt from The Nutcracker, and Broadway in Chicago’s "Elf the Musical" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" singing holiday songs.  The program begins at 5 p.m. with the lighting of the tree capping off the event at 6 p.m.  The program and ceremony will be emceed by NBC's father and son journalists Lester and Stefan Holt.

9. The Thanksgiving Day Parade

Chicago's 80th annual Thanksgiving Day Parade will showcase a dozen giant character balloons, marching bands, festive floats, cultural groups, equestrian groups, theatrical performances, celebrity guests and more on Thursday, November 28 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. down State Street between Congress Parkway and Randolph Street in downtown Chicago.

10. Welcome Yule! at Symphony Center

What better place to Welcome Yule than at Chicago's wonderful Symphony Center decked out in its holiday finest. The annual Welcome Yule! program is one for the ages and all ages. The program resounds with holiday cheer from the merry and talented musicians of the CSO and Chorus.  The evening (or afternoon) promises tidings of comfort and joy with cherished carols, new arrangements, musical surprises plus sing-alongs including "Christmas in Chicago."  220 S. Michigan Avenue, December 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, and 23. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Infants will not be admitted.

To see a roundup of Holiday Theater and Dance including the Nutcrackers click here.

Subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email

If you would like to keep in touch with what's happening in Chicago, like us on Facebook or subscribe to Show Me Chicago by email. To subscribe, type your email address in the box below and click the "create subscription" button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Leave a comment