Christmas in Chicago: Show Me Chicago's official 2016 holiday calendar

Show Me Chicago’s holiday calendar of events for 2016: The dates you need to know.

The holiday season is upon us–coming just a little earlier and lasting a little longer each year. Here are the really big events of the season which kicks off this week–and continues into the New Year.

Christkindlmarket Chicago

Christkindlmarket in Chicago. Photo by Jim Prisching

Christkindlmarket in Chicago. Photo by Jim Prisching

  • When: The Christkindlmarket opens November 18 and runs through December 24. Plus there’s a special one-night only preview evening,  ‘Twas the Night Before Christkindlmarket that will take place this Thursday, November 17. Click here for tickets and information.
  • Where: Daley Plaza, 60 W. Washington (Washington & Dearborn)
  • What: The Christkindlmarket transforms Daley Plaza into a magical picturesque European Christmas village filled with candy cane striped wooden huts and twinkling lights that harkens back to the traditional holiday market in Nuremberg, Germany. The free admission market hosts nearly 60 vendors offering a wonderland of gifts including hand-made holiday ornaments, nutcrackers, cuckoo-clocks, beer steins, wooden toys, jewelry, wood carvings, and a variety of specialty food and drinks including sausages, potato pancakes, schnitzel, Stollen, pretzels, imported German beer and Glühwein (hot spiced wine). The market also features a Grand Timber House and a Festival Tent where visitors can warm up and sit down to enjoy food and drinks.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

  • When: November 17 through January 8, 2017.
  • Where: Museum of Science and Industry; 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.
  • What: Let it snow…and if it doesn’t snow outside the MSI will take care of that. Their festive winter wonderland comes complete with “snow” falling inside the Museum every 30 minutes, a 45-foot Grand Tree ablaze with more than 30,000 lights plus 50 more decorated trees representing diverse cultures and holiday traditions from around the world.

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

  • When: The rink opens on Friday, November 18 through March 5, 2017 (dependent on weather)
  • Where: Millennium Park off Michigan Ave. between Washington St. and Madison St.
  • What: Now in its 16th season, the ice rink is a Chicago winter tradition. Lessons and special programming will be offered during the Chicago Public Schools Winter Break one hour before the rink opens, except for December 25. Click here for more information.

Skating Ribbon

Ice skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Ice skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. Photo: Chicago Tribune

  • When: November 18 through March 5 (weather permitting)
  • Where: Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St.
  • What: The skating ribbon, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, provides a skating experience that has been described as “alpine in the city.” Skaters follow a ribbon that has been integrated into the landscape with the city skyline as a backdrop. You can bring your own skates or rent them. The ribbon also offers a nearby place to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.

103rd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

  • When: Friday, November 18. Lighting ceremony and program start at 6 pm; fireworks 6:30 pm.  The tree will be on display through the first week of January.
  • Where: Near Michigan Ave. and Washington St. in Millennium Park
  • What: Enjoy a special program featuring cast members from STOMP, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and the Chicago Community Chorus plus the lighting of Chicago’s official Christmas Tree, the Bill Scholla family’s 69-foot Norway Spruce, with program emceed by Zoraida Sambolin (NBC 5 Morning News) and appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Santa Claus House

  • When: Noon, Friday, November 18. Visits will continue on Saturday, November 19 and Sunday, November 20 from noon to 6 p.m. and on Thanksgiving Day from noon – 3 p.m. Santa’s regular visiting hours are Saturdays and Sundays from November 26 – December 18, noon to 6 p.m.
  • Where: Chase Promenade (northeast corner of Millennium Park)
  • What: Visits and photo opp’s with Santa Claus. Parents are asked to use their own cameras for photos.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade


  • When: Saturday, November 19th. New this year are pre-day activities Friday, November 18 from 4 to 8 pm in Pioneer Court. On Saturday, the festival starts at 11 am through 4 pm. The parade steps off at 5:30 pm. followed by fireworks at 6:55 pm.
  • Where: Festival, Pioneer Court. Parade: on Michigan Ave. between the Chicago River and Water Tower. Fireworks at Michigan Ave. and the Chicago River.
  • What: The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival offers a full lineup of activities. A grand Tree-Lighting Parade down Michigan Avenue marshaled by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Thanksgiving Day Parade


  • When: Thanksgiving Day, November 24, steps off at 8 am.
  • Where: State St. from Congress to Randolph.
  • What: The State Street for McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade features marching bands, giant popular inflatable balloons, spectacular performance acts and more.

25th Annual Wreathing of the Lions

Photo: Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Photo: Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

  • When: November 25. Wreathing 10 am. Related events and activities, 10:30 am. to 3 pm.
  • Where: Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Avenue,  entrance and Ryan Learning Center.
  • What: The iconic AIC Lions will be trading in their Cubs helmets for their traditional evergreen holiday wreaths at the annual Wreathing of the Lions event. Cast members from Hamilton will be on hand for the festivities and complimentary hot chocolate will be served. Following the outdoor ceremony, families are invited to stop by the Ryan Learning Center to create their own wreaths.


Lincoln Park ZooLights. Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Lincoln Park ZooLights. Photo: © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

  • When: November 25–January 1 (Select Dates) ZooLights runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from November 25-27, and December 2-4. It then runs nightly December 9 through January 1 (excluding December 24 and 25).
  • Where: Lincoln Park Zoo from the Farm-in-the-Zoo in the south to the new Walter Family Arctic Tundra in the north.
  • What: This popular event celebrates winter and the holiday season with more than two million lights, visits from Santa, ice sculptors, holiday crafts, activities, sweet treats and more. New this year is the first annual Holiday Market on Giving Tuesday, November 29.

Caroling at Cloud Gate

  • When: Fridays, November 25, December 2, December 9 and December 16
    6–7 p.m.
  • Where: Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean” in Millennium Park near Michigan Ave. and just south of Randolph St.
  • What: The free event features local Chicago choral groups leading hundreds of celebrants in song.

Grant Park Turkey Trot 5K & kids dashturkeytrotgpcropped-1

  • When: November 26, registration required.
  • Where: The run starts and finishes at Grant Park.
  • What: Walk, run, burn off those Thanksgiving calories–and just in case you didn’t get enough to eat at the Thanksgiving dinner table there’s free cinnamon rolls for all at the finish line.

Winter WonderFest

  • When: December 2 through January 8, 2017
  • Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Avenue.
  • What: Now in its 16th year, Winter WonderFest is an indoor winter playground complete with 170,000 square feet of rides, giant slides, the Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating rink and so much more.


Chicago Theater is another wonderful option with a host of holiday offerings throughout the season.

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