Chicago’s Best Outdoor Holiday Celebrations in Winter 2017

Chicago celebrates the holidays like no other!  As temperatures continue to drop and our beloved city transforms into a magical, winter wonderland, seasonal cheer is in the air.  It’s one of the reasons we love to call Chicago our home. The city is absolutely electric with anticipation and ready to roll out all of its traditional, seasonal events, and we can’t wait!  Here are a few of the best outdoor holiday celebrations in and around Chicago that we’re looking forward to:

Can’t-Miss Chicago Holiday Events


When:  November 24th – January 7th

Where:  Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park

A favorite way to celebrate the holiday season with the whole family, the lights at Lincoln Park Zoo are an annual tradition you just can’t miss!  Come see the lights and animals while enjoying a warm, seasonal beverage.  And, don’t miss the nightly ice carving demonstrations.  The first 1,000 guests each night will also receive special glasses to view the lights with.


When:  Thursday December 7th

Where:  Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park

For a more adult night at the Lincoln Park Zoo, come out for BrewLights night.  Enjoy dozens of seasonal beers while walking under the festive, bright lights on display.  Sip, snap photos with Santa, and take a ride on the Endangered Species Carousel.  All event proceeds will help keep the zoo open to the public year-round.


When:  November 18th – December 24th

Where:  Daley Plaza , Loop

The Christkindlmarket is a holiday favorite among locals and tourists alike and is Chicago’s largest open-air market. Inspired by a Nuremberg, Germany market founded in 1545, this Christkindlmarket features iconic German items, like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins and so much more!  Market-goers will also find authentic German sweets, drinks and foods, including sausages, sauerkraut, potato pancakes and waffles.  

Morton Arboretum Holiday Lights

When:  November 17th – January 1st

Where:  Morton Arboretum, Suburbs

Watch as 50 acres of vibrant LED lights are hung on the Morton Arboretum’s vast treescape.  It’s truly a sight to see, as the lights create a kaleidoscopic winter wonderland.  Walk through the mile-long path of colorful illumination that’s magically paired with video, sound media and other interactive elements. 

Winter WonderFest

When:  December 1st – January 7th

Where:  Navy Pier, Streeterville

Who says you can’t bring the outdoors in?  This annual indoor winter carnival at Navy Pier returns with activities that include a toboggan tunnel, winter mini golf and a 15-foot “snow tubing” hill!  Other attractions include the Blackhawks ice-skating rink and carnival rides.

Caroling at Cloud Gate

When:  December 1st – December 15th

Where:  Millennium Park Plaza, Loop

What better way to celebrate the holiday season than in the company of hundreds of carolers!  Enjoy the beautiful voices of hundreds of singers from choral groups all across the city.  Then, once you’re caroled out, lace up your skates, and hit the ice at the Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Christmas Around the World

When:  November 16th – January 7th

Where: Museum of Science and Industry, Hyde Park

With more than 50 trees on display, a mix of holiday music and “snow” falling, guests will be filled with holiday cheer as they explore the ‘Christmas Around the World’ exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.  Trees are decorated to represent all different ethnic communities, diverse cultures and holiday customs. 

These are just a few of the holiday celebrations we’re looking forward to in and around Chicago, but there are many, many more festive events happening all season long. Whether you choose one of our suggestions or something from your own bucket list, be sure to get outside and enjoy winter in Chicago. It’s truly one of a kind! 

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