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Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

48 exciting openings in Chicago in December

Written by
Grace Perry

Chicago, we’re finally in full-blown holiday mode. A slew of whimsical Christmas events, theater oozing with holiday cheer, and fresh-cut Christmas trees have descended upon our city, and we’re fully embracing it. But December isn’t just about the holiday season—a ton of new shows, markets and restaurants are opening up in Chicago this month. So while the holidays are about tradition, treat yourself to something a little bit different with these 48 exciting openings in Chicago this month.


Through Dec 23: Did you hear Christkindlmarket is back? Sip some spiced wine and pick up stocking stuffers at this perennial favorite. Check out our guide to the best things to eat, drink and buy at this year’s market.

Through Jan 2: Morton Arboretum isn’t holding anything back in its holiday light show, Illuminations. It’s absolutely worth the trek out to Lisle.

Through Feb 26: The ice rink at the Lincoln Park Zoo is back open for the winter, so lace up!

Throughout December: Find that perfect, one-of-a-kind gift at any number of these holiday markets all month long.

Dec 1: Celebrate the anniversary of the end of Prohibition at The Last Speakeasy on the Eve of the Repeal at (where else?) the Chicago History Museum.

Dec 1: Get buzzed with the baboons at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual BrewLights.

Dec 1–Feb 25: Stay nice and toasty traversing the pedway on the Chicago Elevated Winter Tour.

Dec 2–Jan 8: For the final month of the year, Navy Pier transforms itself into a wintry indoor playground for Winter Wonderfest.

Dec 3–31: Take the whole family to Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo for light shows, caroling, model railways and more.

Dec 3: Registration in the Santa Hustle 5K earns you a complimentary Santa hat and beard, so jog your way up the lakefront as St. Nick would.

Dec 3: Swing into the holiday spirit at Logan Square’s Holidays on the Square, complete with pop-up shows, a holiday movie matinee and, of course, Santa.

Dec 3, 4: The annual Sound of Music sing along, one of our favorite things, returns to the Music Box this month. Come ready to make the hills come alive.

Dec 2, 9, 16: No one’s too cool for Christmas music. Warm up your pipes for peak holiday cheer to go caroling at Cloud Gate.

Dec 10: We’ve all done ugly sweater parties, but take your commitment to holiday tackiness to the next level at the annual Ugly Sweater Run.

Dec 10: Celebrate Chicago’s small businesses at West Town Winterfest, and pick up some unique gifts while you’re there.

Dec 31: 2016 has been a bear of a year, so flush it all out of your system at the Chi-Town Rise & Shine 5K.

Dec 31: Chi-Town Rising returns for a second year, as Chicago’s not-so-subtle version of the annual Times Square celebration.

Dec 31: Choose from a slew of champagne-soaked New Years Eve parties across Chicago to ring in 2017.


Dec 1: Start the month off with some twangy Christmas carols, as Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller hosts his annual Holiday Extravaganza.

Dec 3: You've turned in countless sub-par karaoke renditions of "Edge of Seventeen," so you owe it yourself to catch Stevie Nicks at the United Center.

Dec 3, 4: Hotly-tipped local folk rockers Whitney close out a whirlwind year with a pair of hometown shows at Thalia Hall.

Dec 7: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats headline WXRT's big holiday concert, joined by local legend Mavis Staples.

Dec 8–10: Deck your denim jacket with mistletoe: the Lawrence Arms host the group's annual War on Christmas concert series, gathering a veritable holiday feast of punk acts.

Dec 10: Britney Spears, the Chainsmokers, Shawn Mendes and a host of other pop stars hit the stage at Allstate Arena during the B96 Jingle Bash.

Dec 14: Need even more Billboard chart-topping tunes? The Kiss FM Jingle Ball welcomes Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and the Backstreet Boys.

Dec 14–16: Violinist and whistler Andrew Bird holes up in the Fourth Presbyterian Church for another string of cozy Gezelligheid concerts.

Dec 16–17: Celebrate the season (and the upcoming third season of the band's namesake) with Chicago garage rockers Twin Peaks at two end-of-the-year shows.

Dec 16–23: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays holiday standards, Christmas carols and selections from Home Alone at its Merry, Merry Chicago concerts.

Dec 20, 21: Show off your pipes at the annual Do-It-Yourself Messiah, where hundreds of amateur singers perform Handel's classic work, backed by an orchestra.

Dec 23: Head bang to "Carol of the Bells" and more prog-rock renditions of holiday odes with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Dec 30, 31: Punk godmother Patti Smith celebrates her 70th birthday and rings in 2017 at a pair of special performances.

Dec 30, 31: EDM and hip-hop collide at the expansive Reaction New Year's Eve festival, which brings Flume, Zeds Dead, Danny Brown and more acts to Rosemont.


Dec 1–Jan 29: Watch a megachurch pastor break down in a crisis of faith in Lucas Hnath’s The Christians.

Dec 6–31: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time takes us into the mind of a gifted teen on the autism spectrum as he solves the murder of his neighbor’s dog.

Dec 7–Jan 29: PigPen Theatre Co. presents The Hunter and the Bear, an original folk tale by this inventive young ensemble

Dec 7–Feb 19: Lookingglass turns the classic fairy tale on its head with Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth, a meta narrative featuring traveling storytellers and shadow puppetry.

Dec 10–30: Take in one of Chicago’s finest holiday traditions, the Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker, which this year is set in the 1893 World’s Fair.

Dec 14-Jan 8: Andrew Lloyd Weber’s megahit The Phantom of the Opera runs at the Cadillac Palace for four weeks over the holidays.


Through Apr 1: The Second City’s 105th Mainstage Revue is as of yet untitled, but given the theater’s near-scientific tradition of sketch comedy, it’s bound to be good.

Dec 3: Perhaps the only comedian known primarily from his podcast, WTF, Marc Maron brings his stand-up to the Vic.

Dec 8, 9: His iconic sitcom may be nearly 30 years old (oh God, really?) but Jerry Seinfeld continues to hone his fresh, observational stand-up, see him live at the Chicago Theatre.


Dec 1–Apr 2: Art AIDS America examines the AIDS crisis’ impact on the American art scene, featuring work from Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Kia Labeija and more.

Dec 16: The ghosts of RuPaul’s Drag Race past haunt Christmas Queens, a drag show that goes full-holiday.

Dec 17: Unwrapped: A XXXmas Cabaret is exactly what it sounds like: a burlesque comedy Christmas cabaret.


Early Dec: Eden opens on the Near West Side (1748 W Lake St) at the beginning of December with a take on Mediterranean and New American dining.

Dec 1: The long-awaited Flamingo Rum Club (601 N Wells St)—the one with the colorful mural of Flamingos in River North— from Adolfo Garcia and Phil Stefani will open with a wide rum selection.

Dec 3: From the group that brought you Two Brothers, the Craftsman opens as a three-story restaurant and bar in Naperville (16 W Jefferson St).

Dec: Income Tax, a neighborhood restaurant and wine bar, opens in Edgewater (5959 N Broadway) from Independent Spirits’ Nelson Fitch and Collin Moody (Intelligentsia, Perman Wine Selections).

Note: Restaurant and bar openings are subject to change and can be delayed; call ahead before setting out.

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