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Onlookers gathered in Millennium Park for the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, November 24, 2015.
Photograph: Jaclyn RivasOnlookers gathered in Millennium Park for the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, November 24, 2015.

Ring in the holiday season at these tree lighting ceremonies

Written by
Grace Perry

Downtown Chicago will erupt with strings of fairy lights this weekend, officially kicking off the city’s holiday season. While the Mag Mile and Millennium Park ceremonies draw the biggest crowds, there are plenty of places ushering in the Yuletide. If you’re in need of a post-election pick-me-up (which, come on—all of us are), a heavy dose of holiday spirit just might do the trick. So be good to yourself and treat yourself to a bit of fuzzy Christmas cheer at these tree-lighting ceremonies.

InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile Tree Lighting Ceremony

The InterContinental is hosting its very own ceremony, complete with a performance by the American Caroling Company and a never-before-seen video-light display. Christmas is serious business, folks. (Intercontinental Hotel, 505 N Michigan Ave; Nov 17 2:30pm-3:30pm. Free)

Tree Lighting at 900 North Michigan

During the holidays, 900 North Michigan goes from shopping mall to Christmas wonderland. Such commitment calls for celebration, so the shops are throwing their very first tree lighting ceremony this year.

(900 N Michigan Ave; Nov 17 6pm-8pm. Free)

Palmer House Chicago

The Palmer House invites Chicago over for an afternoon holiday party, which features the Jesse White Tumblers, the cast of the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol, afternoon tea and more.

(The Palmer House Chicago, 17 E Monroe St; Nov 18 12:45pm-2pm. Free)

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

This two-day event celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, so, as usual, it's going all out. Complete with live music, treats from local favorites and Santa Claus himself, the kids will absolutely love this fest. The tree-lighting parade takes place Saturday night (Nov 19, 5pm-7pm). For complete schedule of events, see here.

(The Wrigley Building, 400-410 N Michigan Ave; Nov 18 4pm-8pm, Nov 19 11am-8pm. Free)

Chicago’s 103rd Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

The City of Chicago’s official holiday kick-off event returns to Millennium Park. Enjoy appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus and the lighting of the city’s 69-foot Christmas tree. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink also opens the same day as the ceremony.

(Millennium Park, 201 E Randolph St; Nov 18 6pm. Free)

“Illumination: Tree Lights” at Morton Arboretum

Get out of the city and take a stroll through the woods at the Morton Arboretum. “Illumination: Tree Lights” transforms the woodlands into a winter wonderland. (Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Rte 53; Nov 18-Jan 2 5pm-8:30pm. $12-$22)


This all-ages favorite has the courtesy to wait until after Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas season. Spend a wintry night with the penguins and polar bears this holiday season.

(Lincoln Park Zoo, 2011 N Clark St, Nov 25-27, Dec 2-4, 9-23, 26–31 4:30pm-9pm. Free)

Chicago Architecture Foundation’s City Lights Tour

Can’t make it to this weekend’s ceremonies but still want to take in the holiday magic? Tour the Mag Mile lights aboard a heated trolley with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

(Begins at the Chicago Architecture Shop and Tour Center, 224 S Michigan Ave; Fri-Sat, Nov 26-Dec 30 4:15pm and 6:15pm. $30, $25 for CAF members)

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