Christmas may not roll around until December, but plenty of organizations and businesses are finding an excuse to make the season bright by holding tree lighting ceremonies in November. If you're looking for a sparkling, twinkling way to greet the arrival of winter, grab some friends and get ready to gawk at the electric spectacle at these events throughout Chicago and the city's suburbs.
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NEWCITY Tree Lighting Ceremony
Kick off the holiday season at this Lincoln Park shopping center, as Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. flips the switch on a 30-foot tree in NEWCITY's courtyard, accompanied by performances by the International British School Choir and the Chicago Chamber Choir. After the lights are on, kids can get photos with Santa or Buddy the Elf while enjoying cookies and hot chocolate.
NEWCITY, 1457 N Halsted St. Nov 11 from 6 to 8pm; free.
“Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Museum of Science and Industry marks the opening of its annual holiday-themed displays with a tree lighting ceremony that will illuminate the 30,000 lights on the institution's Grand Tree.
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr. Nov 16 at 10:30am; included in museum admission.
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile Tree Lighting Ceremony
Marking the beginning of the Magnificent Mile Festival of Lights, InterContinental throws its biggest celebration yet as it illuminates the Christmas tree in its lobby. Guests will be treated to a 3D light show (sounds psychedelic), a performance by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and complimentary hot cocoa, cider or champagne.
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, 505 N Michigan Ave. Nov 16 at 3pm; free.
Need even more holiday fun on the Magnificent Mile? 900 North Michigan Shops will be lighting its 50-foot tree and raising money for Make-A-Wish of Illinois later in the evening—attendees will be able to "take an elfie" and post photos on Instagram for a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree.
900 North Michigan Shops, 900 North Michigan Ave. Nov 16 from 6 to 8pm; $15 suggested donation.
The Mag Mile celebrates the arrival of the holidays (and the accompanying shopping frenzy) with two days of activities and events. On Friday, the festivities are centered around Pioneer Court, where guests can enjoy live music and treats. On Saturday, a parade of lights marches down Michigan Avenue, culminating with a fireworks display on the Chicago River.
Pioneer Court, 401 N Michigan Ave. Nov 17 4-8pm, Nov 18 11–7pm; free.
The city lights up its 62-foot Norway Spruce with help from cast members of Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol, country act Temecula Road and the Oakdale Christian Academy Choir. The day also marks the opening of the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink and the Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon, so bring your skates.
Millennium Park, 201 E Randolph St. Nov 17 at 6pm; free.
If one tree decorated with lights simply isn't enough for you, head for Lisle, where the Morton Arboretum's Illumination event will be brightening the season through the New Year. The mile-long lights display includes projections, chandeliers and intricate geometric LED light creations.
Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle. Nov 17–Jan 1; $12–$22.
Light Up The Park at MB Financial Park
Head just past city limits on Black Friday as Rosemont's MB Financial Park welcomes the holiday season by opening its NHL-sized ice rink at 11am. Later in the afternoon, the Chicago Skates Figure Skating Synchronized Skating Team will perform just before the mayor of Rosemont flips the switch on the shopping center's light display. After the show, you can always catch some comedy at Zanies or shop for a Christmas sweater (the tasteful kind) at the nearby outlet mall.
MB Financial Park, 5501 Park Pl, Rosemont. Nov 24 at 5:30pm; free.
The Lincoln Park Zoo gets covered in Christmas lights at this annual event which also features ice sculpture carving and visits with Santa. The twinkling attraction also hosts a holiday market, a beer festival and a New Year's Eve party.
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 North Clark St. Nov 24–Jan 7; free.