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A holiday light show with light-up candy canes, Christmas trees, stars and presents.
Photograph: Courtesy of Amaze Light Festival

December 2022 events calendar for Chicago

Find the best holiday activities in Chicago, including free things to do, and picks from theater, art and music

Emma Krupp
Edited by
Emma Krupp
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The arrival of December sends the holiday season into full swing—prepare yourself for a jam-packed roster of glittering Christmas lights, festive holiday pop-ups and plenty of glühwein to be sipped at Christkindlmarket locations in both Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville. As the month draws to a close, bid adieu to 2022 at New Year's Eve events and parties happening at Chicago hotels, clubs and other hotspots, where you'll find champagne towers and other special ways to welcome 2023 in style. Make the most of the final month of the year with our guide to the best events in Chicago this December. 

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2022

Stay in the loop: sign up for our free Time Out Chicago newsletter to get the latest  updates on cool stuff happening across the city. 

Featured events in December 2022

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Millennium Park

Situated in the heart of downtown Chicago with the city's sweeping skyline as a backdrop, the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park is a winter attraction unlike any other. Skaters can lace up and wind around a winding ice-covered path that's twice the length of a lap around a traditional rink. Reservations for the popular ice rink should be made in advance, as they tend to fill up quickly.

Admission to the Skating Ribbon is free Monday through Thursday and for 11am sessions Friday through Sunday (and $5 for other time slots Friday through Sunday, as well as holidays) if you bring your own skates. No skates? Entry is $16–$22 if you need to rent a pair. The Ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and even offers limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

  • Comedy
  • Sketch shows
  • Lake View

Bye Bye Liver combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened a decade ago for a three-week run, then kept getting extended. A cast of four to six performers portray characters at the fictional "Franks Bar," telling stories that explore the city's robust drinking culture. Each show incorporates interactive audience drinking games, allowing you to sip a cocktail or beer while taking cues from the cast. And if you're up for a nightcap after the performance, you can stick around for the official after party and mingle with the cast.

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  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Millennium Park

Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Plus, take advantage of free skating lessons on most Saturdays and Sundays from 9–10am, where you can learn both beginner- and intermediate-level skills. Note that you'll need to make a free online reservation for both regular skating and lessons this year, and if it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 5, weather permitting.

  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Logan Square

The Whistler’s monthly lit series returns for the first time since before the pandemic, bringing an evening of readings, workshopping and discussion to the Logan Square cocktail bar. Looking to share your work? Get in touch with organizers at testliteraryseries@gmail.com—the team eventually hopes to compile all workshopped pieces in an anthology at the end of the year. 

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Wicker Park

Chicago farmers market season is well past its peak, but you can still get in on the fresh produce action during this winter edition of the Wicker Park market, which is popping up inside The Robey’s lobby on select Sundays from December through April. Browse goods from vendors like River Valley Ranch, Star Farm and Zeitlins Delicatessen—and you can always grab a coffee from The Robey’s espresso bar to sip while you stock up. 

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Streeterville

What does “Caribbean art” look like? This new group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art takes a diasporic approach to answering that question, using weather—and all its changeability and unpredictability—as a metaphor for exploring artistic practices and identity-making within Caribbean art communities across the world. With the tumultuous geopolitical climate of the 1990s as its backdrop, the exhibit highlights work from 37 international artists; it’s also the first major MCA exhibition to presented in both Spanish and English. 

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Streeterville

Yer a wizard, Harry! Or at least, you can pretend to be one at this immersive Harry Potter experience that’s popping up at Water Tower Place through May 2023. Visitors are invited to step into Harry’s life at Hogwarts with interactive features like Quidditch lessons, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, sipping sweet drinks at the Butterbeer Bar, Patronus-seeking in the Forbidden Forest and learning their Hogwarts house via the Sorting Hat, among other magical experiences. FYI: In addition to regular operating hours, the exhibition is open on “select” Tuesdays and Wednesdays and may offer different hours around holidays. 

  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Suburbs

See eight towering sculptures by South African artist Daniel Popper at the Morton Arboretum's new outdoor exhibition, which spreads the 15- to 26-foot-tall works throughout the natural area. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, the one-of-a-kind pieces in "Human+Nature" depict human figures that evoke the natural landscape they're set amid, including a pair of 36-foot-long hands reaching out from a grove of oak trees and a maternal figure that springs up amid magnolia trees.

Access to "Human+Nature" is included as part of timed-entry admission to the Morton Arboretum, and there's a map that will allow you to easily plan your visit and spot all eight  sculptures along the way.

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  • Sports and fitness

Slide past an indoor skydiving center and Fogo de Chão on the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink at Rosemont's Parkway Bank Park, where you can hit the ice on the weekends up until December 22, and then every day from December 22 through January (including holidays). The rink, which is free to access, will also be open on Sundays through the end of February.

  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

Delve into the often-mystifying process of death in this surprisingly life-affirming exhibit at the Field Museum, which explores dying through a variety of natural and cultural processes. Attendees can explore highlights like a full-sized ofrenda made by Chicago artist Norma Rios-Sierra, a replica of a whale's body on the ocean floor and check out a variety of interactive media and soundscapes to help ponder some of life's big questions about death. 

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  • Comedy
  • Uptown

This weekly “live magazine” is a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day. Head to Uptown’s iconic Green Mill for drinks, hot takes and laughs; the longstanding Saturday afternoon edition tends to run about two and a half hours.

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Hyde Park

Tap into feelings of childhood nostalgia at the Museum of Science and Industry’s newest exhibit, a colorful glimpse into the world of Mold-A-Rama™ machines. Explore a collection of popular, rare and experimental souvenirs, learn about the history of the machines’ production and breathe in the iconic scent of their plastic toymaking—you can even take home a few new Mold-A-Rama™ souvenirs if you’re looking to expand your collection. 

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Ukrainian Village

Add some shopping to your Saturday morning brunch routine by visiting Handmade Market at the Empty Bottle. You can sip a mimosa while checking out the wares of local vendors selling funky jewelry, clothing, handbags and paper crafts. You probably need a gift for someone—or yourself—right? Handmade Market takes over the Bottle on the second Saturday of the month from October through April.

  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Uptown

For more than 30-years, the Neo-Futurists have been delighting late-night crowds with performances that pack 30 miniature plays into a 60-minute show. Returning to in-person programming (attendees must be vaccinated and masked) after more than a year spent in the virtual realm, the company's signature show is more unpredictable than ever, with a handful of compact new plays premiering every week. Within the span of 10 minutes, you may be treated to a poignant monologue about everyday life or an irreverent diatribe delivered by a pantsless member of the cast—all inspired by the experiences of the performers on stage. Always changing and evolving, it's the rare show that truly offers something different everytime you show up to see it.

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  • Nightlife
  • Pop-ups and food events

Fairmont Chicago is bringing back its winter experience, Fairmont Lodge, through February 2023. The hotel’s lobby has been converted into a wonderland full of themed décor, fire pit tables, festive programming and seasonal menu items. Guests can try a Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice cocktail that’s set aflame at the table, or indulge in sweet and savory fondue. There’s also live entertainment Thursday through Saturday.

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  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Humboldt Park

Working in partnership with the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is bringing a stunning selection of paintings to Chicago—some of which have never been shown outside of Puerto Rico—for an exhibition highlighting several of the island's most important artists. Centered around three curatorial themes (“My Home,” “My People” and “My Island”), the works span from the 18th century to the first half of the 20th century, showcasing artists like José Campeche, Francisco Oller, Miguel Pou and Myrna Báez, among others. Tickets to the exhibition are free, but you might consider a small online donation to the Museo de Arte de Ponce, which is still recovering from damage sustained in a 2020 earthquake.  

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