November 2018 events calendar for Chicago

Pack your month with the best activities, concerts, free things to do and festivals
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
By Time Out Chicago staff, compiled by Zach Long |
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With so many things to do this fall in Chicago, there’s plenty to be grateful for. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means we’ll be stuffing our faces (and planners) full this month. Whether you want to take advantage of all the amazing arts and culture events or kick back at a bar and cheer on the Bears, there’s so much happening this November. Whatever you do, resist the urge to go into hibernation mode just yet. 

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018

 

Featured events in November 2018

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do, Late openings

ZooLights

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park
icon-calendar

When the weather gets cold and most of the animals head indoors, Lincoln Park Zoo tranforms into a a field of twinkling bulbs. ZooLights decorates the beloved zoo with themed displays, perfect for a festival seasonal Instagram. Throughout the month, you'll also find ice-sculpture carvers and carolers joining the fun, as well as hot beverages available for purchase. This year, ZooLights adds several ticketed events, including a Holiday Market (Nov 27), an adults-only night (Nov 29), a live performance of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec 9) and a Zoo Year's Eve celebration (Dec 31). 

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Christkindlmarket

icon-location-pin Loop
icon-calendar

You haven't experience the holidays in Chicago untill you've stepped inside this giant open-air market inspired by a similar seasonal tradition in Nuremberg, Germany. You'll be able to do some shopping at booths set up throughout Daley Plaza, where you'll find handcrafted German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins and glass ornaments. It's also worth stopping by Christkindlmarket to grab a sausage and some potato pancakes, or to sip a steaming mug of Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.

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Tom Hanks
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Humanities Festival
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Humanities Festival: Graphic!

icon-location-pin Loop
icon-calendar

Devoted to making the humanities a vibrant and exciting part of everyday life, this ambitious event brings together some of the world's best and brightest individuals to celebrate human creativity. The theme he Chicago Humanities Festival's fall lineup is “Graphic!,” exploring the various facets of visual culture as well as the ways in which it is rapidly evolving. Among this year's slate of guests are Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, Broad City co-creator and star Abbi Jacobson, Two Dope Queens co-creator and podcast host Phoebe Robinson, Getty Images photographer John Moore and comic book artist Alex Ross.

Onlookers gathered in Millennium Park for the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, November 24, 2015.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Performances

City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

icon-location-pin Downtown
icon-calendar

Miguel Cervantes, star of the Chicago production of Hamilton, hosts the 105th annual Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which takes place beneath a towering spruce in Millennium Park's Wrigley Square. Expect music, an appearance from the mayor and more than a little pomp and circumstance before the switch is flipped, marking the beginning of the holiday season in Chicago. The Christmas tree will stick around until January 6.

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MillenniumSkating.venue.jpg
Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

icon-location-pin Downtown
icon-calendar

Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Admission to the rink is free, but if you don't own a pair of skate you'll have to pay to rent some. The most popular time to hit the rink is in the evening, so show up earlier if you don't feel like waiting in line for your chance to slide around. You can take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sunday at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 10, weather permitting.

Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon
Courtesy Maggie Daley Park
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

icon-location-pin Millennium Park
icon-calendar

The Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon looks like a Mario Kart track, but you won't have to worry about dodging banana peels while you glide around the quarter-mile circuit. As you skate around the park's climbing wall and admire skyline views, you'll be able to stop for a cup of hot chocolate. The ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and will host a Skate with Santa on Saturday, December 15 from 10am to noon. 

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A parade and fireworks entertained crowds at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, November 21, 2015.
Photograph: Stacey Rupolo
Things to do, Festivals

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

icon-location-pin Magnificent Mile
icon-calendar

Chicago's most well-known shopping district kicks off the holiday season by lighting up the trees that line Michigan Avenue. The fun begins on Friday, November 16, when Pioneer Court hosts family-friendly activities (including a visit from Santa Claus). On Saturday, November 17, stores on the Magnificent Mile will offer special experiences and offers throughout the day, before Michigan Avenue hosts a two-hour tree-lighting parade, which sets off from Oak Street. Head to the Chicago River by 6:55pm to catch the spectacular fireworks display that closes out the evening.

Festival of Wood & Barrel Aged Beers 2015
Photograph: Elizabeth Atkinson
Things to do, Festivals

Festival of Barrel Aged Beers

icon-location-pin Little Italy, UIC
icon-calendar

Affectionately known as FOBAB, the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers offers a stacked lineup of wood and barrel-aged concoctions that some serious beer-lovers worship. More than 200 craft brewers come to Chicago for the annual event, where attendees can sample stouts, sours, ciders and mead throughout three tasting sessions. Throughout the weekend, judges evaluate all of the beers being poured and award medals in various categories—it's like the Olympics of high-ABV brews. Tickets for all three sessions go on sale September 12.

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Chicago Thanksgiving Parade 2017
Photograph: Jordan Avery
Things to do, Festivals

Thanksgiving Parade

icon-location-pin Loop
icon-calendar

Why watch inflatable cartoon characters float down the streets of New York City when you can seem them live and in-person on State Street in the Loop. Chicago's procession begins at Congress Street and marches north to Randolph Street, with marching bands, colorful floats and performers in tow. It ends by 11am, so you'll have plenty of time to get home and finish preparing your Thanksgiving feast.

Wreathing of the Lions ceremony at the Art Institute of Chicago
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Quirky events

Wreathing of the Lions

icon-location-pin Grant Park
icon-calendar

On the day after Thanksgiving, the Art Institute's famous lions put on their holiday outfits as crews place wreaths around their necks. At the wreathing ceremony cast members from the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker will lead a celebration on the museum's steps, complete with hot chocolate. After the ceremony, head into the museum to participate in family activities in the Ryan Learning Center.

Concerts in November 2018

Music, Jazz

Kamasi Washington + Butcher Brown

icon-location-pin Uptown
icon-calendar

Saxophonist Kamasi Washington likes to make big statements with his music, and his latest release, Heaven and Earth—a double album that is secretly a triple album—is no exception. Washington once again embraces the cinematic scope of his cosmic jazz, layering winding solos with choirs and lush string arrangements. In concert, he surrounds himself with skilled players, including his father, saxophonist Rickey Washington, who clearly passed on his chops to his son. Even if you don't know the difference between John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, you'll find the groove in Washington's refreshingly contemporary melodies.

Dirty Projectors
Photograph: Jason Frank Rothenberg
Music, Rock and indie

Dirty Projectors

icon-location-pin Avondale
icon-calendar

After wallowing in the lovelorn R&B of Dirty Projectors' self-titled 2017 album, Dave Longstreth returns to peppy Baroque pop on his recent record Lamp Lit Prose. While he's still missing the taut vocal harmonies that defined the band's most memorable songs, guest spots from singers like Syd (of the Internet) and Empress Of are a welcome adition to Longstreth's sonic palette—as are his offhanded lyrical references to Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas and the Palace Versailles. Here, Dirty Projectors settle in for a three-night residency at Chicago's newest music venue, Sleeping Village.

See more November 2017 concerts

Free things to do in November 2018

Liner Notes
Photograph: Steve Reidell
Things to do, Talks and lectures

Liner Notes: A Musical Storytelling Series

icon-location-pin Wrigleyville
icon-calendar

An album is more than a collection of songs—it can serve as the soundtrack to a pivotal time in your life or the window to a new world of musical discovery. The Liner Notes storytelling series celebrates records that change lives, gathering local musicians, writers and artists to talk about a particularly influential LP. In November, Metro employee Chadd L. Kline talks about Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Smart Bar's Jason Garden discusses Pure Disco, Vol. 2: Power Rankings, Molly Mobley digs into Queen’s Greatest Hits and author Steve Silver unpacks Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do, Late openings

ZooLights

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park
icon-calendar

When the weather gets cold and most of the animals head indoors, Lincoln Park Zoo tranforms into a a field of twinkling bulbs. ZooLights decorates the beloved zoo with themed displays, perfect for a festival seasonal Instagram. Throughout the month, you'll also find ice-sculpture carvers and carolers joining the fun, as well as hot beverages available for purchase. This year, ZooLights adds several ticketed events, including a Holiday Market (Nov 27), an adults-only night (Nov 29), a live performance of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec 9) and a Zoo Year's Eve celebration (Dec 31). 

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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Christkindlmarket

icon-location-pin Loop
icon-calendar

You haven't experience the holidays in Chicago untill you've stepped inside this giant open-air market inspired by a similar seasonal tradition in Nuremberg, Germany. You'll be able to do some shopping at booths set up throughout Daley Plaza, where you'll find handcrafted German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins and glass ornaments. It's also worth stopping by Christkindlmarket to grab a sausage and some potato pancakes, or to sip a steaming mug of Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.

Onlookers gathered in Millennium Park for the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, November 24, 2015.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Performances

City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

icon-location-pin Downtown
icon-calendar

Miguel Cervantes, star of the Chicago production of Hamilton, hosts the 105th annual Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which takes place beneath a towering spruce in Millennium Park's Wrigley Square. Expect music, an appearance from the mayor and more than a little pomp and circumstance before the switch is flipped, marking the beginning of the holiday season in Chicago. The Christmas tree will stick around until January 6.

Advertising
MillenniumSkating.venue.jpg
Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

icon-location-pin Downtown
icon-calendar

Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Admission to the rink is free, but if you don't own a pair of skate you'll have to pay to rent some. The most popular time to hit the rink is in the evening, so show up earlier if you don't feel like waiting in line for your chance to slide around. You can take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sunday at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 10, weather permitting.

Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon
Courtesy Maggie Daley Park
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

icon-location-pin Millennium Park
icon-calendar

The Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon looks like a Mario Kart track, but you won't have to worry about dodging banana peels while you glide around the quarter-mile circuit. As you skate around the park's climbing wall and admire skyline views, you'll be able to stop for a cup of hot chocolate. The ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and will host a Skate with Santa on Saturday, December 15 from 10am to noon. 

Advertising
A parade and fireworks entertained crowds at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, November 21, 2015.
Photograph: Stacey Rupolo
Things to do, Festivals

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

icon-location-pin Magnificent Mile
icon-calendar

Chicago's most well-known shopping district kicks off the holiday season by lighting up the trees that line Michigan Avenue. The fun begins on Friday, November 16, when Pioneer Court hosts family-friendly activities (including a visit from Santa Claus). On Saturday, November 17, stores on the Magnificent Mile will offer special experiences and offers throughout the day, before Michigan Avenue hosts a two-hour tree-lighting parade, which sets off from Oak Street. Head to the Chicago River by 6:55pm to catch the spectacular fireworks display that closes out the evening.

Soul Summit
Photograph: Mo Manley
Nightlife, Nightlife

Soul Summit

icon-location-pin Logan Square
icon-calendar

While it's been ousted from its longtime home at the Double Door, this killer monthly soul music party lives on at East Room with dusty grooves and rare soul that will keep the dance floor packed until 5am. Resident DJs Scott "Sloppy White" Williams, Dave Mata, Duke Grip and Mo Manley invite crate-digging experts to show off their collections of vintage vinyl.

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Chicago Thanksgiving Parade 2017
Photograph: Jordan Avery
Things to do, Festivals

Thanksgiving Parade

icon-location-pin Loop
icon-calendar

Why watch inflatable cartoon characters float down the streets of New York City when you can seem them live and in-person on State Street in the Loop. Chicago's procession begins at Congress Street and marches north to Randolph Street, with marching bands, colorful floats and performers in tow. It ends by 11am, so you'll have plenty of time to get home and finish preparing your Thanksgiving feast.

Caroling at Cloud Gate
Photograph: Peter J. Schulz
Things to do, Performances

Caroling at Cloud Gate

icon-location-pin Millennium Park
icon-calendar

Show up in front of Cloud Gate (otherwise known at “The Bean”) to belt out holiday classic at this series of winter concerts and sing-alongs. It's free to attend and it's just a short walk to the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink if you want to go for a quick skate after you sing.

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