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Chicago Botanic Garden, Lightscape
Photograph: Chicago Botanic Garden

November 2020 events calendar for Chicago

Pack your month with the best activities, concerts, free things to do and festivals

By Zach Long and Emma Krupp
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November in Chicago is a somewhat strange time even under normal circumstances—one day you're buying pumpkins and celebrating fall in Chicago, the next there's Christmas music blaring through your local cafe speakers—but between the election and event cancelations, this year promises to be especially different. Nonetheless, you can still count on a roster of fun stuff to carry you into the holiday season. Stroll through glittering light display at some of the most gorgeous Chicago gardens and parks, catch out cool exhibitions at museums and cultural institutions throughout the city or plan out a small-scale Thanksgiving in Chicago. You can even take advantage of the cooler temps to check out virtual events from the comfort of your house, like a Chicago Humanities Festival talk with celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Grab your calendar and take a peek through the best things to do in Chicago this November.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2020

Featured events in November 2020

Chicago Botanic Garden, Lightscape
Photograph: Chicago Botanic Garden

Lightscape

Things to do Exhibitions Chicago Botanic Garden | Glencoe, IL, Suburbs

The Chicago Botanic Garden hosts this annual display of festive lights, giving guests a host of shimmering reasons to visit the forest preserve during the holiday season. Set along a one-mile path, the after-dark experience features a series of installations to explore, including a 110-foot tunnel made up of 100,000 lights and a group of trees festooned in bulbs that "sing" holiday songs.  New this year—in addition to one-way traffic and other safety precautions—are five installations from Chicago artists, like Tanner Woodford's "Pride and Promise," a tree decked with glowing stars inspired by the Chicago flag.

Photograph: Courtesy Maggie Daley Park

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

Things to do Ice skating Maggie Daley Park | Chicago, IL, 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. Admission to the Skating Ribbon is always free, but this year you'll need a reservation in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines—a max of 180 skaters will be allowed on the ice at any given time. Skate rentals are available for $16–$20. 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.

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zoolights
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

ZooLights

Things to do Late openings Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL, Lincoln Park

Unless you've got a big budget, your Chirstmas light display won't hold an LED candle to the 2.5 million bulbs that festoon Lincoln Park Zoo during the annual ZooLights event. While most of the animals will be inside, guests are free to wander through the park, snap photos of the display and take part in a variety of activities throughout the holiday season. This year's exhibit—which, for the first time in more than 20 years, requires a $5 entry fee—will open on November 20 and run through January 3. In addition to the regular ZooLights admission, guests will also be able to snag tickets for an adults-only night out (complete with mulled wine and hot chocolate) and A Charlie Brown Christmas tribute concert from the Chris White Trio. 

The Stoop Comedy Show
Photograph: Sarah Elizabeth Larson

The Stoop Comedy Show

Comedy Stand-up Various locations throughout Chicago,

There aren't many places in Chicago where you can see live comedy at the moment, especially if you're not comfortable sitting in a club. The Stoop Comedy Show brings comics from throughout the city outside, staging a weekly showcase on a stoop in Logan Square. You can spring for a ticket to laugh in-person (face masks are required) or tune into a live broadcast via Twitch. Check out the Stoop Comedy Show's Instagram page to see the latest lineup.

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Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Photograph: Courtesy Goose Island

Goose Island Proprietor’s Days

Things to do Festivals United Center | Chicago, IL, United Center

Goose Island Proprietor’s Day is usually an afternoon gathering on the streets outside of brewery's Fulton Street facility, where lucky lottery winners get to pick up bottles of a brand new Bourbon County Stout variant while enjoying some drinks. There won't be a large in-person gathering to mark Prop Day this year, but Chicagoans will still be able to snag bottles of the stout, which is inspired by the Italian treat spumoni, with notes of pistachio, cherry and chocolate. For a chance to purchase two bottles of 2020 Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout, one bottle of 2020 Bourbon County Stout Special #4 and a Prop Days Exclusive barrel-aged stout, you'll need to enter the lottery on Goose Island's website before midnight on Monday, October 12.

Illumination
Photograph: Courtesy Morton Arboretum

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

Things to do Festivals Morton Arboretum, Suburbs

The Morton Arboretum's annual tree lights display—normally a mile-long walking path amid trees covered in festive lights—will get the drive-through treatment this year, with a longer route and new light designs to boot. Guests can experience a nearly two-mile stretch of colorful lights from their cars, featuring an accompanying musical soundtrack that can be listened to via car radio. Riders will pass through a glittering tunnel of lights and other tree-focused spectacles, like Symphony Woods, Woodland Wonder and the Crystal Promenade, plus five new displays (all LED and eco-friendly).

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Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up
Photograph: Courtesy Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up

Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-up

Things to do Festivals Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up, River West/West Town

Returning to a 2-acre plot of land just west of Goose Island, Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up saves you a trip to the suburbs by bringing a corn maze, thousands of pumpkins and an array of carnival games to the city. This year's edition of the outdoor event takes a safety-first approach (mandatory timed reservations and masks, no cash transactions, no food and beverages onsite—the list goes on), but you'll still find classic standbys like a full corn maze, fall-themed photo ops and plenty of plump pumpkins. 

Time Out Market Chicago
Photograph: Gosia Matuszewska

Bears Games on the Big Screen

Things to do Time Out Market Chicago, West Loop

Football season looks quite different this year, but you don't have to miss a game. In lieu of bundling up at Soldier Field, we're showing every game on the big, big screen at Time Out Market Chicago. (We're not playing—it's 32 feet wide by 6 feet tall.) Besides staying warm and cozy inside the socially distanced dining room, guests won't have to wait until halftime to grab a drink at the bar or re-up their food order. Choose from a stacked fried chicken sandwich, loaded hot dogs, a towering plate of nachos or one of the best burgers in town. The best part? Time Out Market Chicago is free and open to the public, so you don't need a reservation to lock in your table. See you there on Sunday!

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SOFA Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy SOFA Chicago

Intersect Chicago

Art Fairs Various venues, Loop

Most years, sculpture, objects and functional art (SOFA, for short) are displayed in Navy Pier’s festival hall at the annual art fair SOFA Chicago. But in the interest of social distancing, the fest will go virtual for 2020 under the title Intersect Chicago, featuring an online selection of art by more than 100 exhibitors. Each day will showcase a different art form, ranging from glass to ceramic and craft; plus, guests will have opportunities to tune into free SOFA salon talks about a range of art and design-related themes. 

Bruce Davidson
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

“What Does Democracy Look Like?”

Art Photography Museum of Contemporary Photography, Loop

In anticipation of the 2020 election, the Museum of Contemporary Photography invited seven Columbia College Chicago faculty members to dig through the institution's collection of 16,000 images, selecting photographs of what democracy means to them. The resulting exhibition reflects different interpretations of the prompt, from a close-up photo of a weathered penny to historical scenes of American life. In keeping with the civic theme, visitors will be able to register to vote on-site at the museum.

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Chicago's Christkindlmarket makes plans to go virtual

Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Chicago holiday tradition Christkindlmarket has been canceled

News Events & Festivals

Bad news for anyone who was still holding out hopes of sipping spiced wine from a boot mug in Daley Plaza this winter: Christkindlmarket, the annual holiday market usually hosted downtown and in Wrigleyville, has officially been canceled. In place of the the in-person event, vendors that usually participate in the German-themed Christmas market will sell their products online beginning on November 1.

 

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