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Millennium Park Christmas tree
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best Christmas things to do during the holidays in Chicago

Experience the holidays in Chicago with beautiful lights, festive theater productions and bustling markets.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp
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Chicago winters can be a bit of a drag, to say the least, but the holidays offer a shimmering diversion from long nights and frosty weather. Starting in November, you'll find plenty of festive events and celebrations to put you in a holiday mood as temperatures start to drop, from glittering Christmas lights in Chicago and Christkindlmarket Chicago villages in Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville to an annual Hanukkah play. You could even take a spin around the City of Chicago Christmas tree at ice skating rinks downtown and warm up afterwards with a hot cocktail at holiday pop-up bars scattered throughout the city, or plan a festive night of Christmas theater thanks to annual performances of shows like The Nutcracker and The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, you'll find plenty of ways to feel festive with our list of the best things to do during the holidays in Chicago. 

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Christmas in Chicago

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Chicago Christmas events

  • 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.

  • 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.

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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.

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