Your Guide to the Holiday Season in Chicago – NBC Chicago


Tis the season in Chicago. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the city, have just a few hours to spare or a few days to explore, you can join in the holiday spirit.

From its famous Christmas market to train rides during the holidays, the city is home to a wealth of pastimes that can help you ring in the season.

Here are some light shows, skating rinks, and other holiday happenings to check out in and around Chicago, a city that’s been named one of the best places to spend Christmas in the world.


Christkindlmarket is a Chicago staple that’s rated, time and time again, as one of the best Christmas markets in the country — and the world.

The famous German-style market offers visitors the opportunity to buy handmade artisan products and taste international dishes while listening to festive tunes. What else? Christkindlmarket lovers can always go home with a collectible souvenir: a holiday mug.

This year, the market has three locations in the Chicago area: Wrigleyville, Chicago and Aurora. Welcoming all visitors free of charge, each place offers different events, entertainment and musical performances.

More information can be found here.

The Chicago Christmas Tree at Millennium Park

A 55-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce is the centerpiece of the town this winter.

The tree, which has graced the lawn of a Morton Grove home for decades, beat more than 80 entries when it was selected to be the town’s “official” Christmas tree for 2022.

The tree matches a long-standing Chicago tradition, as this year will become the city’s 109th. Each year, the tree can be seen twinkling near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street.

The tree will remain lit throughout January 8, 2023.

Light shows

Dazzling light shows bring the holiday season to life, transforming many of the area’s well-known attractions into winter wonderlands.

ZooLights, one of Chicago’s most colorful vacation staples, kicked off its 28th edition with an array of attractions dotted around the Lincoln Park Zoo.

A 65-foot Ferris wheel, expansive light tunnel and redesigned light shows are some of the highlights of the event, according to the zoo. Visitors can go for a meet and greet with Santa, catch live ice sculptures, listen to carol singers, snack on treats, check out a holiday-themed pop-up bar, and wander around for more festivities.

ZooLights will run from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on January 2-2, 4-23, 26-31, and January 1, 2023. Among the dates, tickets to the show will be free on December 12, 19, and 26.

Tickets are available here and cost $5 Tuesday through Sunday.

Considered the longest running festival of lights in the Chicago area, Holiday Magic has officially returned to Brookfield Zoo for the 2022 season.

Zoo visitors can set their sights on an array of exhibits, including two miles of colorful lights synchronized to music and a 600-foot-long illuminated tunnel. A sparkling 41-foot-tall Christmas tree will also be propped up.

In addition to the lights, activities will take place during the event. A scavenger hunt dubbed the “Gnome Game” will send visitors on a hunt for 27 gnomes of varying size and shape across the zoo. From Tropic World to Reptiles and Birds, several indoor and outdoor animal habitats are open to visitors during the light show.

Holiday Magic will be available November 15-27 and 30, as well as December 1-4, 14-18, and 26-31.

Tickets are required for admission. Those wishing to park in the south lot of the zoo must book their tickets in advance online.

Admission to Brookfield Zoo is $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for children ages 3-11, and $19.95 for seniors 65 and older. Parking is $15.

If you’re not looking to brave the cold, you can also check out an indoor lights experience with Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall.

Guests can interact with light shows, ice skating, visit Santa and more until January 7, 2023. Tickets for the event, priced from $17 to $27, also include a ride on Navy Pier’s 200-foot Centennial Wheel.

Here are more light shows casting a glow in the suburbs.

Ice skating

The chilly weather invites the return of a flagship winter activity: ice skating. From indoor rinks to outdoor rinks, there are places beginners, pros and everyone in between can hit the ice all season long.

In fact, Wrigley Field is one of them. In previous years, an ice rink was located next to the historic Gallagher Way baseball stadium. But this time around, the 12,000 square foot rink will actually be moved indoors, tidy in the correct field.

Carnival games, ice tubing, an ice slide and the “Infield Express Train” will also grace the grounds, along with holiday music, festive food, drinks and more.

The rink will be available until January 8, 2023. Those who bring their own skates can enter the rink for $12. Access to the rink and skate rental cost $20.

Maggie Daley’s popular attraction sends skaters on a journey twice as long as a traditional ice rink.

Located in the Loop, the rink opened for the season on November 18 and plans to remain open until March 5, 2023, weather permitting. Admission to the rink is free Monday through Thursday and $5 Friday through Sunday for those who bring their own skates. Skate rentals range from $16 to $18.

Skating along the Cloud Gate at Millennium Park returns with the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. The rink debuted on November 18 and will operate until March 5, 2023, weather permitting. Admission is free, but online reservations are required. Skate rentals range from $16 to $20.

Here are some other places where you can go ice skating.

Holiday Trains

Tree lights? Check. Holiday windows? Check. Christmas markets? Check. Holiday trains to Chicago to take you to all those events? Check.

From the local CTA and Metra fleets that cruise the streets of the neighborhood, to the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train that honks in the suburbs, holiday trains in and through Chicago officially run on rails.

Here’s where and when to find them.

Macy’s Holiday displays on State Street

Macy’s kicked off its 2022 winter festivities with a series of classic exhibits, from its trumpets displayed along the city’s State Street to its famous holiday window displays.

The storefront also installed its “Great Tree,” a 45-foot-tall centerpiece that graces the Walnut Room throughout the season. This year, the tree will be themed around a whimsical toy store with around 15,000 adornments dressed on it.

Santa Claus also reprises his role for meetings and photo ops at Macy’s Santaland. The iconic workshop will be open for in-store visits until Christmas Eve. One must reserve.

More information can be found here.


NBC Chicago

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