The Holidays in Chicago Mean...

Caitlin Murray Giles - Chicago
December 6, 2011

While Santa is making his list and checking it twice, you should be working on a list of your own—one that includes all of the festive family activities you want to take advantage of during the holiday season. Chicago is home to some amazing holiday activities that you will want to enjoy as a family amidst all of the holiday hustle and bustle. Grab your calendars. You are going to want to make time in your busy schedules for these local holiday highlights.

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Every year, Chicago families plan excursions to Lincoln Park ZooLights to see Santa Claus, enjoy live music, and marvel at the millions of lovely little lights. ZooLights takes place on the weekends of Nov. 26-28, Dec. 3-5 and Dec. 10-12. Open nightly Dec. 17 through Jan. 2, with the exception of Dec. 24 and 25. The festivities take place from 5-9 p.m. As always, admission is free.


Your little ones will be amazed as Daley Plaza is transformed into a charming little village called Christkindlemarket. This open-air market sells everything from European-style ornaments to German specialties like bratwurst and strudel. Little visitors can sip on hot apple cider as they wait their turn to chat with Santa Claus. Open daily Nov. 23-Dec. 24.

The Nutcracker

If your family loves this magical holiday tale, then you will want to see The renowned Joffrey Ballet perform it live. Performances take places from Dec. 9-27 and each one is spectacular.

The CTA Holiday Train

Everyone rides the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) during the holidays, even Santa Claus himself. The CTA Holiday Train makes stops on all of the various lines during November and December. The "sleigh" is decked out in holiday decorations, and Santa and his elves hop off at each stop to pass out candy canes. Normal CTA fares apply. Visit to see the full schedule.

Caroling at the Bean in Millennium Park

On Friday evenings at 6:00 p.m., holiday revelers join together for Caroling at the Bean (also known as Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park. Each week features a different musical group or local choir. This free event includes complimentary hot chocolate and votive candles for participants. This event takes place every Friday from Nov. 25-Dec. 16. After the caroling, stop at the ice rink at Millennium Park for a magical nighttime skate.


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