Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo by Taylor Justin Holiday activities and things to do in Chicago

12 Holiday Events and Activities to Enjoy in Chicago

This holiday season will prove to be anything but traditional. Since the beginning of the year, most of the city’s biggest events were canceled due to the pandemic, and while this holiday season in Chicago may not feel as merry or bright, there are still plenty of festive activities and things to do around Chicago and the suburbs to celebrate. From reimagined holiday light shows to community-driven markets and shopping experiences.


Be festive, merry, and, most importantly, safe this holiday season. Before heading out, be sure to check the healthy safety guidelines on the event’s website before you experience a holiday activity of your choice. 


Peep Eye-Catching Holiday Window Displays at Macy’s

Visual displays of the holiday symbols illuminate State Street, thanks to Macy’s. Enjoy this free holiday activity in the Loop at the formal Marshall Fields department store. This landmark store keeps holiday traditions going this year through charming window displays and a spectacle of 42 trumpets that line the landmark building. In addition to the shopping inside, be sure to admire the 3,000-pound tree inside the Walnut Room, a display of vintage ornaments with 6,000 twinkling lights. A Chicago tradition with a twist that you certainly cannot miss.

Spot Your Favorite Animals and More During Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

We know this year’s holiday season will look a little different, but the Lincoln Park Zoo has found a way for you to celebrate their famous Zoo Lights safely. Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features hundreds of luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities, all under the glow of illuminated lights. Book your spot for this holiday activity online and spend quality time with your favorite animals and a host of dazzling lights this holiday season in Lincoln Park. 

Take a Holiday Break at Recess Chicago In the West Loop

Rudolph may be ‘the most famous reindeer of them all,’ but not this season—at least not at Recess in the West Loop. The outdoor restaurant and bar have their own twist on holiday cheer this year. Starting this month, guests can experience a winter wonderland featuring festive cocktail creations and cozy bonfires at individual table pits. This is a holiday activity that the whole family can enjoy. While parents sip on specialty drinks, kids can send their letters to Santa through a station that mails their holiday wishes directly to the North Pole. Whether you are a kid, big or small—Recess has something for you to enjoy this holiday season. For more details and the policy and procedures for social distancing, be sure to visit the event page.

Walk Under Illuminated Neighborly Arches in Old IRVING Park

Make your walk around the neighborhood just a little bit more merry and bright this holiday season. Residents of the Old Irving Park neighborhood are bringing holiday cheer to the community through blocks and blocks of joyous decor and bright holiday lights. During this free holiday activity, take a stroll from 200 blocks of N Mason, 4100 blocks of N Francisco, 3900 blocks of W Dakin, 3200 and 3300 blocks of W Belle Plaine, daily for the ever-growing free light and festive display.

Indulge in Delectable Holiday Desserts From Your Favorite Sweet shops

This holiday season, indulge in delectable holiday desserts from a city that knows a little something about sweets and treats. Quintessential candy makers, bakers, and shops like Fannie May, Mars Candy, Ferrera, and more call Chicago home. Today, you will find just as many modern sweet shops throughout the city, from the Far North Side’s ice cream shops to the South Side’s infamous bakeries. This holiday spoil your palate because you survived 2020. And damn it, you deserve it!

Spot the Holiday Train or Bus On the Way to Your Next Destination

You know it’s the holiday season in Chicago when you see the CTA holiday train or bus in your neighborhood. As a way to spread cheer every year, but especially in this challenging year of 2020, Chicago’s most unique holiday tradition will make it was throughout the city throughout December. Visit the website to see when the CTA holiday train or bus will make its rounds in your neighborhood.

Observe a Dazzling Display at the Largest Light Show in Illinois

Admire a dazzling light display 39 years in the making at the Brookfield Zoo this holiday season. This is a fun activity that the entire family can enjoy. This holiday, the suburban-based zoo celebrates the holidays in a big way, with the largest and longest-running lights festival featuring over a million twinkling LED lights. Snap pictures in front of novelty displays like a giant 20-foot-lit orb ideal or even larger-than-life LED animal sculptures. Before you go, check out social distancing guidelines by visiting the Brookfield Zoo’s website. 

Spend Green and Shop Black with a Chicago Black-Owned Business

Shop and support small black-owned businesses in Chicago throughout the holiday season. Resources like Black Shop Friday sponsored by the City of Chicago and The Chicago Urban League make it easy. With a directory of over 500 black-owned businesses. This resource makes it easy for you to shop black and spend green within the community. No matter your neighborhood—shop black this holiday season.

Get Your Winter Workout While Ice Skating in Millennium Park

Grab your skates and hit the ice for a prime winter workout in Millennium Park this holiday season. Now through March, the park offers free and open skating to the public. Skates are also available for rent if you do not own a pair. If you really want to turn up the heat on ice skating at the park, drop by the rink for live performances by local DJs every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Visit the website to learn more about winter free holiday event in Chicago.

Dazzle Your Senses through a Brilliant Lightscape at the chICAGO bOTANIc Garden

Visit the Botanic Garden this holiday season for the annual Lightscape, a holiday event that’s on every Chicagoans bucket list. The beautiful trail immerses visitors into a world of light, color, and sound. This holiday activity also celebrates and features local artists throughout the brilliant showcase. Bask in thousands of twinkling lights this holiday season. To reserve your spot now through January, visit the website here.

Find the Perfect Gift For Your Little one at a Local Toy and Hobby Store

Unsure of what to buy your niece, nephew, or the special child in your life? Find inspiration and the perfect gift at a local toy store in Chicago. Toy and hobby stores in Chicago have great novelty finds such as toys, crafts, and other entertainment for the young children in your life. Browse thousands of games, puzzles, and trinkets at any neighborhood shop in Chicago. Who knows, you might even walk away with a little something for yourself.

Walk Around the Christmas Tree—And Maybe Adopt One Too at the Jack Frost Winter Pop-up

Grab your friends for a safe yet cheerful holiday activity at Jack’s Winter Pop-up. The annual event is reimagined for 2020 with 2 acres of land in the historic Goose Island. Pick a perfect Christmas tree, grab a memorable Instagrammable moment, or just get out of the house and get some fresh air on an ideal midwinter evening as you explore the largest and only evergreen Christmas Tree Trail in downtown Chicago. Walk around the Christmas trees and have a very happy holiday outdoors with this winter activity. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the website here. 

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