The Haute Seeker

9 Thanksgiving Traditions to Experience in Chicago this Year

Chicago is the perfect holiday destination for Thanksgiving! Whether you’re a local or planning a visit, this city has everything you need to make your holiday special.

What Does Chicago Do For Thanksgiving?

There are many ways to spend Thanksgiving in Chicago, from exciting lightning ceremonies and parades that kick off the holiday season to specialty dinner offerings at popular Chicago restaurants. I’ve broken down nine of the best activities to enjoy while in Chicago for Thanksgiving.

Floating Garfiled Ballon at the Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago // Image Chicago Thanksgiving Parade Foundation 

1. Gather on State Street for the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

It’s not surprising to know that Chicago hosts a Thanksgiving Day Parade every year. The parade features various floating characters, diverse performances, and beautiful floats. This Annual Chicago Thanksgiving Parade is scheduled to take place on Thursday, November 23, 2023, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CT. The parade route will stretch from State Street, from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph. If you’re not able to attend the parade, you can catch the processional live on Pluto TV or the CW.

Turkey Trot // Video by Lifetime Athletics

2. Run in a turkey trot

Join fellow runners, joggers, and walkers for the Annual Life Time Turkey Trot Chicago 5K & 8K and Plymouth Rock Ramble Kids Race. This event takes place each Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 23rd) morning in Chicago. The charitable race supports the Greater Chicago Food Depository, ensuring no Chicagoan will go hungry during the holiday season. Following the race, participants can enjoy a Turkey Day Tailgate, which includes pre and post-race activities like Corn Hole, Football Toss, and more while sipping on warm apple cider.

food and drinks inside the carton box
Photo by cottonbro studio on

3. Spread holiday cheer by serving others

Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion to show gratitude for all that we have. While some may have more than others during this season, it’s a time to come together and spread positivity. If you’re interested in volunteering during Thanksgiving, consider checking out organizations such as Chicago Cares and Volunteer Match. They offer great opportunities to give back to your community and make a positive impact.

4. Watch the lightening of the Christmas Tree

Experience the magic of the holiday season. Witness the stunning transformation of the Christmas Tree in Millennium Park. The tree will remain illuminated through early January 2024, creating a dazzling display that’s sure leave you in awe. Don’t miss out on this beloved annual tradition that brings the city together and ignites the holiday spirit.

Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo // Image Taylor Justin

5. Marvel at the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights

Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo is a beloved holiday tradition that starts around Thanksgiving. Sponsored by ComEd and Invesco QQQ, Zoolights will feature exciting new displays, photo opportunities, and interactive programming, all wrapped up in the nostalgia of your favorite holiday memories. The event runs daily from Friday, November 17, 2023 through Sunday, January 7, 2024. Admission prices for Zoolights range from $7 to $10, but it is free to visit on Mondays only with a required reservation.

6. Find something whimsical at Christkindl markets

The Christkindl Market is a German-style market that’s free to visit with locations in a Chicago, Wrigleyville, and Aurora. Experience the smell the aroma of roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst, and hot spiced wine, hear festive music, and see sparkling Christmas ornaments that create a cozy atmosphere. Visiting the market is an immersive experience that engages all your senses. You can explore vendor products from around the world, participate in special events, and enjoy a unique shopping experience.

7. Shop small for the holidays

Chicago is home to a plethora of amazing neighborhoods for shopping, each with its own unique charm and character. From the trendy and hipster Wicker Park, to the upscale and elegant Gold Coast, there is something for everyone in Chicago. The areas are great for finding unique goods for family, friends, and yourself during the holiday season.

8. Sample Thanksgiving Eats at a Chicago Restaurant

If you want to take a break from dishwashing and meal preparation on Thanksgiving, then let some of Chicago’s best restaurants do the heavy lifting for you. Savor a grand buffet from restaurants such as Prime & Provisions or The Godfrey Hotel. In case you prefer a more eclectic menu, explore hot spots like Truth Be Told or Lure Fish Bar.

9. Go ice skating outdoors

The outdoor ice rinks in Chicago will open during the Thanksgiving holiday. Take advantage of the mild weather and skate outdoors. Here are some. of the top locations:

Spending Thanksgiving in Chicago

During the holiday season, the city becomes a hub of excitement, with countless visitors flocking to experience the festive city, sample delicious seasonal dishes, and browse some of the most renowned stores in the world. Have a favorite Chicago tradition? Be sure to drop it in the comments.

For more things to do in Chicago, check out the daily events calendar.

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