Chicago area holiday events 2023: Christmas tree lighting, ice skating, Christkindlmarket and more

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
Chicago kicks off holiday season with tree lighting, ice skating
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Chicago's winter ice and snow have yet to arrive, but the holiday season kicked off in the city Friday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Holiday season is upon us and there is nothing like celebrating the holidays around Chicago.

Every winter, the city is buzzing with excitement and seasonal celebrations, from The Magnificent Mile to Millennium Park to our amazing neighborhoods.

No matter what holidays you observe, you will find plenty of ways to celebrate this year.

WATCH | 2023 Millennium Park Tree Lighting Ceremony at Millennium Park

Chicago's winter ice and snow have yet to arrive, but the holiday season kicked off in the city Friday.

The holiday season cannot begin without a bright Christmas tree.

Chicago's annual Christmas Tree lighting tradition that has been running for more than 100 years.

The City of Chicago's official Christmas Tree is coming from Darien, Illinois and it has now been illuminated.

The 45-foot Colorado Blue Spruce will light up the center of the iconic Millennium Park and be adorned in twinkling lights, making it the perfect holiday photo op.

You can catch a sight of the magnificent tree near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street through January.

This celebration will also feature fireworks, performances by a range of artists, and the opening of the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

For more information visit

Hosea Sanders will also emcee the Wrigley Building's ninth annual tree lighting ceremony Friday night.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

There was a Chicago parade and other events Saturday as part of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival along the Magnificent Mile.

The Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, in its 32nd year of being produced by The Magnificent Mile Association, draws together generations of families who begin each holiday season with festive, family-friendly activities and the largest evening parade in America. On Saturday, Nov. 18, smiles brightened as Grand Marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World Resort magically illuminated one million lights on 200 trees adorning Chicago's Michigan Avenue.

The star-studded parade includes legendary and contemporary musical artists, delightful helium balloons, world-class entertainment and favorite mascots, luminous floats, and Santa Claus, who soars in his sleigh down The Magnificent Mile to welcome the holiday season before an incredible fireworks finale.

The Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival parade-goers are invited for the first time to don outrageously festive sweaters to attempt to set a record for the most holiday sweaters at a parade.

Explore the Magical Christkindlmarket

Chicago's Christkindlmarket 2023 opens in Daley Plaza Friday along with locations in Wrigleyville and Aurora.

Experience an authentic traditional German Christmas market at the magical Christkindlmarket.

The annual, free-admision event is taking place in the heart of downtown features vendors selling festive glass ornaments, wooden cuckoo clocks, beautiful mugs, hand-knit gloves and other gifts.

A German holiday market experience is not complete unless you try traditional German treats and fill up your keepsake souvenir mug with mulled wine or hot chocolate.

The Christkindlmarket is also coming to Wrigleyville and Aurora so everyone gets to experience this magical market.

You can learn more about the Christkindlmarket here.

Skate away this Holiday Season

There is no better spot to ice skate this winter than Chicago's Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park.

Gliding through McCormick's Tribune ice rink

Lace up your ice skates and experience a Chicago winter tradition celebrating 21 years.

Glide around the McCormick's Tribune ice rink right next to Chicago's Iconic Cloud Gate known as "The Bean," which draws more than 100,000 skaters each year.

You will be surrounded by wintery views of Chicago, like the downtown skyline, dazzling lights of the city's Christmas tree, and all the holiday lights reflected on the bright surface of The Bean.

Skating Ribbon in Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park, right next to Millennium Park, is home to a one of a kind skating ribbon that twists and turns while skyscrapers light up the background.

This skating rink's path is twice the length of a traditional one which means more gliding space for you.

The Skating Ribbon opens for the winter season in November and will remain open through March, weather permitting.

Come experience a Chicago winter tradition, now in its 21st season. The McCormick Tribune skating rink in Millennium Park is a bucket-list spot to take a spin on the ice, drawing more than 100,000 skaters each year.

You'll be surrounded by breathtaking wintery views of Chicago, including the downtown skyline, the magical lights on the city's towering Christmas tree, and all the holiday lights reflected on the shining surface of The Bean.

The rink is open daily from November through March, weather permitting. Admission is free, but online reservations are required. Skate rentals are available.

Check out the holiday lights

Lincoln Park Zoo Holiday Lights

The Lincoln Park Zoo Lights have begun for this 2023 holiday season.

The Chicago holiday staple, Lincoln Park Zoo Lights are returning for the 29th year with new amazing displays.

This holiday experience is perfect for every age group as you will see be left in awe at the beloved attractions, modern LED light displays and a never-before-seen garden-themed light show on the Zoo's South Lawn.

ZooLights will offer FREE admission on Mondays on Nov. 20, 27, and Dec. 4, 11, and 18, and Jan. 1, 2024.

All regular ZooLights hours, ticketed attractions, apply and food and beverage is available for purchase.

General admission ZooLights tickets are $7 per person. Tickets on Fridays, Saturdays, Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 22), and New Year's Eve (Dec. 31) are $10 per person.

To learn more about Lincoln Park Zoo, ZooLights, and other upcoming events, visit

Brookfield Zoo holiday lights

In the near-by suburbs, Brookfield Zoo is also hosting its annual Holiday Magic displays that has been running for more than 40 years.

You can stroll along pathways illuminated with more than two million twinkling lights which include the 600-foot-long Tunnel of Lights.

Celebrate the holiday's at Chicago's Museums:

Museum of Science and Industry Christmas Around the World

The Museum of Science and Industry is hosting its annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light, with 50 elaborately decorated trees that represent holiday traditions from across the globe.

The exhibit also honors the traditions of Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day, St. Lucia Day, and more.

The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit, which runs through January 7, 2024, features a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe.

Experience the Art Institute of Chicago and its festive lions

Share in the joy of art with family and friends at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The museum's beloved lions receive the holiday treatment each November during the annual Wreathing of the Lions celebration on the museum steps, a tradition for more than 30 years.

Enjoy a live musical performance, complimentary hot chocolate, and an art-making activity inside the museum.

Festive live shows in Chicago

Chicago does not fail to embrace the holiday spirit as you can catch various festive performances.

Experience the thrill of live musicals, dramas, ballets, and more at downtown theaters or in neighborhood venues.

Grab your seats today for limited-time productions, including:

A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre

Hershel and The Hanukkah Goblins at Strawdog Theatre Company

The Nutcracker by Joffrey Ballet at the Lyric Opera House

The Art Deco Nutcracker by the A&A Ballet at The Athenaeum Theatre

It's A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago at American Blues Theater

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Sweater at The Second City

Holiday gift shopping at the Mag and State Street

The Magnificent Mile is the perfect location to pick up some gifts for your loved ones and yourself.

Take a ride in the CTA holiday train

Be sure to catch the seasonal CTA holiday train and say hello to your friend from the North Pole!

The CTA holiday train will once again make its way through the city this December.

The 30 plus year tradition will feature six-car train decorated with festive scenes and thousands of sparkling lights.

Don't forget to complete your ride by waving at Santa and his elves as you ride Chicago.