12 Days of Christmas in Chicago

Santa is coming to town and bringing the best events of the season for 2018.

Get ready for 12 days of theater and music and lights and caroling and shopping and movie sing-a-longs! There’s a whole lot to do in Chicago this holiday season, whether you’re with family or treating yourself to a solo vacation before all the gatherings. If you still need to find gifts for everyone on your list, head to Christkindlmarket (and pick up some gluhwein to help warm you up). If you want to see more than 2.5 million lights on beautiful display, ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is your best bet for a winter wonderland. And if you want to see Santa, the 900 N. Michigan Shops is your headquarters for a visit with the man of the hour. Here are our favorite 12 things to do December 2018.

Christmas Around The World & Holidays Of Lights

The Museum of Science & Industry hosts its annual holiday extravaganza as the main rotunda lobby space features 50 pine trees decorated with colors and traditions of different countries around the world (seen at left). Open through January 6, 2019.

Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

The timeless ballet is transformed into a Chicago spectacle. With Joffrey’s production you will journey inside Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair through magnificent sets and costumes, exquisite choreography and Tchaikovsky’s classic score, which is performed by the Chicago Philharmonic. Through December 30 at the Auditorium Theatre. 

Winter Wonderfest At Navy Pier

Bring the whole family to Navy Pier for the Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest. The festive playground features 170,000 square feet of space filled with carnival rides, slides, holiday activities and an indoor skating rink for revelers of all ages. Open through January 6, 2018. 

CTA Holiday Trains

For a few weeks only, a series of special CTA trains and buses are decked out with lights and displays (and maybe a surprise visit from Santa if you’re lucky). They’re few and far between so be sure to check the schedule on CTA’s website to see when a holiday train will be pulling up into your station. 

Christmas Movie Sing-A-Longs

It’s one of the most beloved traditions in Chicago—the Music Box Theatre hosts the 35th annual Christmas Double Feature & Sing-A-Long. Buy your tickets and get access to screenings of the Bing Crosby classic “White Christmas” and Jimmy Stewart’s iconic “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Each screening features trinkets and a real pipe organ to lead the crowd in sing-a-longs at the most iconic points in the films. 


Modeled after the German Christmas markets in Munich, Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza features real Bavarian vendors selling ornaments, beer steins and more; delicious brats, crepes and more food; an indoor beer garden with spiced gluhwein; and a Sweet House for all the desserts to set your table. Additional locations in Naperville and Wrigleyville. Through December 24. 

Lincoln Park Zoolights

Looking for dazzling light displays? Head to Lincoln Park Zoo where more than 2.5 million bulbs and animated features illuminate the park in a colorful winter wonderland. Special events include BrewLights (Dec. 6) with plenty of craft beer vendors in an adults-only night. Through January 6.

Caroling At Cloud Gate

Tap into your inner glee with a communal sing-a-long outside Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park with festive picks like “Jingle Bells,” “Deck The Halls” and more led by local choral groups. Join the party on Dec. 7, 12 and 14. 

Visiting Santa At 900 N. Michigan Shops

Before he makes a list and checks it twice, get on Santa’s good side by paying him a visit at the 900 N. Michigan Avenue Shops. Good old St. Nick will set up every day through December 24 to see visitors and take part in special photo ops. This year there will also be a virtual queue line to help keep the line moving. 

“A Christmas Carol”

One of the greatest holiday tales of all time, Charles’ Dickens “A Christmas Carol” comes to life at the Goodman Theatre with a sensory experience through Ebenezer Scrooge’s visits with Christmas Ghosts Present, Past and Future. Through December 30. 

Holiday Flower Show

From the pine trees to the poinsettias, the holidays are all about the foliage. The Lincoln Park Conservatory is a great spot to see them all on glorious display. The Show House features a Wonderland filled with trees, sparkling lights and model trains. This year will also feature photos from 1940s through 1960s, celebrating memories of holidays past.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

You’ll be dreaming of more than sugarplums when Cirque comes to town with their latest holiday revue. This unforgettable show at Chicago Theatre Dec. 12-16 features more than 300 costumes, gravity-defying stunts in 20 acts and lavish decorated sets. 

Selena Fragassi
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