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December 2019

December 1, 2019 - December 31, 2019

We recommend the best events, festivals, and fun things to do in Chicago, Illinois.

Nutcracker ballet

December 1 – 29, 2019

Joffrey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker features brilliant costumes, fanciful scenery, entrancing storytelling, and Tchaikovsky’s famous score played by the Chicago Philharmonic at Auditorium Theatre. This version by Christopher Wheeldon is set in 1892, with a World’s Fair theme.

Christmas market

December 1 – 31, 2019

Christkindlmarket is an open-air European holiday market featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, choirs, and carolers. Free.

Christmas lights – Brookfield Zoo

December 1 – 31, 2019

Holiday Magic has a million twinkling lights, a train display, carolers, ice carvers, a magician, a talking tree, zoo chats, and singing to animals at the Brookfield Zoo. Dates in 2019: Nov. 30; Dec. 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 26-31.

Santa Claus waves to onlookers at The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in Chicago. The Lights Festival is the nation’s largest evening holiday celebration and kicks off the season on Saturday, November 21. For more information, visit TheMagnificentMile.com. (PRNewsFoto/The Magnificent Mile Association)

Christmas lights – Lincoln Park Zoo

December 1, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carving, music, carousel & train rides, food, and gift shopping (plus photos with Santa some days). Free. Closed Dec. 24 & 25.

Model trains & holiday flowers

Dec. 1, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020

Model trains wind their way among 700 poinsettias and a Christmas tree during the Holiday Flower Show at Lincoln Conservatory. Open daily. Free.

Holidays around the world

December 1, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020

See trees decorated to represent many cultures, plus weekend ethnic song-and-dance performances during Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science & Industry. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Light show in the garden

Dec. 1, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020

“The night comes alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a playful choir of singing trees to a spectacular waterfall of light” at new event Lightscape. You walk on a one-mile path that includes “an avenue of luminous linden trees” at Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Christmas lights – arboretum

Dec. 1, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020

See colorful tree lights and projections on a one-mile walk at Illumination, with fire pits to warm you up along the way at Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

Adult zoo night

December 5, 2019

(6:30 to 10 p.m.)

Leave the kids at home and head to Adults Night Out at Lincoln Park Zoo to experience unique animal chats and live entertainment. You must be age 18+ to attend, and age 21+ for the cash bars.

Christmas caroling

December 6, 13, 20, 2019

(Fridays 6 p.m.)

Bundle up and prepare to belt out holiday classics when asked to sing along with the choir at Caroling at Cloud Gate outdoors in Millennium Park. Free.

Winter WonderFest

December 6, 2019 – Jan. 12, 2020

Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, skating, carnival rides, and entertainment. You need ID if you are age 18+, otherwise you need a parent. Children shorter than 3 feet are free. Closed Dec. 25.

Wine & beer tasting

December 11, 2019

(6 to 8 p.m.)

Holiday Cheers! Is a seasonal tasting of local spirits, wines, and winter brews surrounded by Wonderland Express train exhibits at Chicago Botanic Garden.

Ugly sweater swing dance

December 13, 2019

Wear your tackiest to Ugly Sweater Swing Class, which includes a beginner’s class, open dancing, mingling, and a costume contest at Duet Dance Studio for age 21+. BYOB.

Jingle Ball concert

December 18, 2019

Jingle Ball brings big-name music artists every December to Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

Fireworks at the lake

December 31, 2019

Welcome the new year with New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. Gates may close if the crowd capacity is reached. Free.

New Year’s Eve – Navy Pier

December 31, 2019

(8:15 p.m.)

Join 3,000 people at Chicago Resolution Gala, which has multiple DJs, 30 bars, food stations, a champagne toast at midnight, and views of fireworks over the lake in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier for age 21+.

New Year’s at the zoo

December 31, 2019

See millions of holiday lights, watch artists carve blocks of ice, buy beer/wine/champagne, hear DJ music, play games, and visit the animals during Zoo Year’s Eve at Lincoln Park Zoo for age 21+.

Northerly Island adventure

December 2019


See birds of prey and wolves, make “nature-inspired winter crafts,” walk on snowshoes (if there’s snow), and drink cocoa (while it lasts) at Polar Adventure Days on three dates in December, January, and February. Free except parking.

December 2019