With the holidays in full swing, December is a magical month of things to do throughout the city. There’s plenty to keep you busy as we wrap up 2021, including beloved Christmas plays, ultra-festive pop-up bars, holiday markets, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and more. Check out our list of favorite Chicago activities and events to enjoy this December 2021. 

Top events this December

Menorah in Daley Plaza
Chabad of the Loop & Gold Coast — Center for Jewish Life

Menorah Lighting at Daley Plaza (Dec. 1): Join this joyous celebration of Hanukkah in Daley Plaza, complete with live music and holiday treats.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier(through December): Light sculptures and gardens, a skating rink, holiday beer garden, kiddie train, and more are taking over Navy Pier for the holidays all season long.

Christmas Around the World (through December): The holidays are headed to the Museum of Science & Industry for a special exhibit featuring a four-story, floor-to-dome grand Christmas tree. 

Illumination Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum (through December): The ninth-annual event includes fifty acres of the arboretum to explore, filled with a spectacle of light, sound, and color. 

Christkindlmarket(through Dec. 24): This year is the 25th anniversary of the iconic German-inspired holiday market, and Chicagoans will have two options to sip mulled wine — both the downtown location and another market in Wrigleyville.

Millennium Park ice skating(through December): Skate with a city view at Millennium Park’s ice rink. Admission is free, but online ticket reservations are required.

ZooLights(through December): Head to Lincoln Park Zoo for a celebratory holiday tradition beloved by many, and explore the hundreds of lights scattered across the zoo.

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden(through December): Explore the Chicago Botanic Garden’s trails with a magical twist for the holidays, filled with new light installations, holiday music, and more.

The Nutcracker(Dec. 4 – 26): A Chicago-inspired version of The Nutcracker ballet comes to the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago starting in early December. 

Serenity Winter Flower Show(through December): The Garfield Park Conservatory has a new flower show focused on calming foliage, featuring poinsettias, hyacinth, salvias, and more. 

More things to do this month

BrewLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo by Phil Parcellano

BrewLights at Lincoln Park Zoo(Dec 2.): Sip and savor specialty craft beers under the glow of Lincoln Park Zoo’s light display at this annual kickoff event to the holiday season.

One of a Kind Holiday Show (Dec 2 – 5): Head to theMART for a special holiday shopping experience with over 400 local artists.

7th Annual Winter Walk on Wilson (Dec. 3): Explore Uptown during this free event, featuring treats, warm drinks, live holiday music, pop-up markets, and more.

Chinatown Lunch Tour (Dec. 4, 11, and 18): Taste your way around one of Chicago’s best culinary neighborhoods, from Hong Kong dim sum to spicy Szechuan.

‘Twas the Night Before Cirque du Soleil (through Dec. 5): The first of its kind, this holiday-themed acrobatic show will amaze guests at the Chicago Theatre.

Toward Common Cause at Stony Island Arts Bank (Dec. 5, 12, and 19): Each Sunday, explore questions of race and identity through the eyes of MacArthur fellows at this limited-time exhibit.

Newberry Consort: Mexican Christmas (Dec. 5): This one-of-a-kind concert in Little Village celebrates the Yuletide music of 17th century Mexico.

Mercado Del Pueblo (weekends in December): This Humboldt Park market features local makers and artisans selling honey, baked goods, macrame, accessories, and more.

8th Night 8th Light(Dec. 5): Gallagher Way’s annual Winterland will host a community-wide celebration of Hanukkah, including an evening menorah lighting.

The Plant Holiday Market (Dec. 12): This innovative space in the Back of the Yards neighborhood will offer a curated selection of vintage and hyper local gifts

Dia de Muertos: A Day to Grieve & Remember(through Dec. 12): The 35th annual Day of the Dead exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art honors long-held cultural traditions.

Renegade Craft Fair(Dec. 18 – 19): Revel Fulton Market is home to this year’s winter-themed craft fair featuring goods from curated local artists and food and drink specials.

Holiday Lights Segway Tour(through December): What better way to see the city’s dazzling lights than by Segway? This unique tour stops by The Bean, Macy’s window display, and ends at Christkindlmarket.

Songs of Good Cheer at Old Town School of Folk Music (Dec. 10 – 12): Now in its 23rd year, this annual holiday sing-along is sure to put you in a festive mood.

Winter Market in Andersonville (Dec. 3 – 5): This is the first-ever, open-air bazaar neighborhood market in Andersonville, featuring handmade goods from local artists. 

Jack Frost Winter Walk & Christmas Tree Farm (through December): The massive pop-up on Goose Island is back, this time transforming into a winter wonderland featuring cocktails, axe throwing, bumper cars, and more.

Curling at the Gwen Hotel(through December): Enjoy cocktails and curling on the rooftop terrace of the Gwen Hotel on Michigan Avenue.

Disney’s Frozen at the Cadillac Palace Theatre(through December): Kids and adults alike will love Disney’s latest musical, Frozen, which is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre all month long.

Krampus Pop-Up at DMen Tap (starting Dec. 4): Avondale’s DMen tap will be taken over by the Krampus Christmas pop-up which launches with a Krampus parade.

A Christmas Carol(through December): Discover the beloved holiday story of Ebenezer Scrooge at the acclaimed Goodman Theatre.

Christmas Sing-a-long at the Music Box(starting Dec. 10): Celebrate over 38 years of holiday cheer at the Music Box with the annual sing-along and double feature of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit(through December): With over 500,000 cubic feet of immersive projections, there’s a lot to see (and love) if you’re a Vincent Van Gogh fan.   

Dr Seuss Experience(through December): Dr. Seuss lovers won’t want to miss this interactive and imaginative experience that takes you through nine different Dr. Seuss books.

Randolph Street Market (select weekends in December): The popular market is taking over the Mag Mile this year for a specialty pop-up featuring antique and vintage vendors, and much more. 

Frosty’s: A Christmas Bar (starting Dec. 1): Filled with extensive holiday decor, it’s hard not to feel festive at Frosty’s pop-up bar, which includes four bars and three levels of decor, food, and drink. 

Ice Skating at Millennium Park
Photo by Abel Arciniega

The Office Experience(through December): If you’re a fan of The Office, you’ll want to check out the immersive experience that recreates the office of Dunder Mifflin and all its famed characters.

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park (through December): Ice skate through the ribbon rink at Maggie Daley Park and enjoy the incredible skyline views as your backdrop.

Millennium Park Holiday Sing Along(select dates in December): Spread holiday cheer at Millennium Park with a city-wide sing along.

CTA Holiday Train or Bus (select dates in December): Multiple CTA trains and buses are transformed into a true winter wonderland, helmed by Santa Claus himself.

Chicago Architecture Biennial (through Dec. 18): The “world’s fair” of architecture, this year’s exhibition takes place in neighborhoods across Chicago.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo (through December): Head to  Brookfield Zoo for a festive display that includes over two million lights, skating rink, illuminated animal sculptures, and more.

WNDR Museum(through December): This interactive West Loop museum is meant to ignite curiosity through its variety of different exhibits, including light floor, the forever machine, infinity room, and more.

Chicago Magic Lounge(through December): Andersonville’s Chicago Magic Lounge is part speakeasy, part magic lounge, and perfect for anyone looking to escape the everyday with a fun night of food, drink, and of course, magic.

Chicago: Where Comics Come to Life (through December): The Chicago Cultural Center is home to a new exhibit highlighting the origins of comics in popular publishing throughout Chicago. 

Santa Baby Bar(through December): Multiple levels of holiday-inspired decor take over this Wrigleyville bar, which features festive shareable cocktails such as The Grinch, Yule Mule & more.

Art on theMART (through December): This massive digital art show has an all-new show for winter, including scenes from the The Nutcracker. Catch the mesmerizing projections nightly.

Reindeer Room at Tack Room(through December): Tack Room, the piano bar inside Pilsen’s Thalia Hall, transforms into a holiday-themed pop-up with live piano music, decor, and more.

Misfit Christmas at The Rambler(through December): This holiday pop-up at the beloved North Center bar is inspired by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer film and will include indoor and outdoor decor.

Neon and Light Museum(through December): Bright, neon colors and installations await at this pop-up Chicago exhibit. 

The Boxed Experience (through December): This immersive, interactive theatrical activation allows you to investigate and then decide the fate of a man accused of a crime.

Recipe for Disaster(through December): Created in part by Chef Rick Bayless, this live theatre experience takes place inside a restaurant, and includes food and drinks as well.

Zoo Year’s Eve (Dec. 31): Lincoln Park Zoo will be home to a dazzling light-filled New Year’s Eve celebration.

Teatro ZinZanni(through December): Cabaret, music, circus, and a four-course dinner? This show is a feast for both your eyes and stomach.