Running now through January 7, 2024, Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden (located in Glencoe, Chicago’s North Shore) returns for its fifth season with an illuminated outdoor trail dazzling with brand new installations from around the world and beloved returning favorites such as the Winter Cathedral and a reimagined version of the Fire Garden.New works from international artists include Lilies, from UK artist Jigantics (illuminated 5-foot lilies float elegantly on water, providing a mesmerizing view from the bridge above and igniting a sense of warmth and excitement), Night Lights, from French artist TILT (delicate lamp-shaped lights that extend nearly 19 feet high amplify a cozy atmosphere with a display of soft ambient colors) and Sea of Light, from UK artist Ithaca (thousands of individually controlled balls of LED light make Evening Island sparkle and dance their way to a bespoke soundtrack in multiple patterns and colors). Tickets sell out quickly so it is recommended to book your time and date in advance; advance tickets for adults (non-members) begin at $34 and children (ages 3-12) at $19.
The Christkindlmarket celebrates its 27th season at Daley Plaza, its fifth year at Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville, and its second time at RiverEdge Park in Aurora. This year, Christkindlmarket is introducing its first ceramic beer stein with a holiday-themed design ($20), as well as location-specific $8 souvenir mugs with unique designs at each market (for example: the Chicago mug shows off downtown landmarks like the City Hall building and Daley Plaza’s Picasso sculpture while the Wrigleyville mug shows off Hotel Zachary, the intersection sign of Clark & Addison, and much more.) These mugs are hotly anticipated collector’s items for locals who have turned Christkindlmarket into a holiday tradition since 1996. Modeled after the 16th-century holiday markets in Germany, the free-admission outdoor bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightful warm beverages and handcrafted gifts for purchase, and charming holiday vibes the entire family can enjoy. And now in its third year, another popular favorite is back – the annual Christkindlmarkt ornament, hand-painted and glass blown in Europe, portraying a market scene with holiday elements on its ice blue background ($41 at all info booths).
- Admission to the market is free but food, beverages, and handcrafted gifts all must be purchased. All markets open on November 17; Aurora and Chicago locations close on December 24 and Wrigleyville on December 31.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry (running through January 7, 2024) is a beloved annual tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree. Today the Museum features a four-story floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent holiday traditions from cultures around the world.
This year the museum will also be celebrating the wonders of snow, with an exhibition in the Lower Court featuring intricate photographs of snowflakes taken by Caltech physicist Ken Libbrecht.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum (Though January 6, 2024) invites visitors to celebrate the holidays and marvel at how light transforms a magnificent landscape. Journey along a 1-mile paved walking path (that is fully ADA compliant for guests with limited mobility), amid festive music and lighting effects, explore exciting new features and immersive installations. Afterwards, warm up by a cracking fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores, or stop in one of the concession tents for a snack and beverage. Ginkgo Restaurant in the Visitor Center will serve dinner guests view the display’s finale on Meadow Lake. The Arboretum Store will also be open for holiday shopping; gifts include a special temperature-activated, color-changing ceramic mug that will be available for purchase during all Illumination dates. Tickets start at $28 per person for nonmembers.
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park offers ice skating all winter, through March, weather permitting. Admission is free, but online reservations are required and skate rentals are available. You’ll be surrounded by the downtown skyline, with magical Christmas lights from the City of Chicago Christmas tree reflected in ‘The Bean’ / Cloud Gate sculpture. OR, head over to Maggie Daley Park, right next to Millennium Park, to the picturesque Skating Ribbon that meanders around snow-dusted pine trees and whimsical play spaces. The path is twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.
The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle (November 24 – December 31, 2023) at Lighthouse Artspace Chicago brings cutting-edge technology to meet the artistry of ballet dancers. This mesmerizing 30-minute immersive experience, set to Tchailkovsky’s music, weaves the classic tale of Marie and her toy nutcracker. Join them, on their magical adventure through the Land of Sweets, brought to life by renowned ballet dancers and innovative projection mapping technology. Pricing begins at $29.99 per person.
- While you’re here… Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago is bringing a new pop-up bar experience, Bar Humbug, to reign in the holiday season. The ArtSpace will be transformed into a winter wonderland with wall-to-wall holiday scenes. A lot like traditional German beer halls, there will be long tables and plush banquettes for groups to gather. Bar Humbug will present live musicians and DJs playing the holiday classics. Guests must be 21 to enter.
ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ will include new and exciting LED light displays, photo ops, and interactive programming including a never-before-seen garden-themed light show on the zoo’s South Lawn. Festive photo ops will dot the zoo, as well as costumed characters and Victorian carolers on select nights. Food and beverages including festive cocktails and hot cocoa will be available at Edie Levy’s Landmark Café. Snowy’s Sprits & S’more and various snack stations around the zoo. Check the calendar for special events such as sensory-friendly nights, a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, and adults-only evenings. 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. As part of the zoo’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, general admission is FREE on Mondays. Ticket sales from ZooLights directly support the zoo’s world-class animal care, global conservation efforts, and innovative learning programs and help keep the zoo free to the public 365 days a year. ZooLights will run through January 7, 2024.
For more information on Chicago holiday happenings, visit Choose Chicago.