The cold and snowy days have made it easy to slip right on into the holiday spirit a bit early this year. Keep the momentum building with a Christmas market, holiday light shows galore, and a chance to ride the Polar Express. Read on for our best picks for the weekend.

photo: Morton Arboretum



Have Milk & Cookies with Mary Macaroni
A Little Photo Studio invites you to a Milk & Cookies Happy Hour with Mary Macaroni, who will entertain with her catchy sing-a-longs and hilarious magic! Fri. Event details

Experience Gallagher Way’s Winter Wonderland
Gallagher Way will be decked out with holiday flare bigger and brighter than ever before! You’ll find a mini Christkindlmarket, ice skating, Santa’s workshop, a 30-foot Christmas tree and more! Fri.-Sun. Event details


Experience Chicago’s German Christmas Market at Christkindlmarket 
Bundle up for this outdoor market that brings the cherished tradition of the Christkindlmarkt to Daley Plaza and adds a heap of local charm. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Keep the Bah-Humbugs Away with A Christmas Carol
There are always a few versions of Marley’s thought-provoking caper across town. But, the one that’s everlasting (and tear-jerking) is at The Goodman Theatre, which was first staged there more than 40 years ago. Fri.-Sun. Event details

Ride The Polar Express
Relive the magic of the holiday classic The Polar Express with a one-hour train ride to meet Santa, set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack. Sat. & Sun. Event details

Millennium Park

Open for the Season! Millennium Park’s Ice Skating Rink
Take a spin on the ice with a magnificent view at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Once again this year, the rink will offer free ice skating lessons on weekends. Fri.-Sun. Event details

See the Lighting of Chicago’s 106th Annual Tree
Bundle up and take the family to see the lighting of Chicago’s Christmas tree, set among the city’s sparkling skyline and the iconic art and architecture of Millennium Park. Fri. Event details

Navy Pier

Burn Off Extra Energy at Cloud Busters at Chicago Children’s Museum
Take kids to play on CCM’s new 30-ton, 37-foot-tall steel dreamscape that celebrates adventure and risk-taking that are inherent to childhood. Fri.-Sun. Event details

West Town

Get the Holidays Started with The House’s The Nutcracker
This creative reinvention of the beloved tale has an original spin: It focuses on Clara’s journey to save her family from the Rat King. Both funny and heartwarming, it will remind everyone about the real reason for the season. Fri.-Sun. Event details



Walk in the Glow of Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden
Wander into a festive world of wonder and light along a mile-long path, as the night comes alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a playful choir of singing trees to a spectacular waterfall of light. Fri.-Sun. Event details


Return to an Old Favorite: Illumination at Morton Arboretum
Walk the mile-long path and gaze in amazement at the LED-lit trees through the winter woods.  Enjoy the light shows set to The Nutcracker music and glowing trees that respond to touch and sound. Fri.-Sun. Event details.


Get on Santa’s Nice List at Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Santa HQ offers the opportunity to experience the magic of Santa’s workshop through interactive digital activities. Use the magic mirror to transform into one of Santa’s elves and find out where you land on Santa’s list with the Naughty or Nice O’Meter. Fri.-Sun. Event details.

Have a Sensory-Friendly Santa HQ Visit
Fashion Outlets of Chicago invites families to enjoy a sensory-friendly Santa HQ experience geared toward children with autism and other special needs. Sun. Event details

— Maria Chambers


Holiday Shows That Will Dazzle the Whole Family

Pinkies Up! Holiday Teas to Plan Now

Holiday Train & Sleigh Rides to Jump Aboard Now

. . . and check out our Events calendar for even more suggestions.