With the holidays in full swing, December is a magical month filled with things to do throughout the city. There’s plenty to keep you busy as we wrap up 2022, including beloved Christmas plays, ultra-festive pop-up bars, holiday marketsNew Year’s Eve celebrations, and more. Check out our list of favorite Chicago activities and events to enjoy this December 2022.

Top events in Chicago this December

Visit Winterland at Gallagher Way (through December): Winterland at Gallagher Way is back and bigger than ever, with festive family-friendly activities now expanded into iconic Wrigley Field.

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

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

Feel the holiday magic at Christkindlmarket (through Dec. 24): The iconic German-inspired holiday market takes over downtown Daley Plaza with handmade gifts, traditional treats, and unique events.

Explore holiday traditions from around the world (through December): The holidays are headed to the Museum of Science and Industry for a special exhibit featuring a four-story, floor-to-dome grand Christmas tree. 

Friends at Christkindlmarket

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

Don’t miss the Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum (through December): The tenth-annual Illumination event includes fifty acres of the arboretum to explore, filled with a spectacle of light, sound, and color. 

Bask in the glow of Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier (through December): Light sculptures and gardens, a skating rink, a kiddie train, and more are part of Navy Pier’s indoor winter wonderland.

Find zen at the Winter Flower Show in Garfield Park (through December): The Garfield Park Conservatory has a new flower show themed around snow, featuring white poinsettias, hyacinths, salvias, and more.

More events in Chicago this December

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Illumination: Tree Lights; photo courtesy The Morton Arboretum

Join the Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (Dec. 2, 9, and 16): Sing your heart out alongside a variety of choir and ensemble groups at the annual Millennium Park holiday sing-along. 

Celebrate culture at a Pre-Kwanzaa Marketplace (Dec. 2 – 3): Along with plenty of holiday shopping, this free market in Woodlawn features art workshops, a drum circle, live music, and more.

Join the Annual Winter Walk on Wilson (Dec. 2): Explore Uptown during this free event, featuring treats, warm drinks, live holiday music, pop-up markets, and more.

Feast at Pilsen Gourmet (Dec. 16): This foodie event celebrates the Pilsen neighborhood, known as a mecca for Latino cuisine, with unlimited tastings and chef demos from more than 25 restaurants.

Immerse yourself in color at Winter Colorland (through December): Chicago’s Color Factory is bringing the winter whimsy with brand new seasonal installations, including a ski lift through a confetti snowstorm.

Ride public transportation with Santa Claus (through December): Each year, Chicago launches a special holiday train that traverses the city with Santa and his elves. And keep an eye out for the Holiday Bus at ground level.

Laugh it up at Time Out Market (Dec. 21): Tony’s Rooftop Bar inside Time Out Market will become a pop-up comedy club, featuring Zanie’s best stand-up acts.

Go see Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Dec. 11 – 31): This family-friendly live performance is based on Eric Kimmel’s popular book, telling the story of a traveling troupe of actors who help bring the celebration and magic of Hanukkah to life. 

See local artists at work (Dec. 16): The Bridgeport Art Center hosts open studio events every third Friday, when you can wander through various workshops showcasing a variety of mediums.

Visit Harry Potter’s Magic of Play (through December): Fans of the iconic book and movie won’t want to miss their chance to visit the interactive space that brings Hogwarts and Harry’s experience as a first-year student to life, exclusively at Water Tower Place. 

Color Factory ball pit
Time Out Market Chicago

Check out Eight Crazy Nights pop-up (through December): It’s hard not to love a pop-up bar, especially one that’s Hannuakah themed with over-the-top decor and lots of special menu items. 

Catch It’s a Wonderful Life live (through December): It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago is one of the longest-running holiday plays in Chicago, arranged by the American Blues theater. The beloved story of George Bailey is brought to life in a 1940s radio broadcast tradition that can’t be missed.

Listen to the Beach Boys at the Chicago Theatre (Dec. 18): Listen to your favorite holiday songs performed by The Beach Boys, accompanied by an orchestra, at the Chicago Theatre.

Don’t miss a Magical Cirque Christmas (starts Dec. 6): Get in the holiday spirit with a special Cirque Christmas show featuring a variety of dazzling performances and artists alongside classic holiday tunes.

Shop at the One of a Kind Holiday Show (Dec. 1 – 4): Head to the Merchandise Mart to browse the art and offerings from over 500 artists for this annual holiday market that’s celebrating its 21st year in Chicago. 

Race the Santa Hustle at Solider Field (Dec. 3): Don your best red suit for the annual Santa-themed 5K race starting and ending at Soldier Field. 

Write your own poetry at the Field Museum (through December): This poetry pop-up series at the acclaimed Field Museum of Natural History will feature poets in residence at a variety of exhibits. 

One of a Kind winter show

Explore Model Trains and Miniature Worlds in Pullman (Dec. 29): Kids of all ages can try their hand at building model trains and dioramas in this historic neighborhood.

Watch the Menorah Lighting in the West Loop (Dec. 18): Join this joyous celebration of Hanukkah at Mary Bartelme Park, complete with live music and holiday treats.

Celebrate the traditions of Kwanzaa (Dec. 28): This free program at the DuSable Black History Museum honors Kwanzaa traditions with a drum call, marketplace, and children’s storytime.

Embark on a culinary adventure during a Chinatown Food Tour (Dec. 3, 10, and 17): Taste your way around one of Chicago’s best culinary neighborhoods, from Hong Kong dim sum to spicy Szechuan.

Find last-minute gifts at the Hyde Park Holiday Market (Dec. 17): Held at The Promontory, this one-day market features unique art, wellness products, stocking stuffers, and more.

Sing along to the Sound of Music (Dec. 3 – 4): Sip specialty cocktails, such as Raindrops on Roses and When the Bee Stings, as you enjoy the sing-along version of the iconic Sound of Music at the Music Box Theatre. 

Shop The Night Market Before Christmas at a historic hotel (Dec. 9 – 10): Shop local this holiday season with the pop-up market taking over the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel from 5-10p.  

Peruse the Renegade Craft Fair (Dec 17 – 18): Morgan Manufacturing is home to this year’s winter-themed craft fair featuring goods from curated local artists and food and drink specials.

Take a 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 holiday window display, and ends at Christkindlmarket for hot cocoa.

Friends enjoy dim sum in Chicago's Chinatown

Join a holiday caroling party at Old Town School of Folk Music (through December): Now in its 24th year, this annual holiday sing-along is sure to put you in a festive mood.

Browse the Winter Market in Andersonville (Dec. 2 – 4): This is the first-ever, open-air bazaar neighborhood market in Andersonville, featuring handmade goods from local artists.

See the Day of the Dead exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art (through Dec. 12): This year is the 36th annual Day of the Dead exhibition to honor and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed.

Celebrate holiday magic at Brookfield Zoo (through December): Head to the Brookfield Zoo for a light-tastic festive display that includes over two million lights, a skating rink, illuminated animal sculptures, and more.

See a candlelight concert at a historic mansion (Dec. 16): Enjoy classic holiday songs performed by a live string quartet inside Logan Square’s gorgeous Stan Mansion.

Take the kids to see the Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party (through December): Beatrix Potter’s iconic novels come to life throughout a holiday tea party show at the Chicago Children’s Theatre. 

Celebrate the season at Jack Frost WinterFest (starts December 3): The massive pop-up on Goose Island is back, this time transforming into a winter wonderland featuring ice skating, cocktails, ax throwing, bumper cars, and more.

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

Sip craft beers at BrewLights at the zoo (Dec. 1): 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.

Enjoy a Christmas sing-a-long at the Music Box (starting Dec. 9): Celebrate over 39 years of holiday cheer at the Music Box with the annual sing-along & double feature of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Sip festive cocktails at Frosty’s: A Christmas Bar (through December): 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. 

Santa Baby Bar x Rudolph's

Check out the Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade (Dec. 4): The largest motorcycle parade in Chicago is a sight to see, and also does good for the community, too. Thousands of motorcyclists come join this parade, and donate toys for kids in need.

Sip all the wine at Chicago Wine Fest (Dec. 10): Ravenswood’s Artifacts Event is home to this year’s annual Chicago Wine Fest, featuring over 20 wineries and pours of various wines, and a DJ for entertainment, too. 

Ring in the New Year with a 5K (Dec. 31): What better way to end one year and usher in a new one than to start your morning with a 5K on the lakefront that ends with a champagne toast.

Head to the Immersive Nutcracker (through December): Lighthouse Artspace in Chicago transforms into the Immersive Nutcracker exhibit, including the music and scenes from the iconic play. 

Don’t miss the Lion King at the Cadillac Palace Theater (through December): The beloved musical returns to Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theater for an extended stay throughout November.

Go see A Christmas Carol at the Goodman (through December): This year is the 44th annual celebration of the beloved holiday tale that tells the heartwarming story of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Visit the Nick Cave exhibit at the DuSable Black History Museum (ends Dec. 15): The Color Is: Fashion Exhibition covers the artistic works of Nick Cave, and his brother Jack Cave, with 40-50 couture fashion looks and objects.

Indulge at the Museum of Ice Cream (through December): Part whimsy, and part delicious, the Museum of Ice Cream features 14 magical installations and the option to sample various sweet treats throughout the museum. 

Visit the Art of the Brick at the Museum of Science + Industry (through December): You won’t want to miss the world’s largest display of LEGO art featuring works made from over one million lego pieces.

Shop the Randolph Street Holiday Market (Dec. 17 – 18): From antiques to clothes to collectibles, there’s plenty to browse at the ever-popular holiday market in Plumber’s Hall with over 125 vendors.

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

Be mesmerized by Art on theMart (through December): Head to the riverfront for a nightly display of light and music projected onto theMART, including a special seasonal program featuring The Nutcracker.

Learn about the country’s most influential Black writers (through December): The newest exhibit to the American Writers Museum honors the contributions of Black writers throughout American literature, showcasing original artwork and interactive experiences to help tell the full story.

See the Wild Color exhibit at the Field Museum (through December): The latest exhibit at the Field Museum plays with the wonder of color, and includes multiple sensory rooms highlighting the colors of the rainbow, a projection that allows you to transform into a yellow butterfly, and much more.

Countdown to 2023 at Zoo Year’s Eve (Dec. 31): Lincoln Park Zoo will be home to a dazzling light-filled New Year’s Eve celebration to ring in the new year.

Admire the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Navy Pier (Dec. 31): At the stroke of midnight, the lakefront will be lit up with an over-the-top fireworks show to kick off 2023.