Chicago holidays

Holiday Guide: Things to Do Around Chicago This Week Amid the Pandemic

The pandemic hasn't stopped Chicago's holiday spirit

Though the coronavirus pandemic has changed the look of the holiday season, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy around the Chicago area this month.

From visiting Santa Claus to enjoying numerous light shows, people can still find new ways to ring in the holidays throughout December.

Here's a list of things to do around the Chicago area this season:

Visit Santa Claus In-Person or Virtually

Several malls across the Chicago area are continuing the tradition of hosting Santa Claus in-person this year with social distancing protocols in place.

Some area shopping centers are moving the visits virtually, along with several websites, encouraging families to chat with Santa and Mrs. Claus online.

Here's a list of some malls and their plans for the holidays.

See ZooLights in Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park Zoo announced the facility will remain open throughout December for Zoolights and close staring Jan. 4, 2021.

In its 26th annual event, ZooLights opened to Chicago on Nov. 20 for $5 a person. The event continues to run nearly every day starting at 4 p.m until Jan. 3, 2021.

The following five days will be free of charge for Lincoln Park ZooLights: Dec. 21 and Dec. 29.

"ZooLights will feature hundreds of luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities, all under the glow of millions of illuminated lights, plus reduced capacity admission to keep your family safe," the zoo's website reads.

All holiday events will have limited reservations or tickets available, the zoo said. Tickets are available at lpz.eventbrite.com.

Art on theMART Along the Chicago River

Though live performances were put to a halt this year due to the coronavirus, Chicagoans can still see a show along the river on Wacker Dr. between Wells and Lake St.

Art on theMART features 25-story-tall colorful videos on the front of the Merchandise Mart, which people can view free of charge each night at 7 p.m.

Though tickets are not required, all visitors are required to wear face coverings and comply with social distancing regulations. Based on the City of Chicago's COVID-19 guidelines, no more than 100 people can be on the Riverwalk jetty.

According to the website, Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world.

Catch Illumination at the Morton Arboretum

The annual Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum walk-through light show will be reimagined this winter due to coronavirus precautions.

The 30 to 40 minute-long light show will incorporate a new drive-through experience featuring color, light and music, according to the Morton Arboretum.

This winter, the show will remain open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, along with allowing visitors Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Tickets are $39 for members per car on a "peak night" and $29 on a standard night. Guests can expect to pay $49 per car on a peak night and $39 on a standard night.

Tickets can be purchased for members here and guests here.

Watch Olaf's Light Show at Elmhurst Home

"Olaf's Winter Spectacular," the free light and Disney musical show at an Elmhurst home, continues this week.

Disney's Frozen characters Olaf and Sven can be heard from 760 Hillside Ave. in Elmhurst. Vehicles are able to park outside the brightly lit front lawn and tune into a local radio station to hear a custom holiday performance.

The light show can be enjoyed on the half hour mark beginning at 5 p.m. and lasting until 10 p.m. for about 15 minutes.

Enjoy Macy's Christmas Tree and Holiday Windows

Though Santa will not make an appearance at Chicago's Macy's storefront, shoppers can still enjoy the "Great Tree" up again for the holidays.

Macy's Christmas tree will remain the centerpiece of the Chicago State Street location where customers can take pictures through Jan. 3, 2021.

Macy's 53rd annual holiday window theme will honor first responders and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic as a "thank you," a press release said.

"This holiday season, Macy’s will celebrate the undeniable spirit of first responders, essential workers, marchers for equality and Chicagoans who showed their grit, good humor and hopeful spirit during a tumultuous year in a series of window displays taking the form of a thank you letter," the company said.

Macy's announced their holiday message this year is "Thank You, Gracias, Merci," providing multilingual expressions of gratitude.

The windows will remain on display through Jan. 3, 2021.

Attend Virtual Christkindlmarket

With crowds unable to gather for Chicago's annual Christkindlmarket, visitors can still hold the tradition from the comfort of their own homes.

For the first time ever, the marketplace will host a virtual Christkindlmarket "Home for the Holidays," which includes online shopping, family-friendly events and activities through the end of December, according to the website.

Visit here to shop and participate in events at the virtual marketplace this holiday season.

Ice Skate at Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park's Ice Skating Ribbon remains open this holiday season with a reservation requirement to ensure social distancing.

Ice skating will not be available in Millennium Park this year, but Chicagoans can still enjoy the iconic Christmas tree from afar.

The tree can be seen at Millennium Park from Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for groups of 10 people or fewer, face coverings and social distancing required.

Drive Through Let It Shine Light Show in Northbrook

Visit Northbrook Court this December for the Let It Shine drive-through to enjoy a holiday light show from the car.

The light show is open 4:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Let It Shine will be closed Christmas day.

Tickets must be purchased in advance, costing $29.99 on weekdays and $39.99 on weekends with a fast pass price available. The ticket also gives exclusive deals at locations like Aveda, California Pizza Kitchen and Crate and Barrel, among others.

For tickets to Let It Shine, click here.

Stroll Through Jack Frost Winter Walk and Christmas Tree Farm

Located on Chicago's Goose Island, Jack Frost Winter Walk and Christmas Tree Farm will also be reimagined this year due to the coronavirus.

Because of state and city mitigations, visitors are only allowed up to 1 and a half hours inside the walk with no outside food or drink permitted.

Visitors are also required to follow additional guidelines such as wearing a face mask, cashless purchases and buying non-refundable tickets.

"Pick a perfect Christmas Tree, grab a memorable Instagrammable moment, or just get out of the house and get some fresh air on a perfect midwinter evening, as you explore the largest, and only, evergreen Christmas Tree Trail in downtown Chicago," the website said.

Virtually Visit Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light Tours

Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has not opened its doors this holiday season due to COVID-19, but has opened Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light virtual tours through Dec. 24.

"Today, the Museum’s beloved annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of 40 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe," the website read.

The museum will offer its next 45-minute free live tour on Thursday, Christmas Eve, at 4:30 p.m.

The exhibition will feature Christmas traditions from nearly 40 countries, including Norway, China, the Czech Republic, Kenya, Ecuador and others. Various holidays will also be featured, such as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Diwali.

See a Christmas Light Show From the Car in Pingree Grove

Goebbert's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard in Pingree Grove opened Chrsitmas Light Show 2020 for a drive-through holiday experience.

The light show will run through Jan. 3, 2021 every night, except Mondays. Cars can drive through Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., along with Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m.

For a single-family vehicle, a ticket costs $20. For a limo, shuttle bus or "large vehicle," a ticket costs $50.

To purchase tickets, click here.

Contact Us