Things to do in Chicago

Mark your calendars: Here are this month's opening dates for holiday events around the Chicago area

From the Official Tree Lighting to the Chicago Botanic Garden's Lightscape, here are the November opening dates for area's holiday traditions

ZooLights 11-20
Lincoln Park Zoo

If this week's cold weather has you hoping to jumpstart plans for this holiday season, look no further. 

From Chicago’s iconic Christkindlmarket to light shows and the Christmas parade, many of the season’s iconic traditions are set to start this month. 

Whether you want to be the first in line or prepare your schedule in advance, here are 10 events to mark on your calendar.


ZooLights will return to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo with its dazzling LED light displays, carolers and more beginning on Friday, Nov. 17. Enjoy a variety of live music events scheduled throughout this year’s chilly season and purchase holiday refreshments while exploring the zoo’s attractions.

Purchase tickets on the zoo's website.

Millennium Park Tree Lighting Ceremony

Chicago’s 110th annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is also set for Nov. 17, when visitors gather every year in Millennium Park to kick off the holiday season. The lighting ceremony, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., is celebrated with a schedule of events including multiple viewing areas with screens and local musical artists, with a fireworks show following the tree lighting. 

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Watch in awe as Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse lead the illumination of 1 million lights and parade down Michigan Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 18 for The Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The iconic Chicago event will feature 385 marching band members, 40 floats, over 200 lit trees and more as guests line the street to join in on the holiday cheer.


The Chicago, Wrigleyville and Aurora Christkrindlmarkets are all set to open for the season on Nov. 17. Traditional foods like bratwurst, hot spiced wine and roasted nuts will be available, alongside a variety of handmade Christmas décor for your home. 

The Chicago Christkindlmarket will have a ‘Twas the Night Before Christkindlmarket event where visitors can purchase tickets for exclusive access the day before the market opens on Thursday, Nov. 16. An opening ceremony and ballet performance is scheduled for 6 p.m., with Santa and Mrs. Clause present to greet those kicking off the season.

The Aurora Christkindlmarket will have lantern parades on both Nov. 26 and Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m.

The events will include lantern pick-ups on stage, a welcome and reading of the story of St. Martin, a parade and a goody bag distribution. Tickets can be purchased in advance here

Winterland at Gallagher Way

Families, visitors and neighbors can be walking in a winter wonderland at Gallagher Way starting Tuesday, Nov. 21. While admission to the Wrigleyville Christkindlmarket is free, the Wrigley Field portion of Wonderland requires a purchased ticket. Admission will allow guests to experience a variety of attractions including various rides, games and more this season. 

Purchase a ticket here.

Lightscape in the Chicago Botanic Garden

Tickets are selling fast for the fifth annual Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape celebration. Starting on Nov. 10, visitors can walk through the dazzling landscapes of Evening Island, the new Winter Cathedral and added holiday trails. The experience is full of bright colors, lights and festive music. 

Tickets can be purchased here.

Ice Skating Ribbon

The winding trail of the Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon will return to business on Nov. 17. Tickets for the first window, from Nov. 17 to Dec. 3, will be released at noon on Nov. 6. 

Tickets for the second window of operation, from Dec. 4 to Dec. 17, will be released on Nov. 20, with tickets for the final window from Dec. 18 to Jan. 7 being released on Dec. 4. The skating ribbon will run until March 10. 

Learn more here. 

World of Illumination: Arctic Adventure

See the Six Flags Great America landscape transform in this drive-through experience that features millions of lights. Starting on Nov. 17, guests can venture through lights displays in the parking lot led by Beti the Yeti. The park will also offer a Carousel Lights and Market on select nights where visitors can take more pictures or purchase snacks and decorations.

Arctic Adventure tickets can be purchased here.

Aurora Festival of Lights

One of the largest outdoor holiday lights drive-throughs in the Chicago area is coming back to Aurora's Philipps Park. Drive through a mile of light displays to a holiday soundtrack on a closed-circuit radio station for free starting on Nov. 24.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lights at the Museum of Science and Industry

Holiday displays among a forest of over 50 trees are just part of this year's Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lights at the Museum of Science and Industry.

In addition to the scenic sights, the museum's four-story Grand Tree highlights the exhibit that celebrates the diversity of holiday traditions around the globe.

Snap photos of the Museum of Science and Industry’s four-story Grand Tree and explore a forest of over 50 trees and holiday displays opening Saturday, Nov. 18. This seasonal exhibit celebrates the diversity of holiday traditions around the globe. 

Entry to the holiday exhibit is included in a general admission ticket to the museum.

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic

Holiday Magic returns to the Brookfield Zoo on Nov. 24, with an extensive schedule planned for this season.

From various shows featuring juggling elves, carolers and ice carving to dance parties, virtual reality experiences and interactive displays, there's no shortage of fantastic sights at the region's largest zoo this holiday season.

Tickets to the zoo’s various entrances for Holiday Magic can be purchased here.

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