Top Chicago Holiday Attractions to Visit This December

Chicago is a city of beautiful lights and sights year ‘round, but it’s never so beautiful or so charming as it is during the holidays.

The Magnificent Mile is truly magnificent, the waterfront sparkles and shines, and downtown is bursting with energy and festivity.

If you’re lucky enough to spend part of the holiday season in Chicago, be sure to check out a few of these fun attractions and seasonal events as part of your Christmastime rambles.

Save money for presents by spending less on attraction visits. Save up to 55% off combined admission to many of Chicago’s top attractions with the Go Chicago® Card.

Christmas Bricktacular

LEGOLAND Discovery Center
December 5 – January 3, 2016

Image credit: LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

Image credit: LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

What kid doesn’t love LEGOs? And few things can make a park full of LEGOs even more fun the way Christmastime can.

Explore a snowy Miniland, build your own LEGO ornaments, take pictures with Santa, and much more! It’s bound to be a real treat for the kids.

Tickets priced separately from regular admission.

Holiday Thorne Rooms

Art Institute of Chicago
December, 2015

Image credit: Art Institute of Chicago.

Image credit: Art Institute of Chicago.

These amazing tiny rooms are the best examples of traditional holiday décor in the entire city. From a teeny tiny little Yule log to an itty bitty Menorah, there’s something to represent everyone this holiday season.

This year, a new room is being added with the theme of “Twelfth Night.” The Thorne Rooms are a Chicago tradition! If you’re planning visit the Art Institute anyway, why not come stop by around lunchtime for the Holiday Choir? (December 7-11).

Be sure to also check out their newly wreathed lions, the iconic guardians of the original building.

Breakfast with Santa and SUE

The Field Museum
December 12, 2015

SUE, is the largest, most complete T. rex skeleton ever found in the world

Image credit: The Field Museum

Who doesn’t want to have breakfast with Santa Claus AND one of the world’s most famous dinosaur skeletons?

Celebrate the season with a buffet breakfast in the Stanley Field Hall, make some holiday crafts with the whole family, and then get your picture taken with Santa and SUE (who is one of my favorite exhibits in the entire museum).

Ice Skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

Millennium Park
December, 2015

This ice-skating rink is a perennial favorite among locals. Its convenient location makes it easy for everyone to find, and its popularity makes it the place to be this winter.

It’s also open until March, so if you want to avoid the holiday crowds there’s plenty of time to come back after in the new year.

Another fun skating option can be found in Maggie Daley Park.

Christmas Around the World

Museum of Science and Industry
November 19 – January 3, 2016

Image credit: Museum of Science & Industry.

Image credit: Museum of Science & Industry.

A tradition that began in 1942, the Museum of Science and Industry has been celebrating international Christmas traditions in style.

Each year is themed, and this year’s is inspired by the current exhibit “Robot Revolution.” From the Grand Tree with 30,000 brilliant lights to the more than 50 diverse trees styled to match cultural traditions around the world, you’ll find yourself immersed in a Christmas wonderland.

The Holiday Express: The City’s Largest Holiday Train

November 21 – January 3, 2016

Image credit: 360 CHICAGO.

Image credit: 360 CHICAGO.

This is a favorite among locals. For a long time, this famed train was set up in the lobby below but in 2012 the tradition was discontinued.

Now, 360 CHICAGO has revived this popular holiday display and turned it into something even more magnificent.

Set the train run around the perimeter of the observatory, right up against the glass – what a view!


Daley Plaza
December, 2015

Image credit: Chicago Parent.

Image credit: Chicago Parent.

This one-of-a-kind European style market is a Chicago staple, and is one of my personal favorite things to do around the holidays.

It’s part cultural celebration, part craft pair, and all fun, and it’s a must-see attraction for visitors this time of year.

Come for the authentic traditional foods and hot cider, and stay for the marvelous selection of handcrafted items and beautiful old world décor.

Lunch at the Walnut Room

December, 2015

Although it’s often tough to get in without a long wait, lunch at the famed Walnut Room in the former Marshall Fields building is a must-do activity during the holidays.

The restaurant itself is a richly appointed venue, with dark woods and rich carpets. During the holidays, the entire center of the space is transformed by a giant, themed Christmas tree.

Even if you don’t stop for a meal, head up to the 7th floor just for a glimpse of the tree.

Holiday Magic

Brookfield Zoo
December, 2015

Image credit: Chicago Zoological Society.

Image credit: Chicago Zoological Society.

Kids will love a chance to see their favorite local zoo transformed into a winter wonderland.

Visit in the evening to see the entire park lit up with a magnificent display of lights. You’ll also get to enjoy specialty themed programming, activities, and other fun family events.

Plus, you’ll even get to see how the animals celebrate the holidays with their own fun treats!

Save on Admission

However you decide to celebrate the holidays in Chicago, we know you’ll have a wonderful time.

From Christmas fairs and trees to elegant dining and beyond, there’s so much Chi-town has to offer.

Save up to 55% off combined admission to many of Chicago’s top attractions with the Go Chicago® Card.

Go Chicago Card

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