Thanksgiving in Chicago 2013

Chicago attractions

Spending time with friends and family in Chicagoland for Thanksgiving this year? Even if you’re not spending your entire time in Chicago itself, it’s a great idea to make the most of your trip by spending an afternoon, or maybe the weekend in the city. Check out some of these seasonal Chicago attractions to complement the turkey and cranberry sauce. They’re a great way to explore Chicago during the holidays, and get an early glimpse of the famous Chicago holiday decorations.

McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
November 28, 2013

Marching bands, floats, giant balloons, celebrities – this parade has it all! Some highlights of the 2013 parade include: Madeline, Pac-Man, and Arthur balloons; floats sponsored by the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Festival Ballet; and special appearances by the Harlem Globe Trotters, Ronald McDonald himself, and of course, Santa Claus! There will also be a number of staged performances throughout the parade route, spanning the musical gamut from Broadway tunes to a performance by the Chicago Gay Man’s Chorus. Arrive early to snag a spot along the parade route, or enjoy watching snuggled in your living room.

Lions that guard the Chicago Art Institute

The Lions that guard the Art Institute get festive! photo by Dan Perry

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Palmer House Hilton
November 28, 2013

If you’re not one for cooking at home – or, if like many Chicagoans, you’re dealing with big family in a small apartment – check out one of the many fabulous spreads throughout the city. One of the most famous is the Thanksgiving Dinner held each year at the Lockwood Restaurant in the historic Palmer House hotel. It’s a bit pricey, but the elegant atmosphere and unsurpassed dining experience are worth it. Visit the near by Art Institute of Chicago to whet your appetite for the finer things in life and then head over to this fantastic dinner. Remember to make reservations soon, as it books up quickly for this special event.

Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting
November 26, 2013

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Christmas Tree, so we expect a some pretty special stuff during this event. The ceremony begins at 6 pm in Daley Plaza, although you can also watch from the comfort of your home (which you may want to do if it’s typical November weather!). Daley Plaza is located in the heart of the city, and is a great place to begin your explorations of Chicago. You can customize a Chicago Pass to make the most of your excursions.

McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Sailors marching in the 2011 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Holiday Model Trains at the John Hancock Observatory

This is a great one for the kids.  All season long the Hancock Observatory will display a fantastic holiday model train exhibit in the lobby. After checking out the trains, pay a visit to the Observatory atop one of the tallest buildings in town, soak up the gorgeous views of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and the architectural wonderland that is downtown Chicago, and then hop up to the Signature Room for dinner and drinks.

Holiday Decorations along the Magnificent Mile

Given its eclectic mixture of high-end stores, funky independent shops, and the most creatively designed major chain stores (a new Walgreens has a wine bar, for example) it’s not surprising that the Magnificent Mile is even more beautiful than usual during the holiday season. Right around Thanksgiving you’ll start to see the holiday decorations go up, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be tempted to photograph all of them. Get some holiday shopping done at this iconic Chicago attraction and enjoy the first tastes of the December holidays.

Of course, there are plenty of other events and Chicago holiday attractions going on in the Windy City specifically for the December holidays – stay tuned for more recommendations and info on those! Happy Thanksgiving!

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