6 Things to Do in Chicago on Thanksgiving Weekend

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 things to do in Chicago to complement the turkey and cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving weekend.

They’re a great way to explore Chicago during the holidays, and get an early glimpse of their famous holiday decorations.

If you’re planning on taking the relatives to visit the major sights while they’re in town, don’t forget to pick up a few all-inclusive Go Chicago® Cards to save on admission to all the best attractions.

McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Downtown Chicago
November 26, 2015

This parade has it all. In addition to the nation’s best marching bands, ginormous helium balloons of your favorite cartoon characters, and gorgeously decorated floats, you can expect tons of musical talent, too!

Arrive early to snag a spot along the parade route, or enjoy watching snuggled in your living room.

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Palmer House Hilton

The Loop
November 26, 2015

Image credit: Lockwood Restaurant.

Image credit: Lockwood Restaurant.

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. Remember to make reservations soon, as it books up quickly for this special event.

Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting

Millennium Park
November 28, 2015

Image credit: Choose Chicago.

Image credit: Choose Chicago.

This year’s ceremony will be held in the new Millennium Park location, although you can also watch from the comfort of your home (which you may want to do if it’s typical November weather!).

If you do choose to venture abroad, Millennium Park is also home to a number of excellent Chicago attractions, from the award-winning Art Institute of Chicago to the kid-favorite Lurie Garden (pretty fascinating even in the cold weather).


Downtown Chicago
November 20 – December 24, 2015

Image credit: Chicago Parent.

Image credit: Chicago Parent.

Thanksgiving is right about the time when Chicago’s gamed Christkindlmarket gets going, a lovely tradition you won’t want to miss out on. It’s basically a combination Christmas craft fair and German food extravaganza – two of our favorite things in one!

It’s a great place to get some holiday shopping done, and is a wonderful way to experience Chicago’s strong German heritage.

Holiday Windows

The Magnificent Mile
Late November – December

Image credit: Magnificent Mile Facebook page.

Image credit: Magnificent Mile Facebook page.

Given its eclectic mixture of high-end stores, funky independent shops, and the most creatively designed major chain stores, 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 and enjoy the first tastes of the December holidays.

Bonus Attraction: Mag Mile Lights Festival

Image credit: Magnificent Mile Facebook page.

Image credit: Magnificent Mile Facebook page.

If you’re in town the weekend before Thanksgiving, don’t miss out on the BMO Harris Magnificent Mile Lights Festival! It’s a beautiful celebration of light and color along one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, filled with music, dancing, fireworks, and more.

Save on Admission

If your Thanksgiving plans take you out and about this year, be sure to snag a Go Chicago® Card to save on admission to all your favorite attractions. After all, it’s time to start saving up for those holiday gifts!

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

Happy Thanksgiving!
Go Chicago Card

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