It can be hard to love the cold, blustery months in Chicago — sometimes we just want to retreat into our cozy homes and hibernate until spring. To help beat the chill — and the boredom — make plans to get out and about by checking out our lineup of the best things to do in Chicago and the suburbs this month. From Veterans Day to Thanksgiving to the kickoff to the holiday season, we’ve got you covered.
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Lincoln Park Zoo ZooLights
In its 28th year, the Lincoln Park Zoo ZooLights are a bonafide holiday favorite in Chicago. Running from November 19 – January 1, visitors can enjoy vibrant themed light displays across the city’s beloved free zoo. Daily admission to the lights is $5, except Mondays, which remain free. Bring the family or a friend, but don’t miss out on this tradition. More information can be found on the Lincoln Park Zoo Website.
2001 N. Clark St.
Harry Potter™: Magic at Play
Wizards and muggles alike are sure to get a kick out of this event, which has a multi-month run in Chicago beginning November 11. Held at Water Tower Place, the curiosity and fun is endless with “wizard classes like Potions, Charms and Divination” or find the “many wonders that hide in the Forbidden Forest.” While there, explore three floors of activities and “celebrations” of your favorite moments from the series. There is a lot of magic to discover, head over to the Harry Potter™: Magic at Play to buy tickets.
835 N. Michigan Ave.
The Sound of Music
The music, the romance, the splendor of a well-beloved storyline — The Sound of Music is debuting this month at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Enjoy the songs you love or, for first-time viewers, get swept away in the awe of this 50-some-year-old production — on run from November 9 – January 14. Tickets can be found on the Paramount Theatre website, where production logistics can also be found.
23 East Galena Blv., Aurora
Holiday Cards for Our Troops
Every November, we annually celebrate Veteren’s Day. In honor of this, The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is starting the month off strong with an open call for Holiday Cards for Our Troops. In partnership with United Soldiers and Sailors of America, PMML will be collecting cards until November 30 to send to troops across the globe. Visitors to the museum are encouraged to stop by the card making station to send a special message to those overseas who could use one. Learn more about the program on the PMML webpage.
104 S. Michigan Ave.
A Mile In The Dark
What happens when the person you thought you knew is someone else entirely? Find out in the eerily enticing production of A Mile In The Dark, a co-production between Interrobang Theatre Project and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Let this story of loss and understanding bring you back to the theater this fall. More information can be found on the Interrobang Theatre Project website.
5315 N. Clark St.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum
Around Chicagoland they sure know how to combine the thrill of the holiday season with the great outdoors — and Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum is a prime example of that. In its 10th season of the series — running November 19 through early January — explore the 50-acres of grounds decked out in colorful lights, each as awe-inspiring as the next. This is a perfect trip for families or friends looking for a peaceful night during the busy holiday season. Ticket pricing and event information can be found on the The Morton Arboretum website.
4100 IL-53, Lisle
Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II
The important work of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is unparalleled. And that work continues with their latest exhibit, Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II — curated by the National World War II Museum. This collection of photos, memorabilia and more are on display now through January — making it a great destination for folks looking to honor Veterans Day this month. Find out more about this powerful series on the IHMEC website.
9603 Woods Drive, Skokie
Through November 27, Porchlight Music Theatre is showcasing the fan-favorite RENT. For over 25 years, this production has thrilled audiences with a universal story of complex adulthood set in the heart of New York City. Fans of the show or newcomers to its legacy will no doubt be entertained. Tickets and more information can be found on the Porchlight Music Theatre website.
1016 N. Dearborn St.
Laughs on a Hot Tin Roof
Head over to Downtown Evanston, where every Wednesday night they have live comedy and great atmosphere. The new comedy showcase, held at Five and Dime, features four comics weekly with an admission fee of only $10. Need a pick me up or just love to laugh, then your Wednesday nights just got a whole lot funnier. The Laughs on a Hot Tin Roof webpage has all the additional information you need.
1026 Davis St., Evanston
Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Gardens
Of all the decorations and light shows across the North Shore, it’s hard to find one more unique than Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. From November 11 – January 8, venture over to the gardens in Glencoe for “an after dark, illuminated trail” that takes you across the grounds to witness dazzling displays. Fit for the whole family or just for friends! Information on admission and logistics can be found on the Chicago Botanic Gardens website.
1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe
November 3-6: Jurassic World Live Tour
Looking for a ferociously good time? The Jurassic World Live Tour is stopping in Chicagoland and you won’t want to miss it! Witness the 24 film-accurate, life-sized dinosaurs — operated by animatronics and performers — as they dominate the stage to the well-known, classic score of the film saga. This series has a limited local run, so grab your tickets while you still can — visit the Jurassic World website for more.
Allstate Arena, 6920 North Mannheim Rd., Rosemont
November 4: Stews and Brews
With cold weather quickly approaching, the good folks of Highland Park know how to beat the chills — plenty of warm food and warm company. Join the HP community for this year’s final installment of Stews and Brews, a public event with endless cozy food from different cultures, tons of warm and cold beverages and, to cap it all off, an evening of live blues music. Can you think of a more inviting way to spend a fall evening? For more information, visit the Enjoy Highland Park website.
The Lot, 523 Central, Highland Park
November 4: Starry Night Soirée
Join Under the Same Sky — a locally-based, suicide awareness and survivor support organization — for their second annual Starry Night Soirée. The evening will be filled with art, design and entertainment. The event will also include “a lively paddle raise to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Healing Conversations program.” Your support can make a difference for the whole community — registration can be found on the UTSS website, or consider donating to their cause.
November 5: Q After Dark
This one-night-only event is calling on all dance lovers to partake in the power of the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater — a Chicago-based African-American contemporary dance company — performance of Q After Dark. Transcending across genres; sharing “contemporary voices”; sparking a “visceral experience” — these are just some of the elements Deeply Rooted brings to the stage. Ticket prices vary, and can be found on the Auditorium Theatre website.
50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.
November 5: It’s a SMASH! An Eco-fest Pumpkin Smash Festival
Did you know that throwing your pumpkins in the garbage can be counterproductive to their natural decomposition? This little known fact sparked the upcoming Eco-Fest Pumpkin Smash, hosted by WasteNot Compost, where attendees are able to smash and break up their used pumpkins, as well as enjoy 20+ sustainable food, beverage and craft vendors. The event is sure to be as thrilling as it is eco-conscious — head over to the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce webpage for more information.
1500 W. Catalpa Ave.
November 5: Dazzlin’ Dolly: A Special Story Time with Suzanne Slade!
The Book Stall always has events to bring you in from the cold and stimulate your mind. This month, join them in welcoming Suzanne Slade, as she shares her new book, “Dazzlin’ Dolly: The Songwriting, Hit-Singing, Guitar-Picking Dolly Parton!” The story imaginatively retells Parton’s life story and how she became a well-loved icon. The event, from 10:30 – 11:30am, will include storytelling, trivia and music — suited for children or even curious adults. More information on The Book Stall website.
811 Elm St., Winnetka
November 9: Holiday Sip and Shop
Need something to entice you to get your holiday shopping done early? Let the festivities at The Arboretum Store get you started! Enjoy an evening of wine and spirit tasting while purusing the holiday goodies throughout the store. There are a number of in-store promotions as well, like a trunk show from jewelry artist Patricia Locke. This night is sure to get you in the festive spirit — registration can be found on The Morton Arboretum website, with discounted tickets for designated drivers as well.
4100 IL-53, Lisle
November 10-11: Veterans Day at Pritzker Military Museum & Library
On November 11, we honor Veterans Day here in the US. As a small token of gratitude, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library will have free admission that day and the day before to encourage people of all ages to explore our nation’s military and political history. See exhibits such as Life Behind the Wire: Prisoners of War, “which highlights American POW experiences from the American Revolution to the present.” Artifacts, archival materials, photographs and more are available from 10am – 4pm on Veterans Day. More information can be found on the PMML website.
104 S. Michigan Ave.
November 12: Teen Nature Days
The Shedd Aquarium offers a number of programs to get Chicagoans involved in eco-clean up. That continues this month with their Teen Nature Days, and this installment’s theme is Habitat Restoration. Your teen will “get to explore local beaches, waterways and forest preserves, while helping to restore and protect them.” Curious about wildlife conservation or restoration? The Shedd’s series of programs are a great place to start. For more information on how to help or to register, visit the Shedd Aquarium website.
1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
November 12-13: Randolph Street Holiday Market Festival
Self-dubbed “America’s Largest and Liveliest Urban Antiques Market” returns for its 19th year with all the vintage and niche items of your dreams. Browse the goods of 125 vendors all while enjoying live entertainment and local eats. The event promises a weekend of non-stop “treasure hunting” at Plumber’s Hall. If you can’t make it this time around, don’t worry, the event will return in December. Curious buyers can find more information on the event and admission on the Randolph Street Holiday Market Festival webpage.
1341 W. Randolph St.
November 16: Christmas Around The World and Holidays of Light
The Museum of Science and Industry is getting into the holiday spirit this year with their grand exhibit, Christmas Around The World and Holidays of Light. Take a journey across the globe without having to leave Chicago! The holiday tradition — now celebrating its 80th anniversary — will bring wonder and even a little education to guests as they wind through the exhibit, which not only covers Christmas but Kwanzaa, Diwali, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year and more! Tickets to this cheerful experience are available on the Museum of Science and Industry website.
5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
November 17: Lightning Down: A World War II Story of Survival
The horrors of World War II and The Holocaust are not ones to be forgotten. And works like “Lightning Down: A World War II Story of Survival,” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Clavinare are a part of keeping that narrative alive. Join the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in discussion Clavin as he recounts the “harrowing and unforgettable story” of human endurance in his latest book — based on the true, inspiring saga of American WWII fighter pilot Joe Moser who was held captive by the Nazis. More information on this incredible work and the opportunity to witness it is available on the IHMEC website.
9603 Woods Drive, Skokie
November 17: Passport to France
Who says you can’t enjoy the wonders of France while in America? Join the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago as they celebrate the food, culture, entertainment and more from France. This special evening — celebrating its 38th year — will feature over 20 food and beverage vendors, as well as an auction and a lively DJ set. Don’t miss this unique opportunity at the Chicago History Museum! More information can be found on the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago website.
1601 N. Clark St.
November 17-20: JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival
Returning for its 10th anniversary, the Jewish Film Festival, hosted by the Jewish Community Center Chicago, will showcase 10 films — both in-person and virtually — as well as various additional programming, including a filmmaker Q&A. The curated films are “culturally diverse, Jewishly inspired films that will entertain, educate and inspire audiences.” While many films will be screened this month, be on the look out for upcoming dates in 2023. More information on the festival and its line-up can be found on the JCC Chicago website.
November 18: Chicago’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Nothing gets Chicagoans in the holiday spirit like the adornment of lights, displays and decorations across town. But the best showing of our collective spirit is at Millenium Park, where this year, we celebrate the 109th lighting of the city’s annual Christmas tree. The lighting takes place at 6pm, but passersby can enjoy the illuminated tree until January 8. If you like all things holly and jolly, take some time to head over to The Loop this winter, you’ll be glad you did! Additional information available on the City of Chicago website.
Millennium Park, Near Michigan Ave. and Washington St.
November 18: Sparkle Light Festival
Head over to Impact Field in Rosemont, where they have transformed the venue into five illuminated holiday “villages.” The space has countless sparkling lights, custom 3D features, an ice tube slide, holiday train, delicious food and drink and more! With a line-up like that, it’s impossible not to have some family fun this winter season. Running from November 18 – January 1, Chicagoans have plenty of time to make a trip to this wonderland. For guests curious about the full list of programming or who are looking to purchase tickets ahead of time, visit the Sparkle Light Festival website.
9850 N. Balmoral Ave., Rosemont
November 18: Winterland at Gallagher Way
Luckily for us, the holiday events across the city aren’t just reserved for December. This November, start the season off right with a visit to Winterland at Gallagher Way, located inside Wrigley Field. While there, partake in the Gallagher Ice Rink, Santa’s Workshop and the Wrigleyville location of Christkindlmarket — full of holiday merchandise and tasty treats. The pop-up event is season-specific so you’ll want to visit it before it melts, or before it ends in January. Tickets and more information can be found on the Gallagher Way website.
November 18: Christkindlmarket
If you’ve faced a Chicago winter then you likely know of the Christkindlemarket. This Loop-based market — with an additional location in Wrigleyville — is the destination for all holiday season enjoyers. Snack on aromatic roasted nuts, fresh pretzels and hot wine. Soak up the authentic German-style market experience. Shop from unique vendors whose products come from all around the world. This outdoor market is one sure way to kick-off your holiday season! More information on this beloved tradition can be found on the Christkindlmarket website.
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.
November 19: Santa’s Kick Off
What Christmas season would be complete without a visit with Santa? On November 19, kids can come celebrate Santa’s Kick Off — his first appearance at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago for the season. While there, they will receive a goodie bag; the chance to decorate a Cinnabon MiniBon®; write letters to Santa; create a holiday craft and so much more! Kids will love the opportunity to get on Santa’s good list and parents will love this free event — though there is a suggested $5 donation, which will go toward St. Jude. More specifics can be found on the Santa’s Kick Off webpage.
5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont
November 24: Chicago Thanksgiving Parade
The balloons, the music, the floats, the cheering, all of that and more is back once again as we celebrate Thanksgiving with the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade — “Where grateful hearts meet,” as their slogan says. Witness the splendor of a parade that has captivated Chicagoans for generations, located on State Street from Ida B. Wells to Randolph St from 8 – 11am. This family- and community-friendly event is for everyone to take part in. To find more information on the parade or how to get involved, visit the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade website.
November 25-27: Kohlights: A Mesmertastic Holiday Lightacular
Kohl Children’s Museum is a cornerstone of education for Chicagoland kids; and their latest outdoor activity is no exception. Kohlights: A Mesmertastic Holiday Lightacular is an interactive, holiday light installation that plays with color, hue and patterns — each encouraging a child’s curiosity. While there are only a few select dates at the end of November, be on the lookout for December’s lineup. To locate more information on the experience and hours of operation, visit the Kohl Children’s Museum website.
2100 Patriot Blv., Glenview
November 26: Schaumburg and Grant Park Turkey Trot Races
If you’re feeling a little sluggish after Thanksgiving dinner and a couple days of leftovers, get a spring back in your step by lacing up those sneaks and running (or walking) a Turkey Trot Race Thanksgiving weekend, put on by All Community Events. 5K and 10K races will be held in Grant Park and a 5K and Half-Marathon will be in Schaumburg. Learn more and register at All Community Events.
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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.