As the last golden autumn leaves fall, Chicago and the surrounding suburbs don an enchanting robe of crisp air, sparkling lights, and festive spirit. November in the Windy City is not just a transition into winter, but a celebratory kickoff to the holiday season. Whether you’re a local looking to rediscover your city or a traveler in search of authentic Midwest experiences, this list is your gateway to the 30 best things to do in Chicago and the suburbs this November.
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The Museum of Science and Industry is getting into the holiday spirit with their annual exhibit, Christmas Around The World and Holidays of Light. Take a journey across the globe without having to leave Chicago! The holiday tradition — kicking off its now 81st anniversary on November 18 — will bring wonder and even a little education to guests as they wind through the exhibit, which represents all the holidays this time of year including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year and more! Tickets to this cheerful experience are available at the Museum of Science and Industry.
5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
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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, a free 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 17 – December 31, 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 online.
9850 N. Balmoral Ave., Rosemont
No explanation needed for this age-old tale loved by many, but let us entice you to see it live on the big stage at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. The classic tale and beloved music crafted by the renowned duo Rodgers and Hammerstein is alive once again and welcomes all, especially families, to join in the enchantment. Don’t miss your chance to see this production, on production November 8 – January 7, so grab your tickets at Drury Lane Theatre now.
100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
In this production from the Chicago Children’s Theatre, four Beatrix Potter favorites come to life — including The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tailor of Gloucester and The Tale of Peter Rabbit — in this interactive trunk and puppet show, which also includes original music. “Our charming storytellers interweave the classic narration and guide gentle interactive moments, recruiting young watchers to join the adventure.” Stick around after the show for the chance to play with the puppets and take pictures, too. This event is recommended for ages 2-6 and runs from November 19 until the end of December, but be sure to visit The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party for more information and tickets.
100 S. Racine
6th Chicago International Latino Theater Festival returns to Chicago again this year as the citywide festival showcasing local, national and international Latino theater artists and companies. The festival kicked off at the end of September but its impressive run lasts until November 12. The festival lineup includes 17 productions new to the city and remains a “cultural high point of Chicago’s Latino Heritage Month.” Find more details on the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival site.
In this production — based on the television special by legendary puppeteer Jim Henson — with only three days until Christmas, Mayor Fox announces that there will be a Christmas talent contest with a grand prize of $50 dollars. This sends a bit of hope into the heart of Emmet Otter whose family could use the money, so he devises to start his own jug band — but will they work out the kinks before the big show? Find out when you and your family see the production for yourselves, with dates from November 15 – December 31. Tickets are on sale now, find them and more details at Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas online.
The Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave.
In this Steppenwolf production, it’s just another day at the White House when a sudden PR nightmare “spins into a legit sh*tshow.” How will POTUS recover? By relying on seven brilliant, savvy women who will risk everything — including sanity — to keep the leader of the free world out of trouble. You can always count on Steppenwolf for an intensely witty and immersive show, so why not give it a shot? As it does run from now until the beginning of December. Tickets and production details can be found on Steppenwolf Theatre online.
1650 N. Halsted St.
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 10 – January 7, 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
At the Hyde Park Art Center, catch Chicago‐based artist Candace Hunter’s largest solo exhibition to date, The Alien‐Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E Butler. In which she traverses ideas from Parable of the Sower and Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith’s Brood) by author Octavia E Butler, and explores through collage‐based works, installations, video and sound works “the meticulously sculpted worlds Butler imagined in her novels, examining their significance for Black bodies and future societies.” This contemplative and unique exhibit is open to the public from November 11 until March — read more about the installation and how to view it by visiting the Hyde Park Art Center.
5020 S. Cornell Ave.
If you’ve faced a Chicago winter then you likely know of the Christkindlemarket, open this year November 17 – December 24. 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 while you 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 squeeze the most from your holiday season! More information on this beloved tradition can be found at Christkindlmarket website.
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.
Through a stellar lineup of artists, creatives, innovators and more, the Chicago Humanities Fall Festival “connects people to the ideas that shape and define us, and promotes the lifelong exploration of what it means to be human.” By bringing in speakers who are “leading figures from across disciplines and professions” the fest takes audiences beyond the surface level “in pursuit of fresh perspectives that transcend personal experience.” The festival runs until November 16, which means this month you can enjoy the curated acts they have in store, such as: Joyce Carol Oates, Roxane Gay, Henry Winkler and more. Tickets and details are available online at the Chicago Humanities Fall Festival.
Celebrate a century of Disney magic as The Walt Disney Archives brings its vault to life at the Exhibition Hub Art Center in Chicago. Opening Nov. 18, Disney 100: The Exhibition invites guests to experience Disney’s storied journey, from classics like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) to the recent “Encanto” (2021). This expansive 20,000+ square-foot exhibit, previously showcased in cities like Philadelphia and London, celebrates 100 years of Disney history through 14 interactive installations and more than 250 artifacts, props, costumes and memorabilia representing Disney, Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel franchises.
Exhibition Hub Art Center, 2367 W Logan Blvd, Chicago
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 11th season of the series — from November 18 until January 6 — 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 out during the busy holiday season. Ticket pricing and event information can be found on the The Morton Arboretum website.
4100 IL-53, Lisle
November 3-4: The Festival of Wood Barrel-Aged Beer
The Festival of Wood Barrel-Aged Beer is back again to defend its legacy as North America’s “largest and most prestigious barrel-aged festival, competition and fundraiser.” Held this year UIC Credit Union 1 Arena, the fest gives attendees the opportunity to sample hundreds of barrel-aged beers, ciders, meads and perries across 12 style categories, every single one hand-crafted and then aged with wood or wood barrels in breweries across the country. Sounds pretty tasty if you ask us. Check out the FOBAB website for more.
525 S. Racine Ave.
November 3-5: Antiques + Modernism Winnetka 2023
The 51st Antiques + Modernism Winnetka Show (A+M) is headed to the Community House in Winnetka from November 3 – 5, following a Preview Party on November 2. Hosted by The Woman’s Board of Winnetka’s Community House, the event showcases a range of items from home furnishings to artwork, clothing and jewelry, presented by over 40 national antique and modern dealers. This year’s A+M will also feature a “Shop the Show” event on November 3, led by J. Michael Flanigan, known for his appearances on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. All proceeds from A+M will go toward supporting Winnetka’s Community House, a local organization focused on community enrichment.
620 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka
November 3-19: Chicago International Children’s Film Festival
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival returns again to continue its legacy of setting the standard for filmmaking excellence for children, youth and young adult audiences. By showcasing films from around the world, particularly from “unique or seldom-heard points of view,” CICFF empowers youth to demonstrate artistic and technical mastery, and engage in the art they love. Want to see what they have in store this year? Check out the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival for film lineups and other programs.
1517 W. Fullerton Ave.
November 4: Día de Muertos: Love Never Dies Ball
After an October full of epic programming, the National Museum of Mexican Art is continuing their season-appropriate schedule with the Día de Muertos: Love Never Dies Ball. At the ball — which honors life and the spirits of los muertos — attendees will enjoy a festive evening of live music, dancing, bites from local restaurants and more. They recommend all who come dress to impress, with the attire being “creative cocktail.” There are few places more appropriate to enjoy this time of the season — visit the National Museum of Mexican Art online for all details and ticket information.
1852 W. 19th St.
November 5: Hot Chocolate Run
Enjoy running in Chicago? Enjoy hot chocolate? Want to merge the two of them together? Then join the hundreds of other runners, walkers and supporters who will come out for the annual Hot Chocolate Run — a 5K, 10K, 15K or 2-mile course. After the race downtown, join the after party that is full of chocolatey goodness and other sweet treats, not to mention the company of other chocolate lovers like yourself! So grab some friend or the family and make this one of your autumn-must-do activities. Registration and race details can be found on the Hot Chocolate Run website.
Grant Park, 301 S. Columbus Dr.
November 8: Casino Uptown 2023
An evening of games — such as poker, blackjack, roulette or craps — awaits you at the historic Aragon Ballroom, all a part of Casino Uptown 2023. Also enjoy live performances from Baton Show Lounge and Lakeside Pride Jazz Orchestra, and don’t forget the great food and libations from local restaurants, too. At this charitable event, try your luck and see if you can trade some chips for prizes at the end of the night. May Lady Luck pick your favor! Register now at Casino Uptown 2023.
1106 W. Lawrence Ave.
November 9: Chicago Chefsgiving
Pendry Chicago and its ground-floor French brasserie, Venteux, have teamed up with Chicago Chefs Cook to organize the “Chicago Chefsgiving” on November 9. This event will raise funds for Pilsen Food Pantry’s “New Migrant Program” which provides essentials such as food, clothing and healthcare resources to new migrants in Chicago. The dinner at Venteux will feature a five-course menu created by prominent Chicago chefs including Marcel Heiduk, Devon Quinn, Dudley Nieto, Rodolfo Cuadros, D’Andre Carter, Manny Mendoza and Felicia Mayden. The dinner is priced at $150 per ticket, which includes a $30 donation, gratuity and wine pairings. The Chefsgiving initiative is part of a broader charitable effort by Pendry Hotels & Resorts, which began in 2018 in San Diego. It has since expanded to their other properties, with each location supporting a local cause.
224 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
November 9-11: Jungle Book reimagined
This modern twist on a beloved tale is headed up by choreographer and director Akram Khan, who with the help of his dance company, is bringing the tale of Mowgli and friends to the stage at Harris Theater. “In a near future world, a family is torn apart as they escape their homeland, devastated by the impact of climate change. … With wild animals claiming the streets as their own, Mowgli soon discovers unlikely allies in this strange new jungle.” With an original score and state-of-the-art animation and visuals, Jungle Book reimagined is as compelling as it is necessary viewing for our ever-evolving world. Tickets can be found on the Harris Theater online.
205 E. Randolph St.
November 17: 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 Millennium Park, where this year, we celebrate the 110th lighting of the city’s annual Christmas tree. The lighting takes place at 6pm, but passersby can enjoy the illuminated tree until January 7. 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: Viking Pub Crawl
Returning for a triumphant 6th year, the Viking Pub Crawl in Andersonville channels the intensity of the vikings through an entire afternoon of drinking and merriment. With your ticket purchase, all guests are given a commemorative glass, an appetizer at check in and access to drink specials at all participating locations. If you’re attending, you better be in costume because the vikings with the best looks will win prizes at the costume contest — not to mention the other goodies they have in store for you. Check out the Viking Pub Crawl online for all details.
Starting at Meeting House Tavern, 5025 N. Clark.
November 18: The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
For 32 incredible, dazzling years the city of Chicago has kicked off its holiday season with one grand Lights Festival. Catch the spectacle as illuminated floats go down Michigan Avenue while hundreds of spectators watch in awe. Giant balloons, celebrities, marching bands — you name it, they’ve got it in store. Visit the The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival online for all the details to get you excited for this year’s show.
November 18-19: Woman’s Club of Evanston Holiday Bazaar
The holiday tradition continues with this annual event which features over 50 curated vendors showcasing clothing and accessories, home goods and décor, ceramics and glass, food, bath and body care and more! Admission is free, and is open 10am – 5pm on November 18, and 10am – 4pm on November 19. Buy from local artisans with all event proceeds going to our Community Grant Fund which supports local nonprofits.
November 18-19: Randolph Street Holiday Market
Self-dubbed “America’s Largest and Liveliest Urban Antiques Market” returns for its 20th 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. Curious buyers can find more information on the event and admission prices on the Randolph Street Holiday Market webpage.
1341 W. Randolph St.
November 21: 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 23: Chicago Thanksgiving Parade
The balloons, the music, the floats, the cheering, all of that and more is back once again as we celebrate the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade — “Where grateful hearts gather,” as their slogan says. Witness the splendor of a parade that has captivated Chicagoans for generations, located on State St. from Ida B. Wells to Randolph, 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 24: The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle
While anyone is welcome to the Immersive Nutcracker, this 30-minute immersive experience is designed with families in mind. Full of whimsy and holiday delight, the experience features animated characters, footage of professional ballet dancers, captivating storytelling, all set to the sweeping music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Premiering for the first time in 2022, the exhibit returns by popular demand, which means curious audiences should grab their tickets now while they can. Check out The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle online for all details and purchasing.
Lighthouse ArtSpace, 108 W Germania Pl.
November 25: Elf in Concert
Considered by many, both young and old, to be one of the best holiday movies ever made, “Elf” follows the tale of the human-turned Christmas elf-turned human again. Now, enjoy it on the big screen at Auditorium Theatre this month while as it is accompanied by a live symphony orchestra performing every note from John Debney’s heartwarming score — directed by Jon Favreau. Secure your tickets now for this one-night-only event, find them at Elf in Concert online.
50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.
November 25: Winter Fireworks
While many think of the Navy Pier fireworks as a strictly summer tradition, we are here to tell you that is, thankfully, not the case. This fall and winter season, catch the spectacle of Chicago’s biggest fireworks display every Saturday through New Years Eve. It’s family friendly or just a fun, and free, reason to get out of the house on a chilly evening. All logistics can be found on the Navy Pier Fireworks site.
800 E. Grand Ave.
November 25-26: Chicago Artisan Market
The Chicago Artisan Market is known for displaying the best of the best of Midwest food, fashion, home goods and art. “This curated market celebrates the ingenuity of independent, small businesses who channel their passions into creating one-of-a-kind products.” While there shopping, you can meet business owners, pick their brains about how their products are made and more. Visit the Chicago Artisan Market to learn more about this pop-up event and future holiday market dates this season.
4325 N. Ravenswood Ave.
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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.