31 of the Best Things to Do in Chicago This December

End the year (and decade!) on a festive note with Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier, Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge, the first-ever Christmas show by Cirque du Soleil, and much more.


Dec. 4: Building Empathy in a Fractured World

Join Family Action Network for this event with Jamil Zaki, Ph.D., author of “The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World” and associate professor of psychology and director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory at Stanford University. New Trier High School, 385 Winnetka Ave., Winnetka

Dec. 5: Walt Disney Birthday Celebration at The Walt Disney Birthplace

Walt Disney Birthplace
Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Birthplace.

The Walt Disney Birthplace hosts its seventh annual Walt Disney Birthday celebration at the home where Disney was born in in 1901. The holiday event, generously sponsored by Wintrust, begins at 5pm and will feature the Nixon Elementary children’s choir, holiday treats donated by Eli’s Cheesecake, a candle-lighting ceremony, holiday music, special guests, a special dedication of the new Hermosa Free Community Library supported by Disney Publishing Worldwide, and more. Better is the proud media sponsor of this event. 2156 N. Tripp Ave., Chicago

Dec. 5: Downtown Evanston Warm Bevvy Walk

Finish (or start!) your holiday shopping while enjoying warm beverages at participating businesses like Koi, Whiskey Thief Tavern, Cupitol, Bookends & Beginnings, and Assembly Creators. The event is free, but a $5 donation will get you a commemorative mug and benefit Connections for the Homeless. Check in at Newport Coffee House, 622 Davis St., Evanston

Dec. 5-8: One of a Kind Holiday Show

One of a Kind Holiday Show Chicago
Photo courtesy of One of a Kind Show.

Back for its 19th year at The Mart, the show features more than 600 talented artists and creators. Find everything from metalworks to bath and body items to gourmet treats. 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago

Opens Dec. 6: Winter WonderFest

This annual indoor festival at Navy Pier features 170,000 square feet of winter fun. Watch aerialists perform, go on an Arctic Express Train Ride, decorate cookies, go for a spin in the Hot Cocoa Cups, slide down the inflatable Ice Palace or tubing hill, go ice skating, and even more. 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

Dec. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21: Festive Holiday Tea

Celebrate the season at Brindille during this holiday version of the restaurant’s French Afternoon Tea. Enjoy exotic teas, scones, pastries, crumpets and jam, and more. 534 N. Clark St., Chicago

Dec. 6-8: Country Christmas & Dessert with Santa

Your kiddos will love playing old-fashioned games, listening to stories, taking a guided outdoor walk, decorating cookies, and more at this event with Santa. The Grove, 1421 Milwaukee Ave., Glenview

Dec. 7: Chicago Wine Fest

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash.

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the season with the winter edition of Chicago Wine Fest. Sample a wide variety of wines, listen to live music, and enjoy food. Artifact Events, 4325 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago

Dec. 7-8: Native American Fine Arts Holiday Market

Shop for gifts at this annual event featuring items made by Native Americans from around the country. The artists will also share demonstrations and the stories behind their pieces. Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, 3001 Central St., Evanston

Dec. 14-15: Chicago Art Girls’ Holiday Pop-Up Shop

Find handmade gifts from more than 40 women artists at this annual event. This year, Chicago Art Girls is partnering with Common Pantry for its charity raffle. Bell Elementary, 3730 N. Oakley Ave., Chicago

Dec. 15: Demonstration Cooking: Hanukkah

Learn more about the uses of olive oil while making treats like olive oil ice cream and Italian olive oil cake. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Dec. 15: MADE

Chicago’s handmade art market is back again for just one day, and you won’t want to miss it. The fantastic artisan showcase, featuring art and gifts for everyone, is a great place to get late holiday presents. Morgan Manufacturing, 401 N. Morgan St., Chicago

Dec. 15: “The Art of Inventing Hope”

Chicago Tribune reporter Howard Reich will discuss his book “The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel” with Alison Pure-Slovin, Midwest director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for Jewish Book Month. Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, 610 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Dec. 21: Julmiddag

Enjoy a traditional Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord before a St. Lucia procession and dancing around the Christmas tree. Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago

Dec. 23-29: Champions of Magic

This group of illusionists have appeared on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” and The Today Show, and now it’s your chance to see the magic live. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago

Through Dec. 24: Christkindlmarket

This Chicago tradition returns for its 24th year this month. Plus, don’t miss the Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville at Gallagher Way. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago

Through Dec. 31: Holiday Magic

Now in its 38th year, Brookfield Zoo’s annual injection of holiday magic features more than a million twinkling lights, a 41-foot talking tree, ice skating, carolers, ice carving, zoo chats, a magician, and much more. 8400 31st St., Brookfield

Through Jan. 5: Snowland Holiday Celebration at Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge
Photo by Macaire Douglas.

Great Wolf Lodge is celebrating the most festive time of the year with its annual Snowland celebration, where families can soak up the holiday spirit with daily indoor snow showers, visits from Santa, holiday-themed activities, a hot cocoa bar, dance parties, and more. Select suites are decked out with trees and snowflakes, and the big draw of course is the 84-degree indoor water park, where families can experience the most magical time of all — time together as a family. Great Wolf Lodge is also giving back to help grant wishes for children facing critical illness, with each sale of its Make-A-Wish holiday-themed wolf ears. 1700 Nations Drive, Gurnee

Through Jan. 5: ZooLights

Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights
Photo by Julia Fuller.

This festive Lincoln Park Zoo event is back for its 25th year with live ice-sculpture carving, carolers, shopping, snacks and drinks, and ticketed experiences like the Light Maze and Century Wheel. 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago


Through Jan. 5: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

Learn about holiday traditions from around the world at this favorite annual exhibit. Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago


Dec. 1: Celine Dion

Celine Dion is proving age is only a number when it comes to being one of the world’s biggest pop stars. Join Ms. Dion on her “Courage World Tour,” her first in more than 10 years. United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago

Dec. 6-8: “Home Alone” in Concert

Watch this holiday classic on the big screen with orchestral accompaniment by Chicago Symphony Orchestra. What could be better than seeing Kevin McCallister and his high jinks while listening to a live score? Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Dec. 14: A Chicago Chorale Christmas

Chicago Chorale will perform “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and more during this concert of Christmas favorites. Ravinia Festival, 418 Sheridan Road, Highland Park

Dec. 15: Jane Lynch Swingin’ Little Christmas

Jane Lynch's Swingin' Little Christmas
Photo courtesy of City Winery Chicago.

Yes, that Jane Lynch — didn’t you know she’s also an accomplished musician? With Kate Flannery, Tim Davis, and the Tony Guerrero Quintet, it’ll be a Christmas concert like you’ve never seen before. City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago


Through Dec. 8: “‘Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil 'Twas the Night Before...
Image courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

The classic poem by Clement Clarke Moore comes to life in an exhilarating new way in Cirque du Soleil’s first Christmas show. The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago

Dec. 14: A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage

Your favorite Peanuts characters are portrayed by actors in this live version of the beloved Christmas movie. Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont

Dec. 14-29: “The Light in the Piazza”

Renee Fleming in "The Light in the Piazza"
Renee Fleming in “The Light in the Piazza” (Photo courtesy of Dewynters London.)

This Tony Award-winning musical starring Renée Fleming, Alex Jennings (“The Crown”), and Solea Pfeiffer (“Almost Famous”) comes to Chicago’s Lyric Opera House for 10 performances. 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago

Opens Dec. 25: “Mean Girls”

This musical from book writer Tina Fey, composer Jeff Richmond (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), lyricist Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde”), and director Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon”) is making its way to Chicago direct from Broadway. James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago

Through Dec. 29: “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play”

This classic holiday-season tale comes to life once again at Oil Lamp Theater. 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview

Through Dec. 29: “A Christmas Carol”

Even the biggest Scrooge in your life won’t be able to resist Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens’ heartwarming tale of goodwill and peace on earth (not to mention karma). With gorgeous sets and costumes, the company brings “A Christmas Carol” to the stage for yet another unmissable season. 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago

Through Dec. 29: “The Nutcracker”

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without the magical strains of the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Relive the magic of Christmas with the Joffrey’s classic interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago