Bobby’s Bike Hike Chicago Holiday Guide
The Chicago holiday season is beautiful, bombastic, and bountiful. There are so many Chicago winter activities, from ice skating in Millennium Park to shopping at the Christkindlmarket that it can be both magical and overwhelming to experience. So let Bobby’s Bike Hike show you around! When we think of the winter holidays, two things come to mind: festive decorations and an excess of food. You can’t celebrate the holidays with one and not the other, which is why our Holiday Hike: Season Sampling Walking & Food Tour has both! Even if it’s chilly outside, we know the places to go that’ll warm you up and show you how festive (and tasty) Chicago can be.
If you’re looking for a DIY experience, here are our top recommendations for lights, Chicago holiday festivals, and Chicago Christmas/holiday markets.
Chicago Holiday Lights
From Christmas to Hanukkah, lights play an important role in the winter holiday celebrations. Maybe that’s because it gets so dark in the winter! Whatever the reason, Chicago is excellent at using that nighttime backdrop to create dazzling displays of lights all over the city. Here are some of our recommendations for the best places to see the Chicago holiday lights!
Photo from: https://www.chicagobotanic.org/lightscape
“Lightscape” will be a new holiday exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and we can’t wait to experience it! Despite their name, the Chicago Botanic Gardens are technically located in the Chicagoland suburb of Glencoe, but even during normal days they’re worth the trip. This after-dark experience is a mile-long trail of lights that promises to be jaw-dropping from all the pics and videos we’ve seen. Lightscape debuted in London last year and had over 100 million visitors. We’re excited to catch it from November 22 through January 5. Tickets are $17 for adults and $8 for kids.
It’s easy to see how your culture celebrates Christmas, but have you ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated elsewhere? The Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” exhibit represents Christmas holiday traditions from around the world with over fifty decorated trees. This exhibit opens November 14 and runs through January 5, so there’s no excuse to miss it!
The Lincoln Park Zoo is 35 acres large and offers free entrance every day of the year. During Christmas in Chicago, you can visit the animals and attend holiday-themed activities like ice sculpture carving. Their luminous holiday decor includes 2.5 million lights, and they even offer a special maze of lights! The Zoolights exhibit runs from November 29th to January 5th.
Macy’s has become synonymous with holiday celebrations (who doesn’t love watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade??). For Christmas in Chicago, you can watch Macy’s celebrate the holidays live and in-person! The downtown Macy’s location is known for its gigantic Christmas tree/holiday display, and on Saturday, November 2nd at 12 pm, you can celebrate the 112th annual lighting of that tree.
Chicago Holiday Festivals
Kanye may have rapped about “all of the lights,” but there’s more to the holidays than pretty twinklies! Check out these suggestions for various holiday festivals to attend here in Chicago.
Andersonville is the Swedish American section of town, with a lot of cool things to do that we wrote about in our blog. But something we didn’t mention is that on December 13th at 4:45 pm, there is a special procession and celebration to commemorate St. Lucia at the Swedish American Museum. This is an awesome opportunity to not just learn about how other cultures celebrate Christmas but to experience it firsthand!
All year long, Navy Pier is listed as one of the top places to visit in Chicago. During wintertime, a trip to the Pier is even more imperative because of their Winter Wonderfest. Offering over 170,000 square feet of holiday attractions, you can go ice skating (indoors ’cause baby, it’s cold outside), go thrill-seeking on rides and giant slides, or interact with various holiday characters roaming around the Pier. Winter Wonderfest goes from December 6 to January 12, and tickets are roughly $28.
If “Sex and the City” took place in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile is where Carrie and her gang would shop. On November 22 and 23, the Magnificent Mile gets even more magnificent with the holiday lights festival! Foodie favorites like Garrett Popcorn and Eli’s Cheesecake Company are giving out free samples on Friday night, and on Saturday night there’s a huge parade that culminates with fireworks over the Chicago River!
Chicago Holiday/Christmas Markets
Gift-giving is one of the five “love languages” identified by Gary Chapman, and the holiday season is all about expressing love in this manner. If you’re looking to pick up some fun gifts for people, check out these Chicago Holiday Markets!
One of the most famous Chicago Christmas markets is the Christkindlmarket. Christkindlmarket Chicago is a German-style, open-air market that has delicious bratwurst, spiced wine, and roasted nuts for you to snack on while doing your Christmas shopping. Even if you don’t buy anything, the window shopping definitely gets you into the holiday spirit! The downtown location at Daley Plaza is open from November 15-December 24, and the location in Wrigleyville is open from November 22-December 31. There is no admission cost at either location.
Unlike the Christkindlmarket which is open for a long stretch of dates, the Randolph Street Market is only open on November 23/24 and December 14/15, so make sure you mark your calendar! With over 125 vendors, you’ll find the perfect holiday gift and have a great time doing so. Timeout Magazine called it the “Best Market in Chicago” and USA Today ranked it as one of the “10 best flea markets for finding vintage treasures.” Admission tickets are $8.
A little less flashy than the previous two markets, The Hideout’s 19th Annual Flea Market always has quite a collection of vintage records, clothing, and whatnot. If you’re looking for a good flea market that’s more chill, stop by here on November 3rd. There’s no cover, and you can buy drinks there!
Alright you merry readers, we hope you enjoyed our guide to enjoying the winter holidays in Chicago! If you know of other festive holiday locales, let everyone know in the comments below!