Exploring Chicago’s Winter Wonderland: A Guide to December 15-17, 2023

Chicago Winter
Things to do in Chicago – December 15-17, 2023

Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights

An enchanting display awaits at Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights, running November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024.

This event illuminates the zoo with millions of sparkling LED lights, creating an awe-inspiring winter wonderland.

Visitors can enjoy this luminous experience for a small fee, with free admission on Mondays.

It’s a unique blend of natural beauty and festive cheer, perfect for families and friends seeking a memorable evening stroll.

For more information, visit ZooLights.

Museum of Science and Industry’s Holiday Celebration

The Museum of Science and Industry offers a grand holiday experience with its “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” exhibit.

Here, a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree takes center stage, surrounded by over 50 trees and displays showcasing global holiday traditions.

This cultural journey is included in the regular museum admission, offering an educational yet festive outing for all ages.

The “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” exhibitions will be available until Sunday, January 7, 2024.

Holiday Sing-Alongs at Millennium Park

On a crisp winter evening, Millennium Park transforms into a festive arena where the magic of community singing comes alive.

The Holiday Sing-Alongs, taking place on Fridays in December, including the 15th, is a spectacle of joy and holiday spirit.

Local choirs lead the crowd, filling the air with harmonies that echo through the heart of Chicago. The free event is a testament to the city’s diverse holiday traditions, uniting people through music under the city lights.

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More information here.

Winter Flower Show at Garfield Park Conservatory

Garfield Park Conservatory, known as one of the largest botanical conservatories in the US, hosts the Winter Flower Show throughout December.

Visitors can marvel at the stunning floral arrangements and plants in a warm, tropical environment.

The 300 N. Central Park Ave. conservatory is a haven for plant lovers and those seeking a serene escape from the winter chill.

Admission is free by reservation, with a suggested donation, making it an accessible experience for everyone.

More information here.

Navy Pier in Chicago, IL, presents “Light Up The Lake,” the city’s largest indoor and outdoor holiday experience, from November 24 to December 31.

This winter celebration features dazzling outdoor lakefront light displays, outdoor ice skating with views of Lake Michigan, cozy firepits for roasting s’mores, creative holiday workshops, and a local artisan market.

Visitors can also enjoy axe throwing, weekend live music, heated Centennial Ferris Wheel rides, and spectacular fireworks every Saturday. The event offers free and ticketed activities suitable for all ages.

For more details, visit Light Up The Lake.

Morton Arboretum’s Illumination: Tree Lights

Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum” in Chicago, IL, is a mesmerizing holiday light show running from November 18, 2023, through January 6, 2024.

This event features a 1-mile walking path through 50 acres of majestic trees, illuminated with vibrant lights and accompanied by festive music.

Visitors can enjoy immersive installations, warm up by fire pits, and have meals at the Ginkgo Restaurant while viewing the display’s finale on Meadow Lake.

The Arboretum Store offers holiday shopping opportunities, including a special color-changing mug available during the event.

For more information, visit Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum.

Sparkle Light Festival

The Sparkle Light Festival in Rosemont, IL, offers an immersive holiday experience at Impact Field, open now through December 31.

This year’s event features a new layout with an ice skating rink. Visitors can explore five illuminated villages, including the Frozen Forest and Winter Wonderland, and enjoy activities like ice skating, free train rides, tubing, and visits with Santa Claus.

The festival promises a memorable experience with millions of holiday lights, festive food, and beverages.

For more details, visit Sparkle Light Festival.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Merry, Merry Chicago!” at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers a heartwarming holiday concert from December 15 to December 23, 2023.

The performance features the Orchestra with conductor Thomas Wilkins and soprano Ashley Brown, celebrating with carols and holiday songs.

The program includes classics like “Winter Wonderland” and “Sleigh Ride.”

This festive event, recommended for all ages, occurs at Symphony Center, creating a cheerful atmosphere ideal for holiday gatherings.

For further details, visit Merry, Merry Chicago!

“The Hip Hop Nutcracker” at Cadillac Palace Theatre

The Hip Hop Nutcracker” is a contemporary dance spectacle presented at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, IL, from December 12 to December 17, 2023.

This unique show blends Tchaikovsky’s timeless music with dynamic hip-hop dance.

Directed and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, it features a cast of all-star dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and MC Kurtis Blow.

The performance reimagines the classic Nutcracker story, set against the vibrant backdrop of New York City. It’s a festive and inspirational holiday event suitable for all ages.

For more information, visit The Hip Hop Nutcracker.

Unique Holiday Experiences

The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party” at Chicago Children’s Theatre is an enchanting in-person production from November 4 to December 31, 2023.

Ideal for children up to 8 years old, this interactive trunk and puppet show brings four Beatrix Potter stories with original music and narration to life.

Post-show, families can enjoy a communal tea party with holiday treats in the lobby, engage with the puppets, and take pictures with the cast.

The event promises a delightful and immersive holiday experience for the young and young.

For further information, visit The Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo in Chicago presents its “Holiday Magic” festival, Chicagoland’s longest-running lights festival, from November 24 through December 31, 2023.

The event features over two million twinkling LED lights and a range of activities, including a 300-foot light tunnel, a 41-foot-tall tree, interactive displays, dance parties, and ice carving.

Visitors can also enjoy photos with Santa, festive food throughout the zoo, and attractions like the Elf Power Virtual Reality Experience.

This event promises a magical winter wonderland experience for guests of all ages.

For more information, visit Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo.

Renegade Craft Fair: Chicago Winter Edition

The Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, IL, is a celebrated event for the creative community on December 16 and 17 at Morgan Manufacturing.

This fair showcases over 170 curated artists, offering various creative goods and handmade gifts.

It’s a vibrant platform supporting local and national small businesses, where visitors can shop for unique items while contributing to a sustainable and low-waste event.

A $5 suggested entry fee supports Renegade Craft’s mission and The Nature Conservancy.

For more details, visit Renegade Craft Fair: Chicago Winter Edition.

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden

Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden offers an enchanting illuminated trail from November 10, 2023, to January 7, 2024.

This year’s experience includes new installations and beloved classics like the Winter Cathedral, transforming parts of the garden, including Evening Island, into a radiant landscape.

Visitors can enjoy the trail filled with music, color, and light alongside festive food and drink. Tickets are required, with prices varying for members and non-members.

For more details, visit Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Garden.

2023 Soulful Chicago Book Fair

On December 16, 2023, the Soulful Chicago Book Fair celebrates literary arts within the African Diaspora, fostering literary excitement in Chicago.

This event provides hundreds of authors, poets, and composers a platform to share their unique perspectives.

It’s a crucial venue for creators often overlooked in standard literary settings, enhancing the literary marketplace for Black writers.

The fair showcases a range of newly released titles, playing a pivotal role in the new Black Literary Renaissance.

For more information, visit the Soulful Chicago Book Fair.

Rudolph’s Rooftop Winter Igloos

Rudolph’s Rooftop at LondonHouse Chicago offers a festive winter experience from November 18 to January 28.

This annual event transforms the 22nd floor into a holiday-themed space with panoramic city views, whimsical décor, and twinkling lights.

Guests can enjoy a selection of holiday-inspired cocktails in a cozy, heated igloo.

The rooftop, recognized for its exceptional views and ambiance, provides the perfect backdrop for memorable holiday celebrations and photo opportunities.

For more details, visit Rudolph’s Rooftop Winter Igloos.

Winter Wonderland at I|O Godfrey

I|O Godfrey in Chicago, IL, transforms into an enchanting Winter Wonderland.

This rooftop experience features heated igloos, where guests can enjoy cocktails and bites against string lights and festive decor.

Accommodating up to ten people, the igloos offer an intimate and cozy setting for winter evenings.

This magical setup at I|O Godfrey combines warmth, friendliness, and breathtaking city views, making it an ideal destination for winter gatherings.

For more details, visit Winter Wonderland at I|O Godfrey.


In December, Chicago is alive with the spirit of the holidays. From dazzling light displays and heartwarming concerts to cultural celebrations and cozy rooftop gatherings, there’s something to enchant everyone.

Each event and location tells its own story, adding to the rich tapestry of experiences that make Chicago a must-visit destination during the holiday season.

For more information about these events and to plan your visit, check out the official websites and local guides for each venue and event.

Chicago’s festive charm awaits, offering unforgettable experiences that will make your holiday season special.

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