Free Downtown Chicago Christmas Events

Get out your calendars – it’s time to start planning Christmas in Chicago! The free holiday events begin this weekend, including the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Caroling at Cloud Gate, Dance-Along Nutcracker, and the opening of the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink. Wheee!!!

(I am inordinately excited about this. Could be because I’m married to a professional Christmas caroler…)

Bookmark this page because I’ll be updating it as more free downtown Chicago Christmas events are announced!

Free Downtown Chicago Christmas Events

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink Opening
Friday, November 15
Michigan Ave. between Washington St. and Madison St.

The McCormick Tribune ice rink has become a Chicago winter tradition drawing over 100,000 skaters annually.

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink remains open through mid-March, weather permitting.

Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon
337 E. Randolph St.

Mid-November – March, weather dependent, visit websites for hours

FREE Admission; Skate rental is $13 Mon–Thu and $15 Fri–Sun/Holidays

$40 Fast Passes are available

Millennium Park Holiday Art Market​
November 22 – 24
11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Chase Promenade (northeast corner)

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago and After School Matters will feature one-of-a-kind items, including jewelry, fashion, painting, sculpture, prints, drawings and more on sale by more than 150 student artists. Part of the City of Chicago’s Year of Creative Youth, the Holiday Art Market is supported by the Millennium Park Foundation. The market is free admission and will be in a heated tent on the Chase Promenade North.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Friday, November 22
6 p.m. 
Near Michigan Ave. and Washington St.

Enjoy the sounds of the season and the lighting of Chicago’s official Christmas Tree, in Millennium Park. The tree will be on display through the first week of January.  Miguel Cervantes, Alexander Hamilton in the Hamilton Chicago Company currently playing Broadway In Chicago’s CIBC Theatre, will serve as the emcee for the program featuring music and special guests. 

Caroling at Cloud Gate
Fridays, November 29 through December 20 
6–7 p.m.
Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean”

Local Chicago choral groups lead hundreds of celebrants in song. Following Caroling at Cloud Gate, head a few steps down to the McCormick Tribune Plaza for a spin on the McCormick Tribune ice rink in Millennium Park.

Wreathing of the Lions

Friday, November 29, 10 a.m.

Art Institute of Chicago Michigan Avenue entrance, 111 S. Michigan Ave.

Outdoor wreathing is FREE; museum entry requires general admission, though children under 14 are FREE Admission

Start the winter season with this Chicago family favorite. Enjoy special performances by Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and complimentary hot chocolate while you welcome the holiday season. Then move indoors to enjoy fun-filled art activities at the Ryan Learning Center.

Dance-Along Nutcracker®

Sunday, December 8, Dance Lessons at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Performances at noon & 3 p.m.

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

FREE Admission

Sugar plum fairies and mouse kings of all ages and abilities are invited to point their toes to the familiar music of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic.

The Dance-Along Nutcracker®, created in 1985, is the property of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the world’s first openly gay musical organization.






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