Free Downtown Chicago Christmas Events

Free Christmas Events in Downtown Chicago
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - 9:02am

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 16
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 ice rink will offer skating with a twist this season through Themed Skate Nights on most Thursdays, November 29–March 7, 6 to 8 p.m.Skaters are invited to put on a festive costume and join us for themed ice skating parties hosted by local Chicago DJs.The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink remains open through mid-March, weather permitting. Visit for details.


Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon
337 E. Randolph St.

November 16 – March, weather dependent, visit websites for hours

Skate with Santa: Saturday, December 15, 10 a.m.–noon

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

$40 Fast Passes are available


Millennium Park Holiday Art Market​
November 16 - 18
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 16
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 23 through December 14 with a bonus performance on Wednesday, December 12
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 23, 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. The outdoor ceremony, emceed by cast members from the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker, celebrates the 125th anniversary of the museum’s Michigan Avenue home. Then move indoors to enjoy fun-filled art activities at the Ryan Learning Center.


Dance-Along Nutcracker®

Sunday, December 2, 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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About Theresa Goodrich

Theresa  Goodrich is the founder and publisher of The Local Tourist and author of the "Two Lane Gems" book series, uplifting and slightly humorous tales of American road trips.

78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
Drawn by its beauty and the fabulous free public events, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to the Chicago Cultural Center every year.
Chicago Cultural Center
201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL
How much: Skating is free and skate rental is $12.
More than 100,000 people visit this ice skating rink each year.
McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink
201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60202
In Millennium Park, you’ll find a new kind of town square – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and a destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike.
Millennium Park Map

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