What to do for the holidays in Chicago: Tree lighting, Christkindlmarket and ice skating all coming soon

Hear that? No, not your neighbor’s leaf blower, it’s the holiday season on its way. We’re at that time of year when pumpkin spice transitions to peppermint mocha and everyone starts looking ahead to the Chicago Christmas tree lighting and related Yuletide events, many beginning this week.

Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting

As in past years, the big lighting event will be accompanied by holiday music, entertainment and fireworks in Millennium Park. This year’s 110th City of Chicago Christmas Tree is a 45-foot Colorado Blue Spruce donated by the De La Cruz family of southwest suburban Darien. And new this year, there will be a mainstage right by the tree with the ceremony emceed by Irika Sargent and Joe Donlon of WBBM-CBS Channel 2.

5-6 p.m. preshow; 6-6:30 p.m. ceremony and fireworks with the tree illuminated at 6:25 p.m. on Nov. 17 on Washington Street at Michigan Avenue in Millennium Park. The tree will remain lit through Jan. 7, 2024; more information at


A big part of the downtown holidays is Christkindlmarket, hosted since 1996 by the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest. With unique vendors and gift shopping, live entertainment and concessions including German mulled wine (called Glühwein). Plus the annual souvenir Christkindlmarket mugs.

Open daily from 11 a.m. Nov. 17 to Dec. 24 at Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St., plus locations in Wrigleyville and Aurora; admission is free, more information at

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

Free ice skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park returns Nov. 17 to March 3, 2024 (weather permitting). Free skating lessons will be provided by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on most Saturdays and Sundays (reservations required), teaching beginner and intermediate ice skating and hockey skills.

Skating is free with online ticketed reservations for sessions from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, 11 N. Michigan Ave. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older after 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Closures due to weather will be posted on Millennium Park’s social media pages. Skate rentals ($16-$20) are available on-site; more information at

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

Let’s not forget the November holiday. This year’s Thanksgiving Parade, in its 89th year, will have marching bands, a return of the giant balloons, floats, equestrian performers, performances by country music’s Reyna Roberts and Tayler Holder and more.

8-11 a.m. Nov. 23 on State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph Street; free with $70 tickets for VIP access at

Millennium Park Holiday Art Market

Come for shopping, live entertainment and concessions at the Millennium Park Holiday Art Market, with work from dozens of local artists including jewelry, pottery, drawings and paintings.

Noon to 8 p.m. Nov. 17-18; noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 19 in Millennium Park’s Chase Promenade North; admission is free, more information at

Art on the Mart

The winter 2023 “Season of Light” opens with two new projections on the south facade of the building Chicagoans know as the Merchandise Mart. One is by moving-image artist Yorgo Alexopoulos, a School of the Art Institute Chicago alum, and is titled “Out of the Sea Came Eternity.” According to an announcement from Art on the Mart, it’s described as a video procession of “digitally manipulated paintings, photographs and graphics resembling landscapes and geometric shapes.” The other winter projection is “Analog,” a collaborative work made specifically for the Mart by current SAIC students.

Both works will play nightly at 7:30 p.m. from Nov. 16 to Dec. 30, best viewed from the Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street; more information at

Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

The annual parade has long launched the holiday shopping season and all the holiday lights on Michigan Avenue, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 on Oak Street and culminating on Wacker Drive and the Chicago River with fireworks at 7 p.m. Grand marshals, as always, are Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Plus celebrity performances from Sister Sledge, the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations,” the Sugarhill Gang celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip hop, and “American Idol” alum Colin Stough.

More information at

Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along

Sing Christmas carols and music from many holiday traditions in Millennium Park’s Wrigley Square on select Fridays in December:

  • 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 with Northeastern Illinois University

  • 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 with Windy City Gay Chorus

  • 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15 with the League of Chicago Theatres

Millennium Park at Michigan Avenue and Randolph; free, more information at

Wintrust Winterland at Gallagher Way

Along with its own Christkindlmarket, the new tradition at Wrigley Field includes an ice rink and ticketed rides and other events inside the ballpark.

Opens Nov. 21 at Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison St.; tickets from $5 at

Light Up the Park in Rosemont

West suburban Rosemont’s Parkway Bank Park opens the holiday season with the return of its Chicago Wolves Ice Rink from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Nov. 18, running through Jan. 28, 2024. Skating is free, on-site skate rentals are $8. With visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, horse-drawn sleigh rides, carolers and ice sculpting, and Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens will officially illuminate the park at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18. Plus the Sparkle Light Festival opens at nearby Impact Field on Nov. 17.

From Nov. 18 at Parkway Bank Park, 5501 Park Place, Rosemont; full schedule of skating Wednesdays through Sundays at

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Thousand of lights cover Chicago’s lakefront tourist destination, plus ticketed outdoor ice skating ($20), the heated Centennial Ferris Wheel ($18) and other activities. Winter fireworks at 9.m. Saturdays and for New Year’s Eve on Sunday, Dec. 31.

Nov. 24 to Dec. 31 at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave.; more at

Next Sunday: Look for our annual guide to holiday shows and music Nov. 19 in the Tribune, and a guide to all the big area light displays Nov. 26.