Traveling In Focus contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of the Amazon links (or other affiliate links), we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See our disclosure policy for more information.

Why Everyone Is Visiting Chicago Before The Year End And You Should Too

Traveling In Focus disclaimer

Grab your puffiest parkas, dear readers, because we’re about to embark on a wintery escapade to – drumroll, please – Chicago!

As travel enthusiasts who’ve done the Chi-town shuffle not just once but twice (we know, we’re practically honorary mayors at this point), we can vouch for its magical charm.

Chicago during the holiday season (which starts now in mid-November) is like a giant snow globe that’s been given a good shake, all twinkle lights and festive merriment that could thaw even the iciest of hearts.

So, if you’re one of those daring souls contemplating a game-time decision to jet off before 2024, let us say – the Windy City’s got more holiday charm than grandma’s Christmas cookies.

We’re pulling back the curtain and giving you the lowdown as we traipse through Chicago’s holiday spectacle.

Believe us, it’s a yuletide journey that others are flocking to, and you won’t want to miss.


What To Do In Chicago

Get ready because we’re about to dive headfirst into a cornucopia of holiday delights that only Chicago can offer.

Who needs Santa’s workshop when you’ve got the next couple of months packed with such remarkably festive experiences that even the Grinch would be hard-pressed to stay grumpy?

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

a "snowy" scene in chicago
© flowertiare | depositphotos

Strap on your reindeer antlers and light up those Rudolph noses – we’re heading straight for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival coming up on November 18, 2023.

This is Chicago going full holiday mode, transforming into a luminous wonderland that’s so jazzed up even Clark Griswold would be jealous.

The festival is a jaw-dropping spectacle that kicks off with family activities and foodie-tantalizing booths in the day, gradually morphing into an awe-inspiring parade as dusk descends.

Who’s leading this procession of glowing glory? Well, none other than our beloved duo, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Add a sprinkle of celebrity star power and a generous serving of Santa Claus himself, and you’ve got a parade that’s more festive than eggnog at an office Christmas party.

And just when you think it’s over, the night sky lights up with fireworks, ending the day with a bang that’d put a cherry bomb to shame.

So, ready to get lit, Chicago-style?

Christkindlmarket

a santa sits at a christmas market with gifts on a shelf in the background
© romrodinka | depositphotos

The Christkindlmarket is where things get really merry.

Open from November 17 to December 24 and located at Daley Plaza, this place is like Santa’s workshop got a major upgrade, and then relocated to Chicago.

Imagine a magical marketplace filled to the brim with gifts that are unique, handmade, and, not to mention, absolutely perfect for that second cousin twice-removed that you never know what to get.

But hey, it’s not just about the shopping.

You can also guzzle down beer and wine like it’s the Prohibition era all over again and stuff your face with food that will make your taste buds do the Nutcracker Suite.

So, whether you’re trying to satiate your inner shopaholic or are just looking to drink mulled wine and make questionable life choices, the Christkindlmarket has got you covered.

And if you don’t believe us, go see it for yourself.

Our tip: Don’t miss out on the traditional German cuisine. And no, we’re not talking about the stale pretzels and watered-down beer you get at your local “Oktoberfest.”

We mean the real deal, people – bratwurst, schnitzel, and strudel that’ll have you crying “Danke Schoen!”

And for those with a sweet tooth, look for stalls selling Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies) and Stollen (fruit bread), authentic flavors of a German Christmas.

Ice Skating

the skating ribbon in chicago shows skaters out on the circular track
© jimphotoguy9 | depositphotos

Have you ever dreamt of gliding on ice as smooth as your last pickup line? Well, wake up, you’re in luck!

Ice skating in Chicago is the hottest, or should we say coolest, thing in town this winter.

First up, the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park opens its frosty embrace on November 17. It’s like doing the Hokey Pokey in the heart of the city.

And, in case you’re more of a traditionalist, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park is also set to open its icy gates in November. It’s as Chicagoan as deep-dish pizza.

So, lace up those skates and prepare to make Bambi on ice look like an Olympic skater.

Can’t skate? No problem, just master the delicate art of falling.

ZooLights At Lincoln Park Zoo

colorful twinkle lights decorate trees and christmas scenes at lincoln park zoo
© ganesh005 | depositphotos

So you thought the Lincoln Park Zoo was just a daytime thing? Oh, you naive summer child!

From November 17 to January 7, the wild things don their festive best and get their glow on, and the Pepper Family Wildlife Center goes full North Pole with Santa and a decorated tree.

Imagine strolling through a twinkling light maze, the only danger being the risk of over-awed eyeballs.

Or ride the towering Ferris Wheel and be smacked right in the peepers with the whole ZooLights spectacle from a bird’s-eye view.

Ice carvers wield chainsaws like they’re buttering toast, creating icy masterpieces that will make Frosty jealous.

And on select nights, you might bump into roving bands of Victorian carolers and costumed characters.

So munch on tasty treats, sip delightful drinks, and absorb the holiday cheer.

Our Tip: On Mondays, admission is freer than a bird. Reservations are still required, but hey, a wee bit of planning never hurt anyone, right?

Holiday Windows & Street Decorations

a tall christmas tree stands in downtown chicago among the tall skyscrapers
© welcomia | depositphotos

Ah, the holiday windows. It’s like stepping into a Hallmark movie but without the predictable plotline.

Get ready to channel your inner child as you stroll along State Street and Michigan Avenue, ogling at the festive window displays.

Macy’s on State Street? They’re not just window-dressing but a holiday tradition. The kind that makes even the Grinch crack a smile.

It’s a spectacle of tinsel-town proportions that’ll have you dancing more than the sugarplum fairies.

Now, hold onto your hat, because the streets are also dressed up in twinkling lights, wrapping the trees like they’re about to make their debut on the runway.

So, if you’ve got an eye for sparkle or just want to feel like a wide-eyed kid again, hit the streets. You’ll be so dazzled you might just forget the biting Chicago chill.

Light Up The Lake & New Year’s Eve Fireworks At Navy Pier

fireworks light up a black sky during a firework display
© romeolu | depositphotos

Stashed right in the heart of the Windy City from November 24 till the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, is Chicago’s largest indoor and outdoor holiday extravaganza at Navy Pier.

It’s like your grandma’s Christmas decorations on steroids.

From skating figure-eights on the outdoor ice rink that’ll make Elsa jealous to magical light displays that could put Vegas to shame.

Toast some marshmallows, throw an axe or two (at inanimate targets, of course), and shop till you drop at the Christmas markets.

Throw in holiday workshops that’ll turn you into a DIY diva, live music that’ll have your feet tapping, and a Ferris wheel ride, making you feel on top of the world.

If this doesn’t fire up your holiday spirit, nothing will!

And then imagine ringing in the new year surrounded by fireworks so spectacular they’d make the Fourth of July jealous.

The spectacle of the Navy Pier’s New Year’s Eve is like a glitter bomb going off in the sky.

It’s the grand finale to Light Up The Lake, and let’s just say it’s not shy about making an entrance into 2024.

Other Cities With Holiday Spirit To Consider Before 2024

a close up of colored lights wrapped around a bare tree with more lights decorating trees in the background
© jekershner7 | depositphotos
  • New York City, New York: Famous for its holiday decorations, Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.
  • San Francisco, California: Offers milder weather and beautiful holiday lights, including the lighting of the iconic Christmas tree in Union Square.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: Known for its unique Creole Christmas celebrations and festive decorations, especially in the French Quarter.
  • Charleston, South Carolina: Offers a mix of southern charm and holiday festivities, including the famous Holiday Festival of Lights.
  • Seattle, Washington: Celebrated for its enchanting holiday lights at the Seattle Center and Pike Place Market and the festive Argosy Christmas Ship Festival, where a parade of boats adorned with dazzling lights cruises along the waterfront.

To Finish – Chicago By 2024

So, my holiday-loving friend, the question isn’t why you should visit Chicago before 2024, but…why wouldn’t you?

We mean, where else can you jingle all the way while basking in a winter wonderland that puts even the best holiday movies to shame?

Trust us, Chicago’s holiday shenanigans are the kind of festive frenzy you don’t want to miss.

Not sure Chicago is for you? How about visiting one of the top 3 U.S. travel locations claimed by a new report? Hint: one of them has great holiday spirit!

Please Share If You Enjoyed!