It’s official! Winter is here, which means it’s time to get into the winter/holiday spirit and we’ve got the list to get you started! We’re featuring our top 7 Chicago winter activities–some classics and some we’d like to try. Let us know which ones you’ve crossed off your list and what we might be missing! 

  1. Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum. You’ll be surrounded by color as you walk a one-mile paved path amid interactive lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter. Enjoy seasonal music, marvel at ever-changing, interactive lighting designs, and warm up by a crackling fire with a cozy drink or roast marshmallows for s’mores. (credit/link for more information)

  2. Christkindlmarket. A Chicago holiday tradition since 1996 inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg Germany, Chicago’s Christkindlemarket brings a unique shopping experience, German food an drinks, and diverse holiday flair to this cherished tradition. Come for the spiced wine served in their yearly take-home mug, selection of beautiful ornaments, and the holiday spirit! (credit/link for more information)

  3. Museum of Science & Industry: Holidays Around the World. The Museum’s beloved annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. (credit/link for more information)

  4. Ice Skating at Millenium Park. We all know Millenium Park, but have you actually visited to ice-skate there enormous outdoor rink? Live out your holiday movie fantasy, grab a friend–or just yourself!–and head on down to the rink where you can rent skates for $10! (credit/link for more information)

  5.  Ballet-Free Nutcracker at Chopin Theatre. The House Theatre of Chicago’s original, ballet-free version of The Nutcracker returns to Chicago’s Chopin Theatre Main-stage with its fantastical deconstruction of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s time-honored holiday story. With lots of humor and heart, this fresh theatrical interpretation centers on young Clara’s journey to save Christmas following her brother’s death. (credit/link for more information)

  6.  December 15 & 16: Randolph Street Holiday Market. Find the most unusual and stylishly crafted mix of vintage and modern decorative objects, housewares, fashion, art and more from 125 vendors! grab a bloody-mary and local eateries while browsing vendors on three floors in the Plumbers Hall building to find that perfect holiday gift–or gift for yourself! (credit/link for more information and tickets)

  7. Zoo Lights. A Chicago holiday tradition, Lincoln Park Zoo is illuminated with a display of 2.5 million lights and hundreds of dynamic displays. This free event truly transforms the zoo into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights including visits from Santa, ice sculptures, strolling carolers, festive activities, sweet treats and more. (credit/link for more information

And here are a couple more we found for the end of December:

WNDR Museum – until Dec 30th. Step inside one of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s famous Infinity Mirror Rooms at this new pop-up exhibition, which features installations that blend art and science. Other attractions include a “zero-gravity ball pit” that uses helium balloons and fans to simulate a weightless version of the childhood attraction, a floor that reacts to your footsteps and a gigantic screen that replicates your image with black and white discs. (credit/link for more information)

ZooYears Eve – Dec 31st 9pm-1am. If you think you missed ZooLights, we got your cover! This special ticketed event will take place under the glow of ZooLights. For this adults-only event (21+ only), guests can enjoy millions of dazzling lights, arctic artists carving blocks of ice, cash bars (beer, wine and champagne), plus a DJ, games, giveaways, special animal enrichment, and more! Animal buildings will be open, so there will be plenty of spots to warm up and enjoy the zoo. Take a break from the usual spot and start a new tradition: spend New Year’s Eve at Lincoln Park Zoo! (credit/link for more information)