A woman surrounded by ceramic houses at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, featured in "Chicago's Holiday Highlights"

Holiday opportunities abound for festive family fun in Chicago


Christkindlmarket Chicago

Ceramic houses being sold at a Christkindlmarket in Chicago, featured in "Chicago's Holiday Highlights"
Photo Credit: Alison Ramsey

Holiday fun for everyone can be found at the all-ages, admission-free Christkindlmarket in Chicago, which is modeled after the 16th century Christkindlesmarkt in Nürnberg, Germany. Taking place in Chicago since 1996, this German-style outdoor market features international and local vendors that sell high-quality handmade gifts, toys, traditional German foods and beverages, sweets, and Christmas ornaments and decorations. The market has become an annual holiday highlight in the city since its inception, and the market has expanded to include three locations: Daley Plaza downtown, Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville, and RiverEdge Park in Aurora.

Sip delicious Glühwein (hot, spiced wine) from the annual, collectible mug, or enjoy creamy hot cocoa or Kinderpunsch (alcohol-free Christmas punch) in the children’s penguin-shaped mug. Hear music from the lederhosen-clad polka bands and snap photos with the beautiful, golden-robed Christkind—the “ambassador of Christmas” and symbol of the Christmas Market—whose job it is to convey hope, joy, and warmth to children and the impoverished. From handcrafted Christmas décor to quality wooden toys to cozy apparel, gift-buying is made easy here. The famed Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store has an entire tent of stunning, artisan-made selections, and the Sweet Castle offers Haribo gummy candies, German chocolate, gingerbread, and the sugared roasted nuts whose mouthwatering scent pervades the market air. Visit christkindlmarket.com for more information.       


Downtown Chicago Christkindlmarket hours and location:
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago, IL

  • Nov. 18 – Dec. 24
  • Sundays – Thursdays: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Fridays & Saturdays: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve (Dec. 24): 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Wrigleyville Christkindlmarket hours and location:
Gallagher Way, 3635 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL

  • Nov. 18 – Dec. 31
  • Mondays – Thursdays: 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Fridays & Saturdays: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Sundays: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve (Dec. 24): 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Special hours Dec. 26–29: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Aurora Christkindlmarket hours and location:
RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway, Aurora, IL

  • 18 – Dec. 24
  • Thursdays: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Fridays & Saturdays: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Sundays: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Special hours Dec. 19–21: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve (Dec. 24): 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The Sound of Music – Paramount Theatre


This winter, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora presents a fantastically talented cast in the Christmas classic The Sound of Music. Awarded “4 out of 4 stars” by Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, this production is a rousing performance of high-quality musical entertainment enjoyable for all ages. Seeing the Paramount’s exquisite interior is an experience in itself, boasting intricate ceiling artwork, hand-painted murals, and elegant holiday decorations. The giant Christmas tree in the lobby, decorated with “a few of my favorite things,” makes the perfect festive backdrop for a photo with family or friends. The Broadway-caliber performance, running until January 14, 2023, will inspire resilience and hope through the story that has enchanted audiences for more than 60 years. 

Performance dates and times:
Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

To purchase tickets, please visit events.paramountaurora.com.


The Lodge – Fairmont Chicago

Two women clinking drinks and sitting in chairs at the Lodge at Fairmont in Chicago, featured in "Chicago's Holiday Highlights"
Photo Credit: Alison Ramsey

The Fairmont Chicago knows how to set the holiday scene! The Fairmont has transformed its lobby into a cozy ski lodge atmosphere, a magical and memorable place to ring in the holidays with friends and family. Warm up from the Windy City winter on cozy couches and armchairs, snuggle against faux fur pillows and plush throws while toasting homemade marshmallows over a tabletop fire pit and sipping signature cocktails like the green-tinged “Grinch” and artic blue “Jack Frost.” Sample selections from a beautiful charcuterie board or dip crusty bread and colorful cauliflower florets into creamy cheese fondue. Kids and adults alike challenge each other to a game of curling by sliding hovering stones down a long table, or they pose for photos at the many scenic setups. Experience the comfort and comradery of a ski lodge outing without having to brave frosty slopes.

In this comfy space, you can enjoy live music by artists including the talented Molly Adamson (@molly_adamson; mollyadamson.com), whose beautifully unique and soothing voice adds to the relaxing atmosphere. Playing guitar or the lacquered white piano, Molly offers a vast repertoire and invites song requests, engaging audiences with personalized music selections. You will be reluctant to leave this gorgeous, atmospheric haven at the end of the night!

The upstairs suites are comfortable and spacious, with grand views of the city’s holiday lights. Enjoy the luxurious linens and white robes, excellent Nespresso machine, and the Fairmont boxed spring water to keep you hydrated during your stay. Especially impressive is the efficient and friendly waitstaff, valet, and hospitality teams that greet all guests with smiles, good cheer, and a genuine welcome. To book your stay or make a Lodge reservation, please visit fairmont.com.


Breakfast With Santa – Hotel Zachary

Photo Credit: Alison Ramsey

Glittering holiday lights and garlands line Hotel Zachary’s staircase banisters leading up to the sparkling and spacious dining area, where Jolly Old Saint Nick greets guests from his velvet armchair by the tree. Kind and welcoming, Mr. Claus elicits smiles and rambling gift lists from small visitors, while parents snap photos and soak in Christmas memories-in-the-making. Bottomless hot coffee and hot chocolate, refreshing juices, and an array of fresh fruit, tantalizing baked pastries, and waffles with syrup are part of the brunch menu. Bacon, ham, sausages, breakfast potatoes, scrambled eggs, eggs Benedict, chicken tenders, fries—there is something for every appetite. On Saturdays and Sundays through December 18, Santa is available 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., and the breakfast buffet is open from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. To visit this boutique hotel and make reservations, please visit hotelzachary.com.

The Globes – Hotel Zachary Terrace

Another holiday option at Hotel Zachary is a delightful dinner in a cozy, see-through globe on the second-floor terrace outside of the dining area. With a globe reservation, you can order from the hotel’s dinner menu (specially prepared by the Mordecai Chicago team) and selection of seasonal beverages while overlooking Winterland at Gallagher Way. This view of the Wrigleyville Christkindlmarket, the beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and the bustling energy of joyous holiday shoppers and visitors is beyond compare, and an unforgettable dining experience. To book a globe reservation, please visit hotelzachary.com.


Winterland at Gallagher Way

Winterland sign at Wrigley Field, featured in "Chicago's Holiday Highlights"
Photo Credit: Alison Ramsey

Experience holiday magic at Gallagher Way’s Winterland in Wrigleyville. Peruse the Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville and ride the Gallagher Way Carousel before heading into the Wrigley Field ballpark. Once inside, you have a playground of games and rides to explore, including the Gallagher Ice Rink, ice bumper cars, the Wintertube ice slide, and carnival rides like the Winter Whirl and Hot Cocoa Cups. Glistening Christmas trees, a giant polar bear and penguin, and a glittering walk-in baseball allow for photo opportunities galore. Games within the ballpark let you shoot hoops, toss rings, or aim softballs to win carnival prizes. Purchase s’mores kits and roast marshmallows over the outdoor firepits. Cute wooden chalets on the field are available to book for private parties and celebrations. For hours, ticket prices, and chalet booking information, please visit gallagherway.com.

Santa Suite – Swissôtel Chicago

A hotel decorated for Christmas at the Swissotel Chicago, featured in "Chicago's Holiday Highlights"
Photo credit: Swissôtel Chicago

Looking for the ultimate setting to inspire holiday magic? Book the elaborately outfitted Santa Suite at the Swissôtel Chicago, a holiday experience that includes a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne, build-your-own-hot-cocoa bar, holiday cookies and treats display, breakfast daily, holiday kids’ activity pack, cookie decorating station, and complimentary parking. This 5-room Presidential Suite has been transformed into a winter wonderland and can host up to 12 people overnight (or up to 100 guests for private events), and boasts 15 Christmas trees and stunning, over-the-top decorations. At Swissôtel, you can also book elf-decorated guestrooms or enjoy breakfast with Santa. To book these rooms and events, please visit swissotel.com.

Santa at the Skydeck — Skydeck Chicago

Santa at the Skydeck in Chicago, featured in "Chicago's Holiday Highlights"
Photo Credit: Skydeck Chicago

There is no better way to experience the glitter of Chicago’s holiday lights than from 1,353 feet above ground at Skydeck Chicago, a sky-high observatory offering breathtaking views of the city below. Begin the ride by hopping aboard the full-scale “L” train replica in the lower-level interactive museum, which showcases iconic Chicago attractions and neighborhoods. An elevator to the 103rd floor brings you to the Ledge, where Santa Claus will be roaming and available for festive photo opportunities December 16–24 from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, please visit theskydeck.com.     

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