Chicago events calendar for December 2016. Festivals, fun things to do, Christmas events, Christmas lights, Christmas market, New Year’s Eve parties in Chicago, IL.

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Best events for 12 months
December 2016
December 2016

Enjoy the best Chicago events, festivals, and things to do with this calendar of events.

Mileage is from the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

Cookies & wine

December 1, 2016 (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.)

0.4 miles SE

Taste wine and cookies, and bring home three dozen chef-made cookies at Cookies & Cheer at the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park.

1920s party

December 1, 2016 (7 p.m., VIP 6:30)

2 miles north

Come as a gangster or flapper to The Last Speakeasy, a Prohibition-era party with music, dancing, a casino, and cocktails at the Chicago History Museum.

Gift show

December 1 - 4, 2016

1 mile west

One of a Kind Show and Sale features handmade gifts by 600 artists, food, and entertainment at the Merchandise Mart. Repeats in April.

Holiday market

December 1 - 4, 2016

29 miles NW

Holiday Lights Gift and Craft Fair offers 500 booths of gifts, foods, and decorations for holiday shoppers at Arlington International Racecourse.

Christmas market

December 1 - 24, 2016 (begins Nov. 18)

1 mile SW

Christkindlmarket is an open-air European holiday market on Daley Plaza featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, choirs, and carolers. Free.

Ballet-free Nutcracker

December 1 - 30, 2016 (begins Nov. 4)

7.4 miles north

Clara struggles to save Christmas in the imaginative, family-friendly version of The Nutcracker onstage at the Chopin Theatre.

Nutcracker musical

December 1 - 30, 2016 (begins Nov. 11)

34 miles north

The Nutcracker is a one-hour fantasy featuring Marie, a nutcracker that comes to life, a mouse king, a sugar plum fairy, and music by Tchaikovsky at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Discount tickets.

Christmas play

December 1 - 31, 2016 (begins Nov. 19)

multiple locations

A Christmas Carol is Charles Dickens’ holiday classic about Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and three Christmas ghosts.

It’s a Wonderful Life: radio play

December 1 - 31, 2016 (begins Nov. 17)

3.3 miles north

It’s a Wonderful Life recreates a live radio play based on the popular movie about a man seeking purpose in life at Greeenhouse Theater Center. Afterwards, join the cast for milk and cookies. Discount tickets.

Holidays around the world

Dec. 1 - 31, 2016 (Nov. 17 to Jan. 8)

8 miles south

See trees decorated to represent many cultures plus weekend ethnic song-and-dance performances during Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science & Industry. Closed Nov. 24 & Dec. 25.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

Dec. 1 - 31, 2016 (Nov. 25 to Jan. 2)

24 miles north

Wonderland Express features trains running through an indoor garden past miniature buildings at Chicago Botanic Garden. See events schedule. Closed Dec. 25.

Christmas lights - arboretum

Dec. 1 - 30, 2016 (Nov. 18 - Jan. 2)

27 miles west

See colorful tree lights and interactive laser lights on a one-mile walk at Illumination, and then warm up at the fire pit at the Morton Arboretum. Closed dates for 2016: Nov. 21, 24, 28 and Dec. 5, 12, 24, 25.

Holiday trains - Lincoln Park

Dec. 1, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017 (every day)

3 miles north

Model trains wind their way through a miniature village among poinsettias during the Winter Flower & Train Show at Lincoln Park Conservatory. Free.

Hinsdale Christmas Walk

December 2, 2016

21 miles SW

Christmas Walk features Santa’s arrival, carolers, giant storybooks, ice carvers, a trackless train, and a tree lighting in Hinsdale’s Burlington Park.

Short films

December 2 - 3, 2016

1.1 miles south

See a variety of nearly 100 short films at the Chicago International Reel Shorts Film Fest at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

French market

December 2 - 4, 2016

7.5 miles north

Lycée French Market has 80 vendors, a bistro, a bakery, chef demos, live French music, and a children’s pavilion at 1929 W. Wilson Avenue.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

Dec. 2 - 31, 2016 (Nov. 25 to Jan. 1)

2.5 miles north

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carvings, music, carousel and train rides, food, and gift shopping (plus photos with Santa some days). Free entry. Open Nov. 25-27; Dec. 2-4, 9-23, 26-31; Jan. 1.

Santa Claus run

December 3, 2016

2.5 miles south

Join thousands of runners dressed as Santa at Soldier Field for the 5K Santa Hustle, which offers Santa wear, candy, cookies, a medal, and an after-party. No dogs.

Cookie walk

December 3, 2016

11 miles west

Collect a cookie, treat, or hot drink from 45 shops and see entertainment at Winterfest in Oak Park.

Doggie Christmas

December 3, 2016

32 miles NW

Your dog can dress for a costume contest, hunt for treats, and get photographed with Santa indoors at Jingle Paws by the Schaumburg Park District.

Craft fair

December 3 - 4, 2016

6 miles north

Shop from independent artisans and chefs at the Renegade Craft Fair at Bridgeport Art Center. Free.

Swedish bazaar

December 3 - 4, 2016

7 miles north

Julmarknad is a Christmas bazaar of Scandinavian food and gift items plus traditional entertainment at the Swedish American Museum.

Comedy dinner

December 3 - 17, 2016 (Saturdays)

5.8 miles north

We Gotta Bingo delivers corny, bawdy, slapstick humor plus lasagna, bread, and salad, as you participate in a bingo game between rival parishes at Chicago Theater Works. Discount tickets.

Christmas lights - Brookfield Zoo

December 3 - 31, 2016 (dates below)

14 miles SW

Holiday Magic is a million twinkling lights, a laser light show, a magic show, animal visits, and songs at the Brookfield Zoo. Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, and 26-31.

Holiday train ride

December 3, 2016 - Jan. 1, 2017

1.4 miles SW

Take a one-hour train ride through downtown Chicago as you drink cocoa on the Polar Express, which travels round trip from Union Station at Jackson Boulevard.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Dec. 3 - 31, 2016 (Nov. 11 to Jan. 8)

0.8 miles north

Kids ages 3 to 13 will enjoy watching Peanuts cartoon characters on stage during A Charlie Brown Christmas at Broadway Playhouse.

Discount tickets (except Nov. 14 to Dec. 25).

Winter WonderFest

December 3, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017

1 mile east

Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, carnival rides, and entertainment. Expect crowds. Free entry. Closed Dec. 25.

Toy sale

December 4, 2016 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

29 miles south

Browse new and vintage toys from 250 vendors at Tinley Park Annual Holiday Toy Show at Tinley Park High School.


December 4 & 24, 2016

2 miles south

Watch the Chicago Bears play a game at Soldier Field.


December 5, 2016 (7 p.m.)

3 miles west

Watch the Chicago Bulls play the Portland Trail Blazers in a home game at United Center. Discount tickets.

Scary stories

December 5, 2016

10 miles north

Deathscribe is five contest-winning audio nightmares performed live with sound effects at Mayne Stage.

Wine & beer tasting

December 7, 2016

24 miles north

Holiday Cheers! is a seasonal tasting of local spirits, wines, and winter brews surrounded by Wonderland Express train exhibits at Chicago Botanic Garden.

Beer at Zoolights

December 8, 2016 (uncertain)

2.5 miles north

A ticket to BrewLights gets you a dozen samples of draft beer, with food for sale at Lincoln Park Zoo. Then see the lights and hear music at the lion house.

Holiday music

December 8, 2016 (7:30 p.m.)

8 miles north

Student musicians & singers perform secular seasonal hits and jazz variations at Joyola! at Loyola University.

Ugly sweater swing dance

December 9, 2016

6.4 miles NW

Wear your tackiest to Ugly Sweater Party, which includes a beginner’s class, open dancing, mingling, and a performance at Duet Dance Studio. BYOB.

Hip Nutcracker

December 9, 2016 (7:30 p.m.)

16 miles NW

The Hip Hop Nutcracker gives Tchaikovsky’s score a modern twist with an electric violinist and 12 hip-hop dancers (including DJ Boo and Kurtis Blow) on an urban set at Rosemont Theatre. Discount tickets.

Magic show

December 9 - 30, 2016 (also Nov.)

0.7 miles south

The Magic Parlour is an evening of close-up magic by an award-winning magician in the beautiful Palmer House Hilton Hotel. Discount tickets.

Ugly Sweater Run/Walk

December 10, 2016

2 miles south

Wear your ugliest sweater for the Ugly Sweater Run 5K and after-party at Soldier Field.

Discount tickets.

Northerly Island adventure

December 10, 2016

3 miles south

See birds of prey and wolves, hear folk music and a storyteller, walk on snowshoes (if there’s snow), make a craft, and have cocoa (while it lasts) at Polar Adventure Days. Free except parking.

Old Town food & drink crawl

December 10, 2016

3.5 miles NW

Adults with tickets can buy drink specials and $3 to $7 tastes at restaurants on Chicago Christmas Crawl.

Eco-friendly art fair

December 10, 2016 (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

8.7 miles north

Holiday Remix is an arts & crafts market for things remixed, reused, and recycled at Broadway Armory Park in Edgewater. Repeats in June.

Holiday cirque show

December 10, 2016 (7:30 p.m.)

16 miles NW

The talented cast of Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular performs feats of strength, skill, and grace to holiday music played by a live symphony at Rosemont Theatre. Discount tickets.

Craft beer tasting

December 10, 2016

32 miles south

A ticket to Winter Solstice Craft Beer Fest gets you 10 beer samples and 2 food samples, with 100 beers for sale and live music at Blarney Stone Pub, Oak Forest.

Handel’s Messiah

December 10 - 11, 2016

0.5 miles south

It’s a holiday tradition to hear the joyful Handel’s Messiah sung by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago at Harris Theater.

Holiday market

December 10 - 11, 2016 (begins Nov. 19)

2 miles west

Randolph Street’s Holiday Market offers affordable antique, vintage, and modern goods indoors at W Randolph & Washington on Nov. 19, 20, 26, 27; Dec. 10, 11. Discount two-day tickets.

Christmas liturgy

December 10 - 11, 2016

8 miles north

Lessons and Carols tells a story in nine short Bible readings and adds Christmas carols, hymns, and choral music in the chapel at Loyola University.

Model train show

December 10 - 11, 2016

27 miles west

LEGO Train Show features a huge diorama of trains that run past skyscrapers, brick mania, and kids’ crafts, plus a ticketed party the first evening in Wheaton. Free except parking.

Holiday bar crawls

December 10 - 17, 2016

Chicago area

Enjoy food and drink specials.

The Nutcracker ballet

December 10-11 and 16-18, 2016

5 miles north

Youthful members of Ballet Chicago perform the holiday classic The Nutcracker to Tchaikovsky’s score at Athenaeum Theatre.

Nutcracker ballet

December 10 - 30, 2016

1 mile south

Joffrey Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker features brilliant costumes, fanciful scenery, entrancing storytelling, and Tchaikovsky’s famous score played by the Chicago Philharmonic at Auditorium Theatre. (New version by Christopher Wheeldon in 2016.)

Family treasure hunt

December 11, 2016

1 mile south

Kids make four activity stops then have a tea party with entertainment and party favors at Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party at the Art Institute.

Baroque holiday music

December 11, 2016 (7:30 p.m.)

13 miles north

Hear classics by Bach and Handel surrounded by stained glass at Holiday Baroque at Northwestern University.

Discount tickets.

Japanese dance & drum

December 16 - 18, 2016

0.7 mile north

Taiko Legacy features Japanese drumming, dance, and street theater at Museum of Contemporary Art.

Anime convention

December 16 - 18, 2016

16 miles NW

Con Alt Delete celebrates Japanese animation and “nerd culture” with games, panels, vendors, and dances at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont.

The Nutcracker

December 17 - 18, 2016

27 miles west

Chicago Festival Ballet and the New Philharmonic Orchestra perform a beautiful and lively Nutcracker at McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.

New Year’s Eve - a day early

December 30, 2016

0.8 miles west

Enjoy an open bar, appetizers, live music, dancing, and a silent auction at the black-tie-optional charity benefit EVE of the EVE at The Merchandsie Mart.

New Year’s Eve - restaurants

December 31, 2016

Chicago locations

Find a list of restaurants that offer special menus and celebrations for New Year’s Eve at OpenTable.

New Year’s Eve - Hard Rock

December 31, 2016

0.2 miles south

New Year’s Eve Soiree has multiple ballrooms, live & DJ music, buffets, and 30 bartenders at the Hard Rock Hotel.

New Year’s Eve - Palmer House

December 31, 2016

0.7 miles south

Big Night Chicago New Year’s Eve Gala includes food, drinks, 4 dance floors, 8 party bands, and DJs.

Austrian music & dance

December 31, 2016 (2:30 p.m.)

1 mile south

Costumed dancers and singers bring the waltzes of Strauss to life, as a full orchestra plays at Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert at the Symphony Center.

New Year’s Eve - Drake Hotel

December 31, 2016

1 mile north

Chicago Scene’s New Years Eve Party has 4 ballrooms with DJs, 45 bartenders, and a balloon drop at the Drake Hotel.

New Year’s Eve - fireworks

December 31, 2016 (midnight)

1 mile east

Welcome the new year with New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Navy Pier at midnight. Free.

New Year’s Eve - Navy Pier #1

December 31, 2016

1 mile east

Crystal Gardens New Year’s Eve has dancing to mainstream music, party favors, 20 bars, hors d’oeuvres, a champagne toast at midnight, and a terrace to watch the fireworks, at Navy Pier.

New Year’s Eve - Navy Pier #2

December 31, 2016 (8:15 p.m.)

1 mile east

Resolution Gala is a formal affair in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier with 30 bars, buffet stations, live DJ, a champagne toast at midnight, and views of fireworks over the lake for age 21+.

New Year’s Eve - Marriott

December 31, 2016

1.1 miles SW

Formal New Year’s Eve Soiree includes before & after parties, a buffet, drinks, dessert, and celebrity DJs at JW Marriott for age 21+.

New Year’s Eve - Hilton

December 31, 2016

1.2 miles south

A ticket to the giant New Year’s Eve Soiree at the Hilton Chicago includes drinks, a buffet, DJ music, and before and after parties at other locations.

New Year’s Eve - beer

December 31, 2016

3 miles west

Brew Year’s Eve features 12 breweries pouring 30 craft beers, with live music, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a dessert buffet on three floors of Salvage One.

New Year’s Eve - comedy

December 31, 2016

5 miles north

The New Year’s Eve Party includes a buffet dinner, 2 improv comedy shows, 2 drink tickets, and midnight champagne at Under The Gun Theater for age 21+.

New Year’s Eve - classical

December 31, 2016 (9 p.m.)

27 miles west

The New Philharmonic plays classical music with a guest vocalist at McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.

Modern dance

December 2016 (undated)

0.5 miles south

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs works by four inventive artists in the Winter Series at Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Artisan food fair

December 2016 (undated)

1.9 miles west

Open Market is an annual artisan food fair with 40 chefs and vendors at Revel Fulton Market.

Grilled-cheese tasting

December 2016 (undated)

4 miles NW

Taste samples from 10 Chicago restaurants at Grilled Cheese Meltdown, which includes two drink tickets at Chop Shop on North Ave.

Little Women

December 2016 (undated)

8 miles north

Little Women is based on the book by Louisa May Alcott about growing up in Civil War America, at 4210 North Lincoln.

Christmas beer

December 2016 (undated)

4.2 miles north

Delilah’s bills its event as the most comprehensive Christmas and Winter Beer Tasting in North America. Admission is $20 at the door.
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© December 2016 calendar of events in Chicago, IL: Christmas, holidays, New Year’s Eve parties, festivals, things to do in Chicago, Illinois. ord-12