Chicago events December 2018. Things to do in Chicago.

Best events for 12 months

Chicago events December 2018

Santa bar crawl

December 1, 2018
multiple locations
Wear a Santa suit to Chicago SantaCon, a tour of city bars beginning at The Bar Below (also called Beef and Brandy) for age 21+. Free.

Hip-hop Christmas story

December 1, 2018
(6 p.m., also Nov.)
1.2 miles east
“A wildly engaging hip-hop take on Dickens’ classic” [Chicago Sun-Times], Q Brothers Christmas Carol mixes reggae, dancehall, dubstep, and even epic rock ballads at The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, Navy Pier.

Ticket deal $18 to $27

Speedo run

December 1, 2018
(11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
1.3 miles north
A ticket to Chicago Santa Speedo Run includes an open beer bar beginning at 11 a.m. (or pay extra for beer plus liquor), and a one-mile run/walk at 1 p.m. outdoors in your underwear or festive attire, beginning at She-nannigans for age 21+.

Santa Claus race

December 1, 2018
2.5 miles south
Join thousands of runners dressed as Santa for the Santa Hustle Chicago 5K at Soldier Field, which offers Santa wear, candy, cookies, a medal, and an after-party at Navy Pier. Shorter versions for kids.

Christmas liturgy

December 1, 2018
(4 & 7:30 p.m.)
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.

Hip Nutcracker

December 1, 2018
(7:30 p.m.)
16 miles NW
The Hip Hop Nutcracker gives Tchaikovsky’s score a modern twist with 12 hip-hop dancers (including “King of Rap” Kurtis Blow), an on-stage DJ, an electric violinist, and a digital background with an urban vibe, at Rosemont Theatre.

Ticket deal $25 to $39

Music festival

December 1, 2018
(doors 5 p.m.)
20.5 miles south
Weishfest is a music festival with national acts at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park to support charity.

Doggie Christmas

December 1, 2018
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. Bring your dog’s vaccination records.

Beer festival

December 1, 2018
35 miles NW
A ticket to Mother Truckin’ Beer Fest gets you 25 tasting tickets and an opportunity to shop from food trucks at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates for age 21+.

Ticket deal $45

Magic show

December 1 - 2, 2018
4.8 miles north
Ivan Amodei involves the audience in his entertaining 90-minute magic show Secrets & Illusions, featuring illusions, puzzles, priceless artwork, music, and mind games at Victory Gardens Theatre for age 10+.

Ticket deal $45 to $65

Craft fair

December 1 - 2, 2018
6 miles north
Shop from independent artisans and chefs at the Renegade Craft Fair at Bridgeport Art Center. Free.

Swedish bazaar

December 1 - 2, 2018
7 miles north
Julmarknad is a Christmas bazaar of Scandinavian food and gift items plus traditional entertainment at the Swedish American Museum.

Holiday market

December 1 - 2, 2018
(starts Nov. 29)
29 miles NW
Holiday Lights Gift and Craft Fair has hundreds of booths selling food, gifts, and decorations to holiday shoppers at Arlington International Racecourse.

Christmas market

December 1 - 24, 2018
(begins Nov. 16)
1 mile SW
Christkindlmarket is an open-air European holiday market featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, choirs, and carolers on Daley Plaza. The Naperville location opens November 23. Free.

Family events at the parks

December 1 - 28, 2018
multiple locations
Enjoy parties, plays, craft making, and visits with Santa at Holiday Season Events by Chicago Park District.

Nutcracker ballet

December 1 - 30, 2018
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.

Ticket deal $66 to $96

Ballet-free Nutcracker

December 1 - 30, 2018
(starts Nov. 8)
7.4 miles north
Clara struggles to save Christmas in the The Nutcracker, an imaginative, family-friendly version live at Chopin Theatre.

Ticket deal $21 to $32

It’s a Wonderful Life: radio play

December 1 - 30, 2018
20.1 miles north
It’s a Wonderful Life recreates a live radio play based on the film about a man seeking purpose in life at the Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview.

Ticket deal $20

Christmas lights - Brookfield Zoo

December 1 - 31, 2018
14 miles SW
Holiday Magic has a million twinkling lights, a train display, carolers, ice carvers, a magician, a talking tree, zoo chats, and singing to animals at the Brookfield Zoo. Dates in 2018: Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 26-31.

Holiday train ride

Dec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 1, 2019
(Nov. 30+)
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.

Christmas lights - arboretum

Dec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 1, 2019
(Nov. 17+)
27 miles west
See colorful tree lights and projections on a one-mile walk at Illumination, with fire pits to warm you up along the way at Morton Arboretum. Closed Nov. 22, Dec. 24 & 25, and all Mondays except Dec. 31.

Winter WonderFest

December 1, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019
(Nov. 30+)
1 mile east
Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, skating, carnival rides, and entertainment. You need ID if you are age 18+, otherwise you need a parent. Children shorter than 3 feet are free. Closed Dec. 25.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

Dec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019
(Nov. 23+)
2.5 miles north
ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carving, music, carousel & train rides, food, and gift shopping (plus photos with Santa some days). Free. Closed Nov. 26 - 29; Dec. 3 - 6 & 24 - 25.

Holiday trains - Lincoln Park

Dec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019
(Nov. 23+)
3 miles north
Model trains wind their way through a miniature village among poinsettias during the Holiday Flower Show at Lincoln Conservatory. Open daily. Free.

Holidays around the world

Dec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019
(Nov. 15+)
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 on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

Dec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019
(Nov. 23+)
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.

Artisan market

December 2, 2018
(10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
1.9 miles west
Shop from 80 independent vendors of food, fashion, art, and home goods at the Chicago Artisan Market at Morgan Manufacturing, including a kids’ zone. Children age 11 and younger are free.

Ticket deal $3.75

Baroque holiday music

December 2, 2018
(3 p.m.)
13 miles north
Hear classics by Bach and Handel at Holiday Baroque in a chapel with giant stained-glass windows at Northwestern University.

Ticket deal $19

Scary stories

December 3, 2018
4 miles north
Deathscribe is five contest-winning audio nightmares performed live with sound effects at Lincoln Hall.

Wine & beer tasting

December 5, 2018
(6 to 8 p.m.)
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.

Creative percussion show

December 5 - 30, 2018
1.1 miles north
Stomp has high-energy dance, acrobatics, comedy, and nonstop rhythm from unusual instruments at Broadway Playhouse.

Ticket deal $49 to $59

1920s party

December 6, 2018
(7 to 11 p.m.)
2 miles north
Come as a gangster or flapper to The Last Speakeasy, a Prohibition-era party with music, dancing, a casino, cocktails, and heavy hors d’oeuvres at the Chicago History Museum.

Beer at Zoolights

December 6, 2018
2.5 miles north
A ticket to BrewLights gets you a dozen samples of draft beer. You also can buy food for sale, take a photo with Santa, see the holiday lights, and visit animals in their exhibits at Lincoln Park Zoo for age 21+.

Holiday music

December 6, 2018
(7:30 p.m.)
8 miles north
Student musicians & singers perform a mix of sacred and secular works at Joyola at Loyola University.

Irish Christmas Luncheon

December 7, 2018
1.2 miles south
The $80 Christmas Luncheon includes cocktails (11:15 a.m.) followed by lunch (12:15 p.m.), with Christmas carols, Irish music, and a green Santa Claus at the Hilton Chicago. The public is welcome to attend.

Christmas caroling

December 7, 12, 14, 2018
(also Nov.)
0.7 miles SE
Bundle up and prepare to belt out holiday classics when asked to sing along with the choir at Caroling at Cloud Gate outdoors in Millennium Park. Free.

The Nutcracker ballet

December 7 - 16, 2018
5 miles north
Youthful members of Ballet Chicago perform the holiday classic The Nutcracker to Tchaikovsky’s score at Athenaeum Theatre.

Ticket deal $17

Christmas beer

December 8, 2018
(12 to 5 p.m.)
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 for 20 samples.

The Nutcracker - River Forest

December 8, 2018
(7 p.m.)
11 miles west
Clara dreams that her toy nutcracker comes to life in The Nutcracker at Dominican University, starring guest artists from the Cincinnati Ballet.

Ticket deal $15

Japanese dance & drum

December 8 - 9, 2018
0.7 mile north
Taiko Legacy & Reduction [website has sound] both feature Japanese drumming, dance, and street theater at Museum of Contemporary Art.

Model train show

December 8 - 9, 2018
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.

Family treasure hunt

December 9, 2018
(10:45 a.m.)
1 mile south
Kids make five activity stops and then have a tea party with entertainment and refreshments at the Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party at the Art Institute.

Jingle Ball concert

December 12, 2018
(7:30 p.m.)
18 miles NW
KISS FM radio 103.5 brings big-name music artists to the annual Jingle Ball at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

Ugly sweater swing dance

December 14, 2018
6.4 miles NW
Wear your tackiest to Ugly Sweater Swing Class, which includes a beginner’s class, open dancing, mingling, and a costume contest at Duet Dance Studio for age 21+. BYOB.

Anime convention

December 14 - 16, 2018
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.

Handel’s Messiah

December 15 - 16, 2018
0.5 miles south
It’s a holiday tradition to hear joyful Handel’s Messiah sung by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago at Harris Theater.

Holiday market

December 15 - 16, 2018
2.5 miles west
Randolph Street’s Holiday Market offers affordable antique, vintage, and modern goods indoors at 1340 W. Washington Boulevard in November and December. Children age 12 and younger are free. Free parking.

Ticket deal 2 for $11

The Nutcracker

December 15 - 16, 2018
27 miles west
Chicago Festival Ballet and the New Philharmonic Orchestra perform a beautiful and lively Nutcracker at McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.

Ticket deal $22

Family theater

December 15, 2018 - Jan. 12, 2019
4.8 miles north
Based on a classic children’s story by Roald Dahl, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is about an animal that saves his family from spiteful farmers, with live music at Victory Gardens.

Ticket deal $12 to $15

Funny family play

December 19 - 30, 2018
(also Nov.)
0.9 miles north
Emily and her friend the mouse go searching for Santa’s naughty-or-nice list in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, a “fantastic, slapstick holiday affair” at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

Ticket deal $20

Adult night at the planetarium

December 20, 2018
(6 to 10 p.m.)
2.5 miles SE
Adler After Dark offers open access, science talks, planetarium shows, entertainment, and no-host bars at Adler Planetarium for age 21+. This month the theme is space odyssey.

Charlie Brown live!

December 22, 2018
(1 and 5 p.m.)
16 miles NW
Based on the television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a play featuring popular Peanuts cartoon characters learning the true meaning of Christmas, with a trio playing the music at Rosemont Theatre.

Ticket deal $35


December 22, 2018 - Jan. 6, 2019
0.5 miles south
Direct from London, and featured on Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” Jamie Allan offers “a stunning show with world-class high-tech illusions, dazzling laser levitations, death-defying water chamber escapes, and awe-inspiring magic at Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Ticket deal $50 to $120

Jewish party

December 24, 2018
1 mile NW
Join 1,500 people at the Matzo Bash for two hours of hosted cocktails and appetizers, plus DJ dance music on two floors at Sound-Bar.

New Year’s party - a day early

December 30, 2018
0.8 miles west
Enjoy an open bar, hors d’oeuvres buffet, a band, dancing, and a silent auction at the black-tie-optional charity benefit EVE of the EVE at The Merchandise Mart.

Austrian music & dance

December 30, 2018
(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 - restaurants

December 31, 2018
Chicago locations
OpenTable lists restaurants that offer special menus and celebrations on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve - The Wit

December 31, 2018
0.4 miles SW
Wear black tie to casino themed New Year’s Eve Monte Carlo for gaming tables, open bar, food stations, DJ music, and a champagne toast on top of the Wit.

New Year’s Eve arcade

December 31, 2018
0.5 miles east
A ticket to Lucky Strike and FTW Arcade NYE gets you access to both venues, two drink tickets, snacks, DJ music, midnight champagne, and a $20 game card.

New Year’s Eve - Congress Plaza

December 31, 2018
0.7 miles south
A ticket to Big Night Chicago New Year’s Eve Gala includes unlimited food, drinks, multiple dance floors, nine bands, and DJs.

New Year’s Eve - Hard Rock

December 31, 2018
(8 p.m.)
0.7 miles NW
Rock Around the Clock features the official Chicago Bulls DJ playing dance music (top 40, old school, retro), plus appetizers, an open bar, and a midnight champagne toast at the Hard Rock Cafe for age 21+.

Fireworks at the lake

December 31, 2018
1 mile east
Welcome the new year with 15 minutes of New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. Gates may close if the crowd capacity is reached. Free.

New Year’s Eve - Drake Hotel

December 31, 2018
1 mile north
Chicago Scene’s New Years Eve Party has multiple ballrooms with DJs, hors d’oeuvres, 40 bartenders, and balloon drops at the Drake Hotel.

New Year’s Eve - Navy Pier #1

December 31, 2018
(8:15 p.m.)
1 mile east
Join 3,000 people at Chicago Resolution Gala, which has multiple DJs, 30 bars, food stations, a champagne toast at midnight, and views of fireworks over the lake in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier for age 21+.

New Year’s Eve - Navy Pier #2

December 31, 2018
(9 p.m.)
1 mile east
Crystal Gardens New Year’s Eve has dancing to mainstream music, party favors, 20 bars, food stations, a champagne toast at midnight, and a terrace to watch the fireworks, at Navy Pier.

New Year’s Eve - Marriott

December 31, 2018
1.1 miles SW
Formal New Year’s Eve Soiree includes drinks, a food buffet, dessert, DJs, and a cover band at JW Marriott for age 21+.

New Year’s Eve - Hilton

December 31, 2018
1.2 miles south
A ticket to New Year’s Eve Soiree at the Hilton Chicago includes drinks, a buffet, desserts, DJs, a cover band, and a champagne toast at midnight, for age 21+.

New Year’s at the zoo

December 31, 2018
(9 p.m.)
2.5 miles north
See millions of holiday lights, watch artists carve blocks of ice, buy beer/wine/champagne, hear DJ music, play games, and visit the animals during Zoo Year’s Eve at Lincoln Park Zoo for age 21+.

Ticket deal $10

New Year’s Eve Latin dance

December 31, 2018
7.8 miles north
Chicago Ultimate Tropical NYE has a Latin dance lesson at 8:15 p.m., DJ and live music in multiple ballrooms from 9 p.m to morning, and a champagne toast at midnight at Dance Center Chicago.

Casual New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2018
7.9 miles north
Brew Year’s Eve features 20 craft beers from 10 breweries, cocktails, wine, passed hors d’oeuvres, a pizza buffet, and live music on three floors of Architectural Artifacts for age 21+. Jeans are OK. Free coat check.

Ticket deal $99

New Year’s Eve - classical

December 31, 2018
(2 & 5:30 & 9 p.m.)
27 miles west
The New Philharmonic plays classical music with guest vocalists at McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.

Ticket deal $34 at 9 p.m.

New Year’s Eve with knights

December 31, 2018
28 miles NW
Ring in the New Year with the lords and ladies of Medieval Times. Ticket includes admission to the Museum of Torture, a two-hour live tournament, a four-course meal, party favors, DJ dancing, and champagne at midnight (or kids’ beverage) in Schaumburg.

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