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.

Distance 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.

Beer at Zoolights

December 1, 2016 (5:30 to 9:30 p.m.)

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.

Gift show

December 1 - 4, 2016

1 mile west

One of a Kind Show and Sale (holiday edition) features handmade gifts by 600 artists, entertainment, and food 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.

Family Nutcracker

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

34 miles north

The Nutcracker is a one-hour musical 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.

Christmas play

December 1 - 31, 2016

multiple locations

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

Christmas ship musical

December 21 - 31, 2016

4.8 miles north

The Christmas Schooner tells the moving story of a 19th-century captain who risks everything to bring the Christmas spirit to Chicago, at Mercury Theater.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

Dec. 1, 2016 - Jan. 2, 2017 (also Nov.)

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, 2016 - Jan. 2, 2017 (also Nov.)

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 (begins Nov. 25)

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.

Holidays around the world

Dec. 1, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017 (also Nov.)

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.

Hinsdale Christmas Walk

December 2, 2016 (4 to 8 p.m.)

21 miles SW

Christmas Walk features Santa’s arrival, carolers, giant storybooks, ice carvers, a trackless train, and a 5 p.m. tree lighting in Hinsdale’s Burlington Park.

Short films

December 2 - 3, 2016

1.2 miles south

See nearly 100 short films at the Chicago International Reel Shorts Film Fest at 623 S. Wabash Avenue. The schedule consists of programs 70 to 120 minutes long.

French market

December 2 - 4, 2016 (Dec. 2 is a party)

7.5 miles north

Lycée French Market has 70 vendors, a bistro, chef demos, and live French music at 1929 W. Wilson Avenue. Admission prices.

Christmas caroling

December 2 - 16, 2016 (6 p.m. Fridays)

0.7 miles SE

Bundle up and prepare to belt out holiday classics when asked to sing along with the choirs at Caroling at Cloud Gate outside in Millennium Park. Starts Nov. 25.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

Dec. 2, 2016 - Jan. 1, 2017 (also Nov.)

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 through Dec. 23). Free entry. Open Nov. 25-27; Dec. 2-4, 9-23, 26-31; Jan. 1.

Winter WonderFest

December 2, 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. Closed Dec. 25.

Santa bar crawl

December 3, 2016 (noon)

1 mile south

Wear a Santa suit to SantaCon Chicago, which starts at Congress Plaza Hotel and then heads to city bars. You must sign into Facebook to see the Facebook page. Free.

Speedo run

December 3, 2016

1.6 miles north

A ticket to Chicago Santa Speedo Run includes an open bar at 11 a.m. in McFadden’s followed at 1 p.m. by a 1.2-mile run/walk outdoors in your underwear or festive attire for age 21+.

Santa Claus race

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.

Christmas beer

December 3, 2016 (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.

Cookie walk

December 3, 2016 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

11 miles west

Pay $20 and then collect a cookie, treat, or hot drink from 45 shops in Oak Park during Winterfest. Also see the schedule for free entertainment in Oak Park.

Jim Brickman on piano

December 3, 2016 (7:30 p.m.)

14 miles west

The Comfort & Joy tour features witty piano player Jim Brickman playing holiday favorites and new songs at Lund Auditorium in River Forest.

Doggie Christmas

December 3, 2016 (12 p.m.)

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.

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.

Holiday bar crawls

December 3 - 17, 2016

Chicago area

A ticket gets you special food and drink prices at bars.
  • Dec. 3 - Running of the Santas starts at McFadden’s.
  • Dec. 10 - 12 Bars of Xmas is in Wrigleyville.
  • Dec. 10 - Christmas Crawl is in Old Town.
  • Dec. 17 - Santa Crawl is in River North.
  • Christmas lights - Brookfield Zoo

    December 3 - 31, 2016 (dates below)

    14 miles SW

    Holiday Magic has a million twinkling lights, a magic show, model train, animal visits, and carolers 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.

    Shakespeare movies

    December 3, 2016 - Jan. 5, 2017

    0.5 miles SW

    Watch 10 films based on the plays of William Shakespeare during Shakespeare on Film at Gene Siskel Film Center.

    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.

    Scary stories

    December 5, 2016 (8 p.m.)

    4 miles north

    Deathscribe is five contest-winning audio nightmares performed live with sound effects at Lincoln Hall.

    Wine & beer tasting

    December 7, 2016 (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.

    Holiday music

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

    8 miles north

    Student musicians & singers perform a mix of sacred and secular works at Joyola! at Loyola University.

    Steampunk Christmas Carol

    December 9 - 18, 2016

    10.4 miles north

    Charles Dickens meets Jules Verne in Steampunk Christmas Carol, a fanciful tale set in Victorian England and full of strange machines powered by gas, gears, and electricity in Rogers Park.

    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.

    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 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

    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.

    Craft beer tasting

    December 10, 2016 (12 to 5 p.m.)

    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 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.

    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.

    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.

    Family treasure hunt

    December 11, 2016

    1 mile south

    Kids make four activity stops and 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 at Holiday Baroque in a chapel with giant stained-glass windows at Northwestern University.

    Christmas concert

    December 15 - 18, 2016

    multiple locations

    Hear beautiful and inspiring music at Holiday Brass & Choral Concert [sound] by Music of the Baroque.
    • Dec. 15 - River Forest
    • Dec. 16 - Chicago (Old Town)
    • Dec. 17 & 18 - Northbrook

    Ugly sweater salsa dance

    December 16, 2016 (9 p.m.)

    6.4 miles NW

    Wear your tackiest to the Ugly Sweater Party, which includes a beginner’s class, open dancing, mingling, and a performance at Duet Dance Studio for age 21+. BYOB.

    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.

    Japanese dance & drum

    December 17 - 18, 2016

    0.7 mile north

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

    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.

    Holiday tap dance

    December 18, 2016 (3 p.m.)

    16.3 miles NW

    Tidings of Tap! features whimsical interpretations of holiday songs by Chicago Tap Theatre and nonstop rhythm in Skokie.

    It’s a Wonderful Life: radio play

    December 21 - 30, 2016 (8 p.m.)

    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.

    Holiday humor

    December 22 - 30, 2016

    0.5 miles SW

    Twist Your Dickens is a zany sendup of the classic “A Christmas Carol” with adult humor, improvisation, and parody at Goodman Theatre.

    Jewish party

    December 24, 2016 (9 p.m.)

    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, 2016 (8 p.m.)

    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.

    Dance class

    December 30, 2016 (9 to 10:30 p.m.)

    4.6 miles NW

    Celebrate the New Year a day early at the Pre NYE dance social, which is a beginner merengue dance class for singles and couples at Duet Dance Studio. You can bring alcohol if you have age 21 ID.

    Fireworks & music at the river

    December 31, 2016 (8 p.m. to midnight)

    0 miles

    Get free tickets online for the Chi-Town Rising New Year’s Eve Celebration in two areas near the Chicago River, with entertainment, food vendors, and “an epic fireworks display to welcome the New Year.” Free.

    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 (9 p.m.)

    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 - Westin

    December 31, 2016 (9 p.m., VIP 8)

    0.5 miles west

    New Year’s Eve Soiree offers multiple rooms with DJ music and views at The Westin Chicago River North.

    Family New Year’s Eve

    December 31, 2016 (3 to 6 p.m.)

    0.7 miles SE

    Part of the new Chi-Town Rising event, Family Countdown Celebration on the Chicago Cultural Mile ends in a “Kids Countdown Spectacular” at 6 p.m. at Millennium Park. Free.

    New Year’s Eve - Palmer House

    December 31, 2016 (9 p.m.)

    0.7 miles south

    A ticket to Big Night Chicago New Year’s Eve Gala includes unlimited food, drinks, four dance floors, seven 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.

    Fireworks at the lake

    December 31, 2016 (midnight)

    1 mile east

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

    New Year’s Eve - Drake Hotel

    December 31, 2016 (9 p.m., VIP 8)

    1 mile north

    Chicago Scene’s New Years Eve Party has multiple ballrooms with DJs, hors d’oeuvres, 40 bartenders, and a balloon drop at the Drake Hotel.

    New Year’s Eve - Navy Pier #1

    December 31, 2016 (9 p.m., VIP 8:30)

    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

    Join 3,000 people at Resolution Gala, which features four DJs, 30 bars, buffet 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 - Marriott

    December 31, 2016 (9 p.m.)

    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 (9 p.m., VIP 8)

    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.

    Casual New Year’s Eve

    December 31, 2016 (8 p.m.)

    3 miles west

    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 Salvage One for age 21+. Jeans are OK. Free coat check.

    New Year’s Eve - comedy

    December 31, 2016 (8 p.m.)

    5 miles north

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

    German New Year’s Eve

    December 31, 2016 (8 p.m.)

    7 miles north

    A ticket to New Year’s Eve at Dank Haus includes an open bar with German beer, wine, and cocktails, plus a heavy hors d’oeuvres buffet, a champagne toast, and dancing to an eight-piece orchestra at Dank Haus. The Champagne Room has views of the fireworks.

    New Year’s Eve - classical

    December 31, 2016 (2, 5:30 & 9 p.m.)

    27 miles west

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

    New Year’s Eve with knights

    December 31, 2016 (9:30 p.m.)

    28 miles NW

    Ring in the New Year with the lords and ladies of Medieval Times. Tickets include hors d’oeuvres, admission to Museum of Torture, a 2-hour live tournament, a 4-course meal, party favors, a balloon drop, DJ dancing, and champagne toast (juice for kids) in Schaumburg.
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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