Chicago events, festivals, things to do – December 2018

December 2018
best events in Chicago

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.

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.

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.
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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 caroling

December 7 & 14, 2018 (Nov. 23+)

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.

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.

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. Free parking.

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

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

New Year’s Eve - The Wit

December 31, 2018

0.4 miles SW

Wear black tie to casino themed New Year’s Eve 2018 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

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

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 - Navy Pier #2

December 31, 2018

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 - 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 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.

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 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.

Family events at the parks

December 2018 (undated)

multiple locations

Enjoy parties, plays, craft making, and visits with Santa at Winter Holidays by Chicago Park District.

Cookies & wine

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Japanese dance & drum

December 2018 (undated)

0.7 mile north

Taiko Legacy & Reduction [website has sound] both feature Japanese drumming, dance, and street theater at Museum of Contemporary Art.

Gift show

December 2018 (undated)

0.8 miles west

One of a Kind Show and Sale (holiday edition) features handmade gifts by 600 artists, entertainment, and food at The Mart. Repeats in April.

Family treasure hunt

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Speedo run

December 2018 (undated)

1.3 miles north

A ticket to Chicago Santa Speedo Run includes “three hours of drafts” during an open bar at She-nannigans, plus a one-mile run/walk at 1 p.m. outdoors in your underwear or festive attire for age 21+.

Holiday train ride

December 2018 (undated)

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.

1920s party

December 2018 (undated)

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 2018 (undated)

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+.

Santa Claus race

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Holiday trains - Lincoln Park

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Northerly Island adventure

December 2018 (undated)

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 on three dates: Dec. 16, 2017; Jan. 20, 2018; Feb. 24, 2018. Free except parking.

Scary stories

December 2018 (undated)

4 miles north

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

Craft fair

December 2018 (undated)

6 miles north

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

Ugly sweater swing dance

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Eco-friendly art fair

December 2018 (undated)

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. Free.

Cookie walk

December 2018 (undated)

11 miles west

Pay $20 cash and then collect a cookie or candy at 45 shops in Oak Park during Winterfest, or just go for the free entertainment and hot beverages. See schedule.

Jingle Ball concert

December 2018 (undated)

18 miles NW

KISS FM radio 103.5 brings big-name music artists to the annual Jingle Ball at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Wine & beer tasting

December 2018 (undated)

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 festival

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Handel’s Messiah

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Christmas market

December 2018 (undated)

1 mile SW

Christkindlmarket is an open-air European holiday market featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, choirs, and carolers on Daley Plaza. Also located in Naperville and Park at Wrigley, which may have different dates. Free.

Nutcracker ballet

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Winter WonderFest

December 2018 (undated)

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. If younger than 18, you need a parent. If older, you need ID.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Christmas beer

December 2018 (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 for 20 samples.

Christmas ship musical

December 2018 (undated)

4.8 miles north

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

The Nutcracker ballet

December 2018 (undated)

5 miles north

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

Ballet-free Nutcracker

December 2018 (undated)

7.4 miles north

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

Christmas liturgy

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Holiday music

December 2018 (undated)

8 miles north

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

Holidays around the world

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Steampunk Christmas Carol

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Baroque holiday music

December 2018 (undated)

13 miles north

Hear classics by Bach and Handel at Holiday Baroque in a chapel with giant stained-glass windows at Northwestern University.

Christmas lights - Brookfield Zoo

December 2018 (undated)

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.

Mannheim Steamroller

December 2018 (undated)

16 miles NW

Grammy Award-winning composer Chip Davis presents Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, performed live with acoustic-electronic seasonal hits and multimedia effects at Rosemont Theatre.

Hinsdale Christmas Walk

December 2018 (undated)

21 miles SW

Christmas Walk features Santa’s arrival, carolers, animated characters, live reindeer, a carousel, and a tree lighting in Hinsdale’s Burlington Park.

Christmas lights - arboretum

December 2018 (undated)

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.

The Nutcracker

December 2018 (undated)

27 miles west

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