Winter in Chicago doesn’t have to be dominated by snow shoveling and the stress of the holidays, there are some pretty festive and fun things to do during this time of year as well. Yes, it’ll be cold and it’ll be snowy, but Chicagoans know what to expect from this time of year and how to conquer the conditions. Although the winter season can be precarious in this part of the country, it is also filled with dazzling wonder — and there’s no reason to stay locked away at home when there are so many wonderful events happening. Here are some of the best winter festivals happening in Chicago this year.



Daley Plaza
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL. 60602
(312) 494-2175

Date: Nov. 20 – Dec. 24 at 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Sunday – Thursday) and 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Friday – Saturday)

Inspired by the original Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany, Christkindlmarket in downtown’s Daley Plaza is an open-air, European-style market place.
This festival features handmade gifts and traditional art, warm German foods, choirs and carolers, dancers and actors, and fun activities for kids. Come out and wrap yourself in a warm event happening during a not-so-warm time of year, and forget all about the frosty air. The Christkindlmarket is free and happening from the end of November through Christmas Eve. Special hours for the Christkindlmarket will take place on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., and on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL. 60614
(312) 742-2000

Date: Nov. 27-29, Dec. 4-6, 11-23, and 26-31, 2015, and Jan. 1-3, 2016 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

There are few things more magical in Chicago, for children and adults, than wandering through Lincoln Park Zoo as its bright and beautiful and twinkling. ZooLights, the annual celebration that decks out the zoo with colorful strings of lights and bright displays, is a must for many families each and every year. Come explore Santa’s Safari and take a photo with Santa himself, see giant snow-globes and ice carving demonstrations, enjoy family crafts, a Holiday Express train an endangered species carousel and so much more. Come out for some music, food, and, of course, the wonderful lights. Admission to both ZooLights and Lincoln Park Zoo are free.

Winter WonderFest
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60611
(312) 595-7437

Date: Dec. 4, 2015 – Jan. 10, 2016

One of the primary attractions in Chicago for both locals and tourists — year-round — is Navy Pier. The holiday season is no exception for a great experience at the heart of the city and right on Chicago’s amazing Lake Michigan. Winter WonderFest, held at Navy Pier, is the biggest and most fun indoor winter playground in all of the Chicagoland area. Come enjoy the Snowman Bounce House, Chicago Blackhawks Ice Rink, Kringle Carousel, Reindeer Express, and more, all in 170,000 square feet of fun and entertainment.

Related: Best Places To Celebrate Oktoberfest In Chicago

West Town Winterfest
West Town
Halsted to California, Grand to Division
Chicago, IL. 60622
(312) 850-9390

Date: Saturday, Nov. 28

It may only take place during one day this winter, but the West Town Winterfest is jam packed with seasonal fun and activities. As somewhat of a combination of both a holiday festival and a celebration of Small Business Saturday, the West Town Winterfest offers something for everyone. Featuring specials at many local shopping and dining establishments in the trendy West Town area, there will also be an array of activities for children of all ages, including Santa Sprint on Division Street, Jolly Trolley tours through the neighborhood, holiday-inspired menu options, musical performances, carolers and more.

Holiday Magic
Brookfield Zoo
8400 W. 31st St.
Brookfield, IL. 60513
(708) 688-8000

Date: Dec. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, and 26-31. 2015 at 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

A visit to Brookfield Zoo is special during any time of the year, but extra memorable during the holidays with their Holiday Magic Festival. Offering Chicagoland’s largest light festival with over one million gorgeous LED lights, children and adults alike will also love the 41-foot talking tree and train display. Come enjoy the carolers and ice carvers, a magic show, animal visits, a laser light show and general winter joy. Families don’t have to wait until summer to enjoy a day at the zoo, come out to wander Brookfield Zoo’s vast collection of animals and displays, and then stay until after dark for the Holiday Magic to create a full day of holiday season fun.

Related: Best Fall 2015 Outdoor Concerts In Chicago

Soon after earning her BA in journalism, Melanie Falina began writing about one of the loves of her life – music. Since then, she’s covered some of the biggest names in music, in addition to writing on an array of other topics as well. She has written for Black Belt magazine, KISS: The Official Authorized Quarterly Magazine, Examiner,, Yahoo Voices, and more, and was editor for Don Lemmon’s KNOW HOW Book Three, Refuse To Fail. Melanie is also a poet with five published collections of poetry available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and various establishments.