The revered German tradition made its way to Chicago in 1996 and has become an annual winter tradition in the Windy City. This Christmas holiday market takes place in Daley Plaza from Thanksgiving to Christmas and offers unique crafts and gifts for sale, live entertainment, as well as German-focused food and drinks.
Daley Plaza at Washington and Dearborn streets
Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.
- 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
- 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
- 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day
- 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Christmas Eve
Christkindlmarket Chicago started in 1996, and has grown tremendously in popularity with more than half a million people attending each year. It's the largest German market of its kind in the country, and it aims to stay true to its German roots. More than 70 percent of the market's vendors speak German as well as English. The year 2017 marks the event's 22nd anniversary in Chicago.
What sets Christkindlmarket apart from other shopping opportunities in the downtown area is that it offers a unique experience. Many of the items are handcrafted and incredibly unique. Wares range from hand-blown glass ornaments, nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, jewelry, toys, clothing and more. Many of the vendors also offer demonstrations of the making of their items.
One of the most anticipated attractions of Christkindlmarket is the official Christkind, a young woman from Nuremberg, Germany dressed in traditional holiday attire and commissioned to serve as ambassador for the event. She will be present throughout the duration of Christkindlmarket and is part of the grand opening festivities.
That's when she'll recite a prologue translated from the original German version, to welcome visitors to the Christkindlmarket Chicago. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet and greet with the Christkind, take photos with her, and listen as she shares German holiday traditions and telling Christmas stories. She will also be part of the popular Kinder Korner programming.
As it's important to keep a full belly to stay warm in Chicago's winter chill, Christkindlmarket has a number of food and drink vendors on site as well. These are especially popular with the office dwellers surrounding Daley Plaza as a nice break from the usual downtown lunch fare. German sausages, sauerkraut and potato pancakes are all on tap. Sweets, pastries and candies help provide a nice finish to your meal. To drink, there are German beers on hand as well as the traditional "glühwein", a hot, spiced wine traditionally served around the holidays.
Additional Annual Holiday Celebrations in Chicago
Christmas Around The World at Museum of Science and Industry. From Thanksgiving through the first weekend of January, the exhibit takes a look at how various cultures celebrate the winter holiday across the globe, with performances from multiple dance and chorus groups, as well as more than 50 trees decorated by various ethnic groups throughout Chicago.
The 45-foot tree in the museum's main hall is decorated with ornaments representing many of their classic exhibits. The exhibition first started in 1942 with a single tree dedicated to the Allies of World War II. The exhibition is included in the admission price to the museum. 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., 773-684-1414
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo. Chicagoland's second zoo gets into the holiday season with decorations of almost one million lights, a laser light show, carolers, storytellers and more. Many of the indoor exhibits will be open for viewing animals, plus there will be "singing to the animals" and special "zoo chats." In addition, the zoo's restaurants and food stands will be open with full menus and holiday treats, and gift shops will have hundreds of unique items. The exhibition is included in the admission price to the zoo.
It runs 4-9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in December. 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield, Ill.; 708-688-8000
Ice Skating at Millennium Park. Located in a lovely setting below Chicago's Cloud Gate sculpture, a.k.a., "The Bean," the Millennium Park ice skating rink is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. It's especially beautiful after dark, with the tall buildings to the west, and Cloud Gate reflecting the city lights to the east. Skating season generally begins shortly before Thanksgiving, and runs through March. Access to the skating rink is free; skate rental is $12. Here are even more places to ice skate throughout Chicago.
WinterWonderfest. Held at Navy Pier, the WinterWonderfest is considered the city's biggest indoor winter playground, featuring 170,000 square feet of rides, giant slides and the Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating rink. Visitors may purchase two different types of tickets: the general admission ticket, which is $13 at the door and includes the Jingle Jym Jr., Kringle Carousel and Reindeer Express Train Ride; or the activity ticket, which is $28 at the door and includes access to more than 25 rides such as the Blackhawks indoor skating rink with skate rental. It runs early December through mid-January. 600 E. Grand Ave., 312-595-7437
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo spiffs up with strings of lights and bright displays, and extends its hours into the evening in celebration of the holiday season. But it is not just about the lights. The zoo provides other Christmas attractions as well such as Santa's Safari (a unique photo opportunity with Santa, as he's alongside life-like exotic animals); giant snowglobes featuring holiday characters; family crafts and temporary tattoos; ice carving demonstrations; endangered species carousel; Holiday Express train (a miniature train for tots); and African Safari Ride (a simulation ride). There is no admission price. It takes place 5-9 p.m. daily. 2001 N. Clark St., 312-742-2000