A Travel Guide to Chicago in November

Holiday Happenings, Power Shopping Dominate Month

Detail of The Wrigley Building during The Holidays, Chicago.
••• Jon Hicks/Getty Images

Chicago is a fun place to be any time of the year, and that's especially true at the start of the holiday season around Thanksgiving. You'll find special holiday happenings as well as spectacular shopping opportunities. Chicago is a great dining city, so be sure to indulge in some of that during your visit in November.

November Weather

November weather is not what draws visitors during this late fall month, and here's why: The average afternoon highs top out around 47 degrees Fahrenheit, with temps falling to 32 degrees (that's literally freezing) on average at night.

And then there's snow; the average for the month is 2.9 inches. Or that could come in the form of cold rain. Either way, it's wet.

What to Wear

Despite what the averages say, weather during November can widely vary; sometimes it's unseasonably cool, and other days can be downright cold. Check the weather forecast just before you go. But no matter what it says, packing layers of clothing is definitely in order. Take a trench coat with a zip-out lining, peacoat, or lined leather jacket. You might also want gloves and a chic hat. If you find you need something to keep warm, that's just another reason to shop. If you're staying in the Chicago Loop or Magnificient Mile downtown, you'll be doing a lot of walking. Bring comfortable shoes or ankle boots to make that a pleasant experience.

November Pros

The city is lit up, getting everyone in the holiday spirit, from Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade to the official Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting.

November Cons

There's a good chance of flight or driving problems if a storm comes through; here's where to dine and drink if you get stranded at one of the airports. Also, hotel prices go up because it's prime-time holiday season, especially on the Magnificent Mile and in the Loop.

November Highlights

  • Magnificent Mile Lights Festival: The holiday season starts off with a (bright) bang during the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in the famed Magnificent Mile shopping district. More than a million lights on 200 trees are lit during the event that also includes a number of family-friendly performances and a tree-lighting parade down Michigan Avenue led by Mickey and Minne Mouse from Walt Disney World. 
  • Ice skating kicks off at Millennium Park: The rink draws more than 100,000 skaters annually and is free and open to the public. The rink is on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison streets. The rink announces its opening date in October for the fall and winter season.

  • Caroling at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park: Revelers are encouraged to bundle up and get ready to belt out some holiday classics at these festive events that are part concert, part sing-along. Local choral groups lead hundreds of celebrants in song. Check the Millennium Park website for specific dates and times.

  • Christmas Around the World: Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry gets into the holiday spirit by taking a look at how various cultures celebrate the winter holiday across the globe.

  • Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade: New York City's not the only one with a grand Thanksgiving Day parade. Chicago's is pretty great, too, and has been since 1934.​
  • Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting: Head to Millennium Park to witness the lighting of a giant evergreen tree, which is donated by an area resident and decked out in thousands of lights. This takes place near Michigan Avenue and Washington Street.
  • Christkindlmarket Chicago: This Christmas holiday market takes place in Daley Plaza from mid-November to Christmas Eve and offers unusual crafts and gifts for sale and live entertainment, as well as German-focused food and drinks.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights: Lincoln Park Zoo gets into the holiday season when it decks itself with lights, Santa's Safari, and ice-carving demonstrations.

Edited by Audarshia Townsend