November in Chicago: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

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

Although Chicago is a fun year-round destination, it's especially enjoyable in November when the temperature drops and the air and atmosphere are a bit crisper. You'll find special Thanksgiving holiday happenings as well as spectacular shopping sales. Plus, the city is all lit up, getting everyone in the holiday spirit, from Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Parade to the official Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting.

Chicago Weather in November

November weather is not what draws visitors during this late fall month. The average afternoon highs top out around 47°F, with temps falling to a freezing 32°F 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, Chicago weather is wet and frigid and you should plan accordingly.

What to Pack

Because of the colder weather and chilly winds blowing off of Lake Michigan, it's important to pack many warm layers. Take a trench coat with a zip-out lining, peacoat, or lined leather jacket. You'll likely want gloves and a hat. If you're staying in the Chicago Loop or along the Magnificent Mile downtown, you'll be doing a lot of walking. Bring comfortable shoes or boots to make that a more pleasant, dry experience.

November Events in Chicago

November is a busy month in Chicago as many of the holiday events start opening to the public.

  • 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 Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World. 
  • Ice skating kicks off at Millennium Park: The free rink draws more than 100,000 skaters annually. The rink is on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison streets.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. There's also live entertainment as well as German-focused food and drinks.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights: The Lincoln Park Zoo gets into the holiday season when it decks itself with lights, Santa's Safari, and ice-carving demonstrations.

November Travel Tips

November weather can be dicey, so there's a good chance of flight delays if a storm comes through. Consider flying into the smaller Chicago Midway Airport instead of O'Hare, which is notorious for its flight cancellations and delays. Also, hotel prices go up because it's prime-time holiday season, especially on the Magnificent Mile and in the Loop. Finally, consider taking public transportation for getting around the city as parking is often difficult.

Driving in Chicago can also present some challenges if you're not prepared. Make sure your car is in good shape for the weather, follow the rules of the road, and don't be too offended if another car or two honks at you while on the expressway.