Millennium Park offers In-Person Holiday Traditions

The Chicago Children's Choir performs during the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events' (DCASE) 2019 Caroling at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park; December 2019.
Spread the love


In-person holiday traditions including Christmas Tree lighting and ice skating return to Millennium Park; Halloween community events return citywide; and four new art exhibitions open at the Chicago Cultural Center

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE)recently announced DCASE fall and holiday programming as Chicago’s vital arts scene continues to safely and fully reopen. In-person holiday traditions including the annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and ice skating will return to Millennium Park presented by the Millennium Park Foundation; Halloween community events will return citywide; and four new art exhibitions will open at the Chicago Cultural Center including “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott.” Today’s announcement is part of “Capture Chicago’s Creative Spirit” — a campaign to be launched jointly by DCASE, Choose Chicago and many cultural and community organizations to celebrate Chicago’s creative community and welcome residents and visitors back to theaters, museums, dance and music venues for live cultural events. For October activities (November and December activities to be added in the coming weeks), visit

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink Skating Theme Night “Ugly Sweater Soul-mas” in Millennium Park; December 2018.

“Revitalizing our city’s arts and culture scene is essential to our post-pandemic recovery on both an economic and social level,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “I am thrilled that we are able to bring back our beloved fall and holiday events, along with a renewed sense of normalcy this season. After all, we have a wide variety of artistic and cultural experiences across our city that our residents deserve to safely enjoy once again.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Choose Chicago and the creative community to capture the excitement of the season — celebrating Halloween as the ‘artist’s holiday’ and embracing the holiday spirit,” said DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly. “Chicago’s arts landscape has been devastated by the pandemic, but I’m excited to see our talented artists and venues come back to life and energize Chicago.”


This year, in-person holiday traditions return to Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph St.), with expanded programming and enhanced décor — presented by the Millennium Park Foundation. Public art exhibitions in the Boeing Galleries continue through 2023. The Park is open daily, 8am–9pm. Plan your visit at

The lighting ceremony of Chicago’s 106th Christmas Tree in Millennium Park; November 2019.

Chicago’s “official” Christmas tree, the 108th Annual City of Chicago Christmas Tree in Millennium Park, will shine brightly near the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Washington St. from November 19 through January 9. All-virtual in 2020, this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be in-person on Friday, November 19 starting at 6pm (with the actual lighting at approximately 6:30pm). DCASE is selecting this year’s Tree from previous nominations. Tree and lighting ceremony program details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rinkin Millennium Park returns for its 20th anniversary season, open daily from November 19 through March 6 (weather permitting). Admission is free, but online reservations will be required. Reservation, skate rental and other details will be announced soon.

The new Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along (previously “Caroling at Cloud Gate”) will invite Chicagoans and visitors to sing out and celebrate Chicago’s diverse holiday traditions on Fridays at 6pm, November 26 – December 17. This series has been reimagined to be more inclusive of Chicago’s many faith backgrounds, cultures and holiday music traditions. Millennium Park winter programming will also include pop-up performances through the Park in November and December. A full schedule will be announced soon.

Other Millennium Park special events this fall include “72 Seasons” by Chicago-based contemporary artist Brendan Fernandes(September 25 and October 23 from 1–3pm,, a free public performance-based artwork and installation in Lurie Garden — presented in partnership with DCASE and the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance. 

Ballet Folklorico Xochitl girls in a line James Richard IV Photography


The landmark Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) has expanded its hours (now open daily, 10am–5pm), offering a robust schedule of new and continuing art exhibitions, building tours and other public programs as well as always-on visitor amenities like the redesigned Welcome Center, the Learning Lab — and BUDDY(, a new store created by the Public Media Institute, selling Chicago-made art, objects and more for holiday gift giving and year-round. Plan your visit at

New exhibitions include “The Great Chicago Fire in Focus” (October 2 – Spring 2022) — part of a citywide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire; “SuccessfulFailures: 30 Years of Lumpens, radical media makers and cultural entrepreneurs building communities of the future” organized by Public Media Institute and friends (October 16 – February 6); “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott”(December 4 – March 13) — the first full retrospective of one of America’s most compelling and controversial artists featuring 55 paintings and works on paper spanning 50 years; and “All Together Now: Sound x Design” (November 13 – April 3) across the street at the Design Museum of Chicago at Expo 72 (72 E. Randolph St.,

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink Skating Theme Night “Ugly Sweater Soul-mas” in Millennium Park; December 2018.

Continuing exhibitions include “CHICAGO: Where Comics Came to Life, 1880–1960”(EXTENDED through January 9) and “Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford: League of Nations”(EXTENDED through January 23). “Jin Lee:Views & Scenes” has been RESCHEDULED for March 5 – August 7, 2022.

Building Tours are now offered on Thursdays and Fridays at 1:15pm. These free tours are led by volunteer docents and begin in the Welcome Center.

Welcome Center programming on 1st & 3rd Fridays and Saturdays features artists from the BUDDY shop and “CULTURE SNAPS” people, places and things from across Chicago on October 1 & 2 (Facility), October 15 & 16 (BUDDY), November 5 & 6 (The Silver Room), November 19 & 20 (BUDDY), December 3 & 4 (BandWith Chicago) and December 17 & 18 (BUDDY). Details at

Learning Lab programming includes the “Meet an Artist” series on the 2nd and 4th Fridays and Saturdays of the month through December 11 including September 24 & 25 (Pocket Con) and October 8, 9, 22 & 23 (Chicago Architecture Biennial). Monthly “Streamable” in-person, livestreamed programs are geared for students, but open to everyone including October 4 (“The Available City”), November 29 (“Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford: League of Nations”) and December 7 (Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and Rotunda restoration). Details at


Enjoy a morning of family-friendly activities in the Austin community at a special Austin POPCourts! Event on Saturday, September 25, 9–11am. This free event at Chicago & Lockwood is presented by DCASE as part of the INVEST South/West initiative. Hosted by Lizzie G and Komikal1. Schedule includes Dance Vibes with Imania Detry (9–9:45am), Line Dancing by Fre2Dance (9:45–10:15am), Vinyasa Yoga Cool Down with Angie (10:15–10:35am) and Music by DJ Selah Say (10:35–11am). 

Global Peace Picnic (Saturday, September 25, 2–6pm, at the Humboldt Park Boat House is an afternoon of free family-friendly activities and music, commemorating the United Nations’ International Day of Peace.

House City ( is a new, 10-part series of free events popping up in neighborhoods that helped create the House music genre over 35 years ago. Its finale is Sunday, October 1 at 3–9pm in Lakeview (3737 N. Clark St.) — presented with SmartBar & Gramaphone Records and featuring DJs Derrick Carter, DJ Heather, Michael Serafini, Garrett David, Celeste Alexander and Cratebug

Save the dates for Chicago Halloweek (October 23–30, presented by Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE, the Chicago Park District and many other City departments — including the return of LUMA8’s UPSIDE DOWN Parade, presented by Blommer Chocolate Company in Washington Park (October 23, 12–3pm).  The UPSIDE DOWN Parade features dancers, musicians, circus acrobats and other creative groups that will entertain attendees as they make their way down the parade route.  “On the Block” events will take place all week in neighborhoods across Chicago. And the grand finale of Halloweek is LUMA8’s 7th annual Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade on State Street, also presented by Blommer Chocolate Company (October 30, 6–8pm). This magical evening parade celebrates Halloween as the “artist’s holiday” and showcases Chicago’s diverse cultural community. Arts in the Dark delights the audience with unique floats, spectacle puppets and creative performances — all set against the backdrop of historic State Street. Watch for more Halloweek details to be announced soon. (And don’t miss the annual Día de los Muertos Celebration at Maxwell Street Market featuring music, a sugar skull workshop, pumpkin decorating and more on October 31, 9am – 3pm). 

Chicago City Markets ( presented by Humana sell fresh seasonal produce, flowers, prepared foods, unique Chicago-made products, and rare finds — at Chicago’s longest-running farmers market on Daley Plaza (Thursdays, EXTENDED through October 14); the historic Maxwell Street Market (1st and 3rd Sundays at 9am – 3pm; with a special Día de los Muertos Celebration on October 31,; more City Markets in Austin, Bronzeville, Division Street, Englewood, Pullman, Roseland, and West Humboldt Park; and dozens of independent markets operated by community organizations and chambers of commerce in neighborhoods across Chicago.

Horse James Richard IV Photography

Two more Open Boulevards events take place Sunday, October 16 on Independence and Douglas Boulevards and Sunday, October 23 on Drexel Boulevard. Open Boulevards is a series of three day-long street activations along Chicago’s Historic Boulevards — presented by Mayor Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Transportation and DCASE. 

Clarke House Museum (1827 S. Indiana Ave.), Chicago’s oldest house, will reopen October 16 & 17 from 12–4pm as part of Open House Chicago. Guided tours starting October 20 are free on Wednesdays & Saturdays at 1pm. Space is limited. Plan your visit at

Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE and the entire City will honor veterans during this year’s Veterans Day Ceremony on Thursday, November 11 at 11am. Keynote and location to be announced. 


Music Lives Here pays tribute to the spaces, places and people that have shaped Chicago’s music landscape, past and present. Unique graphic “Tribute Markers” have been placed at 50 sites across Chicago as part of the 2021 Year of Chicago Music initiative. Commissioned by DCASE, Music Lives Here was developed by Chicago graphic art studio Sonnenzimmer and Maya Bird-Murphy of Chicago Mobile Makers. Visit the sites and follow the beat of Chicago’s rich musical history — or make your own Tribute Marker by picking up a printed guide (available at all Chicago Public Library branches) or downloading the template. Learn more at

The Chicago Riverwalk ( continues to feature a series of five large-scale banners near Michigan Avenue artist Andrea Carlson’s “You are on Potawatomi Land.” Art on theMART ( recently launched new projections by renowned conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, shown nightly at 7:30 and 8pm through November 25 — best viewed from the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells and Lake St.

Both art exhibitions in the Boeing Galleries at Millennium Park will continue through spring 2023: “Screenhouse” by Edra Soto and “When we call the Earth by way of distinction a planet and the Moon a satellite, we should consider whether we do not, in a certain sense, mistake the matter. Perhaps — and not unlikely — the Moon is the planet and the Earth the satellite! Are we not a larger moon to the Moon, than she is to us?” by Christine Tarkowski. The Park is open daily, 8am–9pm. Plan your visit at


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.