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Things To Do in Chicago in November

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This post covers the best things to do in Chicago this November, including, free, family-friendly, as well as nighttime activities, all updated for 2021.



For ideas for any time of the year, be sure to read our master post on things to do in Chicago.


November is a wonderful time of year to be in the Windy City! Check out the suggestions below for a variety of activities, including sports, theatre, music, and of course, holiday activities!

For some of the more popular things to do in Chicago, read the following posts:

1) Go to a Sporting Event

While November can be chilly, cheering on your teams will keep you and your friends and family warm.

Multiple teams will be playing home games this time of year! See below for more details.  



Click here to see all the sports happening in Chicago. 

You can find more kid-friendly activities in the section below.

2) Go to a Concert

Chicago is home to many music venues from giant spaces to intimate bars.  Here are just a few of the concerts happening in November of 2021.



Click here to see all the Chicago concerts happening this month.

3) Go on a Sightseeing Tour

The best way to learn about a new city is on a sightseeing tour! 

Join our history-loving Chicago-adoring tour guides on foot. We offer pay-what-you-like walking tours every day of the week in the Windy City.



If you’d prefer to enjoy a bus tour, we have a great comparison of Chicago’s best. From hop-on-hop-off buses to dedicated tours, you’ll find one to suit you here.  

Another great option if you’d like to enjoy a ride is to take a river cruise.

4) Go to the Theater

Chicago is home to many regional theatres, small black box spaces, and Broadway Tour houses. There is something for everyone!

To see a full calendar of all shows or to buy tickets for shows, click here.



Since both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are just now beginning to make a comeback following the pandemic, there aren't as many productions as usual happening this month.

That said, there are two notable shows you might want to consider attending. The first option is Frozen: The Musical, coming to the Cadillac Palace Theatre from November 18th - 30th.

You may also want to see Holiday Inn: The Musical at the Drury Lane Theatre from November 3rd - 28th.

Click here to see a full calendar of all shows and get a real taste of Chicago theatre.  

Pro-tip: Check out our self-guided theatre tour to admire the exterior of some of the oldest movie palaces in the downtown Loop.

5) Lycée French Market 

For the 14th year, the Lycée Français de Chicago’s school campus takes a weekend to transform into a French Market, with local and French artisans selling art, jewelry, home goods, food, and so much more!



This year, they will also be introducing a new outdoor section with food trucks and vendors. Located at: 1929 West Wilson Ave. 

There is a suggested $5 donation. For more budget-conscious activities, check out our free things to do section below.

NOTE: This event has yet to be scheduled for 2021, but they do plan to bring the marketplace back this November.

6) SOFA Chicago

The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design (SOFA) is one of Chicago’s oldest art fairs.

SOFA focuses on a variety of three-dimensional art provided by over 80 international dealers and galleries. A tradition since 1994, this fair is known for its presentation and one-of-a-kind masterpieces.



Most of it is available to purchase, so if you need some more home décor, this is a great stop! 

SOFA is located at Navy Pier from November 4th - 7th, 2021.

7) See Live Stand-Up Comedy

If you're in need of a good laugh, some of the most famous comedians in the world will be performing stand-up in the Chicago area this November.



Here are a few of the more notable comedy shows happening this month:

For even more shows, check this list of Chicago stand-up comedy specials.

8) Attend the Thanksgiving Day Parade 

Join the Chicagoans on Thanksgiving, November 25th at 8 am off of State Street from Congress to Randolph for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade! This has been a Chicago Tradition since 1934!



Creative floats, marching bands, and balloons parade up State Street to make one of the best holiday parades in the city! Be sure to show up early for a good spot, or catch the broadcast of it on WGN 9.  

9) The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival & Tree Lighting

Kick off the holiday festivities at Lights Festival Lane in Pioneer Court, where many local businesses provide activities and some tasty giveaways.

This holiday parade includes marching bands and festive floats that march down Michigan Avenue as the street lights up towards the famous Chicago Christmas Tree. 



The Christmas tree is carefully selected out of the many submissions by local residents, before being decorated in thousands of lights. 

There will be music and a visit from Santa Claus. Test out your balance before the ceremony on the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.  

Although official dates for this event have yet to be confirmed, the lights festival will almost certainly be taking place again in late November 2021.

Don’t forget to check out our Magnificent Mile Tour!

10) Save Money with a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

While you do pay for a tourist discount pass upfront, it can give you a bulk discount or free admission into some interesting tours and museums. Discounts can save you up to 55% on retail prices.



Each Chicago discount pass includes a variety of fun family-friendly activities and attractions. You can find the following attractions on various passes:

For more details, make sure to read our full post covering Chicago tourist passes.


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Chicago offers many free activities to enjoy including some we have mentioned some above like the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, the Tree Lighting or the Thanksgiving Day Parade.



Check out our post about the Top Free Things to Do in Chicago.


Based off of the Christmas Market in Nuremberg, Germany, The Christkindlmarket has grown to be the largest Christmas market in the United States and brings in over a million guests from all across the country. 


Christkindlemarkt Mug in Chicago


This beloved Chicago tradition is free to explore, while stopping by to peruse the traditional German and European ornaments, crafts, food, and drinks. 

Dates of the market are November 20th-December 24th.

Thanksgiving Day at  Morton Arboretum

Head out to Lisle, Illinois to enjoy Free Admission on Thanksgiving Day at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

The buildings are closed, but you’ll be able to drive through the park and enjoy the changing leaves or bring a Thanksgiving picnic for a fun and festive experience.

The Watertower Museum

Go into the bottom of the Watertower for a small but mighty free art museum!  If you are joining us on our Pay-What-You-Like Magnificent Mile walking tour- you will enter this museum with your tour guide.

Art on the Mart

Most nights in October- Art on the Mart will be in full swing!  Head the Riverwalk at sunset to see an amazing art projection on the Merchandise Mart Building (a building so large, it has it’s own zip code!) 


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Many of our top ten activities are perfect for the evening hours, such as seeing a sporting event, going to the theater of attending a concert.



Below are some more ideas. Be sure to read our post about the top things to do in Chicago at night for even more suggestions. 

Chicago International Reel Shorts Film Fest

Attend a film festival featuring Chicago Filmmakers to see potentially see nearly 100 short films.  Be sure to check the schedule to best plan your time for this event.

Official dates have not been announced for 2021, but it is very likely this film festival will return in November.


The Lincoln Park Zoo lights up at night with millions of holiday lights!

Beyond elaborate light displays, you will discover live ice carving, festive music, train rides, food, and even Santa Claus himself, until his return to the North Pole on December 23rd.

This event is daily beginning in late November and ending in early January.

Official dates for Zoolights have yet to be announced, but they do have plans to bring this activity back in November 2021.

Take a Night Tour

Looking to see a different side of Chicago? Take a walk with some spooky history on our evening Ghost Tour.  

If you are more interested in learning about the fun holiday traditions in Chicago, check out our seasonal Holiday Tour that begins in late November.


Free Tours by Foot guide emir leading Chicago Holiday Tour


Also, several bus tours operate night versions of their day tours.

Be sure to read our post about the top things to do in Chicago at night for even more suggestions. 


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Throughout this post, we have listed several activities that are great options for the whole family like watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade or going to a play.



Below you will find several great options to keep your children entertained this month, including parks, museums, and theater!

Be sure to check out our post about family-friendly activities in Chicago for a more complete guide.

Chicago Children’s Film Festival

The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival is the largest film festival for kids and showcases the best in culturally diverse, non-violent, value-affirming new cinema for children and offers interactive workshops. Check it out between November 5th - 14th.

Walk, Run or Watch a Race!

The Hot Chocolate Run (America’s Sweetest Race) is on November 7th.  The whole family can run through downtown Chicago and admire the buildings!  The charity connected to the Hot Chocolate Run is Make a wish! 

Light Show in the Garden

Head a stretch North to the Chicago Botanic Garden to see “The night comes alive with color, imagination, and sound, from a playful choir of singing trees to a spectacular waterfall of light” at new event Lightscape.

You walk on a one-mile path that includes “an avenue of luminous linden trees”.  This event runs from November 12th, 2021-January 2nd, 2022.

Thanksgiving Run/Walk’s

Run off that turkey and the rest of your Thanksgiving Dinner with these two race options. On Thanksgiving Day itself, the Turkey Trot tradition continues for the 43rd year.

Choose from the 5K, 8K, or kid’s ramble along with a festive tailgate. Proceeds benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

If you miss this race, or just want extra exercise you can participate in the Grant Park Turkey Trot 5K or kid’s dash on the 27th.

Navy Pier’s Winter Wonderfest

Beginning in November, bring the entire family to Navy Pier for Winter Wonderfest.

Festival Hall has been transformed into an indoor winter playground with characters, rides, snacks, and activities. 

There is even an indoor ice skating rink! Children shorter than 3 feet are free.

NOTE: Official dates for this event have yet to be confirmed for November 2021.

POSTPONED: Juice Box Concerts at the Cultural Center

Head to the Cultural Center with your family of little ones every first and third Friday and Saturdays at 11:00 am-11:45 am for an engaging musical event!  

While this will be enjoyable for the whole family, it is geared to kids between the ages of 1-6. See their website for more.

This activity was postponed due to the pandemic and has yet to make a return.

Be sure to check out our post about family-friendly activities in Chicago for a more complete guide.


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About The Author


Mel loves to be a tourist in her own city. With a background in performing arts, tourism, and photography, giving tours and being a story-teller comes naturally to her. She loves traveling, food, and theatre. Mel splits her time between Chicago and Los Angeles (#theatrelife) and leads tours and manages both cities!
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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