Thanksgiving in Chicago: Top 5 Events You Shouldn’t Miss in Chicago on Thanksgiving 2016

Are you spending Thanksgiving in Chicago? If you’re going to the Windy City for Thanksgiving Day this year, you’d be in for a treat. Chicago is bustling with activity in the weeks leading up to the day of the turkey, so make sure you jump into the fun while you’re there. We’re giving you our top five picks of events you shouldn’t miss while you’re in Chicago on Thanksgiving weekend this year.

McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade

Where: State Street
When: November 24, 8-11 AM

thanksgiving in chicago: mcdonald's thanksgiving parade
A marching band participating in the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade | Pixabay

The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade pretty much kicks off the holiday season in Chicago. A long-time Chicago tradition, this year’s parade marks the 83rd year that floats, balloons, marching bands, equestrian teams, dancers, among many others made the procession up the Downtown stretch of State Street from Congress Street to Randolph Street.

The parade will be held on November 24, 2016, from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey returns to open the parade with their dazzling circus performance. The Grand Marshal role this year will be taken on by Veep star and Chicago resident Matt Walsh.

Turkey Day Run

Where: Lincoln Park
When: November 24, 8-11 AM

If your idea of outdoor fun on Thanksgiving Day requires more activity than just standing around and watching floats, marching bands, and horses pass by, then you can try out for Turkey Day Run Chicago. The Turkey Day Run is a 5K and 8K marathon event scheduled on the same day and time as the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade – November 24, 2016, from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. The marathon course is located at Lincoln Park along the shores of Lake Michigan.

The Turkey Day Run is a family-friendly and wheelchair-friendly event where everyone can participate. Children can join in the special Plymouth Rock Ramble Kids Race at the end of the main race. The Turkey Day Run is meant to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository, so participants are asked to donate two cans of food upon arriving at the Turkey Day Tailgate on race day.

Randolph Street Market Festival

Where: Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building, W Washington Blvd.
When: Weekends from November 19 to December 11, 10AM-5PM

Have a taste for antique or vintage items? Got a collection of old curios you need to have appraised? Looking to swap a unique collectible for another? Or do you simply want to hang out with some cool people and maybe snag a few neat items while you’re at it – as a treat for yourself or as a Christmas gift for someone you know who is crazy for vintage?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you need to head on to the Randolph Street Market Festival, happening at the Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building on Washington Boulevard West. The Festival is on weekends, from November 19 to December 11, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. There you’ll find a wide range of antiques and vintage items, ranging from fashion, jewelry and accessories, to house ware and décor. Who knows what treasure you will find while browsing through the Market?


Where: Daley Plaza, W Washington Blvd.
When: Nov. 18 – Dec. 24, 11AM-8PM

Did you know that German-Americans make up the largest European ethnic group in Chicago? The rich traditions and heritage of Chicago’s German-Americans take the spotlight every year at the annual Christkindlmarket, an open-air market festival that features goodies from Germany. This year’s Christkindlmarket will be on November 18 to December 24 at Daley Plaza on Washington Boulevard West. The market is open from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM on weekdays and up to 9:00 PM on weekends.

What can you expect from Christkindlmarket? At the market, you will find a wide array of goods – from fashion to footwear, from Christmas décor to toys, from everyday household goods to food, and many other German products. Some 60% of the vendors at Christkindlmarket come straight from Germany. So if you’re looking for a few one-of-a-kind items from Europe to give to your loved ones during the holidays, head on to Christkindlmarket.


Where: Lincoln Park Zoo
When: Nov. 25, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017, 4:30PM-9PM

On Friday after Thanksgiving, Lincoln Park Zoo transforms into a fairy wonderland with ZooLights, a holiday affair where the Zoo becomes filled with Christmas décor festooned with brilliant, twinkling lights. It’s an awesome place to take your kids to. They can take part in arts and crafts activities, have their pictures taken with Santa Claus, ride trains and carousels, and at the same time learn more about the animals in the Zoo.

Adults can have fun at ZooLights too. ZooLights also feature more grown-up activities such as shopping at the holiday market, live performances, and beer. The Zoo also takes in donations of new and gently used winter clothes for charity at ZooLights.

Chicago is a fun place to be at on Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays. So if you’re looking for a place to spend an extended Thanksgiving weekend, pack your bags and head on to Windy City.

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Anna is a wandering writer. If she isn't wandering, she's working on other blogs. And if she's not doing that, either she's reading or she's busy with a crafting project.