Attention Holiday Shoppers!
Find the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday shopping list when you shop at Christmas markets in Illinois, offering one-of-a-kind items in all shapes and sizes. Plus, you’ll support local and regional vendors by visiting these limited-time, pop-up experiences. While you’re holiday shopping, make time to see nearby notable landmarks and other destinations, or splurge and make it a weekend getaway! Another way to show your support for independent stores is to shop on Small Business Saturday over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Christkindlmarket, Daley Plaza (mid-November to Christmas Eve)
Since 1997, Daley Plaza has hosted Christkindlmarket, a European-style open-air market. Tempting aromas from freshly roasted nuts, pretzels, brats and mulled wine make your taste buds dance as lively music fills the air. Red-and-white-striped awnings cover the huts selling colorful glass-blown ornaments, steins and mugs, scarves and mittens and more. Other locations include Wrigleyville and RiverEdge Park, Aurora. Free.
While in town: Home to world-class museums, iconic landmarks and more, downtown Chicago does not disappoint. Stroll the Magnificent Mile, explore Millennium Park and the Museum Campus, home to Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, plus the nearby Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. For an even better view of the city, head to the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Building for TILT at 360 Chicago, where visitors who lean over the side are rewarded with sky-high views of the Magnificent Mile. At Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower, walk out onto the Ledge, 103 floors above the ground.
Belleville Christkindlmarkt, Public Square (weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Modeled after open-air German Christmas Markets, Belleville: Christkindlmarkt features one-of-a-kind European and handmade items like nutcrackers, Polish pottery and textile art, plus plenty of baked goodies, hot roasted nuts and glühwein (mulled wine) from more than two dozen vendors. See more of the town on a (free) horse-drawn trolley ride before popping into Santa’s house. Free.
While in town: Downtown Belleville boasts one of the nation’s longest main streets. Here, you’ll find plenty of places to sip, shop and eat, plus the historic Lincoln Theatre, which shows first-run flicks. Open year-round, Eckert’s Belleville Farm is best known for its just-picked produce. In the off-season, visit the bakery and deli housed in the Country Store.
Julmarknad (late November–early December)
Swedish elves, known as Tomten, cruise the Utopian town greeting visitors, peeking into shop windows and lurking around corners during Julmarknad, also known as Christmas Market. Beware of Julbock, the Christmas Goat, a known trickster! Over two weekends, the town celebrates its heritage with craft activities, holiday music and decorations, plus a storytelling Santa. During the festival, the town’s shops, restaurants and attractions will be open. Free.
While in town: Little has changed since this tiny town (a village of 114 residents) was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1846. The entire town is only five blocks long and seven blocks wide. Within this area, you can visit the town’s seven museums, a dozen or so shops and galleries, and a few restaurants.
Individual booths, each with a boutique-y vibe, add to the distinctiveness of the 60 makers and small businesses selling their handmade and vintage treasures. Sweet treats and caffeinated beverages fuel the day. Admission; kids are free.
While in town: Along the Illinois River, Chillicothe has a small-town vibe with a bustling downtown and numerous stores selling antiques and repurposed and vintage goods. Options include Little Shop of Hoarders, The Mill, and Threadz by Sweet Finds. Indulge yourself at Triple Dipple’s Treats and Delicacies, known for its sweet tater cheesecake.
Meet more than two dozen Native American artists at the Gateway Convention Center. For more than 20 years, artists have created pieces for this event, including hide paintings, cedar boxes, wood carvings, musical instruments and more. Discover traditional and contemporary pieces from tribe affiliations such as Navajo, Cherokee, Ho-Chunk Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo Pueblo. Free.
While in town: Collinsville lives up to the hype of larger-than-life roadside attractions found along Route 66 with the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, which also doubles as the town’s water tower. Once a newspaper building, the Old Herald Brewery and Distillery serves all the staples: soups, salads, wraps, burgers and entrees in generous portions.
Discover home decor, vintage finds, jewelry and clothing. Plus, Santa poses for pics with kids during the two-day holiday market. More than 80 vendors and food trucks pack the Village Square Mall and parking lot. Admission; children 12 and under are free.
While in town: See one of the largest crosses in the United States at the junction of Interstates 57 and 70. The Cross at the Crossroads is made of steel and stands almost 200 feet tall. Just a few miles north off of I-57, Firefly Grill grows most of the herbs and produce found on its farm-to-table menu. What they don’t grow, they source from local farmers, foragers and fishermen.
Discover arts and crafts, home and garden decor, books, jewelry, hand-knit items and winter decor from more than 40 vendors at this one-day extravaganza. Vendors will also be selling home-baked goodies, jams and jellies, and other locally produced items. Free.
Shenandoah Riding Center, the first amenity built in The Territory, will be transforming into Candy Cane Stable Lane for the Holiday Housewalk. Elves will be busy decking the stalls and the horses will be decked out in their holiday garb. Grab a hot chocolate to keep warm as you stroll down the aisle taking pictures of your favorite stalls and horses. If you have time, stay for a quick wagon ride complete with holiday lights.
While in town: More than 125 independent shops, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and wineries line downtown, which sits along the Galena River and Grant Park, named for Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president who once called this home. Numerous hotels, resorts, inns and B&Bs welcome guests to stay and explore this charming town.
For more than 50 years, the Lockport Woman’s Club has hosted one of Chicagoland’s largest holiday weekend craft shows. More than 170 artisans, crafters, makers and food vendors fill the Lockport High School East Campus. Admission; children under 12 are free.
While in town: Lockport sits along the 100-mile I&M Canal, once a key waterway linking the Illinois River to Lake Michigan. Downtown’s Gaylord Building owes its striking appearance to limestone, an abundant resource that was dug up during the creation of the canal in the 1830s. The historic building is now home to Gallery Seven and the Public Landing Restaurant, known for its wet-aged steaks, fresh seafood and from-scratch desserts.
Dozens of regional artists sell their unique creations during this three-day weekend event. Shop the artisan booths inside the Mitchell Museum Performance Hall at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, known for its outdoor sculpture park and indoor galleries. Admission during the evening; free during the day.
While in town: Wander the 80-plus-acre estate grounds at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, where more than 70 pieces of art call the Goldman-Kuenz Sculpture Park home. If you want to stretch your legs even more, head to the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area on Rend Lake for its new 4-mile hiking and biking trail.