When it comes to food towns, Chicago is known for having some of the best chefs and restaurants in the country (it is home to the James Beard Awards after all—aka the industry’s Oscars). So it comes as no surprise that both locals and visitors want to take advantage of what the city has to offer — which in addition to great dining experiences — also includes some of the country’s most exceptional architecture (see this blog for details!), as well as numerous attractions to see and experience. Naturally, this makes the Windy City the ideal place to celebrate Thanksgiving. Not only is there the annual Chicago Thanksgiving Parade for all ages to enjoy, but in Millennium Park, you’ll also find the City of Chicago Christmas Tree arrives early to get everyone feeling festive — along with skating at the McCormack Tribune ice rink. There’s also the authentic German-style outdoor market, Christkindlmarket, where you can shop for gifts from around the world to give loved ones on your holiday list. Of course, spending time on the Chicago River is a must no matter what, and City Cruises offers the perfect way to do that (more info below). Bottom line? When you’re ready to feast, there’s plenty you’ll find.


Celebrate Thanksgiving in Chicago with City Cruises

Newport Beach ThanksgivngSince Thanksgiving is often so much work when you host, considering other options for the event is very enticing. Now you could head to one of Chicago’s many amazing restaurants (and if you’re there for several days we suggest you do so). Still, if you want to make the day into something really special, a City Cruises experience is the answer We have two exceptional options to consider for lunch: the Thanksgiving Day Premier Plus Afternoon Lunch Cruise on the Chicago River and the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Premier Afternoon Lunch Cruise on Lake Michigan. Cruising on the Chicago River is a popular pastime because it’s an amazing way to take in all of Chicago’s sights and sounds.

Both of these 2-hour outings feature a delectable, chef-prepared, and plated Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings, live DJ entertainment, excellent service, and breathtaking panoramic Chicago River and Lake Michigan views of local landmarks and celebrated skyscrapers such as the DuSable Bridge, Merchandise Mart, Willis Tower, and the Old Chicago Post Office (among others), which can be seen from our climate-controlled interior and open-air decks. Alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and specialty cocktails are available for purchase at the fully stocked bar; cocktail attire is required. You can also request additional upgrades to customize the experience.

Kick off the holiday season each Saturday following Thanksgiving through the end of the year with a Holiday Fireworks Dinner Cruise with several spectacular options.

Embark on an unforgettable evening filled with magic on a Holiday Fireworks Premier Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan, a Holiday Fireworks Premier Plus Dinner Cruise on the Chicago River, or a Holiday Fireworks Signature Dinner Cruise on Lake Michigan. Savor the joy and enchantment of the holiday season with loved ones over a chef-prepared dinner menu, delicious cocktails, and top-notch service. Our DJ sets the mood while you soak in Chicago views from an intimate, climate-controlled interior and open-air rooftop decks. Near the end of your cruise, the sky will illuminate with a display of color and thundering sounds of Navy Pier’s outstanding fireworks show. You’ll delight in awe-inspiring sights, like Willis Tower, Adler Planetarium, Navy Pier, and more. Cruise on Lake Michigan for convenient Navy Pier boarding and enjoy the luxury of a 3-deck yacht with sweeping views of the skyline. Alternatively, step aboard a cruise on the Chicago River, embarking from the River Esplanade on an all-glass enclosed vessel, offering intimate, up-close views of Chicago’s renowned skyscrapers. This is a festive experience that will be long treasured.

holiday fireworks chicago


Everyone Loves a Thanksgiving Day Parade

In addition to football — and the annual feast — one of the biggest events taking place on Thanksgiving in Chicago is the annual parade. The route follows State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph and runs from 8:00am to 11:00am Central Standard Time. All of your favorite floats and cartoon characters will be featured along with a diverse range of performances that showcases all of the city’s talent from singers and dancers to bands and much more. Whether you see it in person or on TV, it’s a fun and festive way to usher in the holiday season.


Ring in the Holidays: Chicago-style

 Another time-honored tradition in Chi-town is the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree. This year the ceremony will take place on November 17th, 2023 in Millennium Park, and the tree will remain illuminated until early January 2024, so visitors will have plenty of time to catch a peek. During the season, ice skating is another family-fun activity that can be enjoyed in Millennium Park at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (free admission for all), which is located right near another landmark in the park — the iconic art piece, The Bean. Other cultural attractions you’ll find in this vicinity include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Harris Theater.




Start Your Holiday Shopping in Chicago Over Thanksgiving Weekend

What’s the holiday season without shopping? One automatically goes with the other. With Black Friday looming post-Thanksgiving, gift givers are getting ready to begin the hunt for bargains and presents for everyone on their list. In fact, Chicago is beloved for its amazing shops — we’re looking at you, the Magnificent Mile — and during this time of year, there’s one particular option we get really excited about. Not only does it feature unique gifts from around the globe, but Christkindlmarket offers the German-style Christmas market you didn’t know you needed. Admission-free, visitors will savor the sights, sounds, and flavors of the season with festive music, the smell of roasted nuts, and hot spiced wine. Special events there are hosted as well.


Odyssey II Chicago Harbor at sunset people on deck


Plan Your Thanksgiving with City Cruises

With so many choices of what to do in Chicago during Thanksgiving, it isn’t easy to know where to begin. We suggest booking an experience with City Cruises and developing an itinerary based around it. That way you get to see and experience everything from both land and water — then you won’t miss a thing.

FAQs – Thanksgiving in Chicago in 2024

What are some traditional Thanksgiving events in Chicago?

Chicago hosts the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, featuring floats, marching bands, and performances, along with turkey trots and 5K runs for active celebrations.

Are there any special Thanksgiving meals offered at Chicago restaurants?

Many restaurants offer special Thanksgiving menus, from traditional turkey dinners to innovative feasts. Reservations are highly recommended due to popularity.

Can I volunteer on Thanksgiving Day in Chicago?

Volunteering is a meaningful way to give back, with opportunities to help serve meals and assist in community events. Check local listings for volunteer opportunities.

What cultural attractions are open on Thanksgiving Day in Chicago?

Some museums and galleries may open with special hours. It’s best to confirm their schedules and any special events directly.

Why are Thanksgiving cruises a great option in Chicago in 2024?

Thanksgiving cruises offer a memorable celebration with stunning views of the skyline and Lake Michigan, combining delicious meals and the beauty of being on the water.

What makes Thanksgiving cruises in Chicago a unique way to celebrate the holiday?

These cruises provide a festive atmosphere, traditional Thanksgiving meals, live entertainment, and views of Chicago’s architecture, offering a stress-free alternative to traditional celebrations.

What can I expect from a Thanksgiving cruise with City Cruises in Chicago?

Expect a buffet or plated dinner with Thanksgiving dishes, live entertainment, and breathtaking views of Chicago’s waterfront, all in a festive and comfortable setting.

Are Thanksgiving cruises in Chicago suitable for families?

Yes, they are designed to be family-friendly, offering a unique and enjoyable experience for guests of all ages, making it a perfect family gathering without the hassle of cooking and cleaning.

How early should I book a Thanksgiving cruise with City Cruises in Chicago?

It’s wise to book as early as possible due to their popularity, ensuring you secure your preferred date and time as spaces can fill up quickly. 2024 is the year to book your Thanksgiving cruise!