This is the most authentic Old World Christmas market, with many German vendors who bring over toys, ornaments and sweets. There's a Children's Lantern Parade, appearances by the Christkind and entertainment most days. In Daley Plaza in the Loop.
Tour the retro-cool lighted decorations in Bayfront Festival Park, including a tree that dances to music, Dinosaurland and Penguin Park. Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy popcorn, roasted marshmallows, cookies and hot chocolate. Everything is free, but bring one or more non-perishable food items (and/or cash) to donate.
The Chicago Christkindlmarket has a satellite market at the historic Naperville Settlement, with visits from the Christkind, dance performances and a children's lantern parade on Kinder Tag.
Five Christmas celebrations, each with a different theme, at Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill in this historic village just north of Milwaukee. Each features live holiday music, crafts, luminaries, wine-tasting and cookies and cider.
In this Dutch town, St. Nicholas arrives on his white horse, surrounded by his Zwarte Piet helpers.
Join a procession to Centennial Park, then meet Sinterklaas and have treats at the Holland Museum.
Festivities in the rejuvenated Third Ward near downtown start with tree lighting and a performance by Trinity Irish Dancers, followed by fireworks, carriage rides, carolers, reindeer, street entertainers and a cookie sale.
In this northwest Illinois town, Santa Lucia arrives in a horse-drawn carriage on Friday and hands out Swedish cookies, then Santa lights the Great Tree and opens his Gingerbread House. There's shopping amid strolling carolers. A tour of five houses is Friday and Saturday, and a Steeple Walk of churches is on Sunday.
In this formerly communal village in eastern Iowa, visit the decorated Tannenbaum Forest, go on a cookie walk, buy at the craft bazaar, get free admission to the Amana Heritage Museum, visit reindeer and go on the Christmas Haus Tour.
Shop at the Holiday Art Fair, go on a horse-drawn carriage ride, visit with Santa and tour the decorated Kuhefuss House.
This Victorian-themed festival includes Living Windows in downtown shops Friday evening, a Tour of Homes Saturday, wagon rides, an Enchanted Forest of decorated trees and a gingerbread-house contest.
St. Paul, MN
In this Dutch town, the man in the red suit arrives in a wooden ship, wears a bishop's miter and has a Moorish servant as helper. A 10 a.m. parade is followed by a meet-and-greet at Scholte Church.
Black River Falls, WI
A candlelight procession and tree lighting start this traditional German market fair. There's also live reindeer, a baby camel, horse-drawn wagon rides, music and a Christkindl Night of Lights Parade.
Festivities include cookies, hot drinks and twinkle lights given to children. There will also be a tree-lighting ceremony, free trolley rides, caroling and fireworks.
At this fun event at Old World Wisconsin, a complex of pioneer homesteads next to Kettle Moraine State Forest west of Milwaukee, you'll meet Father Christmas, stroll from historic houses to shops, sample ethnic foods and make old-fashioned crafts.
Reserve early for the Old World Holiday Breakfast.
Celebrate the season with hay rides, gingerbread-house building, a fat-tire bike ride and madrigal singers.
Knife River, MN
This Norwegian Christmas market on Lake Superior, between Duluth and Two Harbors, features indoor and outdoor markets, music, children's activities, skating, Norwegian food and visits from Santa and elves.
On Saturday, take the train from Duluth to Knife River and back for $10, $5 for children 3-12.
St. Paul, MN
This Christkindlmarkt in Union Depot features choirs, dancers, hot mulled wine, holiday beers, European-inspired food and artisan goods.
Green Bay, WI
At this large complex of frontier buildings, listen to choirs, make orange pomanders, learn 19th-century dances, visit with St. Nick and go on a horse-drawn wagon ride.
More than 5,000 candle-lit luminaria line the streets of this historic town and 30 windows become animated.
The fourth year of a downtown holiday village will be in Loring Park and feature free admission, with entertainment that includes ice-skating, holiday movies and band and choir concerts.
This new North Side satellite of the Daley Plaza Christkindlmarket features ice-skating, wreath-making, music and Santa's Workshop as well as holiday vendors.
Around the region
There's nothing better than skiing (or snowshoeing or hiking) through a twinkling forest or across a luminary-lined lake. There's usually a bonfire and hot chocolate to enjoy afterward.
Prairie du Chien, WI
In this Mississippi River town, celebrate with fireworks, music, a light show, a bonfire and the Droppin' of the Carp, a large, frozen Mississippi River rough fish.
For the big Cheese Drop in this eastern Wisconsin town, an 80-pound lighted wedge of cheese is dropped 100 feet at 10 p.m. There will also be free live music, cheese wedges and a s'mores bar.
Traverse City, MI
In this town on Grand Traverse Bay, there's music from 9 p.m., a visit from the Coast Guard and a large illuminated cherry dropping 115 feet at midnight.
Eau Claire, WI
This New Year's Eve festival downtown features live music, free movies, an ice bar with ice glasses, lantern parades at 5 and 11 p.m. and fireworks.
The party in this Lake Michigan beach town includes music, dancing, a beer tent, a lighted ball drop and fireworks.