Spend Thanksgiving in Chicago

A Dream Come True

Ratings Best Travel Date Cost Length


March - Novemeber $250 2-3 days

TLDR tips:

  • Visit the downtown Chicago is generally very safe, just don’t go south of Chicago late at night
  • Don’t miss out the shooting locations for the movie Batman: the Dark Knight
  • The Lights Festival Parade occurs on Saturday just before Thanksgiving every year (there’s also Thanksgiving Parade of course)
  • 4:00 PM is perfect for SkyDeck tour, no need to purchase fast pass
  • The Lincoln Park Zoo is worth visiting, admission is free

Time Stamps:

Day 1:

  • 10:00 AM: Departure to Chicago
  • 12:00 PM: Casual Lunch
  • 1:00 PM: Arrive at FieldHouse Jones (Now The Chicago Hotel Collection River North)
  • 3:00 PM: Downtown tour and walk
    • Magnificent Mile
    • Lights Festival
  • 6:00 PM: The Berghoff Restaurant
  • 7:00 PM: Cloud Gate
  • 8:00 PM: Return to hotel

Day 2:

  • 10:00 AM: Leave hotel
  • 10:30 AM: Magnificent Mile (2 hr)
  • 1:00 PM: Lunch at Chinatown (2 hr)
    • Subway back and forth to downtown
  • 4:00 PM: SkyDeck Chicago
  • 5:00 PM: Return to hotel

Day 3:

  • 10:00 AM: Leave hotel
  • 10:30 AM: Lincoln Park Zoo (3.5 hr)
  • 1:30 PM: Lincoln Park Conservatory
  • 2:00 PM: Lunch at SaiMai Thai Restaurant
    • Walk back to hotel
  • 6:00 PM: Cocoro Restaurant
  • 8:00 PM: Return to home


  • FieldHouse Jones: $40 per person night (averaged)
  • Parking: $10 per person per night (averaged)
  • SkyDeck admission: $39 per person
  • Lincoln Park Zoo Admission: Free
  • Cloud Gate Admission: Free
  • Transport:
    • Rideshare: $15 per person (averaged)
    • Metro: $10 per person (averaged)
  • Food:
    • Berghoff Restaurant: $30 per person
    • Chinatown: $25 per person
    • SaiMai Thai Restaurant $15 per person
    • Cocoro Restaurant: $20 per person
  • Total: $250-$300

It’s Thanksgiving break, and two of my friends and I decided to drive to the biggest metropolitan area nearby: Chicago (only 2.5 hours away). I was kind of skeptical about how the trip would turn out, as I’m very afraid of cold weather (Chicago this time of year is already hovering around zero degrees Celsius). However, the trip turned out to be surprisingly pleasant and bang for your buck.

Day 1

The drive was pretty smooth until we approached the downtown area. Fortunately, it was in the morning to noon, so the traffic was slow but still moving along. We arrived at our hotel, FieldHouse Jones (now The Chicago Hotel Collection River North).

We parked just across the street from the hotel under a metro bridge. Parking was $30 a night with the hotel discount. Given the availability of public transportation and the difficulty of finding parking, we decided to leave the vehicle there for the entire trip.

The hotel is a really nice establishment with a very unique American old-fashioned urban decor. The three of us shared a room, and with the surprisingly cheap average hotel price in a big city like Chicago and splitting the cost, I ended up only paying around $40 per night.

Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is within walking distance (15 minutes) from our hotel, one of the reasons we chose it. It’s the most popular and premium shopping district in Chicago, spanning over 13 blocks filled with luxury stores and skyscrapers, perfect for shopping.

Today happened to be the Lights Festival Parade (which occurs on Saturday just before Thanksgiving every year), and people packed both sidewalks. It was a joy to squeeze through the crowds and merchants with a holiday season vibe. If you got tired watching the parade, you could easily head inside a random store to warm up (seriously, it was freezing outside).

We didn’t spend too much time there because we had plenty of other sites to visit in the downtown region, plus we needed to grab a bite.

Magnificent Mile

Cloud Gate and Ice Stake Rink

Heading to the far south end of the Magnificent Mile, just half a mile over the DuSable Bridge, we arrived at Millennium Park (also a metro stop). The park boasts the iconic and must-visit Cloud Gate.

Cloud Gate is a modern, giant sculpture that looks like a bean. The sculpture has a reflective surface that captures the surrounding skyscrapers and your reflection. Just underneath the Cloud Gate platform is the McCormick Ice Skating Rink, and it was the perfect time for ice skating, costing just $20.

Cloud gate

McGormick Ice Staking Rink

Batman: The Dark Knight locations

After a 10-minute walk, we arrived at the famous German Berghoff Restaurant, established over 100 years ago. Chicago’s downtown was one of the shooting spots for Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, and the Berghoff Restaurant was featured as one of the movie spots for mobsters gathering in Batman: The Dark Knight.

While in the downtown region, we visited other shooting locations as well. If you’re a Batman: The Dark Knight fan like us and want to visit all the movie locations in Chicago, this map is perfect for you.

Image credit: Chicago Bike Advantures

Day 2

Our Day 2 began with a revisit to the Magnificent Mile because our rush visit last night wasn’t enough. Right after that, we took the metro to the south side of Chicago: Chinatown, where we had our lunch.


SkyDeck Chicago

Do you want to know the perfect time to capture the view of Chicago from high above? It’s 4:00 PM in standard time (winter time) because within the hour, you get to see the sunset, experiencing both day and night views of Chicago.

The wait to get up to the SkyDeck wasn’t too bad, about a 30-minute wait on weekends before a major holiday. I’d say it’s totally not worth spending twice the amount on admission to get the fast pass, as it may only save you 15 minutes since both lines eventually merge.

There’s a transparent glass platform/floor in the SkyDeck where you can step onto and ask your friend to take a picture for a perfect unblocked view of you and Chicago. There’s a line for it, and each participation is timed.

Night view at SkyDeck Chicago

Day 3

The Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo located in Lincoln Park, founded in 1868, making it one of the oldest zoos in the nation. The best thing, in my opinion, is that admission is completely free.

I admit that this season might not be the best time to visit the zoo, as some of the outdoor animals are in hibernation, and it can be quite windy strolling inside the park. However, there are plenty of indoor animal exhibitions, and you won’t need to fight the crowds.

The ZooLights event also starts around this time, and admission is less than $10, depending on which day you choose to visit.

Lincoln Park Zoo

After visiting the zoo, Lincoln Park is a good place to stroll, located at the south end of the zoo. Taking a casual walk through the lakes, trees, and the Lincoln monument is quite relaxing. The Lincoln Park Conservatory botanic garden is located on the opposite side (north of the zoo).

We had a bit to eat at a small but delicious Thai restaurant near the zoo and walked back to the hotel, experiencing the Old Town of Chicago with a 1.5-mile walk while sharing talks and laughs.

Lincoln Park

Old town district

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