Author Archives: Two Scots Abroad

30 Things to do in Chicago at Christmas

Chicago Christmas Winter December Skyline Snow

The city of Chicago is known to flex its majesty during the Christmas season. Chicago comes alive with anticipation as temperatures drop, and it is truly a magical place to spend Christmas with loved ones, new travel friends or even alone.

From popular Christmas activities to lesser-known winter events, here’s your guide to things to do in Chicago at Christmas for all ages and budgets.

While Christmas activities might look a little different this year, there are still many options for Christmas cheer. 

You may also like our guides to 3-day Chicago itinerary, free things to do in Chicago, and unique activities.


Christmas Things to do in Chicago

1. Christkindlmarket Christmas Market

For a European Christmas experience that can be found in Chicago, check out the Christkindlmarket Christmas Market at Daley Plaza in the Loop and Wrigleyville at Gallagher Way.

Pick up the perfect Christmas gift from November at the shopping experience inspired by the 16th century Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany.

Christkindlmarket Chicago is an authentic partnership between the city and Nuremberg, Germany and has been running since 1996.

In the past, vendors such as Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store have traveled from Germany to participate in the Christmas holiday market!

Enjoy filling European food like currywurst, raclette, and strudel, perfect for winter.

It continues to be one of the most popular things to do in Chicago at Christmas.  

Chrishtkindlmarket also features in our guide to Illinois in winter.

2. The Nutcracker at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lose a couple of hours to a majestic rendition of The Nutcracker presented by the Joffrey Ballet.

The Art Deco-style Lyric Opera House (20 N Upper Wacker Dr) hosts the annual winter show featuring story, dancing, and live orchestra.

3. The Bean Selfie

One of the most recognizable symbols in Chicago is that big silver bean at Millennium Park.

Just because the ground is dusted/covered in the white stuff, it does not stop winter lovers from taking a reflection shot with the number one attraction in the city!

Officially called Cloud Gate, this stainless steel figure is the work of Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor and is made up of 169 polished plates; that’s a lot of cleaning!

If you are doing it for the ‘Gram, you might want to get a picture of Lake Michigan completely frozen up with the Chicago skyline standing behind.

Check out our free things to do in Chicago guide for more.

Cloud Gate silver Chicago Bean with reflections of skyline and skyscrapers behind it

4. Ice Skating In Chicago at Millennium Park

Just because it is winter, it does not mean that you cannot enjoy outdoor activities this Christmas. Chicago has a number of one-of-a-kind ice skating rinks all over the city.

There are both indoor and outdoor rinks that thousands of people visit during Christmas.

One of the most visited rinks in Chicago is the Mccormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink at Millennium Park. It is open from November to March every year.

Look out for the 2-4-1 offers, which let you skate both Millennium and Maggie Daley Park.

If you are new in town, you can hire ice-skating gear. One of the family-friendly things to do in Chicago in winter.

5. Ice Skating Ribbon

Another Chicago ice-skating opportunity is at the Ice Skating Ribbon located at Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon.

This outdoor skating rink opens in winter and it differs to other rinks as it snakes around the park, like a ribbon!

Low section of couple in skates ice skating on rink

6. Sledding In Chicago

Sledding is a great way to bond with family and friends during cold winter days.

Every Christmas holiday, sledging enthusiasts head to Cricket Hill at Montrose Harbor, Palmisano Park in Bridgeport, the Dan Ryan Woods and Soldier Field.

These hills offer the perfect sledding places and they are safe for kids too. For people looking to sled away from the city, they can head out to the suburbs where places like James Park (Evanston’s “Mount Trashmore”) and Polar Peak at Frozemont (Rosemount MB Financial Park, 20 mins from Chicago Downtown) reign supreme.

Father and son having fun sledding in the snow

7. Wrigley Building Christmas Tree

Stunning tree at Wrigley Plaza (400-410 Michigan Avenue), which pops against the glazed terra-cotta on Magnificent Mile.

The Wrigley is one of the many festive trees around the city but the most iconic.

8. IO Godfrey Igloos

Climb inside the heated igloos of the Godfrey Hotel’s rooftop winter scene!

These dreamy see-through igloos keep you warm while you drink and enjoy the views.

Back by popular demand, these rooftop igloos seat six people; one bottle per group must be purchased.

Bookings live from the end of October, a deposit is taken to secure it.

You may also like our guide to hidden gems in Chicago.

9. Curling By The Lake

Harry Caray’s Tavern (9700 E Grand Ave) at Navy Pier is where you’ll find a fun game of curling.

Curling By The Lake consists of a patio curling rink made of Polyglide synthetic ice, Curling Cocktails, and a cozy Warming Hut with electric a fireplace and blankets!

10. Winter Wonderland at Gallagher Way

Head to the Wrigleyville neighborhood for ice skating, ice bumper cars, and private chalets for rent.

There’s also a host of Christmas food from around the world like perogies, and crepes.

11. Frosty’s A Christmas Bar

Head to 809 W Evergreen (Goose Island) for Frosty’s pop-up Christmas bar which has heaps of Instagrammable props like swings, giant soldiers and candy canes.

Get ready to party at Frosty’s! Check out the official website for this winter updates.

12. Have Glogg At Simon’s Tavern

Looking for the perfect night spot to spend quality time with friends?

The Andersonville neighborhood dive bar, Simon’s Tavern (5210 N Clark St), was recently voted as the most loved bar in all of Chicago.

The place has been open since 1934 and is perfect for people looking to enjoy a night out during the Christmas period.

You can cozy up with friends, knock back the tavern’s famous spiced wine and feed the jukebox all night long.

During the holidays, a special neon sign is put up on the front window proclaiming, “It’s glogg time!”

If you are looking to drink by an open fire, head to Broken Shaker or Drumbar for an outside fire with a classy twist.

13. Polar Express Pulls Into Chicago

Hop aboard the CTA’s holiday train, which is decked out in over 60,000 lights, tinsel and a visit from Santa!

Check out the official CTA website for this winter updates.

14. Christmas Shopping in Chicago

Looking for a special gift for a loved one? How about you head to one of the many holiday markets in Chicago.

As you browse the markets, you will experience the wintertime magic while having a blast shopping for the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

The seasonal market circuit offers a variety of merchandise, from Chicago-themed gifts to sugary confections to vintage clothing.

You are free to enjoy a boozy beverage as you shop. Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago is where you will find the European inspired Christmas market stalls and lights to boot.

If, like me, you prefer vintage shopping, head to the Lower West Side for Knee Deep Vintage, Richard’s Fabulous Finds at Wicker Park (I love this area) and Encore Resale Clothing at Hyde Park.

15. Visit Chicago’s Toy Stores

Chicago has several toy stores.

During the Christmas season, the shops are open until late hours to accommodate the number of last-minute shoppers.

The toys available at these stores aren’t just for kids.

You will find all sorts of toys, including rare collectables.

One of the places to visit in Chicago during winter is Macy’s (the old Marshall Fields) to see the 45-foot tree in the Walnut Room.

Christmas Tree Magnificent Mile Chicago

16. Check Out The Latest Christmas Movies

Every year, there are Christmas-themed movies that get released in cinemas.

Chicago is home to one of the best cinemas equipped with the latest technology to provide a thrilling experience to movie buffs. There are several movies released each year with different ratings.

Instead of staying home and enjoying the same Christmas films you have watched over and over, why not head to one of the cinemas in Chicago and catch the latest Christmas movies. Bring along the whole family to make the experience memorable.

Alternatively, what about Christmas date night? AMC Dine-in Theatres Block 37 lets you eat a freshly prepared meal, have a drink in hand and watch a movie!

Logan Theatre (2646 N Milwaukee Avenue) is an old-school cinema with crushed velvet seats and cheap show tickets. You can expect new movies, throwbacks and late-night movies.

Downtown Chicago winter view with frozen lake

17. Christmas Shows in Chicago

Do you enjoy watching live plays?

Every year, local theaters in Chicago present both old favourites and new plays on stage.

Venues also host festive orchestras and ballet shows.

Check out the historic CIBC Theatre, the James M. Nederlander Theatre, and the Cadillac Palace Theatre for more.

Chicago Theatre sign and buildings

18. Adler Planetarium

Not specifically a Christmas activity but a unique point of interest in Chicago for those who like all things space-related – Alder Planetarium (1300 S Lake Shore Drive).

Many of the shows start at midnight for obvious reasons.

You can expect educational shows, hands-on activities and expert exhibitions. In 2020, you can watch a show online.

Check out our guide to unique things to do in Chicago for more alternative ideas.

Chicago in December in Winter_

19. Book a Snug and Eat Fondue Until You Puke

OK, don’t puke, but you can reserve a cozy nook at Geja’s Cafe, where the menu calls for fondue and fine wine.

For over 50 years, Geja’s Cafe (340 W Armitage Avenue) has been encouraging visitors to play with their food over an open fire.

This award-winning restaurant has won the title of one of the most romantic places to dine in the US by USA Today!

20. Gorge on Monster Hot Chocolates

Did you even go on a winter city break if you didn’t get a pic of you and your bestie cheersing an overflowing hot chocolate packed with giant marshmallows?

Indulge your sweet tooth while warming up with killer hot chocolates at Bombobar (832 W Randolph Street) or XO Marshmallow (6977 N Sheridan Road).

Christmas Festivals

21. Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

You will not have properly experienced Christmas in Chicago unless you do the things listed in this post, especially the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Every year, the city of Chicago erects an official 50-foot+ Christmas tree in the majestic Millennium Park. 

It won’t just be the tree that is glowing as Christmas-lovers capture the event on their phones.

There might just be another bright surprise for you too.

22. Morton Arboretum Illumination

Morton Arboretum Illumination, 30 minutes outside of Chicago, is day trip worth taking for the Illumination: Tree Lights.

The two-mile-long driving event along Arboretum’s 1,700 acres has more than lit up 10,000 trees!

Open from Thanksgiving through to New Year’s Day. A great family-friendly driving experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAKAJBenuEE 

23. Christmas Around the World at Museum of Science & Industry

It is the tradition that the Museum of Science & Industry plays host to the Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light event each year from the second week in November until January.

Expect a floor-to-dome-sized Christmas tree surrounding bother small (but in no means small) trees decorated by volunteers.

Each tree represents the different ways that Christmas is celebrated around the world, hence the title. Museum of Science & Industry can be found at 5700 S Lake Shore Drive.

You can also learn how to say Merry Christmas in lots of languages!

24. Chicago Christmas Lights Festival

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (Mag’s Mile) is home to many hotels, shops and restaurants, but for one night in November, the street comes to life with music, light and a few Disney characters thrown in to kick-start the festive feels.

25. Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Walk by and through the huge light installations at Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape (1000 Lake Cook Rd).

This family-friendly Christmas event marries nature with music, light, fire, and color.

26. Santa Hustle Chicago

Whack on the red suit, beard, hat and sneakers – it’s time to compete for the gold medal during the Santa Hustle!

Volunteers pass out goodies and keep spirits high as you run through The Windy City.

The course includes at 5K route and a kids dash for families. Cookies included!

Other Winter Festivals in Chicago

27. Día de Muertos

Honor and celebrate those who have lost their lives during the annual Day of the Dead exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art.

The exhibit features art, photography, and traditionally decorated altars.

28. Kwanzaa at DuSable Black History Museum

Learn more about the annual holiday, Kwanzaa, celebrated in African-American culture at the DuSable Black History Museum.

Events include education and performances.

29. NYE Fireworks at Navy Pier

Ring in the new year for free at Navy Pier with a family-friendly festival.

The event will feature a countdown to midnight then a huge firework display.

There are also a number of premium NYE events throughout the city, including a party at Navy Pier where you can see the fireworks as part of the ticket.

30. Lunar New Year Parade

Celebrations in Chicago stretch into January with the Lunar New Year Parade.

The colorful parade includes a traditional dragon, dancing teams, floats, and marching bands.


Getting Around Chicago

It’s really easy to navigate downtown Chicago; like Glasgow in Scotland, it uses a grid system.

Downtown is divided by Madison Street (North and South), and State Street splits up East and West.

There is an extensive transport system for those who prefer not to walk and/or want to squeeze more in.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) runs the train and bus system in the city.

You can pay with cash for single trips or invest in a reloadable Ventra Transit Card or Unlimited Ride Pass for multi-use savings. The ‘L’ train covers 144 rail stations, and two of the links operate 24 hours a day.

The Blue Line links the airport (O’Hare) to downtown, and the Red Link hooks up the North and the South. Some of the buses also run 24 hours a day.

You need the exact change for buses. You can plan your journey using the Chicago route planner.

Weather in Chicago

You can expect temperatures of around 21°F (-6.1°C) to 35°F (1.7°C).

Prepare for ice and snow from December. Wrap up, wear layers and invest in a good quality waterproof coat.

If this doesn’t sound like temperatures you can handle, consider fall in Chicago instead.

Orange fall trees with Buckingham Fountain Grant Park in Chicago

What to Wear in Chicago in Winter

  • Layers, keep warm outdoors but get ready to remove items when indoors 
  • Thermals if you plan to be out for a long time 
  • Padded outerwear
  • Wool outerwear is warm but not great when it gets wet
  • Hat, gloves, scarf to keep cozy 
  • Extra socks, consider pantyhose under your pants 
  • Comfortable waterproof or snow boots, especially if you plan to walk a lot
  • Sunshades for winter glare
  • Tote bags for shopping
Chicago panoramic view in the winter. Woman in red coat.

Final Words

If you are new to the city, visiting Chicago in December is an exciting time full of festivals and markets. If you are a local, I hope you’ve discovered something new to try out this winter. Please do tell us your favourite Christmas activities in Chicago below!


Winter Travel Tips

Christmas Markets Vienna Austria

Whether you are looking for a romantic city break, an adrenaline-fuelled ski trip or winter sun vacay, our winter travel itineraries will provide destination inspiration and support during the planning.

Winter Travel Itineraries

Europe

Paris in December Winter Christmas_

The USA + Canada

Gemma with Christmas mug at Vancouver Christmas Market_

Winter Sun Destinations

Dubai in December. Christmas tree in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai

Winter Destination Inspiration

Not sure where to go yet? Here are our inspiration guides:

Vienna in Winter December Christmas World on Rathausplatz

Winter Packing Lists

Salomon Quest Women Lightweight Waterproof Boot

Planning to hit the slopes this winter? Here’s everything you need from skis to sunscreen.

Don’t forget your travel insurance! We use True Traveller which is a company for Europeans. Many others use World Nomads.

Couple with skis on mountain

Fall Travel Destinations

Autumn Leaves

Whether you are looking for a leaf-peeping road trip or things to do this autumn, our fall travel guides are full of foliage and Halloween treats!

EUROPE

Queens View in Scotland

USA

Michigan Tahquamenon falls with fall leaves on trees

Look The Part

You might also be interested in some of our recommended travel gear which includes items that keep you dry, safe and comfortable from head to toe.

Don’t forget your travel insurance! We use True Traveller, which is a company for Europeans. Many others use World Nomads.

You can read our comparison guide here.

12 Best Tours in Dubai: Desert Safaris, Abu Dhabi + Line Skips

Old Dubai boat, skyline

On vacation and looking to build your itinerary with the best tours in Dubai, or are you short on time and need quick tips during a stopover?

This guide details exciting Dubai excursions for every budget including time-saving skip the line tickets, thrilling desert tours and an Abu Dubai day trip.

You may also like: how to spend 1-3 days in Dubai, where to stay in Dubai, and how to dress in Dubai.

Dubai Tours for Every Budget

1. Burj Khalifa Levels 124 & 125 Observation Decks ‘At the Top’ $$

The first attraction a tourist needs to see in order to believe that they’re in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa.

Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world which stands proudly in the middle of Downtown Dubai, right beside The Dubai Mall.

It is approximately 828m tall and can be seen from almost any part of the city. Tourists who are brave enough to go ‘At the Top’ will be rewarded with breath-taking 360-degree views of the entire city.

The main observation decks are located on levels 124 and 125 and if you’re willing to pay more, you can even go all the way up to level 148. This experience isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Just picture yourself being on top of the world while every other building in the city looks like it’s a center for ants. The best time to visit the top is around 5-6pm.

That’s when you’ll enjoy the beautiful sun setting over the Arabian sea as all the city lights start to come alive.

Even though you can purchase ‘At the Top’ tickets in the lobby, it’s much better to book them online in advance to choose the perfect time slot before it gets sold out.

You can then pick up tickets at ‘Will Call’ as soon as you arrive.

Try to get there early because the lines can be intense, especially for those who have booked the sunset slots.

You won’t get bored while waiting because, through interactive displays, you’ll get a very rich history lesson about the architecture of the building.

You’ll also get to hear a lot of fun facts.

Did you know that the weight of all the concrete used to construct the Burj Khalifa is equivalent of 100,000 elephants?

As soon as it’s your turn to go to the top, get ready to experience the fastest elevator ride in the world. When those elevator doors open and your heart barely stops pounding, you’ll be greeted by the staff with a warm smile saying those delightful words, “Enjoy the view.”

You might even see Tom Cruise scaling the building again on a top-secret mission.

You can easily get to Burj Khalifa by metro, but it’s a very long walk just to exit the station alone! Taxis are inexpensive in Dubai so it’s better to just hop into one.

Make sure that your driver takes you through Sheikh Zayed Road. That way, you will see the futuristic stretch of the Dubai skyline along the way, especially Emirates Towers, where Star Trek was filmed.

This will surely build up a lot more excitement as you finally approach the Burj Khalifa. 

  • Pros: Jump the line, choose a specific time
  • Cons: Audio tours additional fee
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
Burj Khalifa Dubai Skyline

2. Evening Desert Safari Dubai $$-$$$

A desert safari is one of the best tours in Dubai. Once upon a time, Dubai was nothing but a vast and empty desert.

That’s why it’s worth going back in time to experience where it all began and treating yourself to a delicious Dubai desert dinner, underneath the stars.

There are many tour companies that provide competitive rates for a standard desert safari with BBQ dinner.

In order to choose the right desert safari company in Dubai, make sure to read some online reviews from previous customers.

You can book your own four-wheel drive if you’re traveling together in a group or share one with other tourists to make some new friends.

A standard evening desert safari begins around 3-4pm, which gives you plenty of time for other activities in the morning. A very spacious and comfortable air-conditioned land cruiser will pick you up from your hotel.

After an hour’s drive, you’ll briefly stop at an old service station with souvenir shops, for a chance to stretch your legs while your driver removes air from the tires.

The friendly shopkeepers will offer to sell you a ‘Ghutra,’ which is a traditional Arabic headscarf worn by local Bedouins to protect against dust and sandstorms. It also helps keep your head cool on hot days and it’s fun to watch how skilfully they tie it for you.

A stop there only lasts 20 minutes and then it’s time to go bashing through the Lehbab desert dunes.

Dune bashing in Dubai is such an exhilarating experience and can even be a little scary for some people. You’ll be safely strapped inside a 4×4 Land Cruiser as your driver expertly speeds you up and down the giant sand dunes.

You’ll see lots of great views of the desert but get ready for some serious butterflies in your stomach! Your driver might also be adventurous enough to tilt the cruiser over the edge of a massive dune to make you feel as though you’re about to fall.

Dune bashing is such a thrilling rollercoaster experience in the desert, and you’ll love every moment of the adrenaline rush. One member of our group was extremely nervous, but our driver’s great sense of humor really helped put everyone at ease.

The drivers are friendly and knowledgeable, feel free to ask them any questions and they’ll be happy to engage with you.

Don’t worry about not getting good photos from inside the cruiser, your driver will stop at a beautiful spot for a photo op with the magnificent sunset in the background.

Most Dubai desert dinner tours start early afternoon and last approximately 5-7 hours. They also provide full transport, so you don’t have to worry about hitching a ride in the middle of the desert.

There are many different desert tours in Dubai for all the popular activities that you’d like to experience.

  • Pros: Sunset, BBQ, dune bashing
  • Cons: No camel experience
  • Duration: 6-7 hours
Desert Safari Dune Bashing Tour 4WD on san

3. Red Dune Safari with Sandboarding and BBQ $$

Instead of just stopping for a sunset photo op, with this tour, you’ll also get to hop on a board and go surfing down the sand dunes.

It’s great fun to have a race with all your friends and having a good laugh whenever someone falls on the sand.

Because the sand is very soft, sandboarding is a very safe and fun activity even for children.

There will also be a great opportunity to experience riding a camel. It’s a short ride, but still great for a few photos.

After building up a strong appetite on the dunes, you’ll be taken to a private oasis called Lahbab camp to have an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner. You’ll be seated around a large stage area and enjoy various musical shows such as belly dancing.

The buffet options are plentiful consisting of bread, rice, salads, Arabic meats, and sweets.

Be sure to try the typical Arabic sweet called ‘Luqaimat.’ It’s like a warm and soft deep-fried marshmallow that just melts in your mouth.

You’ll want 50 of them for sure!

You’ll also get unlimited coffee, tea, water, juices, and soft drinks. Alcoholic drinks aren’t free but it’s still worth splurging a little on a cold beer in the desert.

There’s a separate area where everyone can gather around and smoke some delicious shisha.

You can either have your own shisha or share one with two different pipes. Unfortunately, all the free shishas are the same flavor so if you want to try different ones, you’ll have to pay extra for it.

You can also get a temporary henna tattoo from a professional artist and pose with a real falcon. Make sure to get the henna done after dinner because it takes a while to dry and peel off. After all, the best way to experience true Arabic cuisine is by eating with your hands!

  • Pros: Same as above tours + camel experience
  • Cons: Charges for additional options
  • Duration: 4-7 hours

4. Bike the Red Dunes, Sandboard and BBQ with Shows $$

This safari tour has most of the activities (minus dune bashing).

Instead of a 4×4 cruiser, you can fulfill your need for speed by riding your own quad bike for 45 minutes through the desert.

You’ll get all the safety tips on the day, so don’t worry if you’re not an experienced rider.

Just make sure that you choose a reputable Dubai tour guide for this safari.

This is very important because some use very old quad bikes and a tourist was hospitalized

That was a very rare case but it’s still wise to do some research when you’re booking any Dubai safari tours.

  • Pros: Quads for thrill seekers
  • Cons: No dune bashing
  • Duration: 6 hours

6. Morning Safari with Quad Bikes and Sandboarding

This Dubai desert safari tour is like the ones in the evening, but you’ll have to wake up early for it. It’s much shorter for just 4-5 hours and is perfect for those who don’t want to spend an entire day in the desert.

You can go dune bashing, camel riding, quad biking, sandboarding, and enjoy a picnic at Jumeirah Beach after you’re done. Pro: Shorter, great for those on stopovers Con:  Duration: 4-5 hours

7. Overnight Dubai Desert Safari Trip $$

In case you can’t get enough of a desert safari in Dubai, why not stay longer and camp overnight with this tour?

The desert is very quiet and peaceful at night.

You’ll get a lot more privacy because most tourists leave right after the evening tour.

There are many fun activities to do at night, and the desert is the best place to look at stars since there’s no light pollution.

Each person gets their own tent with sleeping bags, cushions and mattresses so you don’t have to bring any camping equipment with you at all.

Some light snacks and drinks are also provided through the night.

It’s a great way to sit around a fire and meet new people. A local guide will be there to tell you all about the history of Dubai.

Some older guides have very interesting stories about what it was like to live in the desert before the city of Dubai was built.

Then you’ll get to watch the most beautiful sunrise when you wake up in the morning.

You’ll get to enjoy a traditional Arabic breakfast before your drive back to the city.

They don’t do any dune bashing on the way back from the desert because everyone’s full from breakfast.

An overnight desert safari in Dubai is extremely safe.

The guides work hard to make sure that everyone can sleep peacefully. You can leave your belongings in the tent and no one will steal anything.

There are shared male and female bathrooms in the campsite which are very clean. Click here to find out more.

  • Pros: Less touristy, stargazing 
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Duration: 24 hours

» » Read the full guide to Dubai’s safari tours here


Woman walking in white dress in Dubai desert

8. Abu Dhabi Full-Day Sightseeing Tour from Dubai $$

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and well worth a visit for at least a day.

It’s only a 90-minute drive from Dubai and there’s barely any traffic on the way via Sheikh Zayed Road.

You can catch a public bus to Abu Dhabi.

Tickets are very cheap at 25 AED from Al Ghubaiba bus station but when you arrive at Abu Dhabi central station,  you’ll need a taxi to get around. 

Alternatively, you can prearrange a trip with a popular tour company who arrange all transportation from Dubai and back.

Tours are also great at managing time because there’s a fair bit to see in Abu Dhabi.


Things to do in Abu Dhabi 

The most iconic tourist attraction is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It’s one of the largest mosques in the world and has an open-door policy for all non-Muslims.

You will be utterly captivated by the impressive architectural styles which represent different Muslim civilizations.

Women are required to wear an Abaya at the mosque. There’s no reason to bring your own because they let you borrow one in different sizes for free.

Everyone must also take their shoes off and walk barefoot. Don’t forget to bring a pair of sunglasses because the bright white building is blinding on a very sunny day.

After the Mosque, you can check out Yas Island and Ferrari World.

Yas Island is famous for hosting many concerts. You can even rent a sports car and race laps around at Yas Marina Circuit where Formula One is held each year.

Ferrari World has some rides, a museum and plenty of merchandise for sale. It does get slightly boring unless you’re really a hardcore Ferrari fan.

It’s worth trying out the fastest rollercoaster in the world but if you’re not into rollercoasters or Ferraris then it’s not worth the high price.

Some tours do a photo stop at Ferrari world so you can have a quick pose to say you were there.

If you’re a Fast and Furious fan, then you’ll want to see Etihad Towers and Emirates Palace.

Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, it’s still worth seeing anyway.

Emirates Palace is breathtakingly grand and perfect to walk around to take some incredible photos. If you want a unique souvenir, you can purchase some gold from the UAE’s first ‘Gold ATM’ which is on the ground floor.

Make sure you leave some time to walk down to the Corniche Beach and dip your feet in the water.

  • Pros: All transport included, highlights visited
  • Cons: Limited by tour itinerary
  • Duration: 8-9 hours
Abu Dhabi Skyline, trees, buildings, water fountain

9. Dubai Helicopter Flight from The Palm to The Burj Khalifa $$$

There’s always a lot of traffic on the streets of Dubai, so the fastest way to do a Dubai day tour is by flying in the air.

Experience all the tours of Dubai in a much shorter time with a complete aerial view.

With a helicopter tour of Dubai, you’ll get to see the entire magnificent shape of the Palm Islands and the crystal blue water surrounding it.

You’ll also get to see the World Islands in case you feel like fantasizing about which private island you’d like to save up for.

The helicopter will also circle close to the Burj Al Arab which is the only 7* hotel in the entire world.

You’ll get to see the helipad that Tiger Woods shot a golf ball from. This is an expensive experience but worth doing at least once in your life.

Make sure to get a window seat if you want to take a lot of photos and videos without having to lean across another passenger.

It’s also important to book a helicopter tour at the start of your holiday in Dubai because the weather can be unpredictable.

If there’s a sandstorm, your flight will get postponed due to poor visibility. So, it’s better to give yourself plenty of time to reschedule the tour rather than canceling it.

  • Pros: Bird’s eye view
  • Cons: Expensive
  • Duration: 12-25 mins
Dubai Helicopter Ride Tour

10. Dubai Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour 24, 48 or 72 Hours $

For a relaxing Dubai day trip, the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour is the best experience.

When the weather is nice, it’s a lot of fun to sit on the top deck and wave to all the other cars passing by.

The lower deck is fully air-conditioned so you can still do the bus tour during the summer months.

The bus stops at all the major landmarks so you can get down explore as much as you like. Reserve and download your instant ticket.

  • Pros: Multi-stops for sightseeing, audio guide
  • Cons: Traffic impacts on duration
View of skyscrapers in Downtown Dubai - the UAE

11. Dubai Speedboat Tour: Marina, Atlantis, Palm & Burj Al Arab $

A speedboat tour is one of the best day activities in Dubai and takes you up close to the Palm Islands.

You’ll enjoy the sea breeze and the great views of the Dubai Marina. Your speedboat driver will make you feel very special throughout the trip and even take photos for you.

On the weekends, you might also see some of the luxury yachts that belong to members of the royal family. 

  • Pros: Fun tour, up close to the Palms
  • Cons: Weather dependent, can be windy 
Palm Islands Dubai

12. Dubai Fountain Show and Burj Lake Ride by Traditional Boat $

After your visit ‘At the Top,’ you should go back to Dubai Mall and walk down from the Apple store escalator and exit through the swiveling doors.

You’ll see the majestic Burj Khalifa standing proudly to your right and this is where you can catch the famous musical fountains that come on every 30 minutes.

It’s very tricky to capture the building’s entire length in photos, so you might see a lot of people squatting down to the ground while trying to take pictures.

And before you know it, you’ll suddenly hear a blast of music and a loud gush of water thundering towards the sky.

Make sure you have your camera ready to record the free show!

The best time to see the free fountain show is after sundown to enjoy all the lights.

You can see it from the bridge between Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar or reserve an outdoor table at any of the restaurants facing the fountain. 

The fountain area gets extremely crowded, so there’s a new floating platform which is much closer to the water and you’ll get a much better view.

It’s called the Dubai Fountain Boardwalk, and tickets for the are only 25 AED per person.

You can also go on a 30-minute traditional Abra cruise and get even closer to the fountain. Don’t forget to pick up physical tickets beforehand because the Abra driver won’t accept any e-tickets.

It’s a very heartwarming experience to watch the beautiful dancing fountain up close, especially when Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time to say goodbye’ comes on.

You might get sprayed with water the closer you get to the fountain, especially if it’s windy. It helps to carry a small hand towel in your purse.

Dubai Fountain Show at night, birds eye view

13. Dubai 5-Hour Tour with a Professional Photographer Guide $$

This is one of the best tours in Dubai because it allows people to live in the moment.

Now you can truly enjoy being a tourist and the photographer will take all your candid shots for you.

You won’t have to deal with blurry selfies anymore because you’ll get professional high-quality shots to show off on social media.

Don’t forget to use #MyDubai when you upload photos on Instagram. The best photos get displayed on the Burj Al Arab! Check out the best rates here

  • Pros: Feel like a celeb while seeing the sights
  • Cons: Quite a long day if not used to being a model!
  • Duration: 5 hours
Dubai Fountain Show at night, birds eye view

Final Words

Dubai can be expensive but there’s always something for everyone. 

Since there’s so much to do and see in Dubai, you should plan your stay for at least 3 days.

This will give you the best chance to visit all the landmarks, learn the history and take a few of the best Dubai tours. 

Oh, and make sure you don’t forget to eat delicious shawarmas from a local cafeteria and grab a saffron tea from Filli.


Pin to your Dubai board for future planning

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About the Author

Shipra is a digital marketer who was born and brought up in Dubai and has lived here for over 30 years. Thanks to all her friends who constantly keep visiting from abroad, she has been on a desert safari 25 times.

Read next: Where to stay in Dubai (best districts and hotels). 

29 Things to Do in New Orleans in Fall: Spooky tours, Festivals & Halloween

Historic gravestones at Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Visiting New Orleans in fall is always a great idea as the temperatures become milder at around 70℉ or 60℉ in October and November.

Located at the base of the Mississippi River, the city is one of the oldest in the United States and is filled with a rich history.

It has a unique blend of French, Spanish, and African-American influences, making it a distinct place to experience during the autumn months.

Nicknamed The Big Easy and the Crescent City, it is known for many things, including extravagant Mardi Gras celebrations, Voodoo, delicious Creole and Cajun cuisine, and the birth of Jazz.

The following list will explore things to do in New Orleans during the fall season, including outdoor activities, indoor attractions, food, and festivals.

You can even find unique things to do in NOLA during your visit.

Top New Orleans Activities to Do and See in Fall

Here are our top picks for activities to enjoy in the fall.

New Orleans also made it to our list of the best places to visit in November in USA for its food, drinks and fun.

Visit the Garden District For History and Decorations

The Garden District is one of the most beautiful places in New Orleans in October.

The streets are filled with beautiful twisting old oak trees and intricately crafted mansions.

The Garden District also contains the historic Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. 

See all the Garden District has to offer and even enter an old mansion with a half-day tour

It is also where the St. Charles Avenue mansions go all out for Hallowe’en decorations!

You’ve maybe seen The Skeleton House (6000 St Charles Ave) on social media, so now you can see it in real life!

Also, The Buckner Mansion (1410 Jackson Ave) was featured in the hit TV show American Horror Story.

See City Park’s Fall Garden Festival

City Park (1 Palm Dr.)  is a huge, beautiful park that has existed since 1850.

It’s one of the largest parks in the US and features bridges, ancient oak trees covered in Spanish moss, and water features.

The 1,300-acre park includes attractions like the New Orleans Botanic Garden, the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, Golf, Carousel Gardens, Storyland, and a Train Garden. 

During the fall season, the annual Fall Garden Festival is held at the park’s New Orleans Garden, featuring plant and garden exhibits, children’s activities as well as and educational programs for gardeners of all levels.

Pathway with oak trees covered in Spanish moss in City Park, New Orleans

A Spooky Cemetery Tour

Touring an old cemetery is the perfect fall in New Orleans activity. 

New Orleans cemeteries have been around since the late 1700s, and now, there are 42 cemeteries in the New Orleans area. 

Some of the oldest cemeteries include St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (425 Basin St) and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (1427 Washington Ave). 

Many famous people are buried within the old cemeteries like in St. Louis, including Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. 

The oldest cemeteries in the city can only be seen through a guided led tour.

Take a 2-hour night haunted city tour to see all the best spots. 

Historic gravestones at Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Museum of Death New Orleans

Located in the French Quarter, the Museum of Death (227 Dauphine St) features exhibitions with body bags, coffins, and skulls, as well as crime and morgue scene photography.

Its Theater of Death of plays true crime stories.

Watch a Scary Movie

If Bourbon Street at 1 am isn’t scary enough for you, catch the latest release or a vintage horror movie at one of the New Orleans theaters.

Check out the Prytania Theatre (5339 Prytania St) for a classic movie house located in the Garden District.

Pumpkin Picking

Pick the perfect pumpkin at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s Pumpkin Patch.

Pumpkins line the building for picking and there is also some Hallowe’en decor around the building.

Mississippi History Cruise

Fall in Louisiana can be seen comfortably from a steamboat or paddle wheeler. 

These are two iconic, authentic types of boats that made trade and travel on the Mississippi a possibility. 

Now, take a tour through history aboard the Creole Queen and see some major sights like the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral, and the steamboat houses of the Holy Cross neighborhood during autumn.

Steamboat Natchez New Orleans_

Ghosts, Vampires, & Voodoo French Quarter Tour

This 2-hour walking tour takes you through the streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter while a local guide tells you stories about vampires, voodoo, and witchcraft.

This is also an excellent opportunity to learn about the rich history of New Orleans’ most famous streets and to visit the neighborhood’s haunted sites like the LaLaurie Mansion (138 Royal St).

Frenchmen New Orleans_

Stay in a Haunted Hotel

Hotel Monteleone is known as New Orlean’s haunted hotel!

It has a door in the restaurant which opens every night, even though it is locked!

The elevator is known to stop at the wrong floor, and some guests have seen ghosts of kids playing.

Would you dare?

Book your room here.

Hotel Monteleone sign against blue sky inNew Orleans_

New Orleans Museum of Art Fall Schedule

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) (1 Collins Diboll Cir) was founded in 1879 and is the oldest public art museum in the United States. 

NOMA’s collection consists of over 40,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years, and the exhibits change frequently, so check out what’s on during the autumn schedule.

It also consists of an outdoor sculpture garden which is a lovely walk during fall.

Wednesdays are free entry days which is great if you are on a budget!

Try a king croissant at the cafe for an indulgent fall treat.

Mardi Gras World

Although not fall-specific, it is worth visiting Mardi Gras World (1380 Port of New Orleans Pl) to see what New Orlean’s biggest celebration is all about.

Here you will find out more about the location where the floats for Mardi Gras parades are built and decorated.

Guests can tour the 300,000-square feet warehouse and see the entire creation process, plus learn about Mardi Gras’ history.

Mardi Gras mask with colorful beads and accessories

Visit the Shops of the Colonnade

The Shops of the Colonnade (1008 N Peters St), also called The French Market, is a huge market of various sellers that spans six blocks.

It was originally a Native American trading outpost that existed before European colonization. 

The vendors sell beautiful handmade goods such as jewelry, clothing, and artwork.

There is also live music and great food to enjoy in this vibrant marketplace.  

The French Market puts on events, so check out its fall calendar for more.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (514 Chartres St) is a unique museum focused on medical history. 

It is located at the site of the first licensed apothecary shop and exhibits old cures that existed in the 19th century. 

Today, the museum houses over 1,500 items, including antique medical equipment, rare books, and historical photographs.

A spooky thing to do in New Orleans this fall!

Pub Crawl

If you’re looking for things to do in New Orleans in October, a pub crawl with all the best locations might be your most memorable night out. 

In New Orleans, many older buildings that are also bars are supposedly haunted. 

So, why not check it out for yourself and enjoy a cold drink while you’re at it? 

Things to do in New Orleans I Bourbon Street Hand Grenades

National WWII Museum 

The New Orleans National World War II Museum (945 Magazine Street) is a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the American people during World War II. 

The museum was established in 2000 and has striking exterior architecture. 

See the history for yourself throughout the museum’s over 200,000 square feet area.

Magazine Street For Seasonal Shopping & Food

Magazine Street is packed full of cafes and vintage stores, so plan lunch and a shop for seasonal souvenirs or, dare I say it, start your Christmas shopping after a visit to the museum!

NOLA has a variety of restaurants that lean into the farm-to-fork mantra for their menus, for example, the ‘made-from-scratch’ Le Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine St).

While we don’t tend to promote chain cafes, there is a Starbucks on Magainze Street for those needing their pumpkin spice latte hit.

It is also where the Greetings From NOLA street art mural is located at 2014 Magazine St.

See a Saints Game

Fall marks the start of the Saints season, with games scheduled from September to December at the huge Mercedes Benz Superdome.

See what the hype is all about, and enjoy a game this fall.

Coffee & Beignets

Coffee and beignets are the perfect duos on a cooler New Orleans in November. 

A New Orleans staple, Cafe Du Monde (848 Decatur St.) supplies both and has been known for it since 1862.

Chicory coffee has a unique flavor that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of a powdered sugar-covered beignet.

Sit in the outdoor cafe and enjoy your hot beverage and sweet treat while you take in the scenery. 

Cafe Du Monde sign at New Orleans_

Enjoy Gumbo 

National Gumbo Day is October 12th and is best celebrated in New Orleans. 

Gumbo is a traditional Cajun stew that originated in the French-speaking region of Louisiana. 

It is a thick soup that contains seafood, meat, vegetables, and seasonings and consists of a roux (a paste of flour and fat) base seasoned with spices and stock. 

Other variations may use tomatoes, okra, peppers, or even chicken.

You can head to the Gumbo Shop (630 Saint Peter St) to taste their award-winning okra gumbo.

Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch Buffet

The Court of the Two Sisters (613 Royal St.) Jazz Brunch Buffet is a renowned restaurant that offers a wide variety of dishes, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. 

The menu includes items like poached eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles, crepes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, grits, salads, sandwiches, burgers, seafood, pasta, steak, ribs, chicken, pork chops, and much more. 

There is also a full bar where guests can enjoy speciality drinks and cocktails. 

Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served at the restaurant. 

The Court of the Two Sisters has daily jazz brunches that are the perfect activity if you’re spending autumn in New Orleans.

Eat Oysters

Delicious Gulf oysters are enjoyed year-round in New Orleans.

However, they’re especially bountiful starting from September since this is when the oyster season arrives.

Prices are also lower around this time since there is a higher supply.

Visit one of New Orleans’ many oyster houses or bars to partake. 

Oceana Grill at Conti St and Mambo’s at Bourbon Street is among the most popular spots.

New Orleans Fall Festivals and Events

This list will explore New Orleans fall events you can look forward to on your next trip.

Planning to stick around until winter? New Orleans is one of the warm places to visit in USA in December, with lots of fun and festive things to do.

Krewe of Boo

Krewe of Boo is a fun parade for both children and adults alike and has been thrilling crowds with its spooky floats for more than a decade.

Founded in 2007, the event became New Orleans’ official Halloween parade.

Riders in the Krewe of Boo parade will throw various items to onlookers as they go by, like candies, toys, and other collectable items.

The parade usually starts at Elysian Fields Avenue.

Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival

The Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival is a wonderful free event to hear great music in New Orleans during the fall.

You’ll also have access to the best BBQ vendors while you experience the genres of jazz and blues up close and personal. 

It is held in October at Lafayette Square Park (602 St. Charles Ave).

This is also a great opportunity to explore the park’s historic 150-year-old location.

New Orleans also made it to our USA bucket list for its jazz music.

New Orleans Film Festival

The New Orleans Film Festival is a huge event celebrating amazing filmmakers.

It is cited by the New Orleans Film Society to attract 30,000 people, 500+ filmmakers, and 240 films each year.

The event has been occurring annually since 1989 and is Oscar-qualifying. 

Enjoy movies and partake in some parties throughout the festival. 

Oak Street Po-Boy Festival

New Orleans is known for its Po-Boy (Poor Boy) sandwich. 

It is a delicious sandwich served on french bread and filled with your choice of meat, usually roast beef, fried shrimp, or even oysters.

Then, they’re piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. 

Try all the different styles of this mouth-watering delight from over 30 vendors at the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival.

There’s also great live music and shopping to enjoy and you learn about the history behind the sandwich.

Po Boys bread roll stuffed with meat in New Orleans

Big Easy Halloween Half Marathon & 5K

Pretend you’re running for your life from a haunted house with ghouls and zombies at your tail, then use all of that adrenaline to run the New Orleans half marathon or 5k!

The race course is set up along the stunning New Orleans Lakefront, just 6.2 miles from the French Quarter!  

Sign up here.

Oktoberfest

Experience Germany in New Orleans at a big Oktoberfest celebration.

Partake in the great German food, drinks, and activities while immersing yourself in the culture.

There are also children’s activities like arts and crafts and games. 

Oktoberfest couple with beer

Autumn Activities Fall Foliage Near New Orleans

If you have access to a car, head out on a leaf-peeping road trip from New Orleans this fall.

You may also like our guide to the best places to visit in October in USA.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Also known as the Old Natchez Trace, the Natchez Trace Parkway takes drivers through three states, Natchez, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nashville, during this 444 miles route.

Track the fall foliage reports to see when the best time to visit is.

Check out our guide to Nashville in the fall next.

Kisatchie National Forest

Kisatchie National Forest is Louisiana’s only National Forest.

Located 190 miles from New Orleans, this recreational area boasts 604,000 acres for hiking, biking, camping, and fishing.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide helped you plan for a fun fall getaway in New Orleans. 

Share your favorite thing about fall in New Orleans in the comments below- we’d love to hear it!