What’s New and Happening in Chicago – Winter/Spring 2023

The New Year brings a plethora of new opportunities to explore Chicago. Whether it’s the host of new, hot restaurants, haute shopping experiences, or high-energy, immersive shows and attractions,

it’s clear: the Best Big City in the U.S. (six years running!) isn’t resting on its laurels. In fact, it’s just getting started.

January signals the triumphant, sold-out comeback of First Bites Bash after a three-year hiatus. The all-inclusive January 19 event inside the iconic Field Museum kicks off the 16th annual Chicago Restaurant Week, celebrating the area’s acclaimed culinary scene across 17 days and more than 300 top restaurants. Restaurant Week includes special prix fixe menus ($25 for brunch or lunch and $42 and/or $59 for dinner).

These signature events are a great way to indulge in around-the-world delicacies without leaving the city. Immersion takes on a new form with Stage 773’s WHIM, a walk-thru experience inviting guests to partake in a whimsical night out inside a world where every art form comes together – paintings, music, sculpture, street art, and live performance – all by Chicago artists.

And, on the heels of Black History Month, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center debuts The Negro Motorist Green Book, an exhibit dedicated to African American travel in the Jim Crow era.

February is well-known for being a month dedicated to and all about love, and this year, there’s no shortage of events to fall in love with.

This month marks the beginning of a bevy of bold performances at stages across the city, from Broadway in Chicago, the Belmont Theatre District and the Joffrey Ballet. And with the return of Chicago Theatre Week (now in its 11th year), that means these can’t miss live performances are available from February 16-26 for $30 or less!

The Chicago Auto Show, the largest auto show in North America, returning to McCormick Place Feb. 11-20. And throughout the month, raise a glass to great American writers at the American Writers Museum’s new Get Lit happy hour series.

Complete with the 60-plus-year tradition of dyeing of the Chicago River green, March makes a colorful point to the world that no city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day quite like we do. From the signature parade downtown to neighborhood-specific festivities, Irish history and culture run deep in neighborhoods like BeverlyAlbany Park, and Mt. Greenwood.

With so much in store this year, go ahead: Discover big-city culture, Midwestern hospitality, and urban adventure. Come explore the city that feels like home! Visit ChooseChicago.com for more information.

Please click here for the full list of What’s New in Chicago for Winter/Spring 2023: https://www.choosechicago.com/press-media/whats-new-in-chicago/whats-new-and-happening-in-chicago-winter-spring-2023/

6 Unique Things to do in Chicago That Every Local Should Know About

Check out the recent Redfin article written by Ana Guzman that Travel/Food was featured in.

If you’re living in Chicago, chances are you’ve seen popular tourist attractions like Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean, or have walked around the Navy Pier. Although these attractions make Chicago unique, have you ever wondered what else is out there? If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered. We’ve gathered Chicagoans to share their favorite unique things to do in Chicago to give you some fresh ideas. So whether you’re ready to shake up your routine or new to the city looking for apartments for rent in Chicago, check out locally approved attractions you want to take advantage of.

Are you looking to step back in time? The Art Institute of Chicago will help transport you as you like. The museum houses one of the country’s largest permanent collections and other centuries-old artwork.

1. You can’t go wrong with the Art Institute of Chicago

Martin, a local Chicagoan from SmartMoneyMatch, a network that connects the global investment community, recommends the Art Institute of Chicago when the weather is terrible. “It’s always worth a visit. It’s filled with masterpieces from every era, from Georges Seurat’s iconic painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte to Andy Warhol’s print of actress Elizabeth Taylor.”

2. Visit the Chicago River in the summer

In the summertime, Chicago becomes an outdoor oasis for all residents and visitors. From the various parks and the waterways, you’ll find a place you’ll love to explore.

“My favorite unique thing to do in Chicago is to go kayaking on the Chicago River in the summer,” says May, a Chicago local from Nutrition Happens, a space dedicated to health, wellness, and nutrition. “Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, there’s nothing better than soaking in the famous skyline views with a peaceful paddle down the river.”

Chicago local Jane Simon Ammeson agrees. “Rivers were the highways of the past, but the Chicago River offers uniquely modern adventures for me. I can paddle its waters and shiver at scary stories during a Ghost and Gangster kayak tour, and sip a Spanish Rioja while gazing at the city lights. I love to stroll along the Riverwalk, choose a favorite place to dine, and plan my next adventure while watching the boats go by.”

3. Take a visit to the Shedd Aquarium

A unique helicopter view of the John G. Shedd Aquarium on Lake Michigan, Chicago.

Bungee QC Fitness shares that their favorite unique thing to do in Chicago is visiting the Shedd Aquarium. “With over 1,500 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates from around the world, the Shedd Aquarium showcases an impressive array of aquatic life. 

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the country’s oldest and most respected aquariums. If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss it.

4. Explore nearby neighborhoods

Chicago is full of charming neighborhoods like River North and Edgewater. You’ll indeed find beautiful places in Chicago that will blow you away within a matter of minutes from each other. So grab your shoes, head out the door, and get ready to explore.

“Chicago is a great city for food and family fun,” says Jenny and Sheena, local Chicagoans from “And Then We Had Kids” Podcast. “Park & Field, located in the Logan Square neighborhood, is an excellent restaurant for all ages, and they even host fun family events and a bottomless boozy brunch on the weekends. If you’re looking for a place to host your event, Park & Field features fee-free party rentals. And the best part is they’re dog-friendly.

5. Dine in local favorite restaurants

Whether you’re searching for homes for sale in Pilsen because of the authentic eats or just looking for hidden gems in Chicago, you’re sure to find something that will make your mouth water. 

If you’re a foodie, you’ll want to check out the Irish Nobleman Pub on the West Side. Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while enjoying the lush foliage, flowers & hummingbirds in the summer. The patio is lined with AstroTurf, so it’s like a green oasis near downtown Chicago – and that also makes it super comfortable for bringing my dog along. It’s not just a Chicago favorite spot to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; the summertime patio is an attraction on its own.

Are you looking for a fancy night on the town? Vess, a local from Bus Connection, a sophisticated transportation service, recommends stopping by Bavette’s Bar and Bouf. “One of Chicago’s finest steakhouse restaurants, Bavette’s Bar and Bouf is truly a hidden gem. Feel the swanky ambiance of a prohibition-era speakeasy, softly lit with red velvet wraparound booths and sultry jazz music soundtracks. It’s the most unique and intimate place to wine and dine.”

6. Go to any event hosted by Sofar Sounds

Sofar Sounds connects the community with secret concerts in unique spaces. You’ll receive the address of the event within 36 hours before the event. You’ll experience different shows, from musical genres and comedy to dance. 

“My recommendation for a unique thing to do in Chicago is to go to events hosted by Sofar Sounds,” says Emily from Mezz Entertainment. “Through this experience, you can attend intimate gigs throughout the city, like the loop and Lincoln Park. I love discovering new artists to listen to from these shows.” 

About Ana Guzman

Ana is part of the Redfin content marketing team and enjoys writing about home improvement and life & style. Her dream house would be a contemporary style with lots of natural light.

29 Reasons to Visit Chicago This Holiday Season

Halloween is so over and now is the time to move on to the magic of Chicago during the holiday season. From skating rinks, tradtional Christmas Markets to show-stopping parades, there’s plenty to enjoy. Here’s some of Choose Chicago’s tips on what to see and do

See the Lights

  • Lightscape, the acclaimed holiday event, returns from November 11, 2022 – January 8, 2023 with a new path and new light-filled installations created just for the Chicago Botanic Garden. Featured artistic works will include favorites such as the luminous Winter Cathedral and a reimagined fire garden. Tickets start at $32 for adults ($30 for members), $16 for children ($14 for child members) and all little ones under 2 can enter for free. 
  • The City of Chicago’s “official” Christmas tree in Millennium Park will shine brightly near the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Washington St. from November 18, 2022 through January 8, 2023. A pre-show will begin at 5 p.m. (with performers including the cast of Cabaret ZaZou and several Broadway in Chicago productions), followed by the lighting at approximately 6:30 p.m. and culminating in a fireworks show. 
Photo credit: Phil Parcellano
  • The annual, one-of-a-kind holiday experience ZooLights (Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ) at Lincoln Park Zoo will return from November 19, 2022 – January 1, 2023. Tickets are now on sale for $5 General Admission, Members-only Nights and Sensory-friendly Night. Tickets to Free Admission Mondays will be released the Tuesday prior at 11 a.m. each week.
  • Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns for its 10th year during Morton Arboretum’s 100th anniversary year, from November 19, 2022 – January 7, 2023, Explore 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees during this one-of-a-kind spectacle of color, light, and sound featuring six dazzling new displays as well as returning favorites. You will be awed and delighted by the first-ever Illumination display in the Arboretum’s new Grand Garden, leading to a spectacular laser-light finale. Craft beer lovers won’t want to miss IllumiBrew, November 17-18. This 21-and-over event provides a first look at Illumination while sampling local brews along the trail. New this year is a special series of Electric Illumination late-night experiences (December 16, 23 and 30; 9:30-11:00 PM) for adults 18+ with an eclectic, curated mix of Trance and Progressive House music, synchronized to the light displays. Ilumination ticket costs will run between $11-$22 for members and $16-$27 for guests, depending on the date and other available discounts.
  • Navy Pier’s Light Up The Lake returns from November 25 2022 to January 7, 2023. Visitors can experience the magic with interactive light displays, a whimsical skating rink, journeys through the birch tree maze, visits with Santa, and more. Pricing is $27 for an adult ticket, and 17 for a child’s ticket (ages 3-12).
  • In the nearby suburbs, Brookfield Zoo is hosting their annual Holiday Magicdisplay, a local tradition for more than 40 years. Zoo-goers can stroll along the many pathways lit with more than two million twinkling LED lights, including the 600-foot-long Tunnel of Lights with thousands of colored lights all synchronized to music as well as enjoy a skating rink, illuminated animal sculptures, numerous photo opps, drop-off letters for Santa and more.

Who Doesn’t Love a Parade?

  • The holiday season in Chicago officially kicks off with The Wintrust Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (November 19, 2022) a day-through-night, mile-long extravaganza drawing more than one million celebrants. Its centerpiece is the largest nighttime parade in the U.S. — a spectacular parade down Michigan Avenue. Led by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse of The Walt Disney World Resort, the parade features fabulous floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, celebrities, musical performances, Santa Claus, fireworks and more —illuminating one million lights on The Avenue’s 200+ trees. Broadcast on ABC 7 Chicago on Sunday, November 20, 2022, Lights Festival will also air throughout the holiday season.
  • The Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade promises a fun-filled morning in the heart of downtown Chicago on November 24, 2022. Starting at iconic State Street in the Loop at 8:00 AM, the procession makes its way up State from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph Street. This free, all-ages event features more than 100 floats filled with entertainers, performance artists, helium balloons led by Teddy the Turkey (the parade’s official mascot) and a visit from Santa Claus.

Find That Perfect Gift

  • The Christkindlmarket Chicago, the most authentic traditional holiday market of its kind outside of Europe, returns November 18, 2022 and runs through the Christmas season, with the main location at Daley Plaza, along with outposts in Wrigleyville and Aurora. Of-age visitors can enjoy a mug of glühwein (hot spiced wine) as well as sweet and savory German snacks while shopping for handmade and traditional souvenirs. There are also musical performances and plenty of family-friendly activities for kids.
  • Now in its 21st year in Chicago, the One of a Kind Holiday Show (December 1-4, 2022) brings together hundreds of talented artists, makers and designers with thousands of happy shoppers who love art and original work. The show continues to be the best place in Chicago to find thousands of handmade products, truly unique and meaningful gifts for the holidays.
  • At the iconic Macy’s on State Street, take a break from holiday shopping to enjoy the annual Holiday Windows or have a peek at the Great Tree inside the historic Walnut Room, the first restaurant ever opened in a department store. With Circassian wood paneling imported from Russia and Austrian chandeliers, the 17,000 square foot dining room is both elegant and comfortable and a favored place to enjoy a festive afternoon treat.

Enjoy a Holiday Exhibit

  • At the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), the annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibits return November 16, 2022-January 4, 2023. A simple tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree now features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe.

Lace Up Your Skates

  • The scenic rink at Millennium Park offers panoramic views of Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) and the surrounding city skyline dusted in snow. The rink is open daily from November through March, weather permitting. Skate rentals are available, or you can bring your own.
  • Nearby, Maggie Daley Park is known for its one-of-a-kind Skating Ribbon, an icy path that curves through the park’s whimsical landscape. The Skating Ribbon is open from November through March. You can reserve skate rentals ahead of time or use your own.
  • The Gallagher Way Rink in Wrigleyville offers ice skating from November 18, 2022 – January , 2023, weather permitting. The Rink welcomes all skill levels to skate on their own or ride ice bumper cars on the newly expanded 12,000 square-foot ice rink, located inside Wrigley Field. Tickets are required for access and may be booked ahead of time here or on site. Activities at Gallagher Way also include holiday movie nights, a wreath-making workshop, a branch of Chicago’s Christkindlmarket and meetings with Santa.

Catch a Festive Live Show

Hotel Happenings 

The Peninsula Chicago is back with the Merry & Bright Holiday Package (ideal for couples) and Holly Jolly Family Holiday Package (great for families), valid for stays from November 26 – December 31, 2022. Guests are also encouraged to make a reservation for The Peninsula Hotel’s Holiday Afternoon Tea, where the 20-foot Christmas tree and lavish holiday décor at The Lobby enhance the traditional English tea menu of finger sandwiches, scones with house made preserves and Devonshire clotted cream, and petite seasonal pastries. Vegan and gluten-free options are available. 

The Langham Chicago is again offering its traditional Thanksgiving Feast on November 24, 2022 at its onsite restaurant Travelle, where the menu curated by Executive Chef Damion Henry includes holiday favorites, turkey and stuffing, as well as complementary enhancements such as seafood and carving stations. Chef Henry is also preparing a Christmas Day Brunch on December 25, 2022 and afternoon tea is available throughout the holiday season. 

The Pendry Chicago is offering a series of seasonal happenings, from a “Friendsgiving” dinner at onsite restaurant Venteux on November 23, 2022 to lighting the Menorah each night at 5 p.m. from December 18 – December 26, 2022 to Christmas Eve Dinner and Christmas Day brunch at Venteux on December 24 and 25, 2022.

Grab your partner and head to The Emily Hotel for the ultimate winter rooftop curling experience, complete with an overnight stay for two, curling for two players and two complimentary cocktails at Stone’s Throw. Stone’s Throw, located on the fifth floor of the hotel, features four Olympic sized curling rinks and heated yurts decked out in 80s nostalgia serving up a menu of winter sips and snacks. Offer valid for reservations of 1 or more nights booked by March 27, 2023 for stays between November 11, 2022 and March 31, 2023.

Celebrate winter at Fairmont Millennium Park Chicago’s Fairmont Lodge where you can relax, recharge and have fun with their cozy decor, indoor “fire pits”, festive programming, overnight packages and more. 

The annual Winter Wonderland returns to the IlO Godfrey Rooftop at The Godfrey Hotel with its heated, clear-domed igloos which are available to rent (for groups of up to six people) with purchase from the menu. Order a hot cocktail and s’mores to roast over the outdoor firepits and enjoy winter in Chicago under the city lights. 

From November 1 through January 3, LondonHouse Chicago is hosting Rudolph’s Rooftop from November 1, 2022 – January 3, 2023. This fun holiday-themed experience, complete with whimsical decor, photo opps and igloos, takes place on the 22nd level terrace, featuring breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Holiday cocktails are available from Executive Chef Elizabeth Sweeney. 

Chicago Voted “#1 Best Big City in the U.S.” for Historic Sixth Straight Year by Readers of Condé Nast Traveler

Choose Chicago President and CEO Lynn Osmond announced today that Chicago has been named the Best Big City in the U.S. for the sixth straight year by Condé Nast Traveler through their 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards. This award, which is voted on by Condé Nast Traveler readers, has been bestowed on Chicago every year since 2017 and is a testament to Chicago’s enduring status as an exciting, welcoming and world-class travel destination. This unmatched recognition comes as Choose Chicago releases performance data from Summer 2022 which shows leisure and business travel approaching a full return to 2019 levels.

“There are so many reasons why Chicago is the Best Big City in the U.S. – we have world-class restaurants, top-tier hotels and meeting spaces, cultural institutions and entertainment venues that can rival the best in the world and vibrant, diverse neighborhoods that make sure there is something for every visitor,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Most importantly, our city is full of people and organizations that care deeply and work tirelessly to make Chicago the most welcoming and inviting city in the world. I want to thank the tourism and hospitality professionals that make this award possible year after year and the millions of visitors that keep coming back to Chicago to explore everything our city has to offer.”

“Condé Nast readers know what Chicagoans have always known…our city is the best in the nation,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Chicago has everything: picturesque lakefronts, extraordinary architecture, world-class museums, the kindest people you’ll ever meet—and yes, the best pizza, too. Here’s to six years strong and many more to come.” 

http://www.AdamAlexanderPhoto.com ©Adam Alexander Photography 2019

Each year, Condé Nast Traveler garners input on travel experiences from hundreds of thousands of readers to determine the winners of their Readers’ Choice Awards, which is the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry. This year, more than 240,000 readers weighed in on their favorite American cities and Chicago was ranked first overall for an unprecedented sixth straight year – no other city has been voted Best Big City in the U.S. more than three straight times in the 35-year history of the Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards.

“It is an incredible honor to once again be voted the Best Big City in the U.S.,” said Lynn Osmond, President and CEO of Choose Chicago. “This recognition does not happen by accident – it is a testament to the hard-working people that make Chicago an inviting and welcoming city. Winning this award for six straight years combined with the successful summer of travel we just wrapped up make it clear that the past, present and future of tourism in Chicago is a bright one.”

“I want to thank our partners in the hospitality and tourism industry for ensuring Chicago is a world-class destination and for making this award possible,” continued President Osmond. “I also want to thank all Chicago residents for creating such a friendly and hospitable city for tens of millions of visitors each year. Finally, I want to thank the readers of Conde Nast Traveler for choosing Chicago year after year and for recognizing all the amazing attributes of our city that is second to none.”

“This unprecedented honor is a testament of how Chicago is continually evolving as a dynamic destination for everyone,” said Glenn Eden, Chair, Choose Chicago Board of Directors. “From our restaurants and hotels, to our theaters, museums, neighborhoods, cultural attractions and sporting events, Chicago’s tourism and hospitality community brings world-class service and experiences you cannot find in any other city. Without a doubt, Chicago is the Best Big City in the U.S. for six record-breaking years because we’ve been able to help the savviest travelers positively reimagine what to expect when visiting Chicago and any big U.S. city for that matter.”

In the summer of 2022, Chicago welcomed visitors back to the city in droves, with hotel room demand approaching, and in one segment exceeding, pre-pandemic levels. Total hotel room demand during the summer months (June, July and August) exceeded 3 million room nights, which is nearly 90% of summer 2019 levels. Summer 2022 group hotel room demand, which represents rooms occupied specifically by delegates of large meetings and conventions, exceeded summer 2019 levels, with 1.06 million hotel room nights in summer 2022 compared to 1.03 million in summer 2019.

Chicago’s successful summer of travel followed the launch of the new When You Go You Know campaign in June. This campaign along with Choose Chicago’s summer messaging that started earlier generated more than $150 million in hotel revenue between April 18 and September 5. Additionally, the campaign drove 8.1 million searches for hotels and 1.2 million searches for flights. Choose Chicago also worked with Expedia and the Chicago hotel community on a focused consumer campaign to drive room nights. The campaign ran from May 9 through September 5 and drove more than 63,000 room nights with an estimated hotel revenue of $20 million.

Chicago’s historic recognition as the Best Big City in the U.S. for six straight years is a testament to the resilience of Chicago’s hospitality and tourism industries as the strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Condé Nast Traveler readers recognize that Chicago is home to world-class entertainment, impressive architecture, first-rate museums and an exceptional restaurant scene. 2022 has been a banner year for events in Chicago as well, with the first-ever Sueños Festival in May and the first US Sail Grand Prix Chicago race at Navy Pier in June, not to mention the successful full return of Chicago mainstays such as Lollapalooza, the James Beard Awards and the International Manufacturing Trade Show (IMTS), the largest and longest-running tradeshow in North America.

The 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards are published on Condé Nast Traveler’s website at cntraveler.com/rca and celebrated in the November issue. Follow @cntraveler on social media and tag #RCA2022.

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List. https://www.grubstreet.com/2022/06/2022-james-beard-chef-and-restaurant-award-winners-full-list.html

Chicago Hits Peak Festival Season with Exciting New Summer Programming 

With summer fast approaching, peak festival season in Chicago will soon be upon us.  See below for a list of some of the most exciting programs returning in 2022 (many of them free) along with a few new surprises!

June 2022

Grant Park Orchestra and Chrous. Photo credit Norman Timonera.

  • Chicago Gospel Music Experience (June 4, 2022): This outdoor festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, celebrating the Chicago-born genre, brings together traditional choirs, contemporary urban gospel artists, and more. FREE
  • Chicago Blues Festival (June 9-12, 2022): With a diverse lineup in Millennium Park celebrating the blues’ past, present and future, the Chicago Blues Festival, the largest free blues festival in the world, shares the great Chicago-born music tradition while shining a spotlight on the genre’s contributions to soul, R&B, gospel, rock, hip hop and more. FREE

Andersonville Midsommarfest (June 10-12, 2022): For more than 50 years, this summer festival has celebrated Andersonville’s Swedish heritage, LGBTQ+ pride, and vibrant local business community. For three nights and two days, this vibrant and diverse community will bring together over 75,000 people to celebrate a proud Swedish summer tradition with eclectic music, great vendors, food and free kids’ activities. Suggested donation of $10, as well as proceeds from beer sales, benefit the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, along with several local non-profit organizations.

Grant Park Music Festival (June 15 – August 20, 2022): For more than 80 years, the Grant Park Music Festival has been Chicago’s summer musical sensation, demonstrating that classical music, performed by a world-class orchestra and chorus, can have a transformative impact on the city. This year will offer a thrilling lineup of music at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion with a mix of contemporary compositions and classical favorites such as Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Plus there’s plenty of family fun with the Independence Day SaluteLights on Broadway, and Cirque Goes to Hollywood featuring live aerialists soaring above the stage. FREE

The Summer Smash Festival (June 17-19, 2022): SPKRBX presents The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival, the premier Hip-Hop music festival in the Midwest. For three days, on three stages, some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop will perform, including Post Malone and Wiz Khalifa. Tickets range from a 3-Day $275 General Admission Pass, to a $449 VIP Pass.

Chicago Pride Fest(June 17-19, 2022): Celebrate Pride in Northalsted, the country’s oldest official gay neighborhood at this lively fest, featuring live music, dance queens, local food, and more. The following weekend the Chicago Pride Parade (June 26, 2022), one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, marches through the neighborhood. Suggested donation of $15 for Chicago Pride Fest.

Millennium Park Summer Music Series (June 20 – August 18, 2022, Mondays & Thursdays): With the backing of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), this outdoor program features a wide variety of music from established and emerging artists at the iconic Jay Pritzker Pavilion. FREE

Pride in the Park (June 25-26,2022): An annual outdoor music festival held downtown in Chicago’s Grant Park at the end of June features LGBTQ+ performers, artists, vendors and more. 2-Day General Admission Passes to Pride in the Park start at $100.

Sail Grand Prix

Chicago has been chosen to host the United States Sail Grand Prix (SailGP) at Navy Pier (June 18-19, 2022). If you are not familiar, SailGP is one of the fastest emerging properties in world sports featuring exciting, up-close action as teams race identical F50 catamarans – a highly-technical, hydro foiling race boat that boasts highway speeds – in an annual global championship held in some of the most iconic cities around the world. Ten national teams will compete, comprising the best athletes in the sport representing the United States, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Spain, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, plus two new franchises from Canada and Switzerland. In June, the F50s will race on Lake Michigan directly in front of the Chicago skyline, marking the first time the championship has ever competed on fresh water! Tickets for single-day waterfront viewing access begin at around $40.

Ravenswood On Tap (June 18-19, 2022): Sip your way through Ravenswood, one of Chicago’s top craft beer neighborhoods and home to many small craft producers. Malt Row is one of the most prolific craft brewing communities in the country – and it’s right in Ravenswood! Enjoy brews from Malt Row, KOVAL Distillery cocktails, plus ax throwing, live music and some of Chicago’s favorite restaurants and food trucks.  Suggested donations and proceeds from this event benefit the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Ravenswood Community Council, and several other community organizations.

July 2022

  • Chicago SummerDance (July 6–September 17, 2022, select dates): The beloved  series returns this summer at parks throughout the city this summer. Dancers of all ages and skill levels are invited to take part in introductory dance lessons by professional instructors followed by live music and dancing. FREE
  • Taste of Chicago (July 8-10, 2022): A bite-sized version of the classic lakefront extravaganza will take place over three days in July — showcasing an estimated 30–40 eateries and food trucks each day, and three mainstage evening concerts.  Prior to the main event, a series of Taste of Chicago pop-ups will return this year with food and music events in three Chicago neighborhoods in June. FREE admission; tickets for food and beverages are sold in strips of 14 for $10.
  • Southport Art & Music Fest (July 9-10, 2022): Chicago’s iconic Southport Corridor blooms to life when Southport Art Fest takes over Waveland and Southport in July. Festival fans will visit the beautiful tree-lined streets of the picturesque neighborhood. Just steps away from the friendly margins of Wrigley Field, the two-day festival will showcase some of the city’s best and most diverse artists. FREE admission; all donations and proceeds benefit the Southport Neighbors Association.
  • Millennium Park Summer Film Series (July 12–August 30, 2022, Tuesdays): Guests may take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or lounge on the Great Lawn as crowd-pleasing movies are presented on the state-of- the-art, 40-foot LED screen. FREE
  • Pitchfork Music Festival (July 15-17, 2022): Since 2006, the Pitchfork Music Festival has consistently proven to be one of the most welcoming, comfortable, reasonably priced, and rewarding weekends of music around. Hosting 60,000 attendees of all ages from all 50 states and dozens of countries, Pitchfork Music Festival showcases the best up-and-coming music from around the world, as well as special performances from touring stalwarts and legends alike. Featuring diverse vendors, as well as specialty record, poster, and craft fairs, the festival works to support local businesses while promoting the Chicago arts and food communities as a whole. Single day General Admission tickets start at $99 while the 3-Day, General Admission pass is $200.

  • Wicker Park Fest (July 22-24, 2022): As one of Chicago’s most anticipated summer festivals, and dubbed “Chicago’s Best Street Festival of the Summer ” by the Chicago Tribune, Wicker Park Fest is one of Chicago’s top-drawing festivals, attracting visitors from across Chicagoland and the country with its fantastic music line-up. Building on the area’s unique character, the weekend celebrates the neighborhood with eclectic music, great local food, arts and crafts, and retail vendors. Suggested donation of $10 and all proceeds benefit the local Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce.
  • Pizza City Fest (July 23-24, 2022): Steve Dolinsky – a 13-time James Beard Award-winning food reporter, currently “The Food Guy” at NBC 5 –  is creating a pizza festival unlike anything that’s ever been done, over two days in the West Loop. Pizza City Fest: Chicago brings together 39 of the region’s best pizza makers (and one out-of-town guest) for two days of pizza making and appreciation, all in one location – Plumbers Union Hall in the West Loop. Thanks to 10 PizzaMaster ovens on-site, guests will be able to see each pizza maker create, bake and serve up their remarkable pies in the massive parking lot at the Hall. There will also be live music, pizza-themed art, merchandise and a few special treats. Attendees will also be able to take in a series of highly curated seminars and panel discussions with some of the country’s greatest pizza makers in attendance. General Admission 1-Day tickets start at $59 and 2-Day tickets at $89.

Sundays on State (July 24–September 4, 2022, select Sundays): After its enormously successful debut in 2021, Sundays on State, presented by the Chicago Loop Alliance, will return for Summer 2022, with portions of Chicago’s most iconic street, State Street, closing to vehicular traffic again for select Sundays this summer. Join neighbors from every Chicago community and beyond for this free, interactive block party, while safely enjoying art, culture, active recreation, food, drinks, shopping, and local attractions in the heart of everyone’s neighborhood. FREE

August 2022

  • Windy City Smokeout (August 4-7, 2022): It’s like a weekend-long tailgate at this popular country music festival, known for drawing in the industry’s top names. The 2022 festival lineup includes some of the biggest names in the industry, including Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt, Willie Nelson, and more. Along with today’s hottest country acts, the lineup also includes some of the world’s best pitmasters. Barbecue pros from all over the country will be serving up ribs, brisket, smoked meats and more, highlighting styles from Kentucky, Nashville, Missouri, and Chicago. Local barbecue vendors include Bub City, Lillie’s Q, and Pearl’s Southern Comfort. Ticket prices range from $45 for a 1-Day Sunday General Admission ticket to $185 for a 4-Day pass.

  • Northalsted Market Days (August 6-7, 2022): The 40th Northalsted Market Days is a weekend long live music street festival celebrating community in Chicago’s landmark Northalsted/Lakeview district. The 1/2 mile long festival features all-day lineups of live music on 6 stages, 250+ unique vendors, arts, crafts, food and drink, DJ’s and dancing, sponsor booths, and more! Estimated attendance of 120,000 people from near and far, representing all colors of the rainbow! Suggested donation of $15, as well as proceeds from festival support local nonprofits, and fund community projects like the Chicago Pride Crosswalks.
  • Chicago Air and Water Show (August 20-21, 2022): The largest free show of its kind in the country, this waterfront show features stunning aerial displays above Lake Michigan. The show can be viewed along the lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach as the focal point. FREE

For more information and a full  list of Chicago’s festivals and events, please visit: https://www.choosechicago.com/articles/festivals-special-events/chicago-festival-event-guide/ 

About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit ChooseChicago.com. Follow @ChooseChicago on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. #CaptureChicagoExcitement

Celebrate the Holidays in Chicago, Winter 2021

I love Chicago no matter the time of year, but this time of year with all the holiday lights and decorations, the streets and trees dusted with snow, it all takes on such a magical glow. That’s why I was happy when my friend Katie Papadopoulos of Choose Chicago sent me a list–and it’s a long one–of all the special ways to enjoy the city this season.

Visit the traditional Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) for a mug of glühwein and that perfect handcrafted gift. Lace up your skates and zip around The Peninsula Sky Rink (the only hotel skating rink in Chicago) followed by a traditional Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20 foot Christmas tree. Marvel at the thousands of twinkling lights on display at ZooLights and Illumination at The Morton Arboretum or the dozens of festively decorated trees at the MSI’s Christmas Around the World display.  Or head over to Navy Pier’s new “Light Up the Lake, an indoor, temperature controlled experience featuring large-scale light-sculpture displays, a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Winterland at Gallagher Way will extend its festivities beyond the holiday season with ice bumper cars, skating lessons and curling lessons running through January/February 2022 and the popular Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon will return with a fun new collaboration with the blockbuster art experience Immersive Van Gogh, projecting visuals of sunflowers and starry night brush strokes onto the ice. 

Come find out why Chicago was once again designated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as the Best Big City in the U.S. in 2021, for the fifth year in a row and check out what’s new in Chicago this holiday season! 

Visit the below links for more information regarding: 

Holiday Attractions & Programming

Attractions:

The holiday season kicks off in Chicago on November 20 with the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, returning  for the annual Tree-Lighting Parade down North Michigan Avenue with Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World® Resorts in Florida. The event-filled day begins at 11:00 AM. starting at Lights Festival Lane (401 North Michigan Avenue) with a festive thoroughfare of booths and family activities, including photos with Santa Claus. The parade of fabulous floats, giant helium balloons, exciting marching bands, celebrities, musical performances, Santa Claus, and more begin at 5:30 PM., helping illuminate the more than 200 trees along The Magnificent Mile. 

The City of Chicago’s 108th Christmas Tree lighting in Millennium Park will return November 19, 2021 and shine through the holiday season until January 9, 2022. The festivities begin with a pre-show by DJ Selah Say (5:30-6:00 PM), performances by Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, the cast of Chicago Opera Theater, a youth dance ensemble from the Kenwood School of Ballet and special guests Dreezy Claus and Sister Claus (6:00-6:30 PM), the tree-lighting and fireworks (6:30 PM) and a post-lighting concert featuring  DJ Selah Say, Cirque du Soleil, Chicago Soul Spectacular and singer-songwriter Brian McKnight (6:35-7:45 PM).

Bring the holiday season onto the waters of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan with a series of brunch, lunch and dinner cruises from City Cruises by Hornblower celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Prices range from $60 – $300 and include 2-3 hours of buffet or plated dinner service, spectacular views of the city skyline and local landmarks, onboard entertainment, festive decor, open bar for select cruises or the ability to upgrade your drink menu with creative cocktails, wine and beer. 

The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light Exhibits return to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) from November 17, 2021-January 3, 2022, an annual tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree and now has expanded to feature a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. This year, MSI is celebrating the golden age of travel with themed décor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and Take Flight’s 727, which have been newly reimagined. Entrance to the exhibits is included in the regular cost of entry with museum admission ($21.95 for anyone Age 12+, $12.95 for any child 3-11) but those who wish to take a picture with Santa in his photo studio inside the Holiday Store must buy a special timed-entry ticket. 

Christkindlmarket, the beloved annual holiday tradition returns for its 25th season this year in Daley Plaza (November 19-December 24, 2021). Modeled after the 16th century holiday markets in Germany, this Christmas bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightfully warm beverages, charming musical performances and charming holiday vibes that the entire family can enjoy. Enjoy a mug of glühwein (traditional hot spiced wine), snack on  currywurst, schnitzel and pretzels and shop for the perfect handmade gift. Another Christkindlmarket will take place at Wrigleyville (November 19-December 31, 2021).

Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is thrilled to announce a new winter experience, Fairmont Lodge, debuting for its inaugural winter season starting November 20-February 2022. Completely transforming the hotel’s lounge, Fairmont Lodge celebrates the winter season with cozy décor, fire pits, festive programming, overnight packages and more.  Chef William Schultz completes the experience with a seasonal menu of wintery-themed bites like Sweet and Savory Fondue and S’mores, Oaxaca Spiced Short Ribs and more. Signature hand-crafted cocktails include a Flaming Eggnog made tableside and Oh So Delish Hot Chocolate, both served in a Lodge-themed collector cup. Cozy up to one of Fairmont Lodge’s nine indoor fire pit tables (every Wednesday-Sunday), enjoy weekly Thursday Happy Hours in December and check the calendar for special events. 

The ninth annual Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns as a walking experience from November 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Visitors can explore 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees during this one-of-a-kind spectacle of color, light, and sound, and see returning favorites and surprising new sights, including a special Human+Nature display and an experience featuring 150 colorful lanterns. Along the one-mile, paved walking path filled with festive music and lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter, guests can warm up by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores, or stop in one of the concession tents for a snack and beverage. Advance purchase is recommended as many nights will sell out.

  • IllumiBrew returns for two nights (November 18 and 19), a special event where an ages 21+ crowd can sample seasonal beers, ciders, and meads from popular Chicagoland breweries stationed along the Illumination trail; each tasting ticket includes fifteen 3 oz beer samples and a souvenir light up tasting glass. 

Navy Pier’s “Light Up the Lake will open on November 26, 2021 and run through January 2, 2022. This indoor, temperature controlled experience will feature large-scale light-sculpture displays (more than 600,000 twinkling lights), a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Every ticket also comes with a free ride on the Centennial Wheel. Light Up the Lake will also offer sit-down dining with holiday-themed eats, signature cocktails, and seasonal brews.

Santa Baby Bar, opening November 17, 2021, returns for the holiday season with a multi-room, multi-level, over-the-top Christmas experience. All guests must reserve online, for no more than six people, and all tables are limited to no more than ninety minute intervals. 

Returning for its ninth season, The Peninsula Sky Rink (2,100 sq ft) is the only hotel skating rink in Chicago, located above Chicago’s bustling Michigan Avenue. Surrounded by Chicago’s skyscrapers and twinkling lights, the rink is tucked into a pine tree winter wonderland and bathed in festive music and snowflake lighting. The skating rink’s outdoor menu features a selection of hot beverages and snacks including hot chocolate, hot cider, and other treats, and is available for groups to rent or for private events. All monies collected include skate rental ($20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under) and are donated to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Hephzibah Children’s Association.

Winterland at Gallagher Way (November 19, 2021 – February 20, 2022)  will include a ceremonial tree lighting (November 29, 2021), ice skating on an 8,000 square-foot ice rink,Santa’s Workshop, wreath making workshops (December 4-5, 2021), holiday movie screenings (Thursdays in December 2021) and special programming at Hotel Zachary (weekends in November-December, 2021). New to this year’s transformation will be a special celebration of Hanukkah (December 5, 2021), ice bumper cars and skating lessons (January 2022) and curling lessons (February 2022). 

The popular Winter Wonderland returns to The Godfrey Hotel’s I|O Rooftop Lounge. The heated, clear-dome igloos on the rooftop’s outdoor portico will make guests feel like they are in their own personal snow globe. Order a hot cocktail and s’mores to roast over the outdoor firepits and enjoy winter in Chicago under the city lights. 

  • Minimum required to reserve one of the smaller (6-person) igloos is one bottle while the minimum for a larger igloo is $500. Due to extremely high demand igloos are only available for a two-hour window and fully close by 11PM (8PM on Sundays). 

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago’s favorite holiday tradition, is back and better than ever (from November 19, 2021-January 2, 2022) with a new Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the heart of the zoo, a new holiday lights experience on the Main Mall, and an exciting new light show on the South Lawn. Also new this year: sensory-friendly visit times and an impressive 18-foot holiday tree sure to inspire festive oohs and aahs. Tickets are $5 per person (free admission on Mondays and Tuesdays).

Holiday Meals:

Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can enjoy Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20-foot Christmas tree; the menu features a traditional English tea menu, including a variety of finger sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with house made preserves, Devonshire clotted cream, seasonal pastries with choux, chocolate, and winter fruit creations. (Vegan and gluten-free options are available). Festive Afternoon Tea is offered through January 9, 2022.

  • Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (December 24-25, 2021) with a Christmas Eve prix-fixe dinner in The Lobby featuring Wagyu, Maine Lobster, Scallops and Peking Duck followed by a lush dessert buffet. A trio band will provide the entertainment and dinner is priced at $205 per person, with an option to add wine pairings for $65 per person. Or they can join for brunch in The Lobby on Christmas Day with an American four-course menu featuring à la carte options combined with buffet items served from a carving, seafood, cheese and charcuterie station and a decadent dessert buffet. A string quartet will provide the entertainment as well as a balloon artist and magician to entertain children. Brunch seatings (10:00 AM to 5:00PM) are priced at $275 per adult, $75 per child (five to 12 years).
  • Ring in 2022, Peninsula-style at The Lobby’s New Year’s Eve Gala (December 31, 2021), where a five-course prix-fixe dinner and dancing will be accompanied by a live band. The 21+ event is black tie optional and is priced at $205 per person with an additional $95 for wine pairings. Z Bar will also be ringing in 2022 with a ticketed soirée starting at 8:00 pm with an open bar, abundant passed hors d’oeuvres, DJ-ed entertainment and a Champagne toast at midnight. The party concludes at 1:00 am. Tickets for this 21+ event are $195 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. 

The Langham Chicago’s Holiday Afternoon Tea will return in partnership with Veuve Clicquot from November 17, 2021-January 9, 2022, where delicate pastries and savory petite sandwiches will be joined by Langham’s proprietary tea blends, seasonally-inspired treats and a special course from Veuve Clicquot.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Travelle at The Langham will serve a Christmas Eve Entrée Special (priced at $82 per person) on December 24, 2021 from 5:00-10:00 PM; the menu will include a truffled chicken “pot pie” for two adorned with herb-roasted chicken, truffled confit thighs, black trumpets, and Caroline ruby sweet potatoes.
  • On December 25, 2021 Travelle will serve a Christmas Day Brunch (11:00AM – 3:00PM) with a variety of breakfast favorites, omelets made to order, artisanal cheese and cured meats, exquisite sushi and seafood options, and heavenly pastries. (The buffet is $195 per adult and $60 for children 5-12 years of age, and prepayment and reservations are required through the Travelle Tock.)
  • Or there is a six course Christmas Day Prix Fixe Dinner ($165 per adult) from 5:00-10:00 PM featuring a Royal Kaluga Caviar Amuse, Beet Root Panna Cotta Salad and Wild Mushroom Risotto appetizer, followed by a Roasted Prime Filet entrée and dessert service of Mont Blanc and Petit fours by Chef Nitin.
  • Ring in the New Year at Travelle at The Langham with a New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe Dinner on December 31, 2021 (5:00-10:00 PM) with a seven-course prix fixe menu featuring dishes including Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche, Hudson Valley Foie Gras appetizer, and Grilled Australian Wagyu NY Strip. To finish off a magnificent dining experience, guests can enjoy an indulgent dessert with Intermezzo featuring lemon with Grand Marnier and an extravagant Chocolate Experience with Manjari mousse, praline cremeux, and hazelnut ice cream. A splendid wine collection will also be available à la carte. Reservations must be made in advance through the Travelle Tock and prepayment is required at $190 per adult.

Private experiences with Santa, dinner packages and private events offered by Swissôtel Chicago for the 2021 holiday season include: 

  • Holiday Tradition Package: Stop by Santa’s Presidential Pad with up  to 15 guests to visit the man of the season and overindulge in unlimited Swiss hot cocoa, champagne and holiday treats including Candied Orange SnoBall Cookies, Reindeer Chow, Eggnog Truffles and more. The experience also includes cookie decorating, crafts with Make to Celebrate, face painting and letter writing, complete with a visit to Santa’s Post Office. $50 of  the total price will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Available to book every Saturday and Sunday for $600/hour from December 4 – December 19, 2021; 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.
  • Family Dinner Package: Gather with six or more loved ones for an over-the-top holiday dinner in  the Santa Suite, Duplex Suite, Vitality Suite or Chef’s Table Virtual Suite. Enjoy a 4-course  holiday-inspired menu by Chef Dan McGee, with menu items including Roast Chicken with red  cabbage, spätzle, raclette cheese, chicken jus, Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shanks with a  pomegranate bordelaise, Chocolate Peppermint Cake and more. Holiday crafts are available  upon request. Dinners are available to book daily beginning November 20-December 26, 2021 at $150 per adult and $50 per child.  
  • VIP Reception in Santa Suite: Whether it’s a  corporate holiday party or family reunion, the Santa Suite can fit up to 50 people for private  events beginning November 20-December 26, 2021. Work with the events team to curate an  experience with festive cocktails and a menu featuring Chilled Potato Soup & Caviar Shooter,  Smoked Duck Breast Marmalade, Curry Chicken Salad Sliders, Pecan & Roasted White Chocolate Tarts and more.  

Hotel Packages:

© 2018 Galdones Photography

A series of Yuletide specials this holiday season at The Langham Chicago (available November 19, 2021 – January, 2, 2022) include Oh Christmas Tree (including luxurious one-bedroom suite accommodations with a decorated Christmas tree in-room, deconstructed champagne cocktails inspired by the season; and bespoke cheese and charcuterie; rates beginning at $1,100) and Dive into the Season (including lavish guest room accommodations, $100 food and beverage credit for poolside snacks and beverages, two hours of exclusive access to Chuan Spa’s indoor pool and holiday-themed floats; rates begin at $825.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Or splurge on A Signature Christmas in a 2,400 sq. ft. suite with floor-to-ceiling windows featuring panoramic views of Chicago, a four-course, in-residence dinner prepared by Executive Chef Damion Henry, in-suite dining entertainment, Club Lounge access and a custom-designed holiday tree set in the parlor. (Rates start at $13,525.)

At The Peninsula Chicago, holiday packages like the Holly Jolly Family Holiday Package and Merry and Bright Couple’s Holiday Package include such amenities as an in-room holiday tree or Menorah, holiday welcome amenity or bottle of wine/Champagne upon arrival, access to library of holiday themed movies, books and games for the kids or a $100 gift card to the nearby Neiman Marcus Michigan Avenue store, daily Peninsula breakfast and daily valet parking. Rates start at $1,250, packages available from November 26-December 31, 2021.

  • For six days, The Peninsula Chicago is offering special pricing for a Cyber sale commencing Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 2021) through Travel Tuesday (November 30, 2021) for 20% off rooms and suites on stays from December 1, 2021 – April 30, 2022. and special pricing on gift cards. The offers will only be available on the hotel’s website, or by calling the hotel directly.

For the eighth consecutive year, Swissôtel Chicagos Presidential Suite will be transformed into Santa’s home-away-from-the-Pole for the holiday season, welcoming Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Santa Suite offers sweeping views of the city, and is filled with 17 Christmas trees, festive decor, games and holiday craft kits for the kids, cookie decorating stations, “Letter to Santa” packs, and more. Book the Holiday Penthouse Hideaway (starting November 20 through December 26, 2021, from $1,500 per night). 

  • For a slightly more competitive price-point, consider a stay in an Elf Decorated Holiday Room featuring a Christmas tree and holiday room decor as well as a complimentary holiday amenity (Rates begin at $329 per night.)

Theatrical Performances:

A&A Ballet’s “The Art Deco Nutcracker” set in 1920s America and featuring Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, will play at the Athenaeum Theater on December 4, 2021. 

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a must-see Chicago holiday tradition now in its fifth decade and enjoyed by nearly two million theatergoers, is back playing at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, from November 20 – December 31, 2021.

A Christmas Symphony Tour, a new Christmas tradition by the world’s biggest-selling soprano and GRAMMY® Award-nominated artist, Sarah Brightman, will play at the Auditorium Theatre on December 10, 2021.

“Home Alone” in Concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the beloved holiday favorite will return to the big screen at Symphony Center; John Williams’ delightful, Academy Award-nominated score will be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardi Muti, from November 26-28, 2021.

Leslie Odom, Jr.’s The Christmas Tour brings the GRAMMY®- and Tony®-Award Winning vocalist, songwriter, author and actor to Chicago for a one-night holiday season concert at the CIBC Theatre on December 4, 2021. 

Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagined classic The Nutcracker follows young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince on a Christmas Eve journey through the 1893 World’s Fair; this annual holiday tradition celebrating the magic of the season and the rich cultural heritage of Chicago returns to the Joffrey Ballet from December 4-26, 2021. 

“’Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil i is the exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic as only Cirque du Soleil can imagine a vibrant acrobatic spectacle about the joy of sharing and friendship at the The Chicago Theatre, playing from November 26-December 5, 2021

The Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021

Flamenco, that artistic expression of music, movement, song, and dance originating in Andalucía Spain and possibly dating back to the 8th century, is on display during the Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021 presented by the Instituto Cervantes de Chicago, a non-for-profit center for the Spanish language and cultural exchange.     

Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021

“Flamenco is a dance of passion,” says Teresa Hernando Rojo, cultural activities coordinator at the Instituto Cervantes and director of the festival which runs until November 13 “It takes great skill and dedication.” 

Best described as a solo dance with three components, canto (song), baile (dance) and one of three forms—intense, grand, and intermediate, flamenco is also an energetic and a highly expressive art form incorporating hand clapping, fancy footwork, elaborate hand, arm, and body movements all accompanied by music. It’s enthralling to observe—percussive footwork and clicking castanets, elaborate and richly colored costumes often patterned (at least for the women; the men seem to prefer black) with the music and movements expressing a wide range of emotions.

The attention to detail is amazing, even the way the bailaora or female dancer ties her long hand-embroidered shawl is representative of differing moods. Adding to the visual impact are ornate fans, perfectly coiffed hair, ruffled dresses cut high in front to enable movement, veils, and combs.

“Even the costumes are very traditional,” continues Hernando, noting that the costumes often worn during the performers at the festival are handmade by people who specialize and only make flamenco clothing.

It’s also a family tradition, flamenco is often passed down through the generations. Performers learn from parents who have learned from their parents, fathers to sons and mothers to daughters.

Performers during the five week events include Kati Golenko, one of the few women professional flamenco guitar players, and Miguel Reyes Jimenez, a master of the flamenco cajon who has written books on the subject. Golenko, who was born in Chicago and Jimenez, who is from Mexico City, met in Madrid and believe that flamenco is not only for people who were born into the tradition. They invite foreigners to join what they describe the clan of flamenco bastards, ‘The global tribe of #flamencobastards are all of us who were born outside of Spain, lacking flamenco purity in our veins, but for some strange reason, palpating with flamenco in our blood. We can´t speak to purity, but we can share what’s ours: technique, feeling, and strength.”

Other performers include Nino de los Reyes who was nine years old when he performed in “Campanas Flamencas,” directed by Paco Sánchez, founder of the legendary Cumbre Flamenca and Amparo Heredia, known as “La Repompilla,” who premiered her own show, “Herencia Flamenca,” at the Tío Luis de la Juliana festival in Madrid in 2017. This year she won La Lámpara Minera, the most prestigious and highest International flamenco singing award.

“The great thing about flamenco is you don’t have to understand the language to understand its power and beauty,” says Hernando. 

For information on the Flamenco Festival and shows, click here, or contact the Instituto Cervantes at 312-335-1996; chicago.cervantes.es.

Lidia’s Got Your Back with Commonsense Italian Cooking

Years of fame from authoring best selling cookbooks, hosting TV cooking shows, opening restaurants and gourmet food stores, including the many Eataly stores including the one in Chicago that opened eight years ago, and creating her own line of pastas, sauces and readymade foods hasn’t even slightly dimmed Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s enthusiasm for spreading the word about the glories of Italian cuisine. Indeed, if she had her way, we’d all be experts in Italian cooking.

“Italian food is very simple,” Bastianich tells me as we chat about her cookbooks including one of my favorites, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master (Knopf $35), which she co-authored with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali. “It’s all about good ingredients and not fretting about the recipes.”

Passing on the traditions learned from helping her mother and grandmother cook, Bastianich revels in the email and comments she gets from fans crediting her with teaching them how to cook Italian.

“People think I don’t know how to make an artichoke or risotto or pasta,” she says, “and when they learn, they are so excited. At one of my book signings, a woman told me that when her kids get home from school and they ask what’s for dinner, if she says I’m cooking Lidia, they’re happy.”

In her book, Bastianich expounds on using our judgment when it comes to cooking.

“We all have commonsense in life, in the kitchen we all have it too, this book brings it out,” she says. “It’s straightforward. Recipes are not law. It’s okay to change a recipe according to what we have in the house. I want people to be comfortable with food.”

Intense food memories of her grandmother’s Italian kitchen mix with those of coming to America at age 11 at a time when the Italian ingredients we take for granted now—fresh ricotta, pasta and mozzarella, a wide selection of Italian charcuterie, the Arborio rice necessary for making risotto and high end canned tomatoes—were difficult if not impossible to find. Bastianich describes herself as feeling “yanked from a cocoon.” And indeed life was much different. From milking goats and helping harvest the seasonal garden bounty, she instead wanted to be American which meant eating like an American.

“I was intrigued by Jell-O and TV dinners because that’s what being Americans was— heat up a TV dinner and sit in front of the TV to eat,” she recalls. “Sometimes my mom would give me a fried zucchini sandwich for school. I was so embarrassed. In high school and college you did what your peers do.  My mother was very upset.”

Fortunately, not only for her mother but for American home cooks, Bastianich, realizing she had a heritage that was rich, reconnected to her roots and became an advocate for real food versus what she calls American “utility” food.

“My father never would have eaten a TV dinner,” she says. “Food has given me so much. If I can share that it’s a great gift.”

Sidebar: Mega Italian

Partnering with her son Joe as well as several others, Bastianich opened the 50,000-square-foot Eataly in Manhattan over a decade ago, the group then brought the concept of all thing’s Italian cuisine-wise to other cities including Chicago. The two-story 60,000-square-foot store features a plethora of restaurants, cooking classes a gelateria for gelato lovers and enough retail food vendors to send even the most blasé foodie into overdrive. On October 22 & 23, Eataly is presenting their Tuscan Wine & Cheese event, a focus on artisanal cheeses, regional wines, and seasonal bites on October 22 & 23, Eataly Restaurant Fest until October 31, and How to Eataly offering tips for living and eating better as well as getting the most out of fall until November 1. As for other events, there are cooking classes, market tours, and more all the time.

Eataly is located at 43 E. Ohio St., Chicago, IL; 212-229-2560 http://www.eataly.com/eataly-chicago

The following recipes are from Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking.

Chicken Breast with Orange and Gaeta Olives
Pollo con Olive ed Aranci

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • all-purpose flour for dredging
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup pitted Gaeta or Kalamata olives, halved
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fennel powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and lightly dredge it in flour. Lightly brown the chicken in the skillet (you want the chicken to end up with a blonde-colored crust and slowly build the color, and flavor, up) on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Cook the chicken in batches, if necessary, depending on the size of your skillet. Remove to a plate as it is colored.

Once the chicken is colored, add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the olives, orange juice and zest, white wine and fennel powder. Add chicken back to the skillet and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through and the sauce coats the chicken, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with remaining salt, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.

Food Network Ina Garten Panettone Bread Pudding

Lidia’s Pear Bread Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream, plus more to whip for garnish
  • 4 cups day- old 1/2-inch country- bread cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/3 cup blanched sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the baking dish with softened butter. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the vanilla, and lemon zest, and whisk to lighten the mixture. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Add the bread and pears, and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the almond slices.

Bake until the pudding is set and puffy and the top is golden, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes; serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with whipped cream.

Serving Size

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Apple Cake

Serves 4

  • 2.2 pounds golden delicious apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 3.5 ounces flour
  • 3.5 ounces sugar
  • 3.5 ounces Amaretti
  • 3.5 ounces butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 pack yeast for baking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an -8– or -9–inch springform pan.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and white sugar until pale and light, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, another minute or two. Beat in the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the mixer with the lemon zest, and mix until just combined. In a medium bowl, toss together the apples, brown sugar, and walnuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and then sprinkle with the apple mixture.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a rack, then unmold, and cut into wedges to serve.

Lidia’s newest cookbook, A Pot, A Pan, and A Bowl: Simple Recipes for Perfect Meals was just released, here’s a recipe from the book. Find more recipes on her Facebook page.

Follow Lidia at @lidiabastianich