Chicago 1893: The City Beautiful Tile Game brings you back in time to the eve of the World’s Exposition of 1893, where you can imagine yourself as the architect and compete with friends and rivals to build neighborhoods, rails, parks, boulevards, monuments and try to install your Alderman in the most influential Ward in the city. Whoever can build the most impressive modern amenities and conveniences for a vibrant city will bask in the glory of establishing Chicago as the model for “The City Beautiful!” (Suitable for ages 14+. 2 – 6 players, designed by local business Transit Tees in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. I’ve attached a press release below of this, their newest game.
Transit Tees has many other Chicago-themed games too, including:
LOOP: The Elevated Card Game Renovated Edition – The hit transit card game LOOP now has a standalone expansion! The new LOOP: Renovated Edition contains all new event cards, plus some new wild cards and a full set of station cards. It can be played on its own, or combined with the original edition of LOOP to double the fast-paced, chaotic fun! Ride the rails of the elevated trains in Chicago’s famous Loop! Match the line colors and stations to make your way around town, but beware of the everyday perils of signal delays, broken escalators, and unexplainable smells as you get where you’re going! (LOOP: Renovated Edition is a 10-20 minute game suitable for ages 9 and up. One deck can support a game of 2-7 players, but when combined with the original edition of LOOP you can play with up to 14 people!)
El The Chicago Transit Adventure Board Game – Welcome to Chicago! There’s lots to do in The Windy City, and you have a full itinerary. Make your way around the city using the famous elevated “El” trains to visit places of interest and return to the State/Lake station before anyone else. Strategize your optimal route by utilizing trains and buses, but be prepared for detour. Keep an eye out for stations undergoing renovation, and be sure to carry enough Transit Tokens to pay for your fare! And of course, you’re not the only person riding the trains. Other travelers might just throw your plans for a Loop! Pack your bag, gather your friends, and set out on your Chicago Transit Adventure! Suitable for ages 13+. 2 – 8 players.
Shoppers will also find a section within the guide dedicated to Chicago artists, highlighting innovative designs from creators based in the city. Patrons can purchase pieces from watchmakers Jason Peterson and Diana Pietrzyk as well as accessories from jewelry designers Jessica Jensen, Lindsay Lewis, and Kelly Jacobson.
The Christkindlmarket celebrates its 27th season at Daley Plaza, its fifth year at Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville, and its second time at RiverEdge Park in Aurora. This year, Christkindlmarket is introducing its first ceramic beer stein with a holiday-themed design ($20), as well as location-specific $8 souvenir mugs with unique designs at each market (for example: the Chicago mug shows off downtown landmarks like the City Hall building and Daley Plaza’s Picasso sculpture while the Wrigleyville mug shows off Hotel Zachary, the intersection sign of Clark & Addison, and much more.)
These mugs are hotly anticipated collector’s items for locals who have turned Christkindlmarket into a holiday tradition since 1996. Modeled after the 16th-century holiday markets in Germany, the free-admission outdoor bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightful warm beverages and handcrafted gifts for purchase, and charming holiday vibes the entire family can enjoy. And now in its third year, another popular favorite is back – the annual Christkindlmarkt ornament, hand-painted and glass blown in Europe, portraying a market scene with holiday elements on its ice blue background ($41 at all info booths).
For more about the mugs:
While last year’s souvenir mug combined elements from all three locations, visitors can now get location-specific ones with unique designs at each market. The Chicago mug is mint green on the
outside and features a wine red on the interior. It shows off downtown landmarks like the City Hall building and Daley Plaza’s Picasso. The Aurora mug is a combination of mint and dark green and includes elements like the Paramount Theatre and bald eagles that can be found along the Fox River. The Wrigleyville mug is mint green and grey colored and shows off Hotel Zachary, the intersection sign of Clark & Addison, and much more. What all three mugs have in common is its
special shape, a round base with a tapered top. Each mug sells for $8 on its own but can also be purchased with a hot beverage from various vendors, ranging from mulled wine to hot chocolate.
Running now through January 7, 2024, Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden (located in Glencoe, Chicago’s North Shore) returns for its fifth season with an illuminated outdoor trail dazzling with brand new installations from around the world and beloved returning favorites such as the Winter Cathedral and a reimagined version of the Fire Garden.New works from international artists include Lilies, from UK artist Jigantics (illuminated 5-foot lilies float elegantly on water, providing a mesmerizing view from the bridge above and igniting a sense of warmth and excitement), Night Lights, from French artist TILT (delicate lamp-shaped lights that extend nearly 19 feet high amplify a cozy atmosphere with a display of soft ambient colors) and Sea of Light, from UK artist Ithaca (thousands of individually controlled balls of LED light make Evening Island sparkle and dance their way to a bespoke soundtrack in multiple patterns and colors). Tickets sell out quickly so it is recommended to book your time and date in advance; advance tickets for adults (non-members) begin at $34 and children (ages 3-12) at $19.
The Christkindlmarket celebrates its 27th season at Daley Plaza, its fifth year at Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville, and its second time at RiverEdge Park in Aurora. This year, Christkindlmarket is introducing its first ceramic beer stein with a holiday-themed design ($20), as well as location-specific $8 souvenir mugs with unique designs at each market (for example: the Chicago mug shows off downtown landmarks like the City Hall building and Daley Plaza’s Picasso sculpture while the Wrigleyville mug shows off Hotel Zachary, the intersection sign of Clark & Addison, and much more.) These mugs are hotly anticipated collector’s items for locals who have turned Christkindlmarket into a holiday tradition since 1996. Modeled after the 16th-century holiday markets in Germany, the free-admission outdoor bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightful warm beverages and handcrafted gifts for purchase, and charming holiday vibes the entire family can enjoy. And now in its third year, another popular favorite is back – the annual Christkindlmarkt ornament, hand-painted and glass blown in Europe, portraying a market scene with holiday elements on its ice blue background ($41 at all info booths).
Admission to the market is free but food, beverages, and handcrafted gifts all must be purchased. All markets open on November 17; Aurora and Chicago locations close on December 24 and Wrigleyville on December 31.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry (running through January 7, 2024) is a beloved annual tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree. Today the Museum features a four-story floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent holiday traditions from cultures around the world.
This year the museum will also be celebrating the wonders of snow, with an exhibition in the Lower Court featuring intricate photographs of snowflakes taken by Caltech physicist Ken Libbrecht.
Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum (Though January 6, 2024) invites visitors to celebrate the holidays and marvel at how light transforms a magnificent landscape. Journey along a 1-mile paved walking path (that is fully ADA compliant for guests with limited mobility), amid festive music and lighting effects, explore exciting new features and immersive installations. Afterwards, warm up by a cracking fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores, or stop in one of the concession tents for a snack and beverage. Ginkgo Restaurant in the Visitor Center will serve dinner guests view the display’s finale on Meadow Lake. The Arboretum Store will also be open for holiday shopping; gifts include a special temperature-activated, color-changing ceramic mug that will be available for purchase during all Illumination dates. Tickets start at $28 per person for nonmembers.
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park offers ice skating all winter, through March, weather permitting. Admission is free, but online reservations are required and skate rentals are available. You’ll be surrounded by the downtown skyline, with magical Christmas lights from the City of Chicago Christmas tree reflected in ‘The Bean’ / Cloud Gate sculpture. OR, head over to Maggie Daley Park, right next to Millennium Park, to the picturesque Skating Ribbon that meanders around snow-dusted pine trees and whimsical play spaces. The path is twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.
The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle (November 24 – December 31, 2023) at Lighthouse Artspace Chicago brings cutting-edge technology to meet the artistry of ballet dancers. This mesmerizing 30-minute immersive experience, set to Tchailkovsky’s music, weaves the classic tale of Marie and her toy nutcracker. Join them, on their magical adventure through the Land of Sweets, brought to life by renowned ballet dancers and innovative projection mapping technology. Pricing begins at $29.99 per person.
While you’re here… Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago is bringing a new pop-up bar experience, Bar Humbug, to reign in the holiday season. The ArtSpace will be transformed into a winter wonderland with wall-to-wall holiday scenes. A lot like traditional German beer halls, there will be long tables and plush banquettes for groups to gather. Bar Humbug will present live musicians and DJs playing the holiday classics. Guests must be 21 to enter.
ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ will include new and exciting LED light displays, photo ops, and interactive programming including a never-before-seen garden-themed light show on the zoo’s South Lawn. Festive photo ops will dot the zoo, as well as costumed characters and Victorian carolers on select nights. Food and beverages including festive cocktails and hot cocoa will be available at Edie Levy’s Landmark Café. Snowy’s Sprits & S’more and various snack stations around the zoo. Check the calendar for special events such as sensory-friendly nights, a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration, and adults-only evenings. General admission ZooLights tickets are $7 per person. Tickets on Fridays, Saturdays, Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 22), and New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) are $10 per person. As part of the zoo’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, general admission is FREE on Mondays. Ticket sales from ZooLights directly support the zoo’s world-class animal care, global conservation efforts, and innovative learning programs and help keep the zoo free to the public 365 days a year. ZooLights will run through January 7, 2024.
Hang up your apron this holiday season and opt to either dine out or having the fixings brought to your home table. Want to know how? Check out these options from Choose Chicago.
Chicago Restaurant Specials To Bring Thanksgiving to Your Home:
Avli Taverna(1335 W Wrightwood Ave #1, Chicago, IL 60614) will offer holiday meals for pick-up from November 20-22, 2023). The menu includes Oven-Roasted Lamb Shoulder Meal with greek potatoes, avgolemono soup, spinach and walnut salad, and piece of walnut cake (Price: $46 per person); Greek-Style Half Chicken with greek potatoes, avgolemono soup, spinach and walnut salad, and piece of walnut cake (Price: $39 per person); Tray of Pastichio, a traditional casserole of pasta, ground beef and bechamel (Price: $60, serves 4-6). The meals come hot & ready to eat or cold with reheating instructions. Order on Tock Here.
Bloom Plant Based Kitchen (1559 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622) – Bloom Plant Based Kitchen from James Beard-nominated Chef Rodolfo Cuadros is your vegan and gluten-free friendly option for this year’s Thanksgiving spread. Bloom offers a four-course to-go package for this year’s holiday. Diners can get a Leek & Chestnut Soup for a starter, an Autumn Harvest Salad with a mustard maple vinaigrette, Royal Acorn Squash with stuffed acorn squash, smoked mushrooms and chimichurri and a Pumpkin Pie to close out the meal with cranberry bourbon vanilla preserve, toasted meringue and a lemon balm. Ordering will be available beginning October 20 through their website, and will continue through November 20. Pick-up will be on Wednesday, November 22.
Daisies (2375 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647) – If you’re giving your turkey baster and carving set a break this year, let one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago whip you up a full Turkey Day spread that takes the holiday’s most nostalgic dishes up a notch. Logan Square’s favorite vegetable-focused restaurant, Daisies (New York Times’ Restaurant List 2023) is bringing back their Thanksgiving dinner kits filled with seasonal, Midwestern-inspired holiday classics. Sit back and relax, because Executive Chef Joe Frillman and the team are cooking up a full feast including a Sous Vide Turkey Breast and Confit Leg and Thigh and a variety of sides like Candied Sweet Potatoes with marshmallow, Sage and Maple Stuffing, Brussel Sprouts with Grapes in Bacon Vinaigrette and more. For desserts, take your pick between scrumptious Pumpkin or Apple Crumb Pies (Price: $35 each) whipped up by Executive Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky. And of course, if you’re really looking to impress the in-laws, add on a wine trio (Price: $99) to receive three bottles that’ll pair perfectly with your Thanksgiving meal. To-go kits are $240 each and must be ordered in advance with pick-up available on Thanksgiving day. Orders available here on Tock
The Dearborn (145 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60602) – Take the chaos out of baking and pick up a pie from one of Chicago’s best downtown spots. For $35, guests have the option to order two delicious desserts, the French Silk Pie made with dark chocolate custard, oreo shortbread and mascarpone chantilly or the Dutch Apple Pie made with cinnamon apples, “rough puff” crust and a graham cracker streusel. Link to order here. Price: $35
Farm Bar Lakeview(1300 W Wellington Ave, Chicago, IL 60657)– Lakeview’s quintessential neighborhood tavern, known for their seasonal and approachable menus, are offering the ultimate Thanksgiving to-go box complete with every main, side and dessert that you will need to serve all your loved ones. Two package options are available – smaller size for 2-4 people and large size for 6-8 people. The menu is handcrafted by Executive Chef David Wakefield, including a Carved and Cooked Turkey, Butternut Squash Bisque, Side of Toasted Pepitas and Creme Fraiche, Autumnal Salad, Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Gravy, Honey Balsamic Brussel Sprouts, Cornbread and Brioche Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole, Dinner Rolls and Pumpkin Pie. All dishes will only need to be preheated and ready to eat on Thanksgiving Day. Link to order here. Ordering is available until November 15 with pickups available Wednesday, November 22 from 12pm-5pm. Price: Package A (2-4 people): $140, Package B (6-8 people): $200.
Fora(311 N Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60607)– Located in the heart of Fulton Market on the ground floor of The Emily Hotel, Fora is offering a Thanksgiving To-Go feast perfect to pick-up for busy families and hungry gatherings. Menu highlights include a maple sage butter Tom turkey breast, roasted turkey gravy, buttermilk potato purée, heirloom carrots & french beans, orange cranberry sauce, herb sourdough stuffing, farmer’s salad, roasted beets, Hawaiian rolls and apple cranberry pie.Price: $275 (2-4 people), $350 (4-8 people).
Lexington Betty Smokehouse(756 E 111th St., Chicago, IL 60628) – Chicagoland is feeling extra thankful for Lexington Betty Smokehouse this holiday season! The BBQ haven is rolling out its annual Thanksgiving menu, brimming with turkey bliss and rib tips from the season four champion of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl” and 2023 Master of ‘Cue herself, Chef Dominique Leach. A variety of to-go packs are available for preorder, fit for the hostesses with the mostess and the Friendsgiving goer in need of a ‘homemade’ side alike.
Betty Traditional (Feeds Four) | Smoked Turkey, Gravy, Turkey Gizzard Dressing, Cranberry Relish, Candy Yams, Gouda Mac N Cheese, Cornbread Muffins (Price: $150)
Betty “Smoked” (Feeds Four) | Smoked Chicken, Rib Tips, Brisket Baked Beans, Gouda Mac N Cheese (Price:$125)
Betty Have It Your Way (A La Carte) | $75 Whole Smoked Turkey (12-15 lbs), $28 Brisket (per lb), $70 Gouda Mac N Cheese (Full Pan), $50 Greens, $70 Peach Cobbler
Orders to be placed online at lexingtonbetty.com by Wednesday, November 15th for pickup on Wednesday, November 23. Pricing varies by selected Thanksgiving to-go pack.
Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse(505 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611) – Known for its impressive carnivorous offerings, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse will be living up to their iconic reputation with an epic Thanksgiving meal available for dine-in or to carry out. A feast of Slagel Family Farm Roasted Turkey served with Apple-cranberry sauce will be served alongside Nuske’s bacon French green beans and Au Gratin Sweet Potatoes. Available from 4 – 8:30 PM, make reservations and order online here. Price: $59
The Publican (837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607) – Leave the prep to the pros behind One Off Hospitality’s culinary powerhouse, as The Publican comes together once again with acclaimed Head Chef/Butcher Rob Levitt of Publican Quality Meats and James Beard Award-winning baker Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread to elevate your at-home Thanksgiving! Skip the grocery store chaos and pre-order sustainably-raised Slagel Farms-sourced turkey and ham, with add-ons like brine kits, gravy, and stuffing sausage to make cooking a breeze. Savvy hosts can outsource sides, pies, and everything in between, mixing and matching from Publican holiday favorites like garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts with fregola, honey oat pull-apart rolls, house-made desserts, curated wines, and more! Orders can be picked up at The Publican or delivered right to your door for $15 (restrictions apply, please refer to the delivery map on Table22). Pickup and delivery available 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, November 20th, Tuesday, November 21st, and Wednesday, November 22nd. Available here on Table22.
Chicago Hotels & Restaurants That Set a Fine Table
Maple & Ash(8 W Maple St, Chicago, IL 60610) – Chef/Partner Danny Grant and the team are here to take the stress off your plate this year by serving up an indulgent feast featuring beloved Thanksgiving classics made with their signature luxurious flair that’s sure to impress your relatives. Settle into Maple’s elegant dining room and start your dinner off with a toast of bubbles picked from their robust, expertly crafted list of bottles. For the main course, dig into a decadent Black Truffle Turkey plate (Price:$75) complete with favorite sides like pomme puree, brussel sprouts and chanterelles for a dose of classic Thanksgiving comfort. For those who still need their fix, Maple’s wood-fired menu of steaks, seafood towers, and caviar will also be available. Thursday, November 23, 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.; reservations available here.
The Peninsula Chicago (108 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611) – Elaborate holiday brunches have been a signature of The Peninsula Chicago for many years. Guests can usher in the festive fall harvest season with The Lobby’s annual Thanksgiving Brunch on Thursday, November 23, which will feature à la carte plated options and buffet items served via a variety of stations: the carving station features Ferndale turkey, dry aged striploin, suckling pig; local foraged mushrooms and ancient grain station; seafood station with jumbo shrimp, Alaskan king crab, Jonah crab claws, east and west coast oysters, sushi and sashimi, maki and nigiri; an imported and domestic caviar station; a global cheese and charcuterie station; Shanghai Terrace station featuring Peking Duck, handmade dim sum and stir-fried favorites; and a Lobster bisque with winter truffle action station. A decadent dessert buffet rounds out the holiday selections. Entertainment features a string quartet as well as a roving magician for children. Brunch seatings are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Brunch is priced at US$ 325 per adult and US$ 95 per person for children ages 5 to 12 years. Prices exclude tax and gratuity. Reservations are accepted via TOCK.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago(401 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611) – Guests can indulge in a 4-course Thanksgiving Dinner at Terrace16 on Thursday, November 23. The first course will include a carrot & parsnip soup, parsnip chips and chives, followed by a second course of kale chicory salad with toasted pecans, apples, acorn squash, pumpkin goddess dressing. The main course will feature slow roasted sliced turkey with black garlic pomme puree, roasted winter vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and turkey demi glaze. To top it all off, dessert will include a slice of pie (pumpkin, pecan, or sweet potato). The Regular Dinner Menu will be available as well.Price: $85 per adult, $39 per child (under 12 years old) prior to taxes & service charges. Booking is available via OpenTable.
Chicago Cooking Classes To Hone Your Kitchen Skills:
Tutore Cooking School (2755 W Belmont Ave. Chicago, IL 60618) – Why buy pies when you can make them from scratch? Tutore Cooking School is offering a number of Thanksgiving pie making classes, teaching the proper steps to make the perfect pie for Thanksgiving dinner. From making the flaky pie crust, finding the best apples, proper baking tips, and general knife skills, students will be able to learn how to make both a Pumpkin and Apple pie. At the end of the class, each guest will be able to bring home a full pie. Classes are available November 19 -November 22, 2023.
Move Over, Rudolph – It’s Moodolph’s Chance to Shine!
As the holiday season approaches, here’s just the place for families looking for unique experiences to create lasting memories and new traditions.
Located in the heart of Bowling Green, Kentucky, a family-owned reindeer farm has become a popular holiday destination for locals and visitors alike. It’s the only spot in Kentucky with an immersive live reindeer encounter and – thanks to the Anderson family’s commitment to providing a magical experience and spreading holiday cheer – this farm has become a cherished Christmas tradition to all who visit.
The entire family pitches in here at The Reindeer Farm. Husband-and-wife team Russell and Jessica Anderson lead the herd with everyday operations. Ten-year-old Aniston is the farm manager who helps with the petting zoo, guest relations and guest check-in. Nine-year-old Ashton is “head of farm security” (she’s a black belt, so she isn’t messing around!) and 7-year-old Russ acts as assistant manager. Jessica and Russell’s parents and siblings can also be found helping out around the venue.
The farm is the entire family’s passion, stemming from Jessica’s love for Christmas and Russell’s background in farming. Starting this site was the perfect way to combine everyone’s interests and skills.
The farm offers an unforgettable opportunity to get up close and personal with Santa’s favorite companions, along with more traditional farm animals like pigs, bunnies and miniature cows. One of the many things that sets this family-owned reindeer farm apart is the dedication to an authentic, respectful animal experience. The Andersons offer Reindeer Encounters to help educate guests about reindeer and what makes the species so unique. The Encounters include a 30-minute experience with the reindeer inside their enclosure, which is the perfect time to snap a photo for your family holiday card this year!
Apart from its educational aspect, the farm also offers a range of holiday-themed activities to get families into the spirit of decking the halls. Though you won’t find chestnuts roasting on an open fire, you WILL find s’mores … and plenty more! With an indoor playground, live ice sculpting demonstrations, train rides, breakfast with Santa, Christmas karaoke, free hot cocoa and a station for writing letters to Santa, kids and adults alike always have a holly-jolly good time. The farm is also adorned with festive lights and decorations, in addition to an overflowing gift shop, all working to create a cheerful atmosphere that adds to the Christmas spirit.
Now … on to the part you’ve been waiting for! You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen … but what about Flea, Mistletoe and Clarice? Though they may not be part of the “front line” on Christmas Eve, they (and seven others) are front and center here at the farm. The reindeer spend their time grazing, napping and playing reindeer games (yes, it’s a real thing)! Christmas came early to the farm this year, and gifted reindeer pair Moodolph and Mistletoe with a calf … the farm’s first. Baby Anderson loves attention and can’t wait to welcome visitors to his first Christmas season.
That season kicks off on November 17 and the farm will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until December 17. It’ll then be open daily through December 23.
We’ll leave you with this fun fact: The lyrics from a Christmas classic – “up on the housetop, click, click, click” – doesn’t refer to hearing reindeer hooves on the roof. These animals have joints that click loudly as a way to alert the herd members to their whereabouts in the event of inclement weather. So, the next time you hear clicking on Christmas Eve, it’s just Santa’s sleigh-pullers communicating with each other through the snow.
A new Christmas event based on a German tradition. The largest nativity display east of the Mississippi. And Mike, Carol and the “whole bloomin’ Brady Bunch.” See them all this holiday season on Fairfield County’s Tinsel and Traditions Trail in the Pressed Glass Capital of Ohio – Lancaster – once the world headquarters for the Anchor Hocking Glass Company.
See the grooviest Christmas toys, togs and traditions around at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio at A Very Brady Holiday, part of A Storybook Christmas exhibit, on display through December 31. From Carol Brady’s mod Grand Canyon pantsuit to the Brady Kids’ 1970 album, “Merry Christmas from the Brady Bunch,” to Greg’s fringed Johnny Bravo costume, you’ll step into a time capsule of seventies flower power.
See the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, original Barbie, an Etch A Sketch and other iconic toys and boardgames from the past piled beneath the aluminum tree with color wheel illumination. The exhibit also features 1950s-era pop-up books, vintage Christmas cards and ornaments from beloved storybooks and shows, including “The Wizard of Oz” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Christmas shopping highlights along the Tinsel and Traditions Trail are distinctive and diverse. One-of-a-kind glasswork and barware at Gay Fad Studios, which tells the story of legendary glassware artist and entrepreneur Fran Taylor, who made her mark in the 1930s and 1940s, is stunning and affordable. Loosely translated, the studio’s name means fun, happy designs – and the new and vintage mid-century-inspired glassware, stemware and gifts are all that and more.
If candymaker Alice DuBois seems more like a kid in a candy store, chalk it up to the Candy Cottage owner’s irrepressible love of her job. DuBois is happy to help visitors choose from among the small-batch chocolates made onsite, novelty treats and holiday goodies – for yourself or as gifts. A coffee bar was recently added, and a cappuccino or latte sipped with the confectioner’s dark chocolate buttercreams is a sublime experience.
The Humble Crate is a veritable makers market of handcrafted gift items from more than 70 Ohio artists: soft and sweet baby afghans, original hand-painted snowman creations, Smelly Jellies scented soy candles, hats and fingerless gloves by But First, Crochet, aromatic Kampfire Coffee and more. You could find the perfect gift for everyone on your list with one visit to this hodgepodge of homespun.
Trail experiences include the holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” on Dec. 1, 2 and 3; the month-long Fontanini Nativity Display at the Crossroads Ministry Center, with life-size figurines made in Italy set in a finely detailed Neapolitan-style nativity featuring temple ruins in place of a traditional stable; and several Christmas tree farms with both pre-cut and cut-your-own firs and pines, and offering an array of extras like hot chocolate and crafts, petting zoo and horse-drawn wagon rides.
Crisscrossing the Tinsel and Traditions Trail is Fairfield County’s 12 coffee shop-strong Java Trail. Bring the little ones to the family-friendly Well and sip a deliciously fragrant turmeric chai latte from a comfy nook while the kids romp in a four-level playhouse. Pair an espresso at Provisions Bakery & Deli with its no one-can-eat-just-one chocolate chip cookies – and pick up a good cab from the shop’s wall of wine for enjoying later.
Slip behind a case filled with t-shirts and other souvenirs and into the secret game room and workspace hidden beyond at L-City, where you can grab a macchiato and pastry. Across the hall is the Downtown Bistro & Bar 123, a favorite gathering place serving salmon and sirloin, burgers and small bites in a casual, comfortable setting. Located in a historic, circa 1940s hotel in the heart of downtown Lancaster, the bistro is known for a staff that feels more like visiting with old friends.
A new holiday event makes its debut in Lancaster on December 1: The Advent Window Walk features 24 consecutive Big Reveals of brilliantly colored holiday scenes lighting up the windows of two dozen grand and gracious homes in Lancaster’s Square Thirteen Historic District. Think of it as a large-scale advent calendar, with a new window lighting up each successive night during the countdown to Christmas.
The brainchild of resident Joseph Taylor, who will flip the switch on his home’s window on Christmas Eve, the Advent Window Walk was inspired by similar Christmas events in Europe – and just might be the only one of its kind in the United States.
On New Year’s Eve, Lancaster celebrates its glass heritage with the Glass Town Countdown, a family-friendly street party held downtown at Zane Square and followed by a fireworks show. The centerpiece of the event is the Giant Glass Globe, which is raised rather than lowered, and comprises hundreds of hand-blown glass ornaments, each individually hand-painted. Prior to New Year’s Eve, the Giant Glass Globe may be seen inside the Ohio Glass Museum, which offers glassblowing classes for those wishing to create their own glass ornaments.
If You Go
For more information about things to see and do on Lancaster’s Tinsel and Traditions Trails and the Glass Town Countdown New Year’s Eve celebration, visit www.visitfairfieldcounty.org or download the Visit Fairfield County app (iPhone, Android) and find shopping, attractions, activities, accommodations, restaurants and more.
Christmas cookies and Christmas candy. Is there anything sweeter during the holidays? Here are two recipes from Fairfield County’s Tinsel and Traditions Trail.
Provisions Bakery & Deli Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C packed light brown sugar
2/3 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to medium and add flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips with rubber spatula.
Using a tablespoon, scoop 12 heaping scoops of cookie dough 2 inches apart on lined baking trays. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool and serve. Makes a dozen cookies.
The Candy Cottage Buckeye Candy
1 cup Parkay margarine
2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb. milk or semisweet chocolate flavored coating
Cream margarine and peanut butter. Add vanilla. Stir in powdered sugar, a cup at a time until consistency is not sticky.
Roll in 1 1 /2-inch balls or use cookie scoop for consistent size. Dip with a toothpick into melted chocolate coating. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
Pinch to cover hole made by toothpick. Place into paper cups and serve. Makes about 90 pieces.
About Guest Blogger Kathy Witt
Writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild
Last week Mindy Bianca @mindybiancapr.com introduced her newest employee, an elf named Jolly Jinglebutton who, I have to admit, had some great holiday travel destination. Well, it turns out the elf is back and, as he puts it, excited as a reindeer in a carrot patch because “I get to tell you all about one of my favorite places on the entire planet … Dollywood!”
File this under “who would have thought” but it seems Dolly Parton, owner of Dollywood, is an elf favorite, having recently been voted as their Very Favorite Human Ever. I wonder how Santa and Mrs. Claus feel about that as they’re humans too—I think. But anyway, everyone loves Dolly Parton and they’ll probably love her a lot more when they find out about all the special fun things going on at Dollywood from now until January 1st. By the way, in case you didn’t know, Dollywood has been awarded the title of Best Theme Park Christmas Event a whopping 14 times,
Six million of them, to be exact … spread across 160 acres. I’m not very math-y, but I’m here to tell you that it equates to A LOT of lights. They introduced a million new lights this year, so a park that already glistened and gleamed now also shimmers and shines. Hooray! There’s something bright and festive around every corner, which means that a walk around Dollywood will make you as giddy as a double espresso with a chocolate chip chaser. Every themed area of the park gets its own look and feel, so it’s kind of like you’re taking a stroll through a series of magical winter wonderlands.
As if the lights all over the park – in every tree and on every surface – weren’t enough, on Friday and Saturday nights, they put a bunch of lights up in the sky … in the form of the “Merry and Bright!” fireworks show. The colorful display is set to upbeat, contemporary holiday hits and it’s quite a way to end a weekend night in the park. It warms my little heart to see kids try to make it to the end of the day so they can be awake for the whole show. I guess it gives them good practice for trying to stay up late to see Santa, but we all know how that works out …
There are hundreds of trees throughout the park – and they decorated even more this year, just to literally up the voltage – but I have two favorites. One is the 50-foot giant evergreen in Glacier Ridge. This magical tree does a whole synchronized music and light show that ends with – wait for it – snow falling! I didn’t think anything could get better than that, but this year they really decked out the part of the park called Adventures in Imagination. The lights here are pink, platinum and gold – VERY Dolly – and they introduced a new 20-foot tree in an area they’re calling “Dolly’s Christmas.” Guess what else you’ll find there? About 60 LED butterflies! What reindeer are to Santa, butterflies are to Dolly. They’re her spirit animal.
Speaking of Santa, I don’t think it’ll surprise you to know that he and Dolly are pals. They’re so close, in fact, that she talked him into getting himself a little Smoky Mountain cabin so they can be neighbors! His cabin magically appears inside Dollywood throughout the month of November and right until Christmas Day.(After that, as you can imagine, Santa gets to take a little vacation.) You can get a sneak peek inside the cabin to watch Santa at work and – bonus – if you look closely enough, you can actually see if YOUR name is on his Naughty or Nice List! I have personally witnessed kids turn from grumpy to grand in a matter of seconds so they can be assured that they’ll show up on the correct list!
Let’s face it: Dolly Parton isn’t going to have a theme park with lousy entertainment, is she? Dollywood is legendary in the amusement industry for having some of the best performances and performers. There are so many shows here, in fact, that the park uses both indoor and outdoor venues. The headliner is called “Christmas in the Smokies,” and it’s a show that has been featured here every Christmas since 1990. Music is an incredibly important part of life here in the Smokies – and obviously something that Dolly loves – so get ready to tap your toes as part of your visit. MY toes are clad in special little booties with bells on the end, so you’ll know when I’m in the audience near you!
We elves may be small, but we have big appetites … and I’m here to tell you that Dollywood puts out quite a spread. Let’s see if I can make your mouth water by mentioning some of my favorite hyphenated foods: herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham. Or how about chicken pot pie in a bread cone? Yeah, I said it … BREAD CONE! I love to carb load before a long night of delivering gifts, and I can promise you that I’m taking this recipe back to Mrs. Claus. There are also eggnog cupcakes and gingerbread-dusted funnel cakes, and I think I’ve convinced my favorite North Pole barista, Spazzy Sparkleshots, to start serving those at her café.
Let’s not forget that this is a theme park, and most of the rides operate even in these cooler months. That means you can race through the night sky while millions of lights twinkle below. And you know what? I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a lot like how Santa feels when he takes his sleigh ride on Christmas Eve!
Some people love Christmas shopping, others dread it. I’m an elf, so we don’t shop … we MAKE gifts. And so do the craftsmen at Dollywood, who – if they weren’t so tall and didn’t enjoy life in the Smokies so much – could probably be recruited for Santa’s Workshop. Everything they create would make a perfect gift, and they’re also preserving some of the greatest arts of these mountains. Sometimes they even let YOU do the creating, like when the glassblower coaches you in how to make your very own glass Christmas ornament!
If you’re thinking there’s a lot to do at Dollywood and you’ll need more than a day here to take it all in, you’re absolutely right. So, it’s kind of perfect that in addition to this award-winning theme park, there’s also a beautiful resort. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa offers families plenty of food, entertainment and décor during the holiday season. I love the two-story Christmas tree that greets you as you enter the resort. It’s very sparkly … just like me!
Whew! That was a lot to share, but I feel like I barely scratched the surface.
Remember … this Christmas, keep it holly, keep it jolly, keep it Dolly!
My friend Mindy Bianca of Mindy Bianca Public Relations (MBPR) introduced me to hr newest employee, Jolly Jinglebutton (I don’t know where Mindy meets these characters), an elf who seems in the know for all things Christmas. And here, in his words, are some great holiday destinations.
Photo courtesy of Branson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
In this Ozark Mountain town, moms and dads put the kids to bed on Halloween night, sneak some candy to get a little sugar rush, and then scurry around to transform Branson from fall to festive in a matter of hours. Poof! By the morning of November 1, Branson looks like the North Pole … minus the snow! Actually, this year they’re upping their game and transforming the historic downtown into a massive “winter wonderland” display – including hundreds of snowflakes suspended from the lampposts – so maybe it WILL look just like my home!
There are more than 1,500 beautifully decorated trees all around town, including a giant Community Tree whose themed décor changes each year. This year that tree is titled “We All SHINE ON!” and it will feature more than 200 super-sparkly LED stars in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. The Community Tree display, which will stand nearly four stories tall, will be part of Branson’s holiday scene from November 1 through January 7. It’ll be positioned right next to the Branson Ferris Wheel, which itself is beautifully decorated with lights that “dance” to favorite Christmas tunes during multiple shows each night.
Photo courtesy of Branson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
Though all the attractions around Branson get into the holiday spirit, the highest concentration of lights and décor can be found at Silver Dollar City, a legendary theme park that annually celebrates “An Old Time Christmas.” The park installs more than 6.5 million lights – that’s 680 miles of stringed bulbs! – as well as 1,000 decorated trees, 600 giant wreaths, 3 miles of garland, and 15,000 yards of ribbon. (Fun fact: That’s about 15,000 elves’ worth of ribbon, if we all laid head to toe.)
And perfect for a holiday visit: At the World’s Largest Toy Museum, you’ll find more than 1 million toys that represent pretty much everything that kids have been putting on their Christmas lists for the past 100 years. This museum sure makes me glad that Santa invested in all the new-fangled technology that relieves us elves from some of the most difficult toy-making tasks. (Don’t even talk about sewing on teddy bears’ noses. Ouch!)
We elves took a recent poll, and our very favorite human – ever – is Dolly Parton. There really isn’t anything she can’t do. She writes and sings songs, she acts (check out her Christmas movie on NBC later this year!), she helps finance COVID vaccines, she promotes literacy, and she owns a theme park in the middle of the Smoky Mountains so that visitors far and wide can learn about and fall in love with her Tennessee Mountain Home.
In fact, Dolly is so amazing that I’m not saying she’s an elf, but I’m not NOT saying she is one, either. Think about it: Some of the best elves I know are named Polly (last name: Peppermintstripe), Molly (Mistletoe), Holly (Hugsomuch), Folly (Funsmith) and Golly (Gumdrop). And then, of course, there’s me … Jolly. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Dolly’s name just SOUNDS elf-y?
Anyway, back to that incredible theme park, Dollywood, which has a tendency – like me – to go a little Christmas-crazy. Starting on the first Saturday of November, the park is completely transformed into a winter wonderland, coming aglow as more than 5 million gleaming lights sparkle across the property. (They have a team of humans here called “Lighting Bugs” who start stringing in the summertime! They started early this year so Dolly could film her Christmas movie last month!) A highlight of the décor is a 50-foot-tall, animated Christmas tree that comes to life via a synchronized light show throughout the evening.
And this is a theme park, so there are plenty of rides to enjoy, too! You get to race through the night sky while millions of lights twinkle below. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a lot like how Santa feels when he takes his sleigh ride on Christmas Eve.
Take a look at this tiny town’s name. You just know people here are going to make a fuss about all wintery stuff, right? Fun fact: Frostburg is not named for Jack Frost – which is okay with me, because I’ve always thought that guy was kind of cold. Instead, it was named for a family that was among the first settlers here on what they call “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” way back when this area was pure wilderness.
But that bristly Jack Frost does show up once a year, on the first Saturday of December (this year that’s December 3), for the town’s “Storybook Holiday” celebration. Old Jack pushes his way right to the front of the parade and tries to make it all about him. So typical.
But you know who it’s really about? The students from Frostburg University, who work with members of the community to raise money for the university’s Children’s Literature Centre. They all come together to celebrate books, reading and literacy. Kids show up to hear Christmas stories, meet authors, write letters to Santa, watch the parade and sip “Cocoa with the Po-Po,” which is hosted by Frostburg’s police department.
But the very, very best part is – wait for it – when the college kids compete in the Elf Olympics. Events include all the things I’ve spent my life perfecting: cookie tossing, package wrapping, tree decorating, toy creating and even song serenading. It’s so much fun to watch! I asked Santa if I can recruit the best participants for our North Pole team, but he said they probably exceed our maximum height limit.
Something else I love about Frostburg is that it gives me plenty of chances to support small, local businesses, including an independent bookstore, a shop that sells vinyl records, an old-fashioned theater that shows classic Christmas movies, and a café that serves an eggnog latte that I wish Spazzy Sparkleshots, my favorite barista back in the North Pole, could learn how to make.
I think a lot of people equate Christmas with colder weather and forget that there are plenty of warmer places that really get into the holiday spirit, too. MBPR represents several destinations that prove you don’t have to freeze your jingle bells off to enjoy the holidays. So, I want to tell you about Christmas at Bellingrath Gardens & Home, which is near Mobile, Alabama. The place is named for Walter Bellingrath, who made his fortune owning the region’s Coca-Cola bottling franchise, and O, Christmas tree … do they go all-out when it comes to decorating his 65-acre garden estate!
During the Magic Christmas in Lights event, which this year runs November 25 through January 4, the gardens are adorned with more than 1,200 handmade set pieces, 3 million glittering lights and 16 custom scenes that can be enjoyed on your own or via a guided group walking tour. And guess what? Everything is designed, welded, painted and lamped on site by three members of the gardens’ staff.
In December, this area boasts an average daytime high of 63 degrees and a nighttime low of 45, so it’s possible to experience the lights in a comfortable climate but also enjoy a little bundling up … and perhaps a sip or bite of something warm along the way.
In addition to the light displays, the garden hosts live choral performances nearly every night. I love to sing-sing-sing, so I go every night to show my support … and tap my toes in my little curlicued shoes.
Also – news flash! – there ARE flowers that bloom at this time of year. Bellingrath is home to one of the South’s most amazing collections of Alabama’s state flower, the camellia. That was Mr. Bellingrath’s very favorite flower … and it happens to be Mrs. Claus’s fave, too! The team here always lets me pick a few camellias and send them home with Santa, who presents them to Mrs. Claus as part of the elves’ Christmas gift to her.