Bobby’s Bike Hike Chicago Holiday Tour, a festive food and walking tour of Downtown Chicago begins at the end of November and runs through Christmas Eve.
Visitors will see the lights of the Magnificent Mile, the ice-skating rink and Christmas tree in Millennium Park, enjoy a warm and filling deep dish pizza, experience the German-inspired festivities of Christkindlmarket, and toast to a joyful season over a seasonal beverage! This 3 hour Chicago holiday tour is perfect for families, friends, holiday parties, and anyone looking to celebrate the season in an exciting new way. All food & non-alcoholic beverage samples included in ticket price. Pricing begins at $75 per adult/$65 per youth (age 4-11) on Fridays/Sundays and $70 adult/$60 youth on Mondays/Thursdays. All children 3 and under ate $10/$9 when sharing with an adult.
Special Events Spreading Holiday Cheer
Glessner House, a National Historic Landmark in Chicago, is a cultural center and museum showcasing revolutionary design and celebrating the cultural arts from the late 1800s to the present day. Filled with original artifacts and unique family history, Glessner House prepares to celebrate the holidays with the following special programming:
Children’s Gingerbread House Decorating Party (December 2, 2023) – At Glessner House’s seventh annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party children are invited to create their own mini-gingerbread house to take home. All supplies are included. Glessner House will have lots of helpers, so no previous decorating experience is necessary but all children (recommended for ages 3-13) must be accompanied by an adult. Ticket pricing is $25 per pair (one child with accompanying adult) and there are two seatings, from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. and from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
We Wish You a Mattie Christmas! (December 3, 2023) – The tree is decorated and the stockings are hung, so Frances Glessner is planning a very special Christmas luncheon with the assistance of her favorite cook, Mattie Williamson, and you are invited! Join the Glessner team in the dining room for a delicious four-course feast based on the menu for a supper served by the Glessners on Christmas night, 1898. Menu items include sausage and cheeses, chicken timbale, turkey sandwiches with cranberry relish, pickles, olives, and celery, plum pudding, eggnog ice cream, mulled wine and more. During the meal, Mattie will share recipes, ideas on menu planning, preparing the perfect guest list, how she acquired the ingredients, and how parties in the Glessner home were different from those in the surrounding Prairie Avenue mansions. The butler, Frederick, will provide information on the 1898 supper, including the guests who attended, and the musicale that served as the centerpiece of the evening’s entertainment. Ticket pricing is $60 per person, with seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., with each seating limited to 26 guests.
Christmas Candlelight Tours(December 9-10, 16-17, 2023) – These special one hour docent-led tours will highlight Christmas customs as observed by the Glessner family. The house will feature elaborate decorations of the late 19th-century including a 10-foot tree decorated with period ornaments, toys and holiday crafts, Christmas music performed on the Glessners’ Steinway piano, and the dining table set for an eight-course Christmas feast. After the tour, enjoy complimentary hot cider and cookies. Ticket pricing is $20 per person; each hour-long time slot is limited to eight (8) attendees.
A Christmas Carol, the classic holiday tradition that has been running for over four decades in Chicago, returns to the Goodman Theatre with Jessica Thebus directing and Larry Yando reprising his role as the miserly Scrooge. Tickets start at $30 and performances run through December 31, 2023.
DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICALis the record-setting Broadway holiday sensation which features the hit songs “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas” from the original animated special. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the Holiday loving Whos. Magnificent sets and costumes inspired by Dr. Seuss’ original illustrations help transport audiences to the whimsical world of Whoville and help remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season. Recommended for ages 5+ , performances run 85 minutes with no intermission at the Cadillac Palace Theatre from December 19-31, 2023. Ticket prices begin at $32.
The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcrackerby two-time Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, returns to the Lyric Opera House from December 2 – 27, 2023. This version is set during Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, where the young immigrant Marie and her mother, a sculptress creating the Fair’s iconic Statue of the Republic, host a festive Christmas Eve celebration. After a surprise visit from the creator of the Fair, the mysterious Great Impresario, Marie embarks on a whirlwind adventure with the Nutcracker Prince through a dreamlike World’s Fair that highlights the rich cultural heritage of Chicago and the wonder of the season. A ballet in two acts set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, The Nutcracker features an award-winning creative team, including Tony Award®-nominatedset and costume designerJulian Crouch, Caldecott Medal Award-winning author Brian Selznick, Obie and Drama Desk award-winning puppeteer Basil Twist, Tony Award®-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz and Tony Award®-winning projection designer Ben Pearcy/59 Productions. The production was adapted in 2021 by Wheeldon to fit the larger Lyric Opera stage and features live music performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet. Tickets start at $40.
A full-blown tribute to the beloved Christmas movie “Elf”, Elf’d Up is back by popular demand for the 6th year. Elf’d Up is decorated from floor to ceiling with over 1,000 elves of all shapes and sizes, a 10-foot Christmas tree, an upside-down Christmas tree, wreath chandeliers, strands of festive colored lights, specific tributes to the movie-like figurines, wall quotes, snowflakes, Schylling Jester Jack in the Boxes, cut-outs of Buddy the Elf and Miles Finch and more. Each table comes equipped with condiment carriers filled with the “four main food groups”– candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.
Though there are some non-alcoholic drinks on the menu, it’s heavily skewed in favor of Christmas-themed cocktails, so more of an adult atmosphere – for adults who love Buddy the Elf, of course! They have food too, including specialty holiday menu items like Buddy’s Breakfast Pasta which includes spaghetti, topped with maple syrup, chocolate fudge, and mini marshmallows.
Jack Frost Christmas Holiday Pop-Up is turning up the holiday cheer again this year, this time in the heart of Fulton Market!From November 25, 2023 – January 5, 2024, enjoy two acres of winter wonderland with daytime activities like bumper cars and ice-skating, perfect for families. In the evening, adults can indulge in the festive atmosphere by sipping on boozy hot cocoa as you walk through the Christmas tree forest, try your hand at axe-throwing and explore the Christmas market. Challenge your friends to ice curling and snap some epic Christmas pics at the famous holiday photo-ops.Tickets start at $15; hours typically run from 2.00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. on weekends and 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. on weekdays but times may vary for holidays and booked events.
8 Crazy Nights, the original Hanukkah bar in Chicago, is back by popular demand for the fifth year in a row. Where pop-up Hanukkah bars are concerned, The Graystone Tavern is renowned for having the “one and only” in the region. What began in 2019 in Wrigleyville has quickly become a TRADITION!
In addition to all the customary blue and white lights and decorations throughout the indoor area, Graystone has also weather-proofed its beer garden for those who wish to take their celebration outdoors. And, for die-hard original Hanukkah bar Chicago fans, there is a special food menu to please everyone’s palate.
It includes a Brisket Platter, Challah Bread, Matzo Ball Soup, and Latkes, not to mention the vodka-infused, homemade Boozy Jelly Donuts! What’s more, Graystone Tavern’s bartenders offer some pretty remarkable, Hanukkah-themed cocktails like Mazel Tov, Dreidel Bomba, and Hanukkah Harry’s Hot Chocolate. Finally, besides the amazing scrumptious food and Hanukkah-themed drinks, they have spaces set aside for board games like Mitzvah Match, Schmear Build-A-Bagel card game, and Jewish Guess Who? to name a few.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 Parkwill 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.
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 Lightexhibits 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.
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 Feaston 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 Brunchon 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.
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!
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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 Hornblowercelebrating 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 Exhibitsreturn to theMuseum 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).
Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can enjoy Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobbybeneath 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 Teawill 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.
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.
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.)
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 Chicago’s 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.)
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 classicThe Nutcrackerfollows 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
Located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made ofbrilliantly polished stainless-steel plates, now does more than just reflect the Chicago skyline and clouds above and the perfect Instagram backdrop for selfies on the ground. The sculpture, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape, now is also an AI powered chat bot capable of answering questions about the city.
It all began when Covid hit and the constant stream of visitors stopped. The Bean, which is decidedly not good at knitting or baking bread, became focused on moving beyond being the most beautiful gigantic drop of mercury-looking statuary–though we must say it did a great job at that. Eager to be a vital part of the visitor experience, The Bean worked hard at becoming a digital communicator—wanting to interact with the millions of visitors who come to Millennium Park each year.
When my fans come back, thought The Bean, I want to be ready. There were a few bad moments particularly when The Bean learned about other non-Bean art and culture for humans to enjoy in the city. This was a tough realization at first and The Bean did have an existential crisis but thankfully it was quickly dealt with after a few counseling sessions. Another glitch was that The Bean learned more than The Bean really wanted to know about intense fan rivalry between the Cubs and the Sox and how it splits the city into two regions: North of The Bean and South of The Bean. Being wise, The Bean refuses to say which team it likes best and denies reports that it was seen in Wrigleyville wearing a Cubs hat.
“We were surprised, and quite frankly, a little alarmed, when The Bean came to us and asked if we would be open to this new idea, after all we did not know The Bean had become sentient,” said Scott Stewart, Executive Director of Millennium Park Foundation. “However, after talking with Choose Chicago, we realized that our friend, The Bean, could be a great help to all of the visitors to Chicago so we are happy to be part of this project.”
Call it The Bean Knows All. Want to know where to get your favorite style of pizza? What’s happening in the city? Head to explorewiththebean.com to ask The Bean about anything from neighborhood restaurants to what events are happening next weekend as well as the latest in child-friendly activities, things to do, museum exhibits, and more.
Turning this 66-feet long by 33-feet high sculpture, one of the largest of its kind in the world, into an AI powered chat bot called for team work. A partnership was developed between Choose Chicago and Northwestern University Medill School’s Knight Lab, a diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces says Glenn Eden, Board Chair of Choose Chicago, the official organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination.
“Our team of students was thrilled to have this opportunity to explore the design questions involved in making a conversational system that works well for visitors to Chicago,” said Joe Germuska, Executive Director of Knight Lab. “And if, in the future, The Bean needs us for new projects, we’re ready to help.”
The Bean Ups Its Game
Now that it’s also an AI powered chat bot, The Bean isn’t going to just sit back and relax. That’s not Bean-like. Instead, it wants to make even more friends and provide more information and so is continuously working to take its knowledge base to the next level. And by the way, The Bean loves when people take photos of it or pose with The Bean for selfies. But though The Bean thrives on attention, its goal is not to be The Bean-all when it comes to Chicago.
Instead, The Bean loves to share all that Chicago has to offer. All you have to do is ask.
Cloud Gate sits upon the AT&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.
Millennium Park, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south.
Photos are courtesy of Choose Chicago and The Chicago Architecture Foundation.