Christmas in Chicago is the most magical time to experience the city. The streets are all lined with lights and decorations, the sidewalks are buzzing with holiday spirit and the delicious smell of cinnamon, peppermint and all things wonderful sneak out of bakeries and restaurants. It might be different variations of cold and it might be cloudy but Chicago is unmistakably one of the best cities to visit during Christmas. There are endless things to do that are holiday-related from store window displays to markets. While any one of these options are worth experiencing, we’ve put together a list of our 5 things to do in Chicago around the holidays. Let’s get started!
1 - Visit the Christkindlmarket. This famous market has been around since I can remember and is well known across the country. The original market is located in Daley Plaza on Washington between Dearborn and Clark. This year, there are two new Christkindlmarkets by Wrigley Field in the Wrigleyville neighborhood and the suburb of Naperville. You must enjoy a traditional Bavarian pretzel (they’re incredible) and a steaming hot cup of cocoa from Dinkel’s Bakery. You can get your cocoa in a plastic to-go cup or in their special keepsake mug that usually has a fun design
2 - Walk through Millennium Park. The big Christmas tree that used to be at the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza is now in Millennium Park. While that reason alone is good enough for a visit, the entire park is lit up beautifully and if you happen to visit while it’s covered in snow, even better! There’s also the ice skating rink which is as fun to stand and watch as it is to skate on...I assume. Ice skating is not a strong suit of mine.
3 - Watch a magic show. Located in the Palmer House Hilton Hotel is an intimate magic show with Dennis Watkins, a third-generation magician and mentalist. Even the most skeptical of skeptics (me), found themselves blown away but the illusions and magic. A little history, the Palmer House used to host magic shows for it’s guests as a part of it’s charm to visitors. It’s a nice little part of history brought back in a modern, entertaining way. And if you are looking for a Christmas plug...the Palmer House during the holidays is stunning. There are hardly words to explain how magical this piece of architectural history becomes with Christmas decorations and piano music playing softly throughout the entire space.
4 - See the windows at Marshall Field’s and have lunch in the Chestnut Room. Macy’s buying out Marshall Field’s on State Street was a point of contention to locals who are proud of this particular building and it’s history. As a peace offering, Macy’s kept the building exactly as it is and left the original Marshall Field’s plaque and clock rather than rebranding the building to their specifications. Each year, the trumpets are hung above the windows, wreaths are dispersed and windows are designed with decorations that tell a story. Crowds of people are always standing in front of the windows waiting their turn to get a look at the story and take in the detail. Once you’ve browsed the windows, step inside and go upstairs to the Chestnut Room which has an enormous Christmas tree glamorously decorated from top to bottom. Dinner can get pricey so I recommend visiting for lunch. Be prepared to wait though because it’s a restaurant in-demand during the holiday season.
5 - Watch a performance. Chicago is full of holiday performances during the holidays. A Christmas Carol plays at the Goodman Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet plays The Nutcracker, and there are always a few others that have a more limited run. For example, this year (2017) White Christmas is at Cadillac Palace until December 3rd, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is playing at the Broadway Playhouse through December, plus more! Second City also puts on holiday shows. They're hilarious and the closest thing to seeing SNL in person other than having a seat in the actual audience.
This list would be endless if we shared all the amazing things to do around Chicago during Christmas. The Lincoln Park Zoo Lights are a fun and colorful experience for adults and families. I know a lot of people who go see the Zoo Lights on dates! If we’re being honest, you don’t even need a list of activities to enjoy Christmas in Chicago. Walking through the neighborhoods and walking downtown is magical enough. The city doesn’t spare any expense when it comes to making Chicago festive and for that, I will forever be grateful.