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Top Ten Things To Do In Chicago for the Holidays

In the past we have not had many post of things to see or do in Chicago, but with Chicago being one of the most beautiful cities in the world at this time of year and only a train ride away I wanted to share a few of my favorites, many of which are free. We would love to hear from you with some of your holiday favorites.

1. Holiday Afternoon Tea at the Drake

Tea at the Drake

This traditional English Tea is held daily in the palm court featuring live harp music. The menu includes finger sandwiches, fruit bread, pastries, scones with lemon curd and double Devon cream as well as a wonderful selection of tea. For an additional charge, tea-tinis or champagne are also available. For children ages 4 – 12 there is a “Little Prince and Princess” menu. There are several seatings a day and reservations are recommended. Allow approximately 1 1/2 hours and there is a smart casual dress code. For the hours please check the web site provided below.

Admission: $36 for adults, $18 for children

The Drake Hotel
140 East Walton Place
Chicago, IL 60611

2. Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights at the Museum of Science and Industry

Since 1942 the Museum of Science and Industry has been decorating trees for the Holidays. The tradition started with a single tree dedicated to the Allies of World War II and now features 50 trees surrounding the Museum’s 45 foot Grand Tree. The Grand Tree has over 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments. Each of the smaller trees are decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s Ethnic Communities, reflecting their heritage and traditions.  In addition there will be live performances by school choral groups and even occasional falling snow.

Admission: Free with Museum Admission

Museum Admission: Adults                        $15    Chicago Residents $13
Seniors 65 & older $14    Chicago Residents $12
Children 3 – 11         $13     Chicago Residents  $9

Museum Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9:30 a.m. – 4:00p.m.
Sat. – Sun.  9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL  60637

3. The Christkindlmarket

The Kilometer and Souvenir Mug

Every year since 1997 the Daley Plaza is taken over by Chicago’s largest open air festival. The Christkindlemarket is fashioned after the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg Germany, a tradition dating back to 1545. Visitors can expect to find unique shopping, typical German food and drinks. My sister first introduced to me to the market years ago and enjoys her yearly Kilometer(a very long sausage) and her souvenir mug.(Yes, she really does save them.)

Admission: Free

Festival Hours:    Sunday – Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday : 11:00a.m. – 9:00p.m.
Last Day, December 24th 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Daley Plaza
50 W. Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

Skating at Millenium Park

4. Millenium Park Ice Rink

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is now open through March 11 weather permitting. Even when the weather is unseasonably warm( yeah right, this is Chicago) there is a state of the art cooling system to maintain the ice. The Park Grill restaurant  has windows overlooking the rink for anyone more interested in watching skaters than actually skating.  The Park Cafe is open for snacks and light meals.

Admission: Free
Skate rental $10.00

Hours of Operation: Monday – Thursday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday (through Dec. 17): 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday 9 (beginning Jan. 7) 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Holiday Hours: Saturday, December 24: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, December 25: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday December 31: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, January 1: 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Millennium Park
Michigan Ave. & Washington Street
Chicago, IL  60602

5. Macy’s State Street Windows

One my my favorite childhood memories is Marshall Field’s magical window displays at Christmastime. Alas, Marshall Fields is now Macy’s but at least we still have Frango Mints and the State Street Store window display. This years theme is “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”

Admission: Free

111 N. State St.
Chicago, IL  60602

6. The Historic Great Tree in the Walnut Room at Macy’s

The Walnut Room

Once again Macy’s has kept the Great Tree in the Walnut room tradition alive. The tree stands over 45 feet tall and features 15,000 LED lights and 12,000 ornaments. Unfortunately the wait to be seated in the dining room can run long  (3 hours, Yikes!) One option to view the tree and enjoy the Walnut Room might be to arrive early and enjoy a breakfast buffet for $14.95. The tree can also be viewed from the 7th and 8th floor. No reservations accepted.

Hours for the Breakfast Buffet: 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.
7 a.m. – 10 a.m. on  12/10/11, 12/17/11, 12/24/11

Restaurant Hours: Now until Christmas open until 9p.m.
Closed Christmas Day.
12/26/11 – 12/30/11: open until 7 p.m.
12/31/11: open until 6 p.m.

111 N. State St.
Chicago, IL  60602


7. Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Zoo Lights

For the month of December Lincoln Park Zoo is illuminated with 1 Million Lights.  What a great way to view the zoo while enjoying ice carvings, holiday shopping and crafts, as well hot spiced wine and food. The children can even decorate a holiday cookie.

Admission: Free

Hours: Open Nightly 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Dec. 2 -4, 9 – 11, Dec. 16 – Jan 1, Closed Dec. 24 & 25

Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 North Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614

To view a program for the event, please click on link below

8. The Lights and Shopping on Michigan Avenue

At Christmas time the Magnificent Mile lives up to it’s name. There are over 24 seasonally decorated windows, magical lights and seasonal florals lining Michigan Avenue. Even if you never spend a dime, the window shopping and magical lights make it all worth the trip.

9. Winter Wonderland at Navy Pier

I know I will hear from some people who think that Navy Pier is a tourist trap for out of towners, but I don’t care I like it anyway. This year winter wonderland will feature hundreds of trees, thousands of lights, a number of rides and attractions such as an Indoor Ferris Wheel, a Reindeer Train Ride and the Pepsi Create-a-Cookie Cottage. Although admission is free, you will need to purchase a wristband for your child to enjoy the the rides and various attractions. For a complete list of times please click on link below.

Admission: Free General Admission.  A $15 “Regular Activity Pass” offers unlimited single day access to all attractions except Ice Skating. “Premium Activity Pass” with Ice Skating $18

Online family four pack special $44 “Regular Activity Pass” $54 ” Premium Activity Pass”

Dates: December 2, 2011 – January 8, 2012


December 2nd – 17th
Sun. – Thurs.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fri. & Sat.: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

December 18th – January 8th
Sun. – Thurs.: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Fri. & Sat.: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Christmas Eve.: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Christmas Day: Closed
New Years Eve.: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Navy Pier
600 East Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL

10. Chicago Cultural Center

I debated whether or not put the Cultural Center on my list as they have a limited number of days with scheduled activities. But, I love this place and if you are in town and have never visited the center, take time to view the world’s largest Tiffany Dome in Preston Bradley Hall and the Healy and Millet stained glass dome in the Grand Army of the Republic Rotunda. The Cultural Center was once the Central Library and is located across the street from Millennium Park.

Scheduled Activities:

Thursday December 8, 2011 – 6:30p.m. – Music Under the Dome: Corky Siegal’s Chamber Blues

Friday December 9, 2011 – 12p.m. – 5 p.m. & Saturday December 10, 2011 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Project Onward Holiday Sale and Portrait Slam

A select group of artists will be stationed around the Garland Room creating custom portraits with prices starting at $20. In addition there will original artwork, decorations and gifts for sale.

Saturday December 10,2011- 2p.m. – It’s Christmas Time in the City

A number of cabaret artists will perform multicultural Holiday favorites

Admission: Free

Hours: Mon – Thurs: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Fri: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sat: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sun: 10a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed Holidays

Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington Street
Chicago IL  60602

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