It’s beginning to look a lot like the season to be merry and bright! This week, Chicago goes into full holiday mode as it kicks off this festive time of year with many of the city’s luminous events and decorative traditions. Here are 10 of my absolute favorites.
1. ‘Friends’ Pop-Up Bar at Replay Lincoln Park
For all of you Thanksgiving fans that aren’t quite ready for Christmas – this one is for you! “The One with the Pop-Up”, a “Friends”-themed pop-up bar kicked off on Friday, Nov. 9 at Replay Lincoln Park. The pop-up will run through Sunday, Nov. 25, with themed décor paying tribute to the beloved Central Perk, Chandler and Joey’s place, and Monica’s apartment. Some highlights include: ‘90s karaoke every Wednesday night and daily “Friends” trivia from Thursday, Nov. 15 to Monday Nov. 19; a foosball tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7PM; and playing Chandler’s lucrative game of “Cups” against the bartender on Sundays for free shots. Thanksgiving comes early on Sunday, Nov. 11 during the Moist Maker Turkey Sandwich Happy Hour. Just $20.00 gets you a shot, a craft beer of your choice, and the fabled sandwich that almost cost Ross his job: The Moist Maker.
2. Macy’s Holiday Window Exhibit
Since the early 1870s, Macy’s has stunned spectators with its famous holiday window displays, and this year is no different! Thanks to the dedicated and talented team of painters, welders, costume-makers engineers, visual artists and carpenters, the Macy’s Holiday Window Exhibit on State Street is shining bright as figurines of Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves prepare for their busiest night of the year.
3. The Great Tree at Macy’s Walnut Room
The wait to get a table near The Great Tree at Macy’s Walnut Room is lengthy, but worth it. Not only is The Walnut Room restaurant one of Chicago’s greatest brunch spots, but the holiday season brings the centerpiece of the room, The Great Tree, a 45-foot-tall tree festooned with over 3,000 ornaments and 6,000 LED lights. The tree can also be viewed from outside of the restaurant, which means you won’t have to splurge on a meal to soak in all of its glimmering wonder.
4. Christmas Around The World – Museum of Science and Industry
Opening Thursday, Nov. 15, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019. The festive display 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 holidays and traditions from cultures around the globe. Live performances may be enjoyed on the weekends, and indoor snow is forecast to begin on Nov. 15 and expected to fall every 30 minutes for the entire run of Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lights.
My number one favorite holiday event in Chicago, Christkindlmarket makes its return on Friday, Nov. 16 and runs through Monday, Dec. 24. The giant open-air market, inspired by a similar seasonal tradition in Nuremberg, Germany, features booths set up throughout Daley Plaza, where you’ll find handcrafted Germany items like glass ornaments, cuckoo clocks, beer steins, and nutcrackers. Each holiday season, my family makes a stop or two (or three) through Christkindlmarket’s Candy Castle to fill up on European chocolates, candies, and glazed nuts for our Christmas stockings. It’s also worth stopping buy to grab some potato pancakes, a sausage, or to sip a steaming mug of their traditional hot spiced
6. Ice Skating in Millennium Park
Skate under the Chicago skyline while gazing up at the Chicago Christmas Tree as ice skating returns to Millennium Park on Friday, Nov. 16 through Sunday, Mar. 10, 2019. Admission to the outdoor rink is free, but if you don’t own a pair of skates, you’ll have to pay to rent a pair. If your skating skills aren’t up to par, take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11AM and Saturdays and Sunday at 9AM.
7. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
The outdoor temperature may be falling and many of the animals are heading indoors, but Lincoln Park Zoo has transformed into a majestic forest of twinkling bulbs. ZooLights runs from Thursday, Nov. 16 to Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, with special events taking place throughout the month such as: ice-sculpture carvers, carolers, a Holiday Market (Nov. 27), an adults-only night (Nov. 29), and a Zoo Year’s Eve celebration (Dec. 31).
8. Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Friday, Nov. 16 marks the 105th anniversary of the highly anticipated Christmas Tree Lighting for the city of Chicago. The 60-foot evergreen stands tall in Millennium Park and people of all ages come to admire the festive sight as it shines aglow in the reflection of ‘The Bean’. Festivities begin at 6PM, with the tree lighting taking place at 6:30PM. This year’s emcee for the ceremony will be Miguel Cervantes, star of Hamilton Chicago Company at Broadway In Chicago’s CIBC Theatre.
9. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and Parade
Signaling the start of the holiday season, Chicago’s famous shopping district, the Magnificent Mile, turns into a jaw-dropping display of more than one million dancing lights during the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. Festivities kick off on Friday, Nov. 16, with more than a dozen local brands (Connie’s Pizza, Eli’s Cheesecake, Pink Taco, Garrett’s Popcorn, etc.) and family-friendly activities transforming North Michigan Avenue’s Pioneer Court into Lights Festival Lane. The Lights Festival Lane activities continue on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 11AM to 4PM, with free concerts taking place at 11:30AM. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival parade will march down North Michigan Avenue from 5:30 to 7:30PM, featuring appearances from Mickey, Minnie and their Disney friends, and Santa Claus, with fireworks starting at 6:55PM over the Chicago River at North Michigan Avenue.
10. Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum
Morton Arboretum becomes a luminous sea of color from Saturday, Nov. 17 through Tuesday, Jan. 1, at this popular winter event. Visitors at Illumination walk down a one-mile path through a forest, admiring a majestic light display and seasonal music. Some features at this year’s event include a tree-like sculpture from artist HYBYCOZO, a tree that changes colors when you hug it, and campfires stocked with hot beverages and s’mores.