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Holiday Happenings

Written by  Gianna Bamonti
Photo by Herbert Migdoll Photo by Herbert Migdoll

The holiday season in Chicago is a magical time of year. The city is twinkling with lights, bustling with shoppers, and there’s no shortage of fun to be had in the wintry weather!  Read on to find out our top-picks for festive experiences around town.

Holiday Staples

Daley Plaza has been transformed into the Christkindlmarket, a traditional open-air European holiday market (through Dec. 24).  Here you’ll find handmade gifts, toys, and ornaments, delicious German and Austrian fare, live holiday music, and the perennial favorite glühwein, a hot, spiced wine.

Looking for a place to bring out-of-town relatives and entertain the whole family? Head to the Museum of Science and Industry and see trees decorated to represent different countries’ holiday celebrations at Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light (through Jan. 5).  Additionally, there will be weekend performances of ethnic music and dance.  While you’re there, be sure to check out the new Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives special exhibit and tour the U-505 submarine!

Lincoln Park Zoo glitters with Zoolights (through Jan. 5), its annual outdoor festival featuring live ice carving demonstrations, visits with Santa, holiday crafts, animal encounters, tasty snacks, musical light shows, and an ice skating rink!  Bring new or gently used winter clothing and coats for the Coat Drive as donated items will be distributed to various Chicago charities.

Keep the kids occupied through those frosty January days at Navy Pier’s Winter Wonder Fest (Dec. 6-Jan. 12), a fantastic indoor winter carnival featuring live entertainment, holiday crafts, rides, ice skating, games, and more.

On Stage

Enjoy some theater with the family and make plans to see A Christmas Carol (through Dec. 28) at the Goodman Theatre featuring the talented Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge, or the Joffrey Ballet’s enchanting performance of the Nutcracker (Dec. 6-28).  Be inspired as the Apollo Chorus performs Handel’s masterpiece, The Messiah, at the Harris Theatre, a joyful holiday tradition since 1879 (through Dec. 21).

For something a bit more raucous, be sure to check out Theatre Wit’s hilarious performance of Santaland Diaries (through Dec. 29), David Sedaris’s personal account of working as a Macy’s elf during the holiday season. Chicago’s legendary Second City comedy troupe will have you roaring with laughter at The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Show (Dec. 7-30).

Local Favor

Find unique items for everyone on your gift list at the One of a Kind Show, featuring 600 juried artists at the Merchandise Mart (Dec.5-8).  Enjoy fashion shows, gourmet cafes, and live music.  Still haven’t found the perfect gift?  Head over to the Pulaski Fieldhouse for the Renegade Craft Fair (Dec. 7-8), featuring the best of indie designers and artisans showcasing their wares for savvy shoppers.

To beat the winter doldrums, you can laugh the blues away at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (Jan. 9-19) at Stage 773, which has been named “Chicago’s best performing arts festival” by the Chicago Reader. Visit Chicago’s longest-running fringe festival at the Prop Thtr for Rhinoceros Theatre Festival (starts Jan. 12), showcasing a wild variety of independent theater, music, multimedia and performance art from the who’s-who of the local fringe scene.

About the Author

Gianna Bamonti is a concierge at The Peninsula Hotel and contributor to the Chicago Travel Blog. Find out what else tops her list of things to do by visiting

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 12:51