Full disclosure? I’ve been binge watching episodes of Shameless for the past couple of months and it’s giving me a hankering to revisit the city Of Chicago. While now might not be the best time to travel, I figured I could revisit virtually while writing this article. It also helps that the city fits the theme being that it’s a great Christmas destination.
Chicago winters get pretty cold so you just might be in for a white Christmas when you visit. Here are some activities that will bring the holiday fun.
Zoo Lights in Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is always a fun place to visit. It’s especially exciting at Christmastime when it is all lit up with 2.5 million lights making for displays around every corner. There are also special events like a pop-up bar, adults’ night out, live music performances and more.
If you haven’t gotten your fill, you can also head over to the more suburban Brookfield Zoo to check out their Holiday Magic display. Stroll along the paths to check out the LED lights and the 600-foot Tunnel of Lights for a music synchronized show.
Other Light Displays
In addition to the zoo, there are many light displays around the city. The Chicago Botanical Garden hosts a Lightscape. You can also head over to check out Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum. These are both phenomenal immersive light experiences.
You can also walk around town to check out the home decorations. While doing so, you will want to pass through Chicago’s most famous street, the Miracle Mile. The Lights Festival there is a spectacle to behold.
Go Ice Skating
Ice skating is a fun holiday activity and Chicago has plenty of rinks where you can slide and glide. Maggie Daley Park is known for having a skating ribbon that curves through the park providing the utmost of scenic views. The best part is, it’s free. However, you will have to make a reservation in advance.
Other great ice skating destinations include Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park and the Gallagher Way rink in Wrigleyville. (Note: For those not in the know, Gallagher is the name of the family in Shameless. Hmmm…makes me wonder.)
See the Tree in Millennium Park
After you are done at Maggie Daley Park, head over to nearby Millennium Park to check out Chicago’s official Christmas tree. The tree has been an annual tradition for 107 years and it is a sight to behold. It makes for a terrific photo opp.
See a Drive in Movie
During the holidays, you can bet that drive-ins are showing the old classics. It’s a great time to get cozy in your car and take in the nostalgia. Favorite spots include ChiTown Movies in Pilsen that is likely to be showing old favorites like Love Actually, Elf and The Polar Express. Or you can heed over to the Lincoln Yard Drive In to see A Christmas Story, Die Hard and Home Alone. (And yes, Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas movie!)
Do Holiday Gift Shopping
As a bustling metropolis, you can bet that Chicago has plenty of places where you can do some terrific holiday shopping. The Magnificent Mile is one of the city’s most iconic shopping districts and its known for its department stores, luxury showrooms and retail chains.
If you haven’t had enough to sate your shopaholic proclivities, head over to State Street which is another great place to pick up one of a kind items.
And if you want something truly unique, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with Chicago’s many boutiques where you can find things like vintage items, artisan goods and locally crafted denim.
The Christkindlemarket is held every year at Chicago’s Daley Plaza throughout the holiday season. It’s a great place to buy ornaments, food, sweets, wine and artisan made goods.
Eat at the Walnut Room
The Walnut Room is a terrific place to enjoy a holiday meal. It’s located inside of Macy’s on State Street and during Christmastime, it is always decked out with an impressive tree and fantastic holiday display windows.
Take the Holiday Train
It’s a Chicago tradition for the holiday train to make its way through the city each year. This CTA train is dressed up with holiday lights and scenes and Santa is even on board. Just as any train, it runs its regular route to pick up and drop off passengers, only during Christmas, it’s just a bit more festive. There’s a holiday bus as well.
Drink Hot Chocolate
When it comes to hot chocolate, Chicago cafes are the bomb. You can try Mexican hot chocolate at Kristoffer’s Café and Bakery in Pilson or XOCO in River North. Katherine Anne Confections and BomboBar are also known for making a rich cup of cocoa.
Visit a Museum
Chicago has plenty of museums that are worth checking out during your visit. Many have exhibits that are designed to bring Christmas cheer. The Museum of Science and Industry has an annual Christmas Around the World exhibit with 50 decorated trees that represent how cultures around the world celebrate.
The Art Institute of Chicago has a Wreathing of the Lions where staff members place wreaths around the necks of the lions in front of the building. Guests in attendance are given hot chocolate. Then they can head inside to check out the terrific artwork.
See the Shameless House
Okay, this one might not exactly be a Christmas activity, but I’m going to bring it full circle by mentioning a visit to the Shameless House. The house is located at 2119 South Homan Ave and there is a sign in front that says “Shameless fans, you are welcome to come inside the gate and take pictures on the porch.” I’ll be there.
What will you be doing during your Chicago winter vacation?