Since the winter holiday season is one of my favorite times of year in Chicago, here are some of my favorite fun things to do. For a complete list check out Explore Chicago or Winter Wonderloop
1) Kicking off the holiday season on Nov 17, 2012, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival with a parade, fireworks, concerts, fireworks and more.
2) Macy's is carrying on Marshall Field's tradition of the Walnut Room, the lighting of the 45 foot Christmas tree is November 3, 2012, the windows theme is making a celebrity ornament. Anyone else miss Marshall Field's? November 10, 2012-January 2, 2013
3) A couple of blocks from Macy's on State Street is the German Christkindlmarket, see separate tip in shopping, Nov 20-Dec 24, 2012, tree lighting ceremony at Daley Plaza, November 20, 2012 at 4:30pm
4) Hop on the Holiday Train, 6 car el train decorated for the holidays, from November 25-December 22, 2011 (not announced yet for 2012)
5) Museum of Science and Industry hosts Christmas Around the World featuring trees decorated by Chicago's ethnic communities (Nov. 25, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013)
6) Live theater- "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman, Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker", Do it yourself "Messiah" at the Harris Theater, "Santaland Diaries", "The Christmas Schooner" at the Mercury Theater, and "A Christmas Story" at the Chicago Theater are just a few of the offerings. Click here for the Chicago Tribune's top 10 picks
7) Several of the downtown hotels have holiday teas. The Drake is probably the best known. Reservations are recommended, during the holidays there is harp music and sometimes Christmas carolers.
8) Lincoln Park Zoo has ZooLights Friday, Saturday & Sunday nights beginning Nov. 23–25 & Nov 30-Dec 2, 7-9, 14-16 Open Nightly Dec. 21–Jan. 6 (Closed Dec. 24 & 25) 5-9 p.m. Free
9) Ice skating at Millennium Park Nov. 16, 2012 – March 17, 2013
10) Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier Nov 30, 2012-Jan 6, 2013
11) On New Year's Eve, head to Buckingham Fountain for the fireworks display
12) Winter Wonderland at the Hancock with the holiday train and Santa's sleigh, Nov 13-Dec 31, 2011 (2012 not announced yet)
13) Caroling at Cloud Gate (better known as the bean) in Millennium Park Nov. 23–Dec.21, 2012 6 pm every Friday
The Magnificent Mile is roughly bounded by:
Chicago River on the south
Oak Street on the north
Lake Michigan on the east
Orleans Street on the west
If you are fortunate enough to be in Chicago during the Thanksgiving or Christmas Holidays, you will be awed by the decorations, goodwill, and entertainments available.
One of the city's traditions is the lighting of North Michigan Avenue for the last 39 years.
In 1992, the custom was enlarged with a public procession. Now, it draws one-quarter million people to the North Michigan Avenue area for a heart-warming celebration of the beginning of the holiday season.
It usually starts about 10:00 a.m. at Equitable Plaza (401 Michigan Ave) with live holiday stage shows (usually from Walt Disney World troupe).
Around dusk (6 p.m. when a magical procession steps onto the Boul Mich from Oak Street.) Bands, floats, and Santa himself are in the procession. One-half hour later, at Equitable Plaza, 6000,000 dazzling lights appear on 150 trees. Then choreographed fireworks are presented.
Other celebrations include Santa Claus at Chicago's Historic Water Tower Visitor Welcome Center at the corner of Michigan and Chicago avenues. Salvation Army Youth Brass Band at Ameritech's Holiday Central in Water Tower Park, Navy Pier's Celebrations, Brookfield Zoo's Celebrations, and wonderful window decorations, especially Marshall Fields.
Fondest memory: Children love these celebrations, especially the lighting of the trees in the Festival of Lights. It's worth fighting the crowds and sometimes the cold to see this fabulous celebration of the holiday season in the beautiful city of Chicago.
Halloween seems to be the 2nd most celebrated and decorated holiday in Chicago behind Christmas, the Halloween decorations go up in early October and there are many frightening activites for ghouls and goblins both young and old. Here are a few of the local happenings to check out during the month of October:
1)Chicagoween-go check out the fun at Daley Plaza, the fountain is dyed orange, there's a spooky village and there are daily performances by Midnight Circus
2) Navy Fear at Navy Pier
3) Boo at the Zoo-Brookfield Zoo
4) Haunted el rides
5) Haunted Sanitarium-Theater on the Lake
6) Spooky Seas-Shedd Aquarium
7) State Street Halloween Happening-parade, trick or treating, costume contests, etc.
And Chicago is, indeed, a city of festivals. From Grant Park to all the different neighborhoods around the city, there's something going on every weekend - especially in the summer.
In Grant Park, check out the Blues Festival, Country Music Festival, Jazz Festival and, especially Taste of Chicago (beware, though, it gets CROWDED). Taste generally happens in July. There's also arts festivals, food festivals, all sorts of festivals. Be sure to check one out when you're in town.
Favorite thing: A food festival is held every year in Chicago. The Taste of Chicago offers people the culinary specialties from almost 100 restaurants in the Chicago area. Because of Chicago's diverse population and restaurants, you get to taste food from many parts of the world. There's Italian, Polish, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and even food from Africa and the Caribbean. Of course there is also typical Chicago dishes like deep dish pizza and hot dogs. Although the food is a little overpriced, you still should experience the fun festival. It is held in Grant Park for 11 days with the last day on Independence Day (July 4).
Every St. Patricks Day the city of Chicago holds a large parade and dyes the Chicago River green in honor of the holiday. Celebrate along the parade route with a mug of green beer.
Fondest memory: I was in Chicago in 1991 when the movie "The Fugitive" staring Harrison Ford was being filmed. I was watching the St. Patrick's Day parade. Unfortunatly I didn't get in the movie but it was pretty cool just to be there.
Yes, yes, I know the Pride Parade now bends to corporate will, but everyone still has a good time! June is Pride Month, and the parade is always on the last Sunday.
Favorite thing: Watch the 4th of July fireworks from a hotel balcony overlooking the Navy pier. We watched from the old Holiday Inn near the pier.
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