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CHICAGO'S TOP WINTER TRADITIONS

Cherished annual events, outdoor ice skating, festive tours — these are the Chicago winter essentials.

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From crisp fall days with gem-toned leaves to twinkling holiday lights turning the city into a wondrous snow globe scene, Chicago is glorious this time of year. Annual seasonal traditions, outdoor ice skating, winter tours and more make it a perfect destination for all ages.

Here are the absolute winter musts in Chicago: 

 

Kick Back on a Carriage Ride

Take in the holiday lights snuggled under a blanket via an antique, horse-drawn carriage ride. Find the horses lined all along The Magnificent Mile near historic Water Tower Place, near North Michigan Avenue and Chicago Avenue.

 

Lace up Some BladesMillennium Park Ice Skating

On shimmering winter days, Chicagoans love gliding around one of the city's many outdoor ice rinks. Whether it's the outdoor rink at Millennium Park (pictured above), the new skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, neighborhood rinks sponsored by the Chicago Park District, the rink outside the big red barn at Lincoln Park Zoo or the winter wonderland known as the rooftop Sky Rink at The Peninsula Hotel, there's a skating experience to suit every taste.

 

Grab Some GiftsMacy's Holiday

Chicago is a shoppers' paradise. In fact, the city was just named the No. 2 shopping destination in the country by Travel + Leisure. Stroll high-end boutiques and mega shopping malls along The Magnificent Mile. Admire the extravagant holiday window displays in the Loop at Macy's on State Street.

Or head to neighborhoods like Lincoln Square, Andersonville, the Southport Corridor in Lakeview or Wicker Park/Bucktown for rows of funky shops and festive atmosphere. 

 

Explore with the Kids

ZooLights Chicago

The city is packed with family-friendly fall and winter activities. Don a free pair of 3-D glasses to fully experience ZooLights (pictured above) at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Head to Navy Pier for Winter WonderFest, a massive indoor amusement park of bouncy houses, climbing structures and even a skating rink.

Stroll the authentic German Christkindlmarket (pictured below) at Daley Plaza to buy beautiful glass ornaments and sip cocoa.

Christkindlmarket

Gaze at the sparkling Millennium Park Christmas Tree or the over-the-top tree that nearly touches the Walnut Room ceiling at Macy's on State Street (say hi to Santa while you're there).

Watch the Art Institute of Chicago lions get their traditional evergreen wreaths at the annual ceremony. Or warm up those vocal chords with Caroling at Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean") in Millennium Park.

In Chicago's neighborhoods, attend a sing-a-long at the Music Box Theatre on Southport Avenue or admire the St. Lucia Festival of Lights in Andersonville.

 

Seasonal Traditions

Chicago Restaurant Week

Make your reservations for Chicago Restaurant Week (Jan. 27-Feb. 9, 2017; pictured above) to indulge in special prix fixe menus around the city. Or celebrate the city's world-class theater scene with discounted Chicago Theatre Week (Feb. 9-19, 2017) tickets.

Experience the splendor of Chinese New Year (Feb. 2017) celebrations throughout Chicago with vibrant parades, cultural performances and authentic food. Ring in 2017 in Chicago at a citywide New Year's Eve celebration, Chi-Town Rising (Dec. 31, 2016).

 

Winter Cravings

For soul-warming meals, grab a table at Trencherman (New American) in Wicker Park, Big Jones (Southern favorites) in Andersonville, Sapori Trattoria (Italian) in Lincoln Park or Honey Butter Fried Chicken (comfort food) in Avondale.

 

Festive ShowsNutcracker -- Snow

Theatergoers make annual pilgrimages to shows like Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker (pictured above), Goodman Theatre's A Christmas Carol and The Santaland Diaries at Theater Wit.

 

Stroll Our Museums

Experience Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry, with some 50 trees decorated to represent different countries and holiday traditions. Take in the Freedom, Resistance and The Journey Toward Equality exhibit at The DuSable Museum of African American History. Or revel in the winter night sky with a show at the Adler Planetarium.

 

Embark on a Winter Tour

What better way to see Chicago's magical holiday lights than by a guided tour? Hop aboard Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. for a tour of lights along The Magnificent Mile, as well as Daley Plaza, John Hancock, Macy's and more. Jump on a Segway for Absolutely Chicago Segway's festive Holiday Lights Tour.

Or, see the lights from thousands of feet in the air via a helicopter tour with Chicago Helicopter Experience. Even public transit gets into the spirit with its annual CTA Holiday Train, featuring decorated train cars, holiday music and lights as well as Santa himself as the conductor.

 

Find more things to do and Chicago itinerary ideas for your visit, or pick a neighborhood and start exploring.


Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours
238 E. Monroe
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 552-5100
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-5300
Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 744-6050
Macy's on State Street
111 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 781-1000
The Joffrey Ballet
Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 739-0120
The Magnificent Mile® Association
625 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 401
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 642-3570
Adler Planetarium
1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-7827
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E. 56th Pl.
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 947-0600
Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414
Lincoln Park Zoo
Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000
Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co.
Water Tower Pumping Station
Chicago, IL 60611
(773) 648-5000
The Walnut Room
111 N. State St., Seventh Fl.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 781-3139
The Peninsula Chicago
108 E. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 337-2888
Goodman Theatre
170 N. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 443-3800
Chicago Helicopter Experience
2420 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60608
(855) 414-8687
Trenchermen
2039 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-1540
Big Jones
5347 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 275-5725
Sapori Trattoria
2701 N. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 832-9999
Theater Wit
1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 975-8150
Christkindlmarket Chicago
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 494-2175
Maggie Daley Park
337 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 742-3918
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