Even with the
chilly weather, Chicago is bustling with winter excitement, from festive
performances and displays, to themed tours and celebrations, to indoor and
outdoor activities. With everything that's going on, it's tough to know where
to start. Here are some tips on must-see events and entertaining tours to help
you get a jump start on your winter tour in Chicago.
Performances and Exhibits
Chicago is known
as a theater town, with five Tony Award®-winning theaters and hundreds of
acclaimed performances under its belt. The winter season brings wonderful new
shows to town, as well as some treasured favorites that are not to be missed.
A classic winter
performance enjoyed by locals and visitors alike is Joffrey Ballet's rendition of The
Nutcracker, a grand production set to the world-renowned score by
Tchaikovsky (Dec. 6-28; group
discounts for 10 or more). The Chicago
Symphony Orchestra's Welcome Yule!
is a heartwarming holiday event that features cherished carols and new
arrangements, as well as sing-alongs and traditional tunes like "Christmas in
Chicago" (Select dates in Dec.).
The Broadway Playhouse will host Rudolph
the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The MusicalTM this holiday seasons, bringing the
original animated television special to life on stage (Nov 14-Dec. 29). Another option is Elf the Musical at Cadillac Palace Theatre, the modern day
Christmas tale of Buddy, an orphan child raised by elves who journeys to New
York to find his birth father (Nov.
museums also like to get in on the holiday action with special exhibits and
events. The Shedd Aquarium welcomes
back its multi-species aquatic show, A
Holiday Fantasea, held in the Abbott Oceanarium. It features white-sided
dolphins, belugas, sea lions and penguins, all showing off their natural
behaviors to a festive soundtrack from around the world. The Shedd is also
showing the Polar Express 4-D feature, which engages all the senses through
effects, such as airbursts, seat buzzers and spouts of water (Nov. 29-Dec.28).
The Museum of Science and Industry will
celebrate the season once again with its Christmas
Around the World and Holidays of
Light exhibits. This tradition, dating back to 1942, features a 45-foot Grand
Tree at the center of the museum Rotunda, surrounded by more than 50 smaller
trees decorated to represent different cultures (Nov. 14-Jan. 5, 2014).
months make walking and biking around Chicago a little difficult, but there are
still plenty of tours that let your tour group explore the city while staying
warm at the same time. Chicago's Finest
Tours has a whole collection of tours designed specifically for winter that
take groups through Chicago's heated Pedway while a guide tells captivating
stories of the city's history (Nov. 1-May
There are a
variety of seasonally themed tours that explore holiday happenings in Chicago,
such as Holiday in the City from About
Tours and Windy City Yuletide Spectacular from Accenting Chicago (Nov.-Dec.). Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co.
also offers a Holiday Lights Tour that takes you past Macy's on State Street's
holiday windows and other stops as you venture from Christkindlmarket to the
Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo. Warm up with a nice mug of hot cocoa-or
three-with Chicago Chocolate Tours,
which offers guided tours and tastings at select chocolate shops, bakeries and
cafés around Chicago (Year-round).
Despite the cool
air, there are still plenty of outdoor places to enjoy Chicago. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in
Millennium Park opens in November and stays open through March, and provides
groups non-stop skating fun. Get some fresh air and exercise with a snowshoe
adventure at Northerly Island, one of
the best-kept secrets in Chicago.
Sledding is also
a great winter activity. Head on over to Soldier
Field Sledding Hill, which sits on 30 acres of parkland surrounding the
stadium and features a 220-foot slope. For something a little more relaxing, take
a nice carriage ride through the lighted streets. Tours are available through Chicago Horse & Carriage, LTD, and Antique Coach & Carriage Company.
While your group is in
town, make sure they check out some of the festive events going on around
Chicago. The BMO Harris Magnificent Mile
Lights Festival (Nov. 23) is a
celebration featuring live concerts, a parade, a fireworks finale and more than
a million lights on 200 trees. Head over to Daley Plaza to see the lighting of
the iconic Christmas Tree for its
100th anniversary (Nov. 26).
Now in its 18th year, the Christkindlmarket has become a major Chicago attraction. The German market runs from Nov. 26-Dec.
24 and features traditional fare, goods and classic German cuisine (Local tip:
Try the hot spiced wine, called Glühwein, it comes in a souvenir boot-shaped
mug). Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier
includes an indoor ice rink, rides, an indoor Ferris wheel and much more (Dec. 6-Jan. 12, 2014).