Chicago’s hotels go above and beyond when it comes to decking the halls every holiday season, making for a magical winter getaway. From elaborate gingerbread cityscapes to a rooftop ice rink, these festive displays are guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit — and maybe even inspire a new holiday tradition.
Here are eight must-visit Chicago hotels that feature spectacular holiday decor and events for 2019.
Sky Rink at The Peninsula Hotel
Surrounded by the twinkling lights of Chicago’s skyscrapers, the Sky Rink on the rooftop terrace of The Peninsula Chicago is the tallest ice skating spot in Chicago. Tucked into a pine tree-filled winter wonderland, the charming hybrid rink is perched high above Chicago’s bustling Michigan Avenue.
The cozy on-site chalet will be serving snacks and hot drinks, like cider and cocoa. Admission and skate rentals are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under — all proceeds are donated to Chicago children’s charities. The Sky Rink is open daily through the first week of March 2020, including holidays (based on availability). Hours are subject to change, call (312) 337-2888 for details.
Afternoon tea beneath the Grand Tree at the Palmer House Hilton
For more than a century, the historic Palmer House Hilton has been an opulent place to stay in the heart of Chicago — especially during the holidays. The hotel’s grand lobby becomes a magical holiday scene with the hotel’s soaring 18-foot Christmas tree, decorated with more than 7,000 lights.
The best way to enjoy all that holiday splendor?A traditional holiday tea in the ornate lobby, featuring a live harpist and plenty of seasonal bites and treats. Tea service is available from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday to Sunday through December 29, 2019. The hotel will also be hosting holiday choir performances and a yuletide brunch with Santa on Sundays throughout December.
Holiday movies and Santa’s Workshop at the InterContinental
‘Tis the season at the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, where the luxe hotel’s entire two-story lobby has been transformed into a working Santa’s Workshop. Kids of all ages are welcome to write a letter to Santa or chat directly with Mr. & Mrs. Claus 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. every Saturday through Dec. 21.
The hotel’s historic swimming pool will be transformed, too, into a holiday-themed theatre. The hotel hosts its festive Dive In Movies every Saturday evening throughout the holiday season. Complete with a bag of reindeer mix and a peppermint pool floaty, guests will enjoy a variety of holiday film favorites poolside including Elf, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and more.
Gingerbread house decorating at Waldorf Astoria
Waldorf Astoria Chicago pulls out all the stops for the holidays. From the minute you enter the charming cobblestone courtyard, you’re sure to feel the Christmas spirit thanks to the 20-foot evergreen adorned with dazzling lights.
Inside the lobby, you’ll find a five-foot tall replica of the hotel made entirely of chocolate. If you want to decorate a sweet structure of your very own, the hotel will be hosting gingerbread house decorating classes led by a professional pastry chef. Take your holiday experience to the next level with a stay in the Presidential Suite — the holiday package includes chic holiday decor, a bottle of champagne, and a special tasting menu by celebrity chef Michael Mina.
Giant gingerbread city at the Hilton Chicago
Every year, Hilton Chicago’s lobby is taken over by an elaborate gingerbread display. The sweet scene, hand-crafted by pastry chef Wing Au and his team, is a Chicago-inspired display that pays homage to local landmarks that features a new surprise each year. This year, a cookie version of Soldier Field will honor the nearby stadium and its home football team.
Teddy Bear Tea at Hotel Zachary
Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year at Hotel Zachary at Gallagher Way. During the holidays, little ones and their best stuffed friends are invited to Teddy Bear Tea on Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 30 through Dec. 29. Kids and adults can enjoy local teas, house-made hot chocolate, tea sandwiches, and sweet treats before story time begins.
Even though the Chicago Cubs are hibernating, little cubs will love Winterland at Gallagher Way, located right across the street from the hotel. The festive event offers tons of family-friendly activities, including an ice rink with curling and skating lessons, holiday movie screenings, and a German-style Christmas market with tons of treats and gifts.
The Nutcracker at the J.W. Marriott
One of Chicago’s best holiday traditions is the annual rendition of The Nutcracker by the renowned Joffrey Ballet. Get a taste of the show with the festive Nutcracker Afternoon Tea series at the JW Marriott. Menu items are inspired by classic ballet, like black plum and duck buns and figgy pudding macarons. The series kicks off on Dec. 3, when ballerinas from Joffrey Ballet will be visiting the JW Marriott and mingling with guests. The hotel also offers holiday packages that include ballet tickets and a hotel stay.
Santa Suite at Swissotel Chicago
When the big man in red comes to Chicago, the Swissotel Chicago puts him up in style. Starting on Dec. 7, the hotel’s five-room Presidential Suite is transformed into whimsical Christmas wonderland. During Santa Days, families are invited to enjoy elf-guided tours of the Suite that includes a meet and greet with Mr. Claus. Visitors can also enjoy complimentary hot chocolate, a gourmet food menu, crafts, face painting, and a letter-writing station to create their holiday wish lists. Tickets for the Santa Days are $15; children under age 2 are free, and a portion of proceeds will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois.