There's no place on Earth that celebrates the holidays quite like Chicago does. Simply strolling through downtown and our neighborhoods is enough indication of Chicago's joyous holiday spirit. But festivities abound, from special holiday exhibitions to annual holiday traditions such as ZooLights or The Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker, so your schedule will always be full.
If you've ever needed a reason to experience Chicago's magical winter celebrations, here are 10 of them for you to ring in the season.
1. THE UBER-POPULAR "JELLIES" EXHIBIT AT THE SHEDD AQUARIUM IS CLOSING SOON
Jellyfish are some of the most curious and fascinating creatures of the sea, and Shedd Aquarium's Jellies exhibit has been giving people up-close looks at them for years. Sadly, the special exhibit will be closing on January 4, 2015, so now's your last chance to see these gorgeous translucent beings do their thing.
Buy your Shedd Aquarium passes now, and plan a visit to see this super popular exhibit.
2. "TREASURES OF THE WALT DISNEY ARCHIVES" AT THE MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY ALSO TO CLOSE
One of the world's most creative, innovative minds, Walt Disney was a pioneer in the realms of animation, entertainment, and imagination. The Museum of Science and Industry's Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit allows visitors to see 90 years of Disney's work, including costumes, artwork, props and more from theme park attractions to live action films.
This exhibit will be closing on January 4, 2015, so make sure to book a visit today to see this interactive display full of discoveries.
3. LAST CHANCE TO ROCK OUT AT "DAVID BOWIE IS"
This international, award-winning retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie has impressed throngs of visitors since its opening in September. Now, as the exhibit nears its close on January 4, 2015, is the time to head to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see it if you haven't already. This incredible audio-led tour through more than 300 of Bowie's most prized possessions from his storied career is not to be missed.
And because you know someone on your shopping list is a Ziggy Stardust enthusiast, visit the David Bowie Is themed gift shop for some one-of-a-kind items.
4. CHICAGO IS THE BEST CITY FOR OUTDOOR ICE SKATING
Don't let sub-freezing temperatures get you down! The chilly winter season is best experienced outside, and what better way to do so than by lacing up some skates and heading to one of the city's seven outdoor rinks.
Want the best views of the city while you glide across the ice? Enjoy free ice skating daily, weather permitting, on a 16,000 square foot rink in beautiful Millennium Park! Situated just beneath Chicago's iconic Cloud Gate, this rink is open and free to all, all winter long, with skate rentals available for those who do not bring their own skates. There's an additional cost for skate rental.
The 2014-2015 outdoor ice rink season opens November 28 (weather permitting).
5. OUR RESTAURANTS ARE BRIGHTER THAN EVER
As the recent rankings in the 2015 Michelin Guide Chicago indicate, this city is among the finest dining destinations on the planet. Twenty-four restaurants earned stars in the Michelin Guide, with world-renowned Alinea and Grace each earning three stars. Give those taste buds a proper vacation and treat them to the best food they'll encounter.
Follow @ChooseChicago on Twitter for your chance to enter one of our many restaurant giveaways that you can pair with your trip!
6. BE DAZZLED AT LINCOLN PARK ZOO'S ZOOLIGHTS
This free annual, family-friendly holiday celebration features luminous displays of more than one million lights all over Lincoln Park Zoo. See the animals in their habitats at night while glistening lights twinkle overhead. Light showcases set to music will thrill the whole family, and a nighttime carousel ride might be the perfect cap to a romantic evening.
7. EXPERIENCE A TRADITIONAL GERMAN CHRISTMAS AT CHRISTKINDLMARKET
For 35 days, Chicago's Daley Plaza is filled with the finest traditional German Christmas wares, from exquisite glass-blown ornaments to handcrafted accessories and clothing. Christkindlmarket is unquestionably one of Chicago's favorite holiday shopping experiences, a perfect winter outing for all ages. If you're in need of some warmth, try a glass of glühwein, a traditional German hot spiced wine, or stock up on European chocolates, pastries and roasted nuts.
8. BAH, HUMBUG! "A CHRISTMAS CAROL" COMES TO LIFE AT GOODMAN THEATRE
Don't be a Scrooge! See the Goodman Theatre's enchanting production of Charles Dickens' timeless tale this holiday season and watch as Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the feeling of love. The electrifying Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present haunt the stage, met with jubilant musical numbers and irresistible performances.
9. THE JOFFREY BALLET'S "THE NUTCRACKER" SHINES
This year marks the 27th production of the Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker, and the performance has never fallen short of enchanting. Chicago's most popular holiday tradition is a timeless fantasy, with a 19th century American home as the setting in Robert Joffrey's exceptional choreography. Sit back and revel at the beautiful sounds of The Chicago Philharmonic, conducted by Scott Speck, and you'll have an unforgettable holiday experience.
10. HOTEL & SHOPPING DEALS ARE BETTER THAN EVER
Got cabin fever? Chicago has the cure with everything you need to make the most of the winter season. With the best hotel rates and shopping packages of the year, there is no better time than now to visit Chicago. Below are a few examples of some special holiday shopping and accommodation packages.
Kinzie Hotel (pictured)
You've certainly been nice, not naughty this year, so why not treat yourself to Kinzie Hotel's Holiday Shopping Package? Everyone loves the gift of luxury, and this exclusive-filled getaway package is no different. Featuring a welcome gift from H20 Plus and milk and cookies upon arrival, you'll see for yourself what makes Santa so jolly.
Starting rate is $159 and is available until January 31, 2015.
Hotel Burnham's Holiday Lights Package is bursting with goodies. In addition to overnight accommodations, you'll receive two tickets for the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Holiday Lights, City Lights Tour, and hot chocolate and delectable chocolate stout cake at Atwood.
This package is available for stays Friday through Sunday, between November 28 and December 28, 2014. You must book a minimum of 7 days in advance.
Chill out with Hilton Chicago's Just Chillin' Package, including Welcome Mug(s) with coffee or hot chocolate, 20% dining discount on all Room Service orders, 20% dining discount at 720 South Bar + Grill or Kitty O'Sheas, and complimentary Athletic Club access with indoor pool and running track. Enjoy your Chillcation!
For more holiday hotel deals in Chicago, check out the hashtag #HolidaysinChicago.
Make sure you follow @ChooseChicago on Twitter for your chance to enter one of our many restaurant giveaways that you can pair with your trip!