Thursday, October 23, 2014

Michael Samm

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With its glittering lights and joyous atmosphere, Chicago is nothing short of a winter wonderland. The city's downtown and neighborhoods shine brightly this time of year, inviting visitors and locals alike to join in the holiday spirit. From special holiday exhibitions and performances to popular annual traditions like the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival to celebrations of the Daley Plaza Christmas Tree, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, there is no better place than Chicago to experience the magic of the holidays and welcome the winter season.

Let this dazzling round up of holiday and winter events be your guide to Chicago's most magnificent season.

For event details and more information on visiting Chicago during the festive November and December months, visit


New in 2014 / 2015

The Testament of Mary - Victory Gardens Biograph Theater (November 14 - December 14, 2014): A 2013 Tony Award nominee for Best New Play, this incisive, intelligent and profoundly challenging work recounts in riveting detail Mary's narrative of the last days in the life of her son, Jesus. Hailed as "beautiful and daring" by The New York Times, acclaimed author Colm Tóibín brings the world's most famous mother to life in this fiercely lyrical solo play.

Holidazed and Confused - Second City Theater (November 16 - December 31, 2014): The Second City presents this hilarious sketch comedy show Holidazed and Confused for its second year this coming winter. Laugh this season with family and friends as Second City skewers all that is right and wrong about the holidays. Suggested Rating: R

A Q Brothers Christmas Carol - Chicago Shakespeare Theater (November 19 - December 31, 2014): A hip-hop holiday treat set to a bangin' beat! Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago hip-hop sensation the Q Brothers-creators of Othello: The Remix and Funk It Up About Nothin'-have toured around the world, playing to sold-out houses in Edinburgh, Germany, South Korea, Australia and London. Now the team turns up the volume on Charles Dickens' classic tale, mixing everything from reggae, dancehall and dubstep to epic rock ballads. The Ghosts of Hip-hop Past, Present and Future lead Scrooge on a journey filled with rhythm, rhyme and redemption.

Brew Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo (December 3, 2014): A savory selection of holiday cheer will be on tap at the first-ever BrewLights Presented by Louis Glunz Beer. This new beer-tasting event takes place during ZooLights Presented by ComEd and PNC Bank-one of Chicago's most loved holiday traditions-adding a dazzling dimension to the adult fun. Guests will enjoy a dozen different draft beer samples, then have the opportunity to purchase additional pours of their favorite brews. Food will also be available for purchase.

The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show - City Winery (December 11, 2014): The Blind Boys of Alabama are recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music. Celebrated by The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) with Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and winners of five Grammy® Awards, they have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 60 years.

Frozemont New "Polar Peak" Four Story Tube Hill - MB Financial Park in Rosemont (December 12, 2014 - January 19, 2015): FROZEMONT's centerpiece is the four-story "Polar Peak," which will take visitors on a tubing thrill ride Dec. 12 - Jan. 19. Anyone seeking the ultimate snow tubing experience should look no further than Polar Peak's 260-foot run which will send them racing down a steep grade. Sponsored by "Disney on Ice presents Frozen" and constructed in partnership with StackBox Structures, Polar Peak features five distinct lanes, including a less steep lane for younger children.

Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival (January 14 - 25, 2015): The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival was founded to establish Chicago as a prominent center for the art of puppetry. This biennial Festival will present the highest quality local, national, and international puppet shows in venues across the city. Invited artists will lead workshops, public presentations and talks as an integral part of the Festival offerings. Additionally, the Festival will host the Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium devoted to the advancement of scholarship and research in the field of puppetry.

Disney on Ice Presents: Frozen - United Center (January 28 - February 8, 2015): The 34th Disney On Ice spectacular will bring the Academy Award® winning and number one animated feature film of all time, Disney's Frozen, to life. "Build a snowman" this fall season with the whole family!


Free Holiday Events

Macy's Holiday Windows and Great Tree Lighting (November 8, 2014 - January 11, 2015): Standing 45 feet tall, the Great Tree is adorned with 42 LED star ornaments ranging from 18 inches to 30 inches across along with other more traditional holiday ornaments and twinkle lights. Join a cast of holiday cheer-givers as they kick off the holiday season with the lighting of Macy's Great Tree on November 8, 2014.

McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink in Millennium Park (November 14, 2014 - March 7, 2015): 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. Additional cost for skate rental.

Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza (November 21 - December 24, 2014): One of the most timeless Christmas celebrations takes place within the quaint Main Market Square of Nuremberg, Germany. The Christmas Market is a lively and bustling village of stalls in which more than two million come to enjoy the holiday spirit. Thanks to Chicago's international communities, you can enjoy the unique villages of Christkindlmarket right in the Loop, now in its 19th season!

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (November 22, 2014): The stretch of Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Oak Street, known as The Magnificent Mile, turns into a winter wonderland every holiday season. On the Saturday before each Thanksgiving, the "Mag Mile's" towering hotels and shops light up in glorious fashion, with more than one million lights adorning 200 trees! Plus a parade and a fireworks show over the majestic Chicago River end the night's festivities. The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is the perfect opportunity to get you in the holiday spirit!

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Daley Plaza (November 25, 2014): The City of Chicago is proud to present the 101st Anniversary of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Daley Plaza, Tuesday, November 25.

McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade (November 27, 2014): Ronald McDonald, Santa and a cast of thousands march down State Street as over 400,000 people line the route from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street. Whether you're gazing at the gigantic helium balloons, moving to the beat of the marching bands or waving at the entertainers in decorative floats, there is fun for all at the biggest holiday parade in the city and the only one in Chicago to feature inflatable balloons every year.

Millennium Park: Caroling at Cloud Gate (November 28 - December 19, 2014): Chicagoans and visitors alike are invited to Cloud Gate in Millennium Park to hear the beautiful voices of different Chicago choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along. After the holiday sing-along, everyone is encouraged to skate at Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago (November 28, 2014): Start the holidays with a roar at this Chicago family favorite. Our beloved lions don their traditional evergreen wreaths at the Michigan Avenue entrance as you warm up with complimentary hot chocolate and live music.

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo (November 28, 2014 - January 4, 2015): ZooLights is a spectacular holiday celebration that transforms Lincoln Park Zoo into a winter wonderland. This free event illuminates the sky with more than two million lights, including larger-than-life lighted animal and seasonal features, holiday crafts and activities and, of course, sweet treats. Be sure to swing by the Helen Brach Primate House for a visit with Santa Claus as well. Take a ride on the brand new Lionel Train Adventure through the snowy birch forest and craggy canyon. Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo returns this holiday season. Skate past ponies and glide next to goats at the rink at Farm-in-the-Zoo. Warm winter drinks and snacks are available for purchase as well.

Kwanzaa Candle Lighting Celebration at the Dusable Museum (December 26 - December 31, 2014): Join us at the DuSable Museum for our annual Kwanzaa Holiday Celebration. Kwanzaa is a 7 day celebration (December 26-January 1) originated in the United States and is now celebrated throughout the African Diaspora. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga and this celebration honors African-American heritage, history, and culture through the seven principles known as Nguzo Saba.

New Year's Eve Fireworks at Navy Pier (December 31, 2014): New Year's Eve festivities include TWO fireworks displays - a family display at 7pm, and the traditional fireworks display at midnight.

Chicago Chinese New Year (February 19 - March 5, 2015): Chinese New Year 2015 will be celebrated citywide, with special events from February 19 through March 5. The celebration includes a kickoff event on February 19 at the Chicago Cultural Center presented by the Chinese Fine Arts Society, along with a Chinese New Year Parade on February 22, and a Lantern Festival on March 1st at Navy Pier. Chicago has the second-largest Chinatown in the United States, and the city's tourism officials are expecting visitors from around the country as well as from China, where Choose Chicago is giving the event heavy promotion. Cultural performances and demonstrations, along with special hotel, retail and restaurants promotions are all part of the festivities.


Can't Miss Holiday Traditions 


Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights - Museum of Science and Industry (November 13, 2014 - January 4, 2015): As always, the Museum's 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the Rotunda, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees beautifully decorated by volunteers from Chicago's ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. Stroll through the trees, enjoy intermittent falling "snow" and savor the performances on the Holiday Stage. School choral groups perform during the week, and ethnic song and dance performances take place on the weekends in conjunction with the exhibit. Included in Museum Entry.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas The Musical at the Chicago Theater (November 20 - 29, 2014): Audiences will find their hearts growing a few sizes (along with the Grinch's heart, of course) when they witness the magic of the holiday tale on stage, which will feature the hit songs, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "Welcome Christmas," both from the original animated television special. Max the Dog serves as the story's narrator as the scheming Grinch plans to steal Christmas away from The Whos, the loveable characters that understand and embrace the true meaning of the holiday. When the Grinch realizes that he can't take Christmas away from Who-ville by taking presents, he returns the gifts and decorations and joins the festivities, proving that all it takes is a little kindness and joy to make any Grinch not so mean after all.

Holiday Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago (November 22, 2014 - January 4, 2015): The beloved decorating tradition is back-and more festive than ever-with the addition this year of the traditional Chinese interior set to ring in the Chinese New Year! Plus, a new long-term loan, a miniature replica of a Pullman Observation Car that was exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, is unveiled for the first time.

Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden (November 28, 2014 - January 4, 2015): Wonderland Express is one of the Chicago area's top holiday "must-sees," and a family-friendly, made-for-memories experience.

Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo (November 28-30; December 1-23; December 26 - March 1):The first season of Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo last year was a huge success! The ice rink at the Farm-in-the-Zoo was a hit with visitors, introducing an exciting, new Chicago winter tradition. Guests of all ages can once again enjoy skating throughout the winter-renting skates or bringing their own-plus refreshments. The rink is even open during ZooLights Presented by ComEd and PNC Bank, providing an after-hours glow-and-glide experience. 

The Nutcracker - Joffrey Ballet (December 5 - 28, 2014): Don't miss the glorious Chicago holiday tradition: America's #1 Nutcracker! A grand production with Tchaikovsky's glorious score played live by The Chicago Philharmonic.

Winter Wonder Fest at Navy Pier (December 5, 2014 - January 11, 2015): Find thrills without the chills inside the 14th annual PNC Bank Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier, featuring 170,000 square feet of Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating and more than 25 rides including an indoor Ferris wheel, attractions and so much more.

Hanukkah Concert at the Chicago Botanic Garden (December 21, 2014): The Klezmer kickoff to the holiday season that's fast becoming a family tradition: music by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band (includes a visit to Wonderland Express).




Unique Holiday Shopping Experiences

The Tie Bar Pop Up (Lincoln Park, October 17, 2014 - January 4, 2015): The Tie Bar, the #1 destination for men's accessories, will open a pop-up shop in Chicago through January 4, 2015. Located at 918 West Armitage in the heart of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, the brand's first pop-up shop concept will remain open for two months and offer an exclusive sampling of The Tie Bar's latest offerings. 

Randolph Street's Holiday Market (West Loop, November 22 + 23, December 13 + 14, 2014): recommends the Randolph Street's Holiday Market for "Top holiday shopping." So join us and stretch your stylish dollars to the max this holiday season! Presented by the producers of the Randolph Street Market, the Holiday Market provides a unique mix of smartly priced antique, vintage and modern goods makes for a simple and convenient one-stop shopping for memorable and custom-made gifts.

One of a Kind Show and Sale (Downtown / Merchandise Mart, December 4 - 7, 2014): The 14th annual One of a Kind Show and Sale® Chicago is Chicago's holiday shopping show! A refreshing alternative to traditional retail, the show is the ideal place to find one-of-a-kind gifts for everyone on your holiday list. More than 600 talented artists from across North America will bring their imaginative, handmade creations to this year's show offering a wide range of media and categories.

Renegade Craft Fair December Market (Bridgeport, December 6 - 7, 2014): The Renegade Craft Fair Chicago December Market has a new home! On December 6+7 RCF will host its Holiday Market at the stunning BRIDGEPORT ART CENTER, located at 1200 W. 35TH ST. with the iconic Chicago skyline as a backdrop. A unique array of 100+ indie makers will be joining the festivities for your holiday shopping needs!

Julmarknad (Andersonville, December 6 - 7, 2014): During the yearly Julmarknad festival, the Swedish American Museum features a handicrafts fair with traditional Swedish food and entertainment.* In addition, select Andersonville businesses join the fun with FREE music, refreshments and more.

Do Division Holiday Fest (Wicker Park, December 7 - 8, 2014): The West Town Chamber of Commerce and Wicker Park & Bucktown Chamber of Commerce are urging big retail chain holiday shoppers to refocus attention on the small businesses in one of the most charming retailer corridors, West Division Street in Wicker Park. On December 7th & 8th between 11 am and 6 pm, Division between Ashland and Leavitt is transforming into Do-Division Holiday, a neighborhood "festival-like" atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the city this holiday season. The free, family-friendly event will transport Michigan Avenue shoppers via complimentary "jolly trolley" to Division Street to give holiday shoppers a taste of what makes the "shop small" experience so distinct.

Holidose (West Loop, December 14, 2014): On Sunday, December 14th get a HoliDose: the food, fashion and gifts to celebrate and give to the ones you love. An ever-dynamic marketplace devoted to showcasing the finest designers, chefs, makers, bakers, entrepreneurs and artists, Dose is the place to discover those in Chicago doing the holidays right. There's no better way to buy for everyone on your list!

New To Mag Mile Holiday Shopping This Year:

Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio (520 N. Michigan Ave.): Opened in early October this year in The Shops at North Bridge, this new Neiman Marcus Last Call studio will offer shoppers the chance to act fast on in-season apparel and accessories at up to 65% off from major worldwide brands. Shop designer on a budget for all those on your shopping list - and for yourself here and there! - with this newest studio located on E. Ohio St just next to Eataly Chicago.

True Religion Brand Jeans (540 N. Michigan Ave.): Also new to The Shops at North Bridge this fall, True Religion Brand Jeanes has now opened their first Chicago location. Headquartered in California, True Religion has been redefining premium denim since 2002, now with over 125 stores in the U.S. and 31 overseas. As tends to happy when shopping amidst Chicago's finest holiday store offerings, you might just find yourself being fitted for your own pair before walking out.

Athleta (101 E. Oak St.): Watch out, Dolce & Gabbana and Tom Ford - you've got a new neighbor on Oak Street of the casual sporty persuasion. Athleta, The Gap's women's athletic clothing brand, is now open among the luxury boutique clientele of Chicago's Oak Street in a 5,400-square-foot, two-story storefront. 


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