October 22, 2015

Kara Carmichael

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Chicago's festive holiday season returns with robust free programming in Millennium Park and adjacent Maggie Daley Park-hailed as Chicago's new "winter campus." The season kicks off with the debut of the city's 102nd Christmas tree in its new location in Millennium Park; caroling at Cloud Gate (a.k.a. "The Bean"); ice skating in two winter campus locations; and visits with Santa Claus at his new Millennium Park workshop-all making Chicago the premier winter wonderland for visitors.

These new and beloved holiday events downtown and throughout neighborhood communities lead up to a grand culmination along the Chicago River with the city's first-ever New Year's Eve celebration titled Chi-Town Rising. This epic countdown to 2016 will feature headliner musical acts on multiple stages and a dazzling countdown, marked by the rising of a star, symbolic of the city's rise from the ashes following the Great Chicago Fire.

Visitors are encouraged to book now and join in Chicago's unforgettable holiday season. For more inspiration, let this Holidays in Chicago 2015 roundup be your guide through the most wonderful time of year. Follow #HolidaysinChicago for more, including hotel deals. 


McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink (11/13/2015 - 3/6/2016)

Opening Day is November 13 at 11 a.m. Enjoy performances by ice skaters from Ice Reach, a non-profit outreach organization dedicated to promoting participation and involvement in ice sports, and then get on the ice yourself to open the winter season in Millennium Park.

Now in its 13th season, skating remains free. Each year more than 100,000 skaters twirl beneath the twinkling tree lights while enjoying incredible views of the downtown skyline and "The Bean" above. Given its popularity, try to visit during off-times to avoid the large crowds and long lines for skate rentals. 

102nd Annual Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting (11/24)

Welcome the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree to its new location in Millennium Park, a location recognized around the world for its architectural landmarks and cultural programming.

Santa Claus in Millennium Park (11/24 - 12/20)

Welcome Center, 201 E. Randolph St.
Tuesday, November 24 from 6-8 p.m., immediately following the Tree Lighting Ceremony;
Thursday, November 26 (Thanksgiving) noon-3 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from November 28-December 20, noon-6 p.m.

Caroling at Cloud Gate (11/27 - 12/18 on Fridays)

Join the voices of Chicago choral groups at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park for this annual holiday sing-along. Carolers can sing their favorite holiday carols under the stunning reflection of Chicago's skyscrapers.

Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon (November 2015 - March 2016)

This stunning new skating ribbon curves through Maggie Daley Park with gentle bends that wind around pine trees and towering climbing walls. The new neighbor to Millennium Park, it made its debut in 2014. Its path is twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink. Check the Zamboni schedule to avoid ice resurfacing times and bring your own skates to skip the rental line.



Uniqlo (10/23) - new

Uniqlo's Chicago flagship store opens on Oct 23, just in time for holiday shopping. The Japanese retailer will occupy the space above Topshop on the Magnificent Mile (830 N. Michigan), marking the company's first Midwest location and the second-largest in the United States.

Joining Uniqlo in the Magnificent Mile district are Rebecca Minkoff, True Religion, Dior and La Perla.

Latinicity (11/5) - new

Just south of the Chicago River on State Street, Block 37 (108 N State Street) welcomes celebrity chef Richard Sandoval's Latinicity - a 22,000 square-foot market-style food hall dedicated to Latin food and cooking. A truly unique dining experience, Latinicity brings the flavors of Latin America, Spain and Portugal to life like never before.

A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Broadway Playhouse Theatre (11/14/2015 - 1/3/2016) - new

Broadway In Chicago and Emerald City Theatre present A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz. ‘Tis the season to celebrate everyone's favorite Peanuts pals as they dig past the commercialized gimmicks of presents and decorations to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. Through a pageant and a spindly tree, Charlie Brown and friends bring the holiday spirit back to life for families once again! "And for Charlie Brown, it was truly the merriest Christmas ever."

Merry Merry Chicago at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra - (12/18 - 12/23) - new

Merry, Merry Chicago is the newest addition to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's (CSO) treasured collection of holiday programming designed for audiences of all ages. Guest conductor Stuart Chafetz leads this joyous musical celebration which features members of the CSO, guest artists The von Trapps-the great-grandchildren of Captain and Maria von Trapp, who are reinventing the legacy of their birthright for the modern age-and Chicago's own Midwest Young Artists: Voices Rising children's vocal ensemble, directed by Stevi Marks.

Chi-Town Rising New Year's Eve Event (12/31) - new

Chi-Town Rising Presented by Corona Extra and Hosted by Hyatt Gold Passport is a brand new tradition launching this New Year's Eve. A mega-event in the heart of the city, featuring multiple music stages, exciting activities, celebrity guests, a massive glowing Chicago Star rising 350 feet in the air, and a midnight countdown culminating in a dazzling fireworks display the whole city can enjoy. All of the excitement will be broadcast live across the Midwest on NBC.


Macy's Holiday Windows and Great Tree Lighting - (11/7 - December)

A holiday tradition nearly a century old, Macy's on State Street welcomes guests to see the 45-foot-tall Great Tree in the Walnut Room on the 7th floor and all the wonderful holiday window displays. Join a cast of holiday cheer-givers as they kick off the holiday season with the lighting of Macy's Great Tree on November 7.

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at The Museum of Science and Industry (11/19/2015 - 1/3/2016)

Since 1942, the Museum of Science and Industry has celebrated the holidays with an array of Christmas trees and lights in its Rotunda, featuring the Museum's 45-foot Grand Tree surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees beautifully decorated by volunteers from Chicago's ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. This year the Grand Tree will be robot themed in honor of the MSI's special exhibit, Robot Revolution, supported by with additional major support from The Boeing Company. The Grand Tree will be decorated with more than 30,000 twinkling lights and hundreds of ornaments and trimmings - including oversized gears - in bright, vibrant shades. Some of the robots will even help with the tree decorating. Stroll among the surrounding 50 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.

Christkindlmarket (11/20 - 12/24)

One of the most timeless Christmas celebrations takes place within the quaint Main Market Square of Nuremberg, Germany. A tradition that is recreated in Chicago's loop at the 20th annual Christkindlmarket. Inspired by The Christmas Market in Nuremberg, a lively and bustling village of stalls in which more than two million come to enjoy the holiday spirit each year, Chicago's Christkindlmarket features a variety of vendors selling authentic German products, food and drink. Visitors can pick up some potato pancakes and Gluewhein and shop for gifts at this German Christmas festival.

BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival (11/21)

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. 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 in the holiday spirit.

McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade (11/26)

The McDonald's® Thanksgiving Day Parade, now in its 81st year, features Santa Claus, Ronald McDonald and a cast of thousands. Find a spot early along State Street to catch all the excitement on Thanksgiving Day.

Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago (11/27)

As a symbol that the holiday season has arrived, the iconic lions at the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago are adorned with traditional evergreen wreaths. This family favorite, now in its 24th year, welcomes the holiday season, along with live music and family-friendly activities inside the museum.

Holiday One World at the Shedd Aquarium (11/27/2015 - 1/2/2016)

The Shedd-themed, multi-species holiday show features your favorite marine mammals. Set among the twinkling lights in the Abbott Oceanarium, Pacific white-sided dolphins leap, beluga whales breach and sea lions and penguins saunter, showcasing their natural behaviors set to a celebratory soundtrack from around the world.

ZooLights (11/27/2015 - 1/3/2016)

See Lincoln Park Zoo transform into a winter wonderland during the 21st annual ZooLights. This free, family-oriented holiday celebration illuminates the sky with two million lights, including larger-than-life lighted animal and seasonal features, holiday crafts and activities, visits with Santa and sweet treats.

Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden (11/27/2015 - 1/3/2016)

Wonderland Express, the wildly popular model train exhibit, is one of the Chicago area's top holiday "must-sees" and a family-friendly favorite. Look out for Thomas the Tank Engine and a miniature model of aerialist Nik Wallenda, who walked the tightrope between Chicago's Marina City towers!

One of a Kind Show Sale (12/3 - 12/6)                                      

The 15th annual One of a Kind Show is the ideal place to find truly unique holiday gifts. More than 600 talented artists will set up shop at the Merchandise Mart for this year's show selling their one-of-a-kind pieces to be treasured by someone special.

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier (12/4/2015 - 1/10/2016)

Celebrate the season at the 15th annual Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. Chicago's coolest, biggest and best indoor winter playground keeps building excitement with more than 170,000 square feet of fun including new rides, attractions and entertainment.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo (12/5 - 12/31)

Feel the magic of the season at Brookfield Zoo and see more than one million twinkling LED lights, ice-carving demonstrations, light shows, and special visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. A full schedule of nightly music and live entertainment, a magic show, costumed characters, a model railroad display, singing to the animals, and more will get everyone into the holiday spirit.

Dance-Along Nutcracker (12/6)

Sugarplum fairies and mouse kings of all ages and abilities are invited to point their toes to the familiar music of Tchaikovsky's holiday classic with Ballet Chicago at this free performance at the Chicago Cultural Center.

St. Lucia Festival of Lights (12/13)

One of Andersonville's many traditional Swedish events, St. Lucia begins with a torch-lit procession down the sidewalks of Clark Street kicking off at the Swedish American Museum. The procession highlight is the appearance of the specially chosen "Lucia Girls," who will lead the crowd, wearing long white robes and beautiful crowns of candles and singing "The Lucia Song." Children and adults are welcome to join in the procession. Afterwards, all participants are invited to the Lucia celebration at the Swedish American Museum.


A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre (11/14 - 12/27)

More than 1.2 million theatergoers have attended "the crown jewel of the holiday season" since the Goodman established it as an annual offering in 1978 - a time when only a handful of US theaters mounted the production. Dickens' holiday classic is the iconic tale of greedy British businessman Ebenezer Scrooge, whose sizable bank account is only matched by his hatred for the holidays. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts who take him on a spectacular adventure through his past, present and future, helping him rediscover the joys of life, love and friendship.

Santaland Diaries at Theatre Wit (11/20 - 12/30)

Don't miss this beloved antidote to Christmas cheer. A celebration of the desperation of unemployment, the insanity of Christmas shopping and the ineffable "cheer" of the holiday spirit. This holiday classic based on David Sedaris' true comic tale of his hilarious stint as one of Santa's elves at Macy's Department Store returns for its twelfth straight year.

Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker (12/4 - 12/27)

Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker returns for its final season at the Auditorium Theatre. Conceived and directed in 1987 by company founder Robert Joffrey, The Nutcracker brings Tchaikovsky's classic score to life with battling toys, raucous rodents, swirling snowflakes, waltzing flowers and the splendor of the full Joffrey company on stage with over 100 young dancers from the Chicagoland area. A re-imagined Nutcracker will return next season.


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