First Bites Bash tickets are on sale now! First Bites Bash is the official kick-off event for Chicago Restaurant Week, produced by Choose Chicago. Join us inside the magnificent Great Hall at Chicago Union Station for a food-filled evening where you will enjoy savory and sweet tastings from over 50 of Chicago's most celebrated chefs and restaurants.

Executive Chef Paul Kahan will host this year's event, from which a portion of the proceeds will benefit two local charities, Gilda's Club Chicago and Pilot Light. Visit for more information and a link to purchase tickets.

Is your restaurant interested in participating in Chicago Restaurant Week 2014Click here for this year's program overview and link to registration.

For questions about Chicago Restaurant Week or First Bites Bash, contact



Shana Lee to focus on elevating Chicago's brand globallyShana Lee headshot

Joining Choose Chicago as Chief Marketing Officer on November 14, Shana Lee is charged with defining a sales and marketing strategy to further elevate Chicago's brand globally with a mandate to capitalize on record leisure travel to Chicago and to infuse business travel strategies.

Lee, 41, joined Choose Chicago with an extensive global business and marketing background, including technology, mobile innovation and new media across the travel and media/entertainment industries. Most recently, she served as Vice President, Commercial Director Hospitality with UK-based Travelport, the Blackstone-owned travel industry distribution company.  

"When you consider the sheer impact of Chicago's visitor industry and the demands of the organization responsible for marketing it regionally, nationally and internationally, Shana is the right leader to take us to the next level," said Choose Chicago President and CEO Don Welsh.

"She embodies the energy and passion necessary to build upon our marketing, sales and communications strategies to achieve the goals set forth by Mayor Emanuel."

"Chicago is such an amazing brand and I believe it is largely due to the people of Chicago," said Lee. "I have deep family roots in Chicago, and remain thankful for the opportunity to have lived and worked here several years ago.

"The passion and pride Chicagoans have for this amazing city makes it a one-of-a-kind destination for every type of traveler. Mayor Emanuel and Don's team have done a brilliant job of elevating awareness of the destination, and I look forward to working alongside this fantastic team to really showcase to the world a welcoming and vibrant destination. The opportunities for Chicago are endless as long as we have the right strategic plan in place."    



Winter is upon us, which means it's time to grab your hats, gloves and skates and hit the ice! Ice skating is one of the most popular winter traditions in Chicago, a beloved activity for anyone interested in having a lot of fun - and getting in a little exercise, too.

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park, one of the best spots to skate, will stay open through March 9. Admission is free and skates can be rented for $10.

The Peninsula Sky Rink, the Peninsula Chicago's outdoor rooftop skating rink, is another popular place for passionate skaters. Open to hotel, restaurant and spa guests daily, the Sky Rink is four stories up and offers heated lounges on The Terrace for those watching friends and family skate. 

One-hundred percent of proceeds go to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Hephzibah Children's Association. There is a suggested donation of $5 for children 12 and younger, and $10 for adults. 

Park district ice rinks, sponsored by the Chicago Blackhawks, have officially opened for the season and run through February 23, weather permitting.

Locations of outdoor park district rinks are below. Hours vary, so click here for more details.

  • McFetridge Sports Center, 3843 N. California Ave.  *Indoor*
  • McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Rd.
  • Midway Plaisance Park, 1130 Midway Plaisance North
  • Mt. Greenwood Park, 3721 W. 111th St
  • Riis Park, 6100 W. Fullerton Ave.
  • Rowan Park, 11546 S. Avenue L
  • Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave.
  • Wentworth Park, 5625 S. Mobile Ave.  *New* 

Skate rental for all ages is $6. There is an admission fee of $3 for adults, while children and students get in for free with valid ID. Adult admission with skate rental is priced at $7.

Friday evening family skate from 6:30 - 9 p.m. has a special price of $10 per family (includes skate rental).

New this year is Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo! Skating is open to the public at the Farm-in-the-Zoo through March 2. Admission is $5 and skate rental is also $5. Skates can be brought or rented at the Farmhouse.

Skaters can also take the ice at the Chicago Blackhawks indoor rink at WinterWonderfest at Navy Pier, which runs until January 12. Admission is free, but skaters must buy a "premium" wristband to get in, which includes skate rental. Visit the WinterWonderfest site for more information. 

The Daley Bicentennial Plaza rink is closed due to construction of the Maggie Daley Park. There are no longer ice rinks at West Lawn Park or at Wrigley Field because of construction plans for the Wrigley Field property.



Ventra, the new payment system for the CTA and Pace - replacing the Chicago cards and transit passes of the past - allows visitors to get around the city as easily as ever. Just tap and go! 

Users can purchase Ventra cards at CTA vending machines, participating vendors, online or by phone. Listed below are the types of contactless payment methods you can use to get around town:

  • Ventra Card: a transit + optional Debit MasterCard® that can be used for transit and everyday purchases
  • Ventra Tickets: single-ride and One-day passes
  • Personal, contactless, bank-issued credit and debit cards can be used for transit
  • Eventually, compatible smartphones

You can purchase and add value to Ventra Cards just like the old Chicago cards. A $5 one-time purchase fee is refunded as transit value upon registration.

Visitors can also buy disposable paper tickets at CTA rail stations, available as single-ride or one-day passes.

For more information on Ventra, including online account management, its optional prepaid debit account feature, reduced fare eligibility and more, visit the Ventra Chicago website.

Get help with all things Ventra through its customer service department:


PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) is the leading member-based association for the U.S. meetings and convention industry. Each January, the PCMA Convening Leaders conference attracts more than 3,500 meeting professionals to learn about the latest industry trends and topics, earn continuing education credits, and network with industry colleagues. Chicago will be the host city for the 2015 conference and will be in 2014 host city Boston to promote itself for the following year's gathering.

PCMA represents the interests of meeting management executives from associations, non-profit organizations, corporations, independent meeting planning companies, multi-management firms and suppliers to the meetings industry.

Convening Leaders will provide Chicago's visitor industry with a unique opportunity to showcase the destination as the world's most customer-friendly location for meetings, conventions and trade shows. For four days, Chicago will be the hub of the meetings industry, with a substantial and lasting impact.



3:30pm – 6:30pm
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Join Choose Chicago and The Second City as they provide a fun look ahead at the city's hot cultural happenings in 2014. Choose Chicago will also present a high level summary of the cultural tourism strategy for the city, supporting the eighth priority of Chicago's Cultural Plan, positioning Chicago as a global cultural destination. Discover how these can impact your business and more! An invitation will follow in early January.

3:30 - 4:00 - Registration/Check-In
4:00 - 5:00 - Presentation
5:00 - 6:30 - Networking 



Skyline Ballroom, McCormick Place West Building
2301 S. Indiana Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616

As we near the end of 2013, we begin to reflect on the incredible successes from the past year not only as an organization, but as an industry and a destination. The Partnership team hopes you’ll join us on February 27, 2014 as we celebrate those accomplishments and share some of the future initiatives Choose Chicago has planned. Details and registration information will be announced shortly; please save the date.



Time TBD
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club
12294 Archer Avenue
Lemont, IL 60439

Looking forward to the next golf season, please mark your calendar for our annual tournament, the 2014 Chicago Golf Classic. Join Choose Chicago and fellow industry colleagues at the championship courses of Cog Hill in Lemont. Event details and registration information will be announced later in the spring of next year.



Choose Chicago partners now have the opportunity to promote their organization to over half a million visitors by participating in the Choose Chicago Collateral Distribution Program. This program will allow our partners to display their collateral at both official Visitor Information Centers for an annual rate of $500 or seasonal rate of $350 (April-September).

The Official Visitor Information Centers are located at the Chicago Cultural Center at 77 E. Randolph Street and Chicago Water Works at the Historic Pumping Station at 163 E. Pearson Street.

Our City Concierges found at the Visitor Information Centers maximize the visitor experience in Chicago by showcasing the best of what Chicago has to offer through activities, attractions, tours and events. Our knowledgeable team assists visitors with navigating the city, planning customized itineraries, making restaurant reservations and booking tours and attractions. Maps and complimentary concierge services are also available.

For a limited time only, we are offering a special incentive to those partners who enroll for the first time. Sign up for annual distribution by December 13, 2013, and we will offer you an additional brochure slot or $50.00 off the annual rate.

If you would like to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in our collateral distribution program for the 2014 calendar year, you must contact Alicia Silva, Manager of Visitor Services at by December 13, 2013.



Calling all superstars! Choose Chicago is currently looking for enthusiastic and dedicated hospitality professionals to be part of the 2014 Choose Chicago Ambassador Task Force. Ambassadors will have the opportunity to network with peers and Choose Chicago staff and serve Chicago's convention and tradeshow customers through volunteer opportunities.

Click here for more information and the application or contact Courtney White at Completed applications are due by Wednesday, December 18, 2013.



The Chicago Sports Commission was recently announced as a finalist for six different NCAA Championships: Men's and Women's Lacrosse, Men's Hockey, Women's Volleyball and Men's and Women's Gymnastics. Final cities will be announced by the NCAA on December 11th.

To learn about the results of these NCAA bids, as well as upcoming Chicago Sports Commission events, sign up for the Chicago Sports Report.



Join us in welcoming the newest partners to Choose Chicago:



Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry is spreading some Christmas cheer this holiday season with its 72nd annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lights.

This year's theme is inspired by temporary exhibit Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives (running through May 4, 2014), which explores nine decades of The Walt Disney Company's history and more than 300 artifacts. 

The Museum will have its customary 45-foot Grand Tree taking center stage in the Rotunda with more than 30,000 colorful, festive lights and hundreds of ornaments and trimmings.

The celebration runs through January 5, 2014 and is included in museum entry. 

Museum visitors can also enjoy the following free dates in January: 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31




Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo for one of the most brilliant displays of twinkling lights and holiday-season activities for the whole family. ZooLights, the zoo's free annual holiday celebration, is open Friday-Sunday until December 13, after which it will be open to the public nightly (except Dec. 24 & 25) until January 5.

This year, ZooLights has added a new route with even more lights to enjoy. Photos can be taken with Santa Claus until December 23, great for the kids, while the grown-ups can enjoy warms spiced wine and icy lagers, with other free holiday activities for the whole family.



Celebrate the holidays at Millennium Park with Caroling at Cloud Gate, returning for its eighth season. This free 50-minute performance, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, showcases Chicago choral groups and invites visitors to sing along.

Hundreds of singers gather in the park every Friday evening at 6pm for these choral sessions. Two performances remain in December, so make sure to experience this special program.


Shedd Aquarium's must-see aquatic show, A Holiday Fantasea is back - and this year a few lucky audience members will get to meet a dolphin. Through December 24, see dolphins leap, hear beluga whales sing and watch a sea lion dance! A Holiday Fantasea is a "must-sea" for your holiday season.

View showtimes here 



Take in the breathtaking sights of a clear winter sky with Winter Sky Live! at Adler Planetarium. The show uses real-time digital graphics technology to create an accurate simulation of the night sky. Discover the stars, planets and constellations that highlight the winter night sky and witness the beauty of nature's most impressive light show as the Aurora Borealis comes to life right before your eyes.

For showtimes and more information, visit the Adler Planetarium website.



The beloved decorating tradition at The Art Institute of Chicago is back and more festive than ever with 11 rooms dressed in holiday finery. The miniature Thorne Rooms, constructed one inch to one foot, are painstakingly crafted displays of European interiors of the late 13th century to the 1930s.

This year, the 1930s French Library joins the celebration with a tiny taste of Art Deco holiday glamour. Plus, a new long-term loan, a miniature replica of the breakfast room of Frank Lloyd Wright's William Martin House in Oak Park, will be unveiled for the first time. 



The annual German-inspired shopping bazaar has returned to Daley Plaza, bringing its charming selection of hand-crafted holiday gifts and traditional foods and drinks through Tuesday, December 24.

The beloved tradition, which marks 18 years in 2013, features a lineup of special events including a visit from Christkind (the fairy-like figure from German folklore who is the bearer of gifts), a lantern parade, choir performances and caroling. For daily hours and the full holiday schedule, visit



Venture to Navy Pier for the biggest indoor winter celebration in Chicago! Navy Pier's 13th annual Winter WonderFest, has indoor ice skating, rides - including a 50-foot Ferris wheel - attractions and much more. New this year are a whirling Hot Cocoa Cups ride, an Ice Line Express zip line, an inflatable slide Arctic Plunge, and a visit with Santa beneath the Giant Tree (through Dec. 24).

Click here for more information about Winter WonderFest.



The Choose Chicago public relations team has been busy promoting the destination and our partners, resulting in media coverage that recently included these clips:


As Chicago's official destination marketing organization, various Choose Chicago team members travel the world to share our story and encourage visitation to our city. Here's where we'll be connecting with our customers/partners over the next 90 days: 


NCMBP Fall Conference

Philadelphia, PA


IAEE Expo! Expo!

Houston, TX


American Bus Association

Nashville, TN


PCMA Annual Meeting

Boston, MA


Executive Exchange

Washington, DC


Illinois Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Chicago, IL


RSAA Annual Summit

Washington, DC



Sacramento, CA


North American Journeys Summit West

Los Angeles, CA


Global Medical Meetings Summit

Philadelphia, PA


Destinations Showcase DC

Washington DC


National Tour Association

Los Angeles, CA

Will you be attending PCMA’s Convening Leaders in Boston January 12-15, 2014?  Please let us know if you will be attending and are willing to act as a Chicago ambassador by working in our host city booth.  PCMA Convening Leaders will be taking place in Chicago in 2015 and we look forward to encouraging all PCMA attendees to join us!  Please email Lori Adlesick at if you are interested and able to participate.

Additionally, Choose Chicago has several upcoming opportunities for our partners to participate in shows and events around the world, from the Springtime Expo in Washington DC to AIBTM in Orlando. Please see the current opportunities list through 2014 and email if your organization is interested.

For more information, please contact Lori Adlesick, Director of Special Events, at