The last few weeks before winter break are the longest. Teachers pile up on the end-of-semester projects, the weather becomes bitter, and finals week looms over the end of December like the Grim Reaper. Yet, there is no need to assume that the holiday season should be plagued by the stress of school or the advent of cold. As winter begins to unfold, a host of fun events awaits you in Chicago, where the low temperature is combated by a fire of holiday excitement. I don’t have 5 golden rings to give you this Christmas, but here is a collection of some of the city’s most popular winter activities. Mark your calendars and make the best of your days off!
Illumination: Tree Lights
Enjoy colorful trees, innovative light displays, and classic wintertime music during Morton Arboretum’s fifth annual “Illumination” event, between November 17, 2017, to January 1, 2018. The event consists of a breathtaking 1-mile walk through 50 acres of trees. Even if you’re not in the mood to venture out of the comfort of a warm bed, fire pits and warm concessions (like hot chocolate!) are available along the way.
The event also has something to offer for everyone. Classical music fans will likely enjoy the Symphony Woods, where lights are synchronized to music recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In Tinsel Harmony, visitors can pull out their best singing voice, and lit tinsel will respond to the song. If you’re an engineering buff, you may admire the durability of eco-friendly LED light displays in Fantasy Forest, where lights sweep across the arboreal landscape in a breathtaking show.
This year adds a new element to the Illumination experience: Illu-medallion, a wearable device available by purchase, allows visitors to interact with the light in their environment by becoming a source of light. It’s an exciting addition to an already amazing event. Tickets for the experience range from $12 to $14 for children and $18 to $22 for adults, and members of the arboretum may apply for discounts.
While most outdoor animals are not available for viewing as the weather becomes colder, Lincoln Park Zoo still delights visitors through its “Zoolights” event, which features more than 2 million lights in display and various seasonal activities. Watch live ice carving demonstrations, browse through the animal-themed gift shop, or stroll through their 100+ giant themed displays! Carousel, train, and Ferris wheel are still in action despite the winter weather, and indoor exhibits remain open for visitors to delight at a myriad of their favorite animals. The event is open November 24–26, December 1–3, 8–23, 26–31, and January 1–7, 2018.
Looking to shop before the holidays begin? Christkindlmarket is an outdoor market inspired by Nuremberg, Germany, and draws in visitors to Daley Plaza, Chicago or Naperville Settlement. It’s open from November 17 – December 24, so plan wisely. Hand-crafted items like nutcrackers and cuckoo-clocks are available for purchase, along with authentic German bratwurst, potato pancakes, and other delicious treats. Another plus: the event is free! Just grab a couple of dollars for purchasing food, gifts, and trinkets, and you’re set to enjoy the market.
Caroling at Cloud Gate
What is a Chicago trip without going to The Bean? Join various choir groups in singing along to holiday music during December 1, 8, or 15, 2017, from 6-7pm, at one of Chicago’s most iconic locations. It’s another free event, and Santa Claus comes in to greet visitors at 5!
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
The newly arriving season also serves as a reminder of the opening of Millenium’s Park popular skating rink: McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. For those who wish to rent out skates, the cost is $12 between Monday to Thursday and $14 between Friday and Sunday and on holidays. The rink also offers skating lessons during Saturday and Sundays at 9 a.m. and Fridays at 11 a.m. And if winter break hours don’t work, there’s no need to fret. The rink is open between November 17, 2017-March 4, 2018.