Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holiday Happenings Around Chicago

After three, below-freezing days and the city's first snowfall--sort of--it seems winter has finally arrived, which is fitting since it is now officially December. Along with the drop in temperatures and the chance for flurries, December brings on the holiday spirit. (Although many people were probably in full holiday mode once the costumes were stowed away, the pumpkins were tossed and the candy was polished off.) For the rest of us who wait in anticipation for Thanksgiving to be over before decorating the Christmas Tree, December is the time when holiday cheer truly thrives and there are festivities and celebrations galore. Every city features weekly events like concerts, holiday markets, lighting events, parades, gift exchanges and parties, all accompanied by delicious food, warm drinks and fine spirits. So what's happening in the city of Chicago this holiday season? Read on to find out...
Vendor at Christkindlmarket

This annual German-themed market has been going strong since 1996. Set up downtown in Daley Plaza, Kristkindlmarket features traditional German vendors selling everything from handcrafted nutcrackers and blown-glass ornaments to knitted scarves and carved cuckoo clocks. That smell weaving its way through the market, tickling our nostrils and making us salivate is that of the fresh roasted almonds. The popular treat is coated in a variety of flavors like chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, caramel and honey. Apart from these addicting morsels, the market also serves a wide variety of German fare, like sauerkraut, bratwurst, potato pancakes, goulash and strudel. Head over to the beer hall and warm up with a boot-shaped mug of Glühwein, traditional spiced wine, or grab a stein of beer. Kids can enjoy rich hot chocolate from Dinkel's Bakery while they munch on the vendor's famous Stollen, German holiday cake. Christkindlmarket draws thousands of Chicagoans every year, providing a truly unique and memorable experience for them to share with friends and family.
Boots of Glühwein

Ice Skating in the Park
For a fun and physical holiday activity, visit any Chicago public park and skate around on their free ice rinks. (note: There is a fee for skate rentals.) Every year, the Chicago Park District opens outdoor skating rinks for locals to enjoy. The rink in front of Wrigley Field just opened yesterday, Dec. 1, and the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park has been open to the public late November. Bring the kids and skate around under the twinkling lights while holiday tunes blare over the loud speaker.

Caroling and Concerts
Festive music fills the air this time of year, and most of that comes from joyous carolers. To get a glimpse of these talented folks, head over to Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean) in Millennium Park every Friday evening in December to watch a different group perform some of your favorite holiday classics. Caroling at Cloud Gate invites everyone out to enjoy the musical talents of choral groups like the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, the Chicago Children's Choir, Wicker Park Choral Singers and Old Town School of Folk Music.

Carolers in Daley Plaza
There are a number of other concerts and shows that celebrate the holiday season. Check out the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker performances at Auditorium theater, going on between Dec. 10 and Dec. 26. The Goodman Theater features Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol, while Miracle on 34th Street plays over at Porchlight Music Theater. For a mid-day treat, head over to City Hall at noon for the daily concert series held in the LaSalle side lobby.

Holiday Exhibits
All over the city, museums, galleries and attractions are setting up displays and exhibits in honor of the holiday season. The Museum of Science and Industry is showcasing their "Christmas Around the World" and ""Holidays of Lights" exhibits again this year. Over 50 trees decorated to represent different global cultures are spread out around the main level. Visit the Chicago Botanic Gardens to view nearly 750,000 lights twinkle throughout the makeshift winter wonderland. Visit Santa's House under the Picasso sculpture in the loop and tell Santa exactly what you want this year.

Tree in Daley Plaza
Everywhere you look this season, you'll be sure to find flamboyant holiday happenings. There are too many events, shows and activities for me to mention in this post, so be sure to check out neighborhood association or chamber of commerce websites. You can also visit the official site for the Chicago Office of Tourism to find out more about exciting ways to celebrate the holidays.

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