The festive backdrop of Chicagoland in December adds even more excitement to the approaching holidays. With a variety of seasonal events and cold-weather activities underway, you’ll have no trouble finding things to do as you celebrate with family and friends. Your countdown to the holidays starts now with this list of experiences that prove it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.
Make Smiling Your Favorite at Elf’d Up
Located in Lakeview, Elf’d Up is a seasonal pop-up bar and restaurant inspired by one of the most iconic – and funny – holiday movies around. Based on the 2003 film, Elf, the venue offers an over-the-top holiday ambiance and coordinating menu options featuring some of Buddy’s favorite meals, and of course, sweet treats. Check out the Naughty List with holiday themed cocktails, brews, and beverages. Buddy is also known to make appearances from time-to-time, spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear. Open now through January 1, Elf’d Up serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.
Known as the most authentic holiday market of its kind outside of Europe, the Christkindlmarket is the perfect spot for traditional European gifts, German food, live entertainment, and holiday charm. With locations at Chicago’s Daley Plaza, Wrigleyville’s Gallagher Way, and Aurora’s RiverEdge Park, there is plenty of opportunity to experience the magic of the season infused with European culture. The original downtown market was established in 1996 and was recently named the 3rd best Christmas market in the world, and the best in North America. Both new markets feature all the offerings of the downtown location, with an ice-skating rink at the Wrigleyville market. Whether listening to carolers as you enjoy a mug of mulled cider, or shopping for holiday keepsakes, this culturally unique experience will leave you feeling festive. The Daley Plaza and Aurora markets are open now through December 24th, and the Wrigleyville market and rink remain open until the 31st.
Maggie Daley Park is a favorite attraction that continues to delight even during the winter months. The park is located within the northern-most portion of Chicago’s Grant Park and has a quarter mile-long ice-skating ribbon open to the public from now until March 5th. Tickets can be secured online and vary in price based on date, time, and skate rental. The rink’s location affords skaters views of the stunning city skyline and is near a host of post-skating dining and shopping options along the Magnificent Mile.
Both Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos feature light shows that dazzle. Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo is Chicago’s largest and longest-running light festival during the holidays. The show has over two million twinkling LED lights including The Sea of Lights that spans two miles. Lincoln Park’s ZooLights also offers a spectacular light show and select nights with free admission. In addition to hundreds of themed light displays, visitors can enjoy a lighted ferris wheel, ice sculptures, and carolers. Both exhibits are open through the end of the year.
If you’re looking to escape the city for a quick trip, the Ice Castles exhibit is held each year at Geneva National Resort & Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Life-size ice slides, tunnels and caverns are large enough for kids and adults alike to slide, crawl and explore their way through numerous cold weather creations. Kids will love the winter fairy and snow queen characters that greet guests each day before embarking on their Ice Castles adventure. Additional activities include an illuminated grove of trees, sleigh rides, and private alcoves that can be booked for special occasions. Opening and closing dates are weather dependent, so check online before you book your visit.