The holidays are a most magical time of year in Chicago. Yes, the weather can be blisteringly cold but nobody does Christmas quite like the Windy City. When you visit, your biggest challenge will inevitably be how to choose what to do. Our guest blogger, Chrissy Jones of www.Beyondthepark.com is a local Chicago mom blogger. Here are the top 10 activities she suggests for that perfect visit to Chi Town:
- I would stay at The James Hotel. Centrally located a block from Michigan Avenue and across the street from the shops at North Bridge (home to Nordstrom’s) this is a super family friendly hotel. Upon arrival, youngsters will receive a James backpack filled with an activity crate from Kiwi Crate with all of the materials needed for a fun project to do right in the room. And the fun continues at bedtime as turndown service includes milk & cookies. Also available upon request: Pre loaded iPads and kindles with kid appropriate content, a Wii with a selection of games or choose from your favorite classic board games. Also, you can travel lightly because portable cribs and car seats are available. Arrange these details directly with the concierge at the time of booking.
- Zoo lights: Used to visiting a zoo during the day? Now try it at night. During the holidays, the Lincoln Park Zoo, lights up with gorgeous luminous light displays and there are fun holiday activities throughout the zoo. And for the first time, this year there is an outdoor ice skating rink at the Farm-in-the-zoo so you can go home and tell all your friends you skated with the animals. If you’re looking for a good place to eat nearby try family friendly RJ Grunts.
- The Walnut Room at Macy’s: Ask anyone who grew up in Chicago about their favorite holiday traditions and chances are they’ll tell you about lunch at The Walnut Room. This magnificent dining room is set in the Macy’s on State Street and has an incredible 45 foot Christmas tree. As you eat near the tree, princesses visit the tables and sprinkle their magic fairy dust. (Go as close to 11am as you can because it gets crowded. When you check in they’ll give you a pager and you can shop throughout the store and gaze at their gorgeous Christmas windows.)
- Navy Pier: You can spend a whole day at the Pier. Start your morning at Winter Wonderfest. Over 170,000 square feet of the pier is turned into an indoor winter extravaganza. There are rides, slides, zip lines, bouncy houses, indoor skating and food galore. When you’re done at Winter Wonderfest, plan to visit the Children’s Museum of Chicago also at the pier. This is one of my daughter’s favorite museums and right now they have an indoor skating rink where you skate in you socks. Before you leave the Pier, grab some popcorn at Garrett’s popcorn to enjoy back in your hotel.
- Water Tower: If you are looking to do some shopping indoors then Water Tower Place is a great place to visit. Inside this shopping mecca, you’ll find the American Girl store, The Lego Store, big name shopping stores, and a mega food court [Foodlife] with over 14 kitchens offering up terrific food and drinks. They also have a Santa on the 4th floor and you no longer have to stand in line [read my post on this Christmas miracle].
- Lincoln Park Conservancy: This is one of the best kept secrets in the city. Leave the hustle & bustle of Chicago behind for a minute when you enter this tranquil greenhouse featuring exotic plants from around the world. And it’s the warmest place in Chicago (I’m not kidding).
- Try the amazing donuts from Glazed & Infused (there are multiple locations but the one at 939 West Armitage puts you on this beautiful boutique street) and take a stroll down Armitage Avenue and do some holiday shopping in the amazing boutiques.
- Ice skating in Millennium Park: You can’t really visit Chicago without ice skating on one of the many outdoor rinks. We really love the rink in Millenium park (right off Michigan Ave). Skating is free and skate rentals are only $10.
- Museum of Science & Industry: You need to experience the annual exhibit Christmas Around the World and Holidays of light featuring over 50 Christmas trees with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments. Each tree is decorated by volunteers from around Chicago and represents different cultures and traditions. End your visit with a look at the museum’s latest exhibit: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. A highlight of this exhibit is learning how to draw Mickey.
- Indulge in Pizza: If you’re looking for authentic deep dish Chicago style pizza then you have to try Lou Malnati’s. There are 6 different locations in the city so it’s always convenient. If you’re staying over a Sunday night, you might want to try Scoozi’s where kids can make their own pizza on Sundays for free. They also have a huge menu of traditional Italian food that can be shared family style.
…and because you can’t really stop at just 10 things to do in our great city, here’s an extra. Visit Christkindlmarket, an outdoor holiday festival modeled after a traditional German holiday market. You’ll love walking around and looking at handcrafted ornaments, nativity scenes, shawls and blankets, toys and jewelry. Don’t miss trying a traditional bavarian pretzel, a slice of strudel and a cup of traditional hot spiced wine.
Have a great visit.