Chicago is cold. Chicago is snowy. It’s the perfect setting for a classic downtown Christmas. Here are the must-dos for a very merry holiday weekend in Chicago with stops inside and outside plus tips for staying warm in the dipping temps.
Ice Skating in Millennium Park
There’s nothing like skating under The Bean alongside sky scrapers, Lake Michigan, and Christmas tunes. Come early to beat the rental line ($10 per pair) or slide straight onto the ice for free with your own pair of skates. A pop-up rink at Wrigley Field reduced the Millennium Park crowds at this year, but pre-lunch is still the best time to beat the chaos. If you don’t mind bumper skating, gliding on the rink under the stars is magical.
Warm up with a hot drink, potato latkes, and a chocolate crepe at Chriskindle Market. Daley Plaza transforms into Chicago’s very own German-inspired Christmas market complete with a glistening sky-high tree among the crazy Picasso sculpture. Sip hot chocolate or hot mulled wine from ceramic mini boots (they run out of the collectible mugs every year!). If you’re shivering in your own boots, head to the warming tent or the indoor area with picnic tables — a much warmer alternative.
Marshall Field’s Christmas Tree
Alright, fine. It’s Macy’s. But no Chicagoan in their right mind acknowledges the recent Macy’s takeover of this landmark Field’s on State Street. The holiday shopping here is great and the decorated holiday windows used to draw huge crowds before Macy’s took over and reduced this tradition to a quick walk-by. The real star of this store is the Christmas Tree.
Take the express elevator to level 7 or take the scenic route up the labyrinthine escalators. Get lost in the furniture displays until you finally reach the balcony. Peer over the always-crowded Walnut Room to witness the picture-perfect tree at dead center. If peering onto the holiday diners makes you hungry, elbow your way down to level 6’s always-crowded Walnut Room restaurant (reservations recommended). It’s a Chicago Christmas tradition for many.
Tuba Christmas at the Palmer House
A gorgeous historic hotel with an unusual alternative to Christmas caroling — an hour-long holiday show performed completely by tubas. Arrive early as the luxe ballroom usually ends up standing-room only. The best part is that from what I understand, it’s BYO-Tuba. Meaning, the tuba bonanza is a free-for-all for anyone who has a tuba and likes Christmas music and shows up before the show begins. The audience is invited to sing along to the much-loved tunes as the tubas fill the grand ballroom with notes of holiday cheer.