Chicago may not be in the North Pole but its weather will certainly make you feel near enough to Santa’s arctic home that you’ll surely find yourself in the mood for some holiday cheer (or at least some holiday beer).
When it comes to Christmastime, Chicago nails being holly and jolly with a ton of activities to warm your heart, your soul, and your frozen mitts.
Here are five of our favorite holiday things to do in Chicago to get you jingling all the way in the city of big shoulders.
Stroll Through the Most Merry of Markets
An open-air market in the middle of December where bratwursts, nutcrackers, and mulled wine abound? Yes, my friends, this is the Christkindlmarket!
Based on a tradition started in Nuremberg nearly 500 years ago, the Christkindlmarket has been a mainstay of Chicago for over 20 years now. Here you’ll find fresh Bavarian pretzels alongside cuckoo-cuckoo clocks, beer steins, and beverages hot and cold. There are boots of all sizes, gingerbread men and women, schnitzels sweet and savory, and so many strudels, glorious strudels!
In other words, das ist gut!
Take a Train Powered by Reindeer Magic
Public transit might often be a mundane experience but not when the Chicago Transit Authority transforms an entire el train into the ultimate travel machine, the Santa Express!
The outside of this people mover is covered with lights, tinsel and all the Christmas fixings you can imagine.
On the inside, you’ll step into a red and green marvel with Christmas music playing and a train full of people who can’t help but smile. Of course, there’s also Santa himself spreading Christmas cheer with his sleigh and reindeer attached to the train, powering the feel-good vibes of the season.
Truly, the Santa Express Holiday Train is a sight to behold with the capacity to make any Grinch a little less Scrooge-like as it travels through every nook and cranny of the city! Hop onboard and have yourself a very merry commute.
Enjoy Unnatural Light in Nearly Natural Habitats
Reindeer, polar bears, and penguins? Check.
Spiced Wine and frosty beers? Yup.
A spectacular light spectacle provided to everybody looking to be enlightened for free? Yes, absolutely, Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!
Every year the Lincoln Park Zoo displays the splendor of the holidays with an incredible collection of Christmas lights strewn about an incredible collection of creatures from the world over.
It is one of the oldest zoos in the country with one of the largest conservation programs on the North American continent and features over 200 different species who inhabit spaces meticulously designed to mimic their natural habitat.
During the holidays, the zoo adds lights, live music, and a gnome hunt into the mix, taking this amazing zoo to another level of awesomeness. Of course, you can come by any time of the year and you will find yourself having a good time in one the best free public spaces in the country; it’s like a gift that keeps on giving all year long.
Gawk and Awe at All of the Museum Holiday Decorations
Across the entire city of Chicago, you’ll find festive decorations of all sorts and splendor adorning every exterior (say at the zoo for instance…) but step inside some of Chicago’s finest institutions and there you’ll find Christmas delights spanning a wide array of cultures from present to centuries past.
Check out the Field Museum and you’ll find massive Christmas wreaths and plenty of holiday cheer alongside one of the coolest indoor decorations; Sue, the largest, most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found!
Explore the Museum of Science and Industry where, for the past 75 years, they have showcased their Christmas Around the World exhibit with 50 Christmas trees adorned by the Christmas traditions of 50 different cultures from across the globe.
Best yet, is the Art Institute, which decks the halls with boughs of holly all over and brings out their signature Christmas piece every year, the Neapolitan Crèche. This ultimate nativity scene is the result of Italian Renaissance rivals vying for the best Christmas display in their neighborhoods by going all out and sparing no expense in their quest for one-upmanship… all in the spirit of Christmas of course.
Experience A Christmas Carol Tradition by Untraditional Means
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is the quintessential story of the season and for the past 40 years, the magnificent Goodman Theatre has kept this tale alive and well, making a merry tradition for families that spans generations.
Of course, if you’re curious as to how this earthly tale might be told by extraterrestrial means, then A Klingon Christmas Carol is a show that can’t be missed! Chicago has been host to the first play in history to be entirely spoken in Klingon since 2010, becoming an alien holiday tradition all its own!
The Klingon themselves are naturally scrooge-y but none can out Scrooge their Scrooge, SQUJA’! Even if you don’t understand this obscure made-up language as they grunt, gruff, and growl, the heartwarming message of A Christmas Carol is never lost in translation.
It’s ridiculous, it’s hilarious, it’s Christmas in Chicago!
BY: COLIN HANSON, TOUR GUIDE AT MUSEUM HACK