21 December 2010

My favorite Chicago holiday activities

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Chicago, CTA

Holy cow, we are getting really close to Christmas. And because the holiday spirit has been infused in me like crazy, I’m sharing some of my favorite Chicago holiday traditions.

Yes, Midwest and Chicago winters suck. They are cold, snowy and by January they are miserable. But during the holiday time, I really love the city. Even with the snow and cold, there are fun, free things to do.

Let’s check it out

Caroling at The Bean

The Bean is one of the most recognizable features in Chicago and this year, I learned that every Friday in December, there is caroling at The Bean for an hour (depending on the temps). I love caroling so I was all in. The night Liz and I went, it was a balmy 35 degrees and we sang with the Old Town School of Folk Music singers. It was so fun!

Zoo Lights

From November – January, the Lincoln Park Zoo decorates part of the property with a bazillion lights. The animals are out (pending temps) and you can listen to Christmas carols throughout the zoo. Yes, it’s a kid and stroller nightmare at times, but walking around and basking at holiday lights is pretty f*cking fun!


When I was in high school German class, going down to Chicago for the Christkindlmarkt in Chicago was my favorite yearly tradition. Where else can you get some authentic German food, spiced wine and holiday trinkets? I always go for the Bavarian soft prezel (salivate), toasted almonds and spiced wine. And let me tell you, the latter does warm you up! I’ve been to some real German markets overseas and this is pretty close.

Holiday Train

The CTA is a way of life for me. I take it daily and rely on it to get me around the city. It’s a love/hate relationship but the thing I love the most is the CTA Holiday Train. No sh*t, it’s magical. A friend told me about it years ago and then, one magic night, Liz and I saw it. No joke, it was like…there are no words. It’s best to be surprised by the train, but this year, I hunted it down and it was still one of my favorite things about the holiday season.

What about you? What are your city’s holiday traditions?

Movie Review: Today’s movie review is The King’s Speech, staring my celeb crush Colin Firth. Love him!


  1. Eliza says:

    This seems to barely scratch the surface of fun in the winter in Chicago. Break tradition! I’d recommend something with a little more substance, like a guided walking tour. I’m a sucker for history all year long, but in the winter, Chicago Detours has a few tours that are mostly inside, and everything they offer is clever and fun.

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  3. Steph says:

    Those are fun holiday traditions! Caroling at the bean sounds like a blast! We head down to Macy’s every year to do the Walnut Room and the windows. The holiday train sounds so fun! How do you know where to find it???

  4. this would have been a great post idea for me to steal from you for cleveland :) – but alas, i’m yet again late to the game!

    hope you had a great christmas!

  5. Lil' Woman says:

    What fun things to do…I wish more people still caroled nowadays.

  6. wow! all of that looks like sooo much fun! i love the zoo lights and caroling at the bean! enjoy your christmas and have fun with the fur nephew!

  7. It’s so much fun this time of year!

  8. steph anne says:

    Looks like a lot of fun!! We actually have Zoo lights here in Phoenix. I haven’t gone yet but really hope I can go before it ends sometime early January.

  9. mandy says:

    This all sounds absolutely lovely. Especially the Chriskindle market. Spiced wine is one of my favorite things about Christmas Eve. And let’s be honest, it helps to deal with the family. =)

  10. Erin says:

    Last year we did the Zoo Lights at Brookfield and I’ve done Christkindle a few times, too. Sadly, though, most of my family and friends are wusses and don’t want to go out when it’s cold!

    This year I passed the holiday train going the other direction. Next year I hope I can be lucky enough to catch it going my way!

  11. Stevie says:

    We have Zoolights here, too, and they’re just amazing! There is also a neighborhood that becomes “Candy Cane Lane” during Christmas. It’s an older neighborhood with gorgeous, huge homes and they go all out on the Christmas lights. You can drive through or walk through and there are boxes for collecting cash and food donations that are taken to local charities. Pretty cool.

    I just love being in downtown Seattle this time of year. I love all the lights and decorations, and the hustle and bustle of all the people!

    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  12. jen says:

    so jealous, i’ve been dying to get on the holiday train!!!!! i’ve been living here for years and had no luck. i have to hunt it down!

    glad your enjoying the holiday season!

  13. Susan says:

    This post is great! It’s nice to see a place like Chicago shine during this time of year – like Boston I feel like travelers avoid our cities in the winter because it is just too cold. My favorite part of Boston during Christmas are the lights and decorations everywhere. And the tree lighting.

  14. Nora says:

    I love this list! I love to do the Zoo Christmas lights in StL too, just so fun and special. And a holiday train? That rocks, as does caroling at the bean.

    Last week I got to see a live reindeer + Santa Claus and that was pretty awesome. Oh, and live window displays! I hope to do that every year going forward since it was just so fun and small town feeling!