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10 Places That will Brighten Your Spirit During the Holiday Season

December 11, 2023

Looking for a place to get you in the holiday mood?  We’ve put together a list of ten Chicago places that are sure to raise your holiday spirits.

  1. Millennium Park
  2. Museum of Science and Industry – Christmas Around the World
  3. Butch McGuire’s  – holiday decorations galore!
  4. Macy’s and the Walnut Room
  5. Chicago Botanic Garden (Lightscape)
  6. Art Institute
  7. Daley Center Plaza/Christkindlmarket
  8. Lincoln Park Zoo & Zoo Lights
  9. Garfield Park Conservatory and Winter Flower Show
  10. CTA Holiday Train

 

 

Millennium Park

During the warmer days of spring, summer and fall, “the Bean,” Crown Fountain and Pritzker Pavilion take center stage at Millennium Park.  In November and December, that honor belongs to the City of Chicago’s municipal Christmas tree, which is located in the front of the park, adjacent to the skating rink.  This year’s tree is a 45-foot Colorado spruce that was donated by a family in suburban Darien.  With every square inch of the tree covered with colorful lights, the city’s Christmas tree is sure to make your spirits bright.

Museum of Science and Industry

Now in its 81st year, the Museum’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibit is a beloved holiday tradition that has been enjoyed by millions of visitors over the years.  It includes a festive, 45-foot tree that is surrounded by 50 smaller trees that have been decorated by local volunteers to represent holiday traditions from around the globe.  It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that brings a whole world of holiday celebrations under one roof.  

Image from MSIChicago.org

Butch McGuire’s

Many businesses throughout the Chicago area decorate their businesses for the holidays, but few can match the over-the-top spectacle of sheer holiday madness that covers every square inch of space throughout Butch McGuire’s tavern on the near North Side.  Unlike pop-up Christmas bars that began appearing on the scene 5-10 years ago, Butch McGuire’s has been decorating its tavern with holiday gizmos and gadgets since 1961.  To really get into the spirit of the season, be sure to order a “Christmas in Your Mouth” martini when you visit.

Macy’s

The second largest department store in the U.S., Macy’s State Street is a cornucopia of delights during the holiday season.  Every department is decorated with festive holiday decor; display windows on State and Randolph streets tell wonderful holiday stories and “The Great Tree” in the Walnut Room on the seventh floor is still the place to gather with your children, grandchildren, family or friends for a heaping dose of holiday cheer.

Chicago Botanic Garden: Lightscape

 If dazzling holiday light shows and brightly lit landscapes are what you seek, venture to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe for “Lightscape,” a holiday light extravaganza beyond reproach.  This year’s exhibition includes 5-foot water lilies floating elegantly on water and delicate lamp-shaped lights with soft ambient colors extending 19 feet high.  Additionally, favorites from previous years, like the Winter Cathedral, make a return visit to the illuminated pathway.

Art Institute Lions

Sometimes, all you need to get in the spirit of the season is a sign that cheerier days are ahead.  For me, one of those small signs that the holidays are almost upon us is when the statuesque lions at the front entrance of the Art Institute (Michigan Ave.) display their annual Christmas wreaths with beautiful bright red bows.  A quick glance and a huge smile spreads across my face — a sure sign that the joyful holiday season is nigh.

WTTW – Image from the Art Institute

Christkindlmarket at Daley Center Plaza

Hot spiced wine, potato pancakes, currywurst, German pastries, hand-crafted gifts, glass ornaments, seasonal music and carolers — it’s hard not to get in the spirit at the Christkindlmarket, an authentic German and European holiday market that is now in its 23rd season.  This year there are two additional locations for the Christkindlmarket – Wrigleyville and Aurora.

Lincoln Park Zoo — Zoo Lights

The Lincoln Park Zoo’s featured holiday attraction, allows you to walk through 50 acres of zoo property that is dazzlingly-illuminated by millions of colorful lights with holiday music playing softly in the background.  If you’re lucky, a light snow will begin falling just as you start your journey through the complex.  While wandering through the site, visitors will also encounter costumed characters, Victorian carolers, ice sculptors and special lighted exhibits.

Photo: Enjoy Illinois

Garfield Park Conservatory

When the holiday season is too overwhelming, a trip to the flower show is exactly what you need.  Garfield Park’s Winter Flower Show, Serenity, evokes a feeling of tranquility to remind visitors that the natural world is a great source of calm amidst the hectic season.  Pink poinsettias will help to calm anxiety, while plants with silver foliage will relax the mind.  Pleasant scents remind visitors of the outdoors and provide aromatherapy throughout the room.  New this year, the show features many blooming flowers, which is atypical for a display during winter’s shorter days.  Blossoms such as hyacinth, zinnias, salvias and cosmos fill the room with their own brand of peace on earth.

Photo: Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance

CTA Holiday Train

Nothing brightens your spirits more than stepping aboard the CTA holiday train. A beloved Chicago tradition for more than 30 years, the holiday train makes its way through the city throughout December. Marvel at the six-car train decorated with holiday scenes and thousands of sparkling lights, then hop on board to meet the elves handing out candy. Don’t forget to wave to Santa, whose sled replaces the head car. There’s also a holiday bus that traverses the city streets, bringing holiday cheer to neighborhoods throughout Chicago.

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