Sunday, January 9, 2011
Chicago lays claim to Midwest's Winter Wonderland
With hotel rates as low as $89/night (including parking!), there’s never a more affordable time to visit Chicago
Chicago is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations and there’s no better time to visit than January and February. With unique activities that only happen in the winter months and the lowest rates of the year at hotels, a winter trip to Chicago is fun and affordable.
Visitors to the city are invited to make their first stop the Visitor Information Center in the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 E. Washington St. or in the historic Chicago Water Works, 163 E. Pearson St. at Michigan Avenue.
For more information on the events and activities listed below or on visiting Chicago this winter (including booking accommodations), visit www.explorechicago.org.
Family Fun Activities
Warm up in February with the free Chicago Winter Dance festival in downtown Millennium Park. Highlights include free ice skating lessons for all ages and skill levels from 8am – 10am on Saturday and Sundays at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink; extended public skating hours, late night ice dance parties and professional ice dancing demonstrations on Friday and Saturday evenings; and free dance lessons and public dancing on the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Every weekend in February.
Held from Jan. 28-30, Snow Days Chicago is a free three-day winter festival featuring a national snow sculpting competition, dog sled demonstrations, a snowboard rail jam and kids activities. This year, the event moves to Navy Pier (Gateway Park). Bring the whole family and watch as the city is transformed into a winter wonderland, showcasing over 27 beautiful and unique sculptures made entirely out of snow!
Through March 31, 2011, John Hancock Observatory will be hosting Skating in the Sky with the world’s highest skating rink. Located in the Observatory on the 94th floor, skaters can take in awe-inspiring views of the city and beyond while twirling on a surface made of synthetic ice.
The Chicago Auto Show returns to McCormick Place, Feb. 11-20. Now in its 103rd year, the nation’s largest auto exposition showcases a full range of over 1,000 domestic and imported vehicles, including experimental and concept cars, collectors’ antiques and numerous auto-related accessories and exhibits.
Enjoy great food at a great price! Please your palate and your pocketbook during Chicago Restaurant Week when more than 150 restaurants serve up special 3-course lunches for $22 and dinners for $32.
History Coming Home, an exhibition that reveals public policies, oral histories, and artifacts from public housing in cities from Chicago to Boston and New Orleans to Sacramento, will be on display at the Chicago Tourism Center Gallery. Through April 15, explore a walk-through installation of a 1950’s style public housing apartment and various artifacts that once belonged to tenants. The new National Public Housing Museum is set to open in 2012 in Chicago’s very own Jane Adams House.
Chicago is known as one of the world’s great sports towns and is home to seven professional teams as well as a dozen other sports teams. During the winter months, catch a Bulls or Blackhawks home game and become part of Chicago’s grand sports tradition. Both teams play at the United Center, just minutes from downtown Chicago.
Chicago Bulls - Along with high-flying NBA action, Bulls' games feature an array of great food and exciting entertainment for the entire family - the world famous player introductions, Benny the Bull mascot, the Luvabulls cheerleaders, amazing halftime acts and much more. Tickets start at only $10.
Chicago Blackhawks - Watch the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions compete to defend their title. Playoff MVP Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, the 2008 Rookie of the year, and other teammates face-off against the toughest hockey players of the world. The Blackhawks' 84 years of rich history and tradition create an event full of excitement for all ages.
Museum Free Days
Chicago is world-renowned for its diverse collection of over 40 museums. Highlights range from dinosaur fossils to submarines to 1960s pop art — ensuring something for every age and interest. Many are free; while others offer free days (admission fees to special exhibits may not be included).
The Adler Planetarium is free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from January 4-March 16. The planetarium is also free from January 10-14, January 24-27, February 7-10, and February 28-March 3.
The Art Institute of Chicago is free every weekday in January.
The Museum of Science and Industry is free on weekdays in January.
The Field Museum is free January 10-11, 13, 18-19, 24, 26, and 31. The museum is also free February 2-3, 8-9, 14-15, and 17 as well as March 14.
The Shedd Aquarium is free on January 10-11 and 16-25. The aquarium is also free February 1, 7-8, 14-15, 20-24, and 28.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is free every Tuesday.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is free every Thursday.
The Chicago History Museum is free every Monday.
The DuSable Museum of African American History is free every Sunday.
Highlights of the 2011 Broadway In Chicago winter season in the historic Downtown Theater District include: Wicked, Through January 23 and Les Miserables, Feb. 2-27.
Other notable productions at theaters throughout the city include:
Goodman Theater – The Trinity River Plays, Jan. 15-Feb. 20
Timeline Theatre Company – In Darfur, Jan. 19-March 20
Chicago Shakespeare Theater – Funk It Up About Nothin’, Jan. 21 – Feb. 13
Court Theatre – Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, Jan. 13-Feb. 13
Steppenwolf Theatre – Sex with Strangers, Jan. 20-May 15
Apollo Theatre – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Feb. 12-May 8
African American History Month
The DuSable Museum of African American History, the first and oldest institution of its kind in the country, is dedicated to the collection, preservation, interpretation and dissemination of the history and culture of Africans and Americans of African descent for more than 46 years. Visit in February, in honor of African American History Month (closed Mondays).
With the lowest rates of the year at dozens of hotels, the Windy City is an ideal vacation destination during the winter months. Special hotel packages include add-ons ranging from free NBA tickets, museum tickets, shopping and dining rewards, and more. For more information on winter hotel packages, or to book accommodations, please visit www.explorechicago.org. Highlights of 2011 winter packages include:
Best Western River North
Winter Warm Up Package
Rates starting at $89 Sunday-Thursday, $129 Friday-Saturday
With free guest parking and rates starting at $89, spend this winter season getaway with Best Western River North Hotel and their new “Winter Warm Up” package. Start each morning with a complimentary full American breakfast. After a day of exploring some of the city’s great winter attractions, thaw out in a heated indoor swimming pool or snuggle into a warm bed where delicious hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies will be delivered to your room.
Chicago’s Essex Inn
Chicago Bulls Package
Packages starting from $89
The 2010-11 Chicago Bulls Packages include a one night stay at Chicago’s Essex Inn for two people, two tickets to a Bulls home game, and overnight hotel valet parking. Hotel amenities include a free continental breakfast, sauna and fitness center, kid-friendly activities, free shuttle service to Michigan Avenue, Water Tower Place, Navy Pier, and the Museum Campus.
Sheraton Chicago Hotel
2011 Chicago Auto Show Package
Rates starting at $127
The Sheraton Chicago Hotel is the official hotel partner of the 2011 Chicago Auto Show. This exciting show is the nation's largest annual auto show and will take place on February 11-20, 2011 at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center. The Chicago Auto Show Package includes two tickets per room per stay for admission to 2011’s Chicago Auto Show (regular priced admission tickets can be purchased at the Concierge Desk), and complimentary shuttle service to and from McCormick Place. The offer is only valid for stays during February 11-20, 2011.
Winter Escapes Package
Rates starting at $425
From now until March 31, 2011, the Peninsula Chicago invites is offering the Winter Escapes package with special room rates including some value-added benefits. Guests can choose one benefit from the following selections: upgrade to the next available room category, a $100 hotel credit for incidentals, or access to the Art Institute of Chicago for two, including two tickets to the museum and a special Art Institute of Chicago book.
Other notable winter packages include:
Peninsula Chicago’s Celebrate 10 Years Package (from $595/night); Value the Experience Package (from $535/night); Pen Kids Package (from $425/night); and Urban Retreat Package (from $825/night)
Sax Chicago’s State Street Shopping Package (from $179/night)
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago’s Good as Gold Package (from $535/night)
Conrad Chicago’s Winter Drive-In Package (from $205/night) and Shopping Maven Package (from $225/night)
Doubletree Chicago Magnificent Mile’s Shopping Escape Package (from $169/night)
Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park’s Shopping at Macy’s State Street Package (from $139/night)
JW Marriott Chicago’s Luxury Hotel Winter Package (from $279/night)
Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium Package (from $199/night)
Talbott Hotel’s Baby It’s Cold Outside Package (from $279/night) and Holiday Fun Package (from $225/night)
Wheeler Mansion’s Wonderful Wheeler Winter Package (from $155/night)
Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel’s Let It Snow Winter Getaway Package (from $259/night)
Renaissance Chicago Downtown’s Escape Shopping Package (from $209/night)
Ritz-Carlton Chicago’s Saks, Spa, and City Package (from $415/night)
Sutton Place’s Ladies Gold Coast Weekend Getaway Package (from $200/night)
Days Inn Chicago’s Stay and Park Free Package (from $91/night)
Sheraton Four Points Chicago Downtown/Magnificent Mile (from $99/night, $1 parking Sunday-Thursday, $10 parking Friday-Saturday)
Hilton Family Chicago’s Celebrate the Season Packages (Participating hotels: Hilton Chicago, Palmer House Hilton, Conrad Chicago, The Drake, and Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown Lakefront)
Westin River North Length of Stay Package (from $179/night)
Comfort Inn & Suites Stay 3 and Get 1 Free Package (from $109/night)
Visitor Information Resources
Visitors and Chicagoans planning to entertain out-of-town guests can receive trip-planning assistance and information by visiting www.ExploreChicago.org.
Brochures and information on Chicago’s exciting events and activities are also available at the Visitor Information Centers. Friendly Visitor Representatives can answer questions and assist families in planning an action-packed itinerary. The visitor centers are located in two of the city’s most popular areas: across from Millennium Park in the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph Street; and at the historic Water Works pumping station, 163 E. Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue.
For daily alerts about fun and free things to do in Chicago, follow ExploreChicago on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/ExploreChicago. Receive answers to your Chicago questions on the go, and tips on the latest citywide events and activities, via the FREE Twitter Concierge Service (@explorechicago) available daily.