Experience Holiday Magic in Chicago

Chicago is dazzling every holiday season, and this one will be no different!

From special holiday exhibitions at Chicago museums to popular annual traditions like the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and the Daley Plaza Christmas Tree to celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, the Windy City is a wonderful place to experience the joy and magic of the holiday season.

Visitors should make their first stop the Chicago Office of Tourism’s Visitor Information Center in the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 East Washington Street.

Chicago is home to hundreds of hotels to suit any taste or price point, many of which offer special holiday packages. For more information on visiting Chicago this holiday season, or to book accommodations, visit www.explorechicago.org or call 877-CHICAGO.

Annual Traditions
Michigan Avenue: The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by Harris
Saturday, Nov. 20
Admission Free!
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by Harris kicks off the holiday season on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. with a day full of musical performances on the Harris Stage. The day culminates with a magical procession down North Michigan Avenue led by Mickey Mouse and his friends from Walt Disney World Resorts in Florida. The parade, which starts at 5:30 p.m., is followed by a spectacular fireworks show over the Chicago River. Enjoy a host of holiday experiences and shopping along The Magnificent Mile in Chicago throughout the holiday season.

Daley Plaza: Christkindlmarket Chicago
Wednesday, Nov. 24 through Dec. 24
Opens daily 11a.m.; Closing hours Sunday through Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. (Closes at 4 p.m. on November 25th and December 24th)
Admission Free!
Watch as Daley Plaza is transformed into a little piece of Germany, known as the Christkindlmarket Chicago. At the Plaza, visitors will find Chicago’s iconic Picasso sculpture surrounded by red and white crested huts glowing with warmth and overflowing with curios. Nutcrackers, cuckoo-clocks, beer steins, European chocolates, toys, jewelry, clothing and a wide variety of holiday ornaments are just a few of the items for sale from more than 50 vendor booths.

Daley Plaza: Chicago Christmas Tree and Lighting Ceremony
Ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 4 p.m.
Admission Free!
Presented by The City of Chicago and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) the 97th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is a highly-anticipated event drawing people of all ages to the heart of Chicago's downtown Loop. Musical performances and festive holiday music begin at 4:30 p.m. and the holiday season officially commences at 5:00 p.m., when the switch is flipped and the lights begin to dazzle in Daley Plaza.The tree will be on display in the plaza from Thanksgiving through New Years as a sign of the city’s holiday spirit.

Millennium Park: Caroling at Cloud Gate
6 p.m., Fridays, Nov. 26 to Dec. 17
Admission Free!
Chicago's holiday tradition returns on Friday nights throughout the holiday season. Chicagoans and visitors alike are invited to Cloud Gate to hear the beautiful voices of different Chicago choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along. After the holiday sing-along (approximately 50 minutes), everyone is encouraged to skate at Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Navy Pier: Winter Wonderfest
Friday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, January 2, 2011
Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Admission Free, wristbands required to participate in rides and attractions ($16-19)
Winter Wonderfest, Navy Pier's annual holiday extravaganza, returns for its eighth magical year. This holiday tradition features more than 750,000 holiday ornaments, hundreds of decorated trees, an indoor Ferris wheel, Musical Carousel, North Pole E-Wish Center, Large-Scale Inflatable Games and Giant Slides, Winter WonderStage, Carolers, and more!

City Hall Concert Series: Young Voices Deck “The Hall”
Wednesday Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 17, 12-1 p.m.
Admission Free!
Get into the holiday spirit while listening to the classics sung by children’s choirs from throughout the city. The City Hall Holiday Concert Series begins Wednesday Dec. 1 and runs through Friday, Dec. 17 with concerts every weekday from noon to 1 p.m. The concerts will take place in the lobby of City Hall (121 N. LaSalle) near the LaSalle Street entrance. The series exhibits the talents of children from all over Chicago and warms the hearts of the audience.

Mayor Daley’s Sports Festival
Dec. 18 and Dec. 19, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
McCormick Place in Halls A & B
Admission Free!
Highlights of the annual Chicago Sports Festival include interactive zones featuring trampolines, golf, climbing walls, football, chess, obstacle course, tot’s zone, bowling, table tennis, inflatable tumbling, tennis, badminton, boxing, a pitching zone, fishing ponds, footbag, giant slide, 40-Yard dash, skateboarding area, wrestling, and open courts for volleyball and basketball. The Halftime Stage features special performances and demonstrations from 12 – 4 each day.

Breakfast with Santa at John Hancock Observatory
December 4, 5, 11, 12 18 and 19
Adults $39, Youth $29, Infant $19
Experience a magical holiday high more than 1,000 feet in the air as you enjoy breakfast in the award-winning Lavazza Espression cafe. And, make sure to get your picture taken with Santa while you are there. Even though they've added another weekend, the spots at this great event fill up fast! (50% non-refundable deposit due at time of booking.)

Do-Division Holiday Walk
Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m.
Admission Free!
The shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars of trendy West Division between Milwaukee and Leavitt rock the holiday cheer on Saturday, December 5th at the annual Do-Division Holiday event. Beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing throughout the evening, those who make the trek along this holiday trail can enjoy decked out Division Street merchants - boasting incredible deals on everything from designer duds to renowned cuisine. A family-friendly occasion, the Do-Division Holiday event is a fun way for Chicago residents and visitors alike to become acquainted with a distinctive corridor of Chicago filled with unique and independent businesses that are matchless in charm. The street charged with the warmth of the holidays, as seasonal activities like a FREE horse-drawn carriage ride (from Ashland to Leavitt) help revelers get into the spirit.

Shopping Events
66 East Randolph Street: Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand
Mondays – Fridays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand offers edible local products, all produced within 250 miles of Chicago, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in season; a full range of condiments, preserves, seasonings and other dry goods items; baked goods and seasonal items as available. The Farmstand is the perfect place to find locally produced holiday gifts, and to buy ingredients for preparing holiday meals.

Chicago Cultural Center: Glitter
Tuesday, Nov. 30 & Wednesday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Admission Free
Discover the best gifts for the holidays when Chicago designers and boutiques celebrate the season at Glitter: A Holiday Shopping Event. Extended to two days, shop special holiday items, sales, and original fashions from local designers and boutiques at the Chicago Cultural Center. This event is the perfect place to find unique merchandise for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

Holiday Shopping in Chicago Neighborhoods
There’s no better place for holiday shopping than in Chicago’s neighborhoods! Division Street and the Southport Corridor are home to specialty shops that carry the work of independent and Chicago-based designers. In the Lincoln Park neighborhood, shop along Lincoln Avenue, Clark Street, Armitage Avenue or Halsted Street, or venture further north to the Lakeview neighborhood (along Clark Street, Belmont Avenue or Broadway) for a wide variety of shopping alternatives. In recent years, cutting-edge national stores like Anthropologie, Marc Jacobs and Cynthia Rowley have opened shops in these neighborhoods. Visit www.chicagofashionresource.com for more information on Chicago shopping excursions.

Museum and Zoo Highlights
Museum of Science and Industry: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Thursday, Nov. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and
11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday (The museum will be closed Christmas Day.)
Don’t miss the Museum of Science and Industry’s time-honored celebration, Christmas Around the World. The exhibition includes more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to reflect holiday traditions from around the globe. Holidays of Light, a multicultural display of holiday traditions that celebrate light or enlightenment, such as Diwali and Hanukkah, also illuminates the Museum’s halls during this time.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Zoo Lights
Nightly Dec. 17 – Jan. 2, 2011 (closed Dec. 24 & 25), 5–9 p.m.
Admission Free!
Lincoln Park Zoo transforms into a dazzling wonderland with a series of free seasonal festivities. Enter a winter wonderland illuminated by the laughter of children and more than two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Charter One. Animal exhibits stay open late as guests roam the beautiful grounds to take photos with Santa, prepare family crafts and enjoy the zoo’s incredible animals immersed in an atmosphere unlike any other.

Hanukkah/Jewish Celebrations
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies: Latke-palooza: One For Each Night cooking demo
Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $18, with discounts for Spertus members and students
With the Hannukah holiday starting early this year (at sundown, Dec. 1), Chef Laura Frankel introduces participants to an array of latke (fried potato pancake) possibilities, as she combines her favorite ingredients into eight different, delicious crispy treats packed with produce. In addition to the traditional mix of potatoes and onions, Chef Laura will demonstrate for sampling new latke versions and variations while also offering valuable tips on which oils to use, how to simplify preparation, and how to store and serve the finished products. Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering. Founder of the adventurous, gourmet kosher Shallots restaurants in Chicago and New York and author of "Jewish Cooking for All Seasons," she has made it her creative mission to re-imagine and revitalize the diverse—and delicious—traditions of Jewish cooking. Ticket price includes take-home recipe cards.

Performances and Events
Chicago Cultural Center: Dance Along Nutcracker
Sunday, Dec. 5
Performances at noon & 3 p.m., Workshops at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center
Admission Free!
Young and old alike are invited to hit the dance floor as sugar plum fairies and toy soldiers dance and sing along with music from the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band, including selections from Tchaikovsky's beloved Nutcracker Suite.

The Joffrey Ballet: Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker
Friday, Dec. 10, through Sunday, Dec. 26
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
Tickets range from $30 to $115
One Chicago’s most popular holiday traditions, Robert Joffrey’s production of The Nutcracker again transforms the Auditorium Theatre into a land of beauty, fantasy and wonder. The Tchaikovsky masterpiece features the full Joffrey company, local children’s choruses and more than 120 young dancers.

Goodman Theatre: A Christmas Carol
Friday, Nov. 19 through Friday, Dec. 31
Goodman Theatre
For three decades and over one million people, Charles Dickens’ classic story, the exceptional actors and the miraculous stagecraft have made Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol a perennial holiday favorite and beloved Chicago tradition. Every year, audiences delight in the “Bah, Humbugs,” the arrival of the ghosts, the music and dancing and Scrooge’s joyful discovery of life and love.

Hotel Packages
Great holiday hotel packages are available at several Chicago hotels, including the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, Conrad Chicago, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Fairmont Chicago, Double Tree Chicago Magnificent Mile, The Talbott, Elysian, and Raffaello Hotel.

Visitors and Chicagoans planning to entertain out-of-town guests can receive Chicago brochures, reserve hotel accommodations and receive trip-planning assistance by calling toll-free 1-877-CHICAGO (1-877-244-2246), or visiting www.explorechicago.org. Brochures and information on Chicago’s exciting events and activities are also available at the Visitor Information Centers. The centers are located at Chicago Water Works, 163 East Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph Street. For those calling from outside the United States, Mexico and Canada, please call 1-312-201-8847. The TTY toll-free number for the hearing impaired is 1-866-710-0294.
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My family (wife and three kids, sometimes the dog) and I have been RV campers since 2007. We own a 2000 Trail-Lite B22 Bantam hybrid, our tow vehicle is a 2006 Trailblazer LT EXT (5.3 V8 with 3.73 Rear Axle Ratio), and our setup includes the Equalizer sway controller. Looking to upgrade the camper in the near future, but until then we get out 2-3 times a month in season.