I love traditions, especially those involving the Christmas season. So on my list each year is a visit to Chicago to see the decorations & sights, do some shopping, and enjoy great food.
I start in the Loop area at Macy’s State Street store (formally Marshall Field’s) to look at the windows and tree. Each year the store front windows are decorated to tell a story as you walk from one window to the next.
Upstairs in the 7th floor Walnut Room, you’ll find the stunning 45-foot Great Tree. Take the escalator up to the next floor, and there’s a viewing and photo area. It’s always been a tradition of ours to take a family picture with the Great Tree in the background. In the early photos, my sons are dutifully standing in front, but now as grown men, they tower over me on each side.
While you’re in Macy’s, be sure to stop on the 6th floor to see the dazzling displays in the china department. The over-the-top settings will inspire you to set a grand table for your family on Christmas Day.
A holiday visit to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without lunch at The Berghoff. You’ll enjoy the traditional German food – weiner schnitzel, saurbrauten, just to name a few. Finish it off with a holiday dessert like white chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce or an individual-sized yule log.
After lunch, if you walk down Adams Street toward the Lake, you’ll come to the Art Institute, another stop on the holiday circuit. The famous lions at the Michigan Avenue entrance always sport festive wreaths during the holiday season, so it’s a good place for a selfie or a regular photo.
Inside, be sure to see the 18th-century Neopolitan crèche. The Art Institute acquired this magnificent work in 2013, and it’s now a popular holiday feature. There’s something like 200 figures staged in a handsome Baroque cabinet. It’s larger than I expected and takes up the entire wall of its display room.
In the lower level of the building are the Thorne Miniature Rooms, with several of them decorated in tiny style for Christmas.
Just a few blocks away from the Art Institute, the Christkindlmarket in the Daley Plaza is a fun place to visit and shop. It’s based on the 16th-century holiday markets of Nuremberg, Germany. Cheerful, wooden lodges are manned by native Germans selling strudel, glass ornaments, nutcrackers, and lots of other wares. For an afternoon pick-me-up, try some gluhwein, a hot spiced wine. Each year there’s a souvenir mug available that only costs a couple of extra dollars.
Another enjoyable stop is the skating rink at Millennium Park. You can watch the ice skaters glide around or rent a pair of skates and join them.
There’s lots of places to stay overnight in downtown Chicago, and one of my favorites is the Palmer House. It’s a beautiful, historic hotel dating back to 1873. You can walk to all the sights mentioned in this post. Even if you’re not planning to stay there, enjoy a stroll through the lobby and other public areas to see the holiday decorations.
Whether it’s in Chicago or another city that’s special, I hope you’ll enjoy annual holiday traditions with family and friends. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!