’Tis the season to visit Chicago

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

‘Tis the season to visit Chicago


Dec. 4, 2010

Besides summertime, there’s no better time in Chicago than Christmastime.

Michigan Avenue is awash in lights. The animated windows at Marshall Field’s, er … Macy’s (grumble) are stopping passersby in their tracks along State Street. And sugarplums – or, perhaps, sweet backroom deals – are dancing in Mayor Daley’s head.

With so much holiday cheer going on in the city this month, I thought I’d gift to you some ways to enjoy it yourself. I think it’s OK if we unwrap them early.

Sharpen your skates

Some day, the Cubs hope to build their long-rumored “Triangle Building” along Clark Street outside Wrigley Field. Until then, though, they seem fit to set up an offseason skating rink in its place.

“The Rink at Wrigley” – which debuted last year – held its 2010 Grand Opening ceremony this morning and will remain open through Feb. 28, with rates running at $5 per adult and $3 per child, Monday through Thursday, and $10 per adult and $6 per child, Friday through Sunday. Skate rentals are available for an additional fee. For hours of operation, visit

Also know that Wrigley isn’t the only place in the city offering a unique skating experience this winter. On Jan. 1, the John Hancock Observatory will open its own rink, dubbed “Skating in the Sky,” in the tower’s 94th floor.

Made of synthetic ice and offering the best views of Chicago (far superior to Willis Tower) from more than 1,000 feet in the air, the indoor rink is the highest in the world, according to the Observatory. Hours run daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. with 25-minute skating sessions costing $5 and skate rentals $1. For more information, visit

Carol at Moody Church

Built in 1925, Moody Church (1630 N. Clark St.) – named for famed Chicago evangelist D.L. Moody – is one of the most beautiful in the city. And at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 12, the cathedral will open its doors for its 39th annual Christmas Festival, featuring a variety of classic hymns and seasonal carols.

Doors for the event open at 5:15 p.m. and no tickets are required. Free parking is available at the Moody Bible Institute garage, located at the northwest corner of Wells and Institute streets. Complimentary shuttle service between the garage and the church will also be available before and after the concert, beginning at 5 p.m.

Visit Christkindlmarket

In 1545, Nuremburg, Germany, held its first Christkindlesmarkt. Five hundred and 51 years later, Chicago tweaked the spelling a tad and set up its own.

In 1996, Christkindlmarket – Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival – made its debut on Pioneer Court. The next year, the event moved to Daley Plaza and has been one the city’s most popular holiday staples ever since.

Running semi-daily through Dec. 24 – check for exact dates and times – the German-style festival features European holiday traditions, musical performances and a wide array of vendors hawking handmade ornaments and other wares.

Ring in 2011 at Navy Pier

It’s never too early to make your New Year’s plans. And there’s no better place to celebrate New Year’s – literally early – than Navy Pier.

On Dec. 31, Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest features a variety of interactive shows and a celebratory alternative for those kids – and perhaps parents – who can’t stay awake until midnight by launching a New Year’s countdown at 8:15 p.m. sharp. (Your kids will never know it wasn’t midnight, if you don’t tell them.)

At 11:59 p.m., Navy Pier will then hold another countdown – complete with fireworks and music – for you 2011 sticklers.