The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
Besides summertime, there’s no better time in Chicago than Christmastime.
Michigan Avenue is awash in glittering lights. The windows at Macy’s on State Street burst with festive fun. And people everywhere bundle up with a few extra layers of holiday cheer.
With the Polar Vortex, they may need it.
So much holiday hoopla goes on throughout Chicago in December, that it’s impossible to do it all. But if you’re making a list (and checking it twice), here are a few things that I’d suggest putting right near the top.
Holiday Lights Trolley
Enjoy Chicago’s nighttime sights in all their holiday glory on the Holiday Lights Trolley through Jan. 4. For $29 ($19 children ages 3-11), the 2.5-hour tour begins at John Hancock Plaza (875 N. Michigan Ave.) and makes stops at twinkling Lincoln Park Zoo and Daley Plaza’s Christkindlmarket Plaza before eventually ending at Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you’ll receive complimentary hot cocoa and cookies.
For hours and additional information, visit chicagotrolley.com.
Caroling & Ice Skating in Millennium Park
During the holidays, Millennium Park bursts with Christmastime activities. That includes Caroling at Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) with notable chorale groups from 6 to 7 p.m. on Fridays through Dec. 19, followed by optional skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.
Skating is always free at the rink, open through March 8 at 11 N. Michigan Ave., while skate rentals are $12. Additionally on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, the rink offers free skating lessons.
For more information, visit millenniumpark.org.
Santa Saturdays at Driehaus Museum
For years, my wife and I have wanted to explore the Driehaus Museum, a resplendently restored mansion near the Mag Mile that transports visitors to the turn of the 19th century and Chicago’s Gilded Age.
In December, we’ll finally get our chance as the museum at 40 E. Erie St. holds “Santa Saturdays” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 13 & 20. For $12 ($8 for kids 12 and under), the events include children-friendly events such as crafts, cookies and a visit from Santa.
As an added bonus, there will be storytelling by “Aunt Holly” a unique-to-Chicago Christmas character created by Marshall Field’s Department Store in 1946.
For more information, visit driehausmuseum.org.
You can pop in to see Lincoln Park Zoo’s magical ZooLights as part of the Holiday Lights Trolley tour, or make the annual free exhibition your primary destination for an evening.
Believe me, it would be worth it.
As a brilliantly lit wonderland, the zoo at 2001 N. Clark St. features luminous trees, nightly ice carving, 3D displays, holiday crafts, photos with Santa, ice-skating at the Farm-in-the-Zoo and to help fend off the December nip in the air, beer and warm spiced wine and for adults.
ZooLights runs Fridays through Sundays until Dec. 12, at which point the lights will be on nightly (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) through Jan. 4. The nearby Gemini Bistro (geminibistrochicago.com) also offers a special ZooLights Prix Fixe menu for $35 each evening.
For more information about ZooLights, visit lpzoo.org.
Snowflakes & Stories at Adler Planetarium
Take your opportunity to venture into “the world’s largest snow globe” as Adler Planetarium’s famed Grainger Sky Theater is transformed into a swirling faux-snow refuge.
From 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Dec. 13 at the planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.), children can make their own paper snowflakes and take part in interactive storytelling as well as enjoy face painting, a festive photo booth, hot cocoa and other holiday treats.
Admission for non-members is $20 for children, $25 for adults. For more information, visit adlerplaneterium.org.