The WISCH LIST
I always say that other than summertime, there’s no better time visit Chicago than Christmastime. With the Mag Mile awash in glittering lights, State Street truly looking like that Great Street with the festive windows at Macy’s (it’s still Marshall Field’s to me) and people bundled up with an extra layer of holiday cheer, the Windy City is tough to beat in December.
In fact, so much holiday hoopla swirls about the Chicago this month that it’s impossible to do it all. But if you’re making a list (and checking it twice), here are a few things I’d suggest putting right near the top.
Christkindlmarket at Wrigley
Wrigley Field has undergone an array of changes over the past few years, but perhaps nothing is more dramatic than the addition of The Park at Wrigley – which has now turned the old ballpark into a full-blown wintertime destination..
In November, a new outpost of Chicago’s popular downtown German-themed Christkindlmarket opened at The Park, bringing the same open-air holiday village, German food and spiced wine found at Daley Plaza to the North Side.
Unlike at Daley Plaza, The Park also allows you to take a twirl on a newly constructed 8,000-square-foot skating rink. Rink fees are $5 for skaters 13 and up, while those 12 and younger are free. Skate rental costs an additional $10.
For more information, visit parkatwrigley.com.
The long-running “A Christmas Carol” at Goodman Theatre in the Loop – now in its 40th year – is probably the best-known holiday show in Chicago, but it’s hardly the only seasonal stage performance worth seeing.
Through New Year’s Eve in Lakeview, the Mercury Theater (3745 N. Southport Ave.) performs “The Christmas Schooner,” a moving tale that’s sure to put win in your holiday sails. Based on the true story of the crew of the Rouse Simmons, a ship that during the late 19th century risked everything by battling Lake Michigan’s dangerous gales to transport Christmas trees – and spirit – from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago’s German immigrants. For tickets, visit mercurytheater.org.
Elsewhere in Lakeview, the American Blues Theater (1225 W. Belmont Ave.), puts on the 16th annual installment of “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live!” – a live 1940s radio broadcast of George Bailey’s story from the legendary 1946 Frank Capra film. The ensemble cast recreates the entire town of Bedford Falls with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols – and afterwards treats the audience with milk and cookies. For tickets visit, americanbluestheather.com.
Santa Saturdays at Driehaus Museum
There’s perhaps no more beautiful building in Chicago than the Driehaus Museum – especially during Christmas. A resplendently restored mansion near the Mag Mile, the museum transports visitors to the turn of the 19th century and Chicago’s Gilded Age, and this month does it all with a healthy dose of holiday cheer.
Located at 40 E. Erie St., the museum this month stages Santa Saturdays during which visitors can take part in children-friendly events including art projects, sing-alongs and a visit from Santa, as well as storytelling by “Aunt Holly,” a unique-to-Chicago Christmas character created by Marshall Field’s in 1946. Santa Saturdays begin today and continue on Dec. 9 and 16.
For more information, visit driehausmuseum.org.
Chicago Polar Express
Based on the popular holiday film, “The Polar Express,” Chicago’s own Polar Express Train Ride begins on an Amtrak train at historic Union Station in the West Loop and then morphs into a “magical one-our trip through downtown Chicago” set to the soundtrack of the motion picture while riders sip on hot chocolate.
For more information, tickets and excursion times, visit chicagothepolarexpressride.com. Act quickly as tickets are selling fast.