CHICAGO — In order to ensure Chicagoans and visitors safely enjoy the holiday season to the fullest, Chicago Loop Alliance has once again launched “Holidays in the Loop.”
Businesses and attractions in the Loop and beyond are featured in the curated list, including many virtual and socially distant, outdoor activities.
For ideas on how to make the most of the holidays in Chicago’s official downtown, check out the listings below and the full online guide. Chicago Loop Alliance has also tracked Loop deals, where to eat and where to shop in the Loop, as well as how to get back in the Loop safely. For more details, visit LoopChicago.com/Holidays.
“It’s been quite a year,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards. “Everyone deserves a joyful and safe holiday season. We’ve gathered the best attractions in the city to make it fun and easy to plan for the holidays. This is the most wonderful time of the year in the Loop. We want folks to know that despite what a challenging year it’s been, Chicago’s official downtown is ready to welcome everyone with the magic and cheer you’ve come to expect from the Loop during the holidays.”
New this year, Chicago Loop Alliance is also matching local artists with Loop businesses for a holiday window painting project. Holidays in the Loop Painted Windows are scheduled to be painted from Nov. 19-22 and will remain up through the first week of January. So far theWit Hotel, StayPineapple Chicago and 130 S. State St. have signed onto the project.
“We want to celebrate the holidays in the Loop in a way that people can enjoy safely and from a distance,” said Chicago Loop Alliance Director of Planning Kalindi Parikh. “We also want to support local artists and businesses. We’ve done storefront window painting projects in the past and found them to be really impactful, so we’re excited to be incorporating this tactic into holiday celebrations.”
Celebrate the Holidays in the Loop at the following:
• Macy’s Walnut Room, now through Jan. 3, 111 N. State St. The Walnut Room reopened for Great Tree viewing and take-out orders on Nov. 7. Macy’s is offering the opportunity to bring the Walnut Room dining to your home through convenient, family-style takeout orders and meal kits. Limited reservations remain available for Nov. 15-Jan. 3 on OpenTable.com. When indoor dining is permitted to resume, reservations will be required in advance.
• Art on theMART: The Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” now through Dec. 31, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza. “The Nutcracker” presentation for Art on theMART, set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. The performance runs nightly at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The projections — displayed on theMART’s 2.5-acre river-facade — can be viewed for free from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street.
• Macy’s State Street holiday windows, beginning Nov. 13, 111 N. State St. Since the early 1870s, Macy’s has been stunning spectators with its famed holiday window displays and celebratory events. Macy’s was the first store to feature holiday windows created for the pure fun and joy of the season and, with that, began a tradition that still lives on today. Be sure to go inside the store to see the Macy’s Christmas Tree, too—but don’t forget your mask!
• Holidays in the Loop Painted Windows by Chicago Loop Alliance, Nov. 19-Jan. 8, various locations on State Street including theWit Hotel, StayPineapple Chicago and 130 S. State St. Chicago Loop Alliance has paired local artists with Loop businesses for a holiday window painting project. Enjoy beautiful artwork outside and at a safe distance.
• City of Chicago’s 107th Christmas Tree, Nov. 20-Jan. 7, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St. This year’s official lighting will take place virtually, but Chicagoans are encouraged to visit the festive site on their own. This year’s Tree is a 45-foot Blue Spruce donated by the family of Catherine Townsend of Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood (19th ward). Millennium Park holiday programs are produced by DCASE and presented by Powering Chicago, with support from the Millennium Park Foundation and Chicago Transit Authority.
• Outdoor public art tours with DCASE, Nov. 21 and Dec. 5 and 19 at 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m., throughout the Millennium Park Campus and Chicago Cultural Center. In-person, outdoor tours highlight significant works or art throughout the Millennium Park Campus and Chicago Cultural Center. Tours cover artworks across the Millennium Park Campus by Edra Soto, Anish Kapoor and Kerry James Marshall, among others.
• Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon, Nov. 20-Feb. 28, 337 E. Randolph St. Come and skate the quarter mile Alpine inspired ice-skating ribbon, while taking in the magnificent views of the Chicago Skyline. Masks and reservations required.
• Merry Christmas from DePaul: A Project Bluelight Production, Nov. 20-Jan. 31, 247 S. State St. The School of Cinematic Arts, in collaboration with the Division of Mission and Ministry at DePaul University, presents the 2nd annual Christmas tradition reminiscent of the fabled Christmas windows that once lined downtown State Street. Produced by animation and production design faculty and students, the “Merry Christmas from DePaul” window utilizes state-of-the-art technology to build an imaginative, 3-D experience rooted in the message and vision “Christmas at DePaul”—designed to touch our humanity, evoke a sense of communal joy, celebrate DePaul’s Catholic identity, and share the magic of Christmas.
• Zoolights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Nov. 21-Jan. 3, 2001 N. Clark St. Zoolights, a Chicago tradition, is back at Lincoln Park Zoo for a fun and safe holiday activity! Enjoy socially-distant visits with Santa, a holiday pop-up bar, an Enchanted Forest, Light Maze Presented by Invesco QQQ, sweet treats of all kinds, and much more!
• Holiday Thorne Rooms at Art Institute of Chicago, Nov. 27-Jan. 7, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. This year, the Thorne Miniature Rooms will once again be meticulously installed with seasonal decorations. All were made in the past 10 years by skilled miniaturists precisely to the scale established in the 1930s by Narcissa Niblack Thorne, the creator of the 68 miniature rooms. Discover the tiny pine garland, a delicate pastry hedgehog, miniature skates, and a menorah, all created to blend seamlessly into the imagined interiors created by Thorne.
• Art Institute of Chicago, open Thursday-Monday, 111 S. Michigan Ave. The Art Institute is the second largest art museum in the country with a collection of approximately 300,000 works of art. The Art Institute of Chicago collects, preserves and interprets works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, for the inspiration and education of the public and in accordance with the profession’s highest ethical standards and practices. With an annual visitation of about 1.5 million, the Art Institute is one of the most popular attractions for Chicago residents and visitors alike.
• Chicago Architecture Center, open Saturday and Sunday, 111 E. Wacker Drive. The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) is the city’s new all-in-one architecture experience: a museum with two floors of exhibits and a gateway to more than 85 boat, walking, bus, bike, and L tours.
• Museum of Illusions, open now, 25 W. Washington St. Designed to amuse, amaze and stimulate the senses, the Museum of Illusions features more than 80 unique visual and educational installations appealing to locals and tourists of all ages.
• Private Holiday Lights Trolley Tour, Aries Charter. Ready to get your family out of the house for some good, old-fashioned holiday fun? Get together safely with those you love and sleigh the season with a Holiday Trolley or bus ride driven by Aries Charter Transportation! Aries Charter can help you experience the magic of holiday light tours without distraction! Allow them to drive while you enjoy the festive light displays. It’s a unique and safe alternative to make 2020’s holiday season brighter. And let’s face it, we could all use a little extra cheer right now!
• Rookery Light Court Tours, 209 S. LaSalle St., every Friday. Take a guided tour of The Rookery Light Court festively decked for the holidays, complete with a giant tree in the lobby. Learn how Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled Burnham and Root’s landmark 1888 skyscraper. Get an exclusive view of the spectacular oriel staircase. Visit the library where Daniel Burnham and associates hatched plans for the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. Three standard tours and one enhanced tour are available Fridays.
• Shoreline Sightseeing, 600 E. Grand Ave. From architecture river tours that show the highlights and history of Chicago’s greatest buildings to tours on Lake Michigan that give you a whole new perspective on the Chicago skyline, Shoreline Sightseeing covers the waterfront. With the city’s largest fleet – 11 touring vessels and six water taxis – and dozens of architectural guides, Shoreline Sightseeing is one of Chicago’s most popular tours.
• Skydeck at the Willis Tower, open Friday-Sunday, 233 S. Wacker Drive. Skydeck Chicago is the observation deck located on the 103rd floor of the iconic Willis Tower. Along with spectacular views of the city and region, the Skydeck is also home to The Ledge, a series of glass balconies extending 4.3 feet outside the building.
Virtual celebrations include:
• Christkindlmarket, now through Dec. 31. The first-ever virtual Christkindlmarket “Home for the Holidays,” features an online marketplace, family-friendly events, and fun interactive activities. The market features ornaments, gifts, sweets and treats from Germany and beyond, as well as special limited-edition gift box sets, including German holiday favorites and “must-haves.” Other special activities include live online events, prize giveaways, and intercultural storytelling. Visitors can also explore German customs, and participate in giveaway events and a daily Advent Calendar.
• “The People’s Palace” Virtual Tours, now through March 1. The virtual tours are on-demand and cover the stunning architecture and history of the Chicago Cultural Center, completed in 1897. Explore the Tiffany Dome, and other building high points where the country’s top architects and craftsmen used the most sumptuous materials, such as rare imported marbles, polished brass, fine hardwoods, and mosaics of Favrile glass, mother-of-pearl and colored stone, to create an architectural showplace.
• Millennium Park at Home: Chicago Holidays, Thursday, Presented in lieu of an in-person tree lighting ceremony for the public, the holiday greeting from Mayor Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman takes on a new form. Produced by Kurtis Productions with support from the Millennium Park Foundation and DCASE. Special acknowledgements of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and music performances recorded at the Epiphany Center for the Arts featuring the Chicago Children’s Choir, Sones de México Ensemble and Percy Bady and friends – with a special tribute to the 50th anniversary of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.” The event will be archived and viewable throughout the holiday season.
• “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 1-31. Enjoy this gift to the Chicago community. Experience Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” anew with a FREE audio streaming version. The voices you love--including Larry Yando as Scrooge--and Goodman Theatre’s signature soundscape come to vivid life in your home. Whether your loved ones are across the miles or across the room--come together and listen to Chicago’s favorite holiday tradition for more than 43 years.
• Re-ACTIVATE – A Virtual Fundraiser, Dec. 3. Chicago Loop Alliance is proud to present Re-ACTIVATE, a virtual fundraiser to support the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation and the recovery of the Loop neighborhood. Live painting, compelling conversation, and celebrity guests await.