Ten Things to do in Chicago this Winter
From helicopter tours to holiday traditions, there are plenty of things to do in Chicago other than hibernate. Here are the top 10 things to do in Chicago this winter:
Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park (pictured) both have ice skating rinks with impressive backdrops: Chicago’s skyline. Skating is free with your own skates, otherwise you can rent some at the rink. The lines can be crazy long on weekends, especially when it’s not painfully cold, so try a weekday if you can. Holiday bonus: If you go to Millennium Park on Friday nights, you may catch some carolers at Cloud Gate.
Try Chicago’s Hottest New Restaurants
One of the best things to do in Chicago is eat! It is foodie heaven up in here! There are a few new spots that I am dying to try. 1) Bad Hunter – a “veg-forward” restaurant in the trendy West Loop neighborhood. 2) Lena Brena – a Rick Bayless creation inspired by Baja California Norte, which celebrates live-fire cooking and the region’s premier wines. 3) Flamingo Rum Club – a Cuban-inspired cabaret, complete with dancers and a massive rum collection in River North, is expected to open mid-December. (you’ve probably seen the #Flamingowall in your Instagram feed at some point. That’s the Flamingo Rum Club).
More than two million lights illuminate Lincoln Park Zoo for this festive annual event. Enjoy ice carvings, zoo animals, and ice skating under the glow of Christmas lights. It’s free and you can bring or buy hot cocoa (spiked, if you wish!). A kid-free night is coming up on December 7th with a live band and booze. You can get tickets here. Zoolights end January 1, 2017.
Check out a Concert
With so many venues in and around Chicago (House of Blues, Lincoln Hall, Double Door to name a few), there are always fantastic musical acts in town. I have not taken advantage of this as much as I should, so I am making a point to change that starting this month. Here are a few acts in December and January with tickets still available (as of December 2nd): The Lumineers + Andrew Bird + Margaret Glaspy, White Panda, Britney Spears, and Kings of Leon + Deerhunter.
One of the coolest things to do in Chicago this winter is a helicopter tour. Talk about a bad-ass date night! Chicago Helicopter Experience offers aerial tours of the city when the sun is up or down. The “Holiday Tour” is $178 per person and shows off the city lit up with holiday lights. I haven’t done this yet, but it is on my list.
Take the Plunge
Every year, hundreds of people – including some A-list celebrities – jump into Lake Michigan to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics. My friend from the Best Buddies program is a Special Olympics athlete, so I was happy to take the plunge last year in her honor. I ran into a few celebs when I was there, including Lady Gaga, Sophia Bush, and David Eigenberg (I loved watching him as Steve in Sex in the City!). The next Polar Plunge is March 5, 2017.
Put on your fancy pants, grab your girlfriends, and sit down for high tea at one of Chicago’s luxury hotels. The Drake, The Peninsula, and The Langham serve afternoon tea in the most beautiful, festive settings. I went to Holiday Tea at the Drake last year, and was happy they had lots of gluten-free treats!
Every year, Chicago’s downtown square, Daley Plaza, transforms into an outdoor holiday market packed with handcrafted gifts including ornaments, nativity sets, and wooden treasures. Christkindlmarket is inspired by the Nuremberg Christmas Market in Germany, so you can find schnitzel, strudel, and beer. You can also sip mulled wine in one of the 2016 souvenir mugs while you stroll through the holiday market. Christkindlmarket runs until December 24, 2016.
Drink Champagne in the Walnut Room
A lady lunch at the Walnut Room at Macy’s is another holiday staple. My girlfriends and I go here every year in December. This is the sixth year in a row, actually. We catch up over champagne and holiday cocktails, then go outside to see Macy’s holiday windows. (It still feels weird saying Macy’s. RIP Marshall Fields windows).
Ride Navy Pier’s New Ferris Wheel
Navy Pier upgraded its ferris wheel so it is bigger and better than ever. You can take a luxurious ride in the new VIP gondola which has a glass bottom so you can soak in the views of Lake Michigan and the skyline from all angles. The new wheel now has heaters, so you can comfortably go for a ride even on a cold winter night. Watch my VIP experience on the ferris wheel before you go!