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Wisch list: Chicago reigns with Christmastime adventures

December 2, 2018 GMT

I always say that other than summertime, there’s no better time to 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 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.


Hit the rinks

You can skate the time-honored standard in Chicago — the rink at Millennium Park — or you can hop on the ice at the newer spots that are Gallagher Way and Maggie Daley Park.

Wrigley Field is under construction — again — this winter, but the ice rink outside the ballpark at Gallagher Way will be hopping this month. Every Thursday through Dec. 20, visitors can actually skate with Santa from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and every Wednesday through Dec. 19 can learn new moves from Figure Skate Chicago’s youth performances. For more information and a full schedule, visit winterland.gallagherway.com.

In the heart of downtown, Maggie Daley Park’s skating ribbon is twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink and features a dramatically different experience, offering what it calls “a multisensory activity that is integrated with the landscape.” The stellar view of the nearby skyline certainly helps. For more information and a full schedule, visit maggiedaleypark.com.

Holiday Shows

The long-running “A Christmas Carol” at Goodman Theatre in the Loop — now in its 41st year — is the best-known holiday show in Chicago, but it’s hardly the only seasonal stage performance worth seeing.

Through Jan. 5 in Lake-view, the American Blues Theater at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave.), puts on the 17th 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 re-creates the entire town of Bedford Falls with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols — and afterwards treats the audience to milk and cookies. For tickets, visit americanbluestheater.com.

For less traditional fare, “The Santaland Diaries” — best-selling author David Sedaris’ account of his tenure as a beleaguered holiday elf working at Macy’s — is at Goodman Theatre through Dec. 30 (goodmantheatre.org). Elsewhere, “A Klingon Christmas Carol,” a cult favorite delivered in the alien language from Star Trek and featuring actors in full Klingon get-up, is at Edge Theater (edgetheater.com) through Dec. 16.


Santa at Driehaus Museum

There’s perhaps no more beautiful building in Chicago than the Driehaus Museum — especially during Christmas. A resplendently restored mansion, the museum transports visitors to the turn of the 19th century and Chicago’s Gilded Age, and does it all with a healthy dose of holiday cheer.

Located at 40 E. Erie St., the museum this year has expanded its popular “Santa Saturdays” event to include Sundays through Dec. 16. Visitors can take part in events such as 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.

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-hour trip through downtown Chicago” set to the soundtrack of the motion picture while riders sip on hot chocolate.

For tickets and a full schedule, visit chicagothepolarexpressride.com.