Friday, December 10, 2010

Chicago Warms Up Winter: Free Festivals Family Fun

From special holiday exhibitions at Chicago museums to the Daley Plaza Christmas Tree to celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, families have a lot of ways to stay warm over the holiday season in Chicago. Best yet, our pick of the many events are guaranteed to keep little ones entertained at no cost.

Some Favorite Annual Chicago Traditions

Michigan Avenue: The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival presented by Harris through December

Daley Plaza: Christkindlmarket Chicago through December 24, 2010
Opens daily 11a.m.; Closing hours Sunday through Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. Admission Free. Daley Plaza is transformed into a little piece of Germany, known as the Christkindlmarket Chicago. Nutcrackers, cuckoo-clocks, beer steins, European chocolates, toys, jewelry, clothing and a wide variety of holiday ornaments are just a few of the items for sale from more than 50 vendor booths.

Millennium Park: Caroling at Cloud Gate on Fridays through December 17, 2010
6 PM Admission Free. Chicagoans and visitors alike are invited to Cloud Gate to hear the beautiful voices of different Chicago choral groups and participate in a holiday sing-along. After the holiday sing-along, everyone is encouraged to skate at Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Navy Pier: Winter Wonderfest through Sunday, Jan 2, 2011
Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Admission Free, wristbands required to participate in rides and attractions ($16-19) Navy Pier's annual holiday extravaganza returns for its eighth magical year. This holiday tradition features more than 750,000 holiday ornaments, hundreds of decorated trees, an indoor Ferris wheel, Musical Carousel, North Pole E-Wish Center, Large-Scale Inflatable Games and Giant Slides, Winter WonderStage, Carolers, and more!

City Hall Concert Series: Young Voices Deck “The Hall” through Friday, December 17, 2010
12-1 p.m. Admission Free.The City Hall Holiday Concert Series begins Wednesday December 1 and runs through Friday, December 17 with concerts every weekday from noon to 1 p.m. The concerts will take place in the lobby of City Hall (121 N. LaSalle) near the LaSalle Street entrance.

Mayor Daley’s Sports Festival -- December 18 and December 19, 2010
10 am - 4 pm McCormick Place in Halls A & B Admission Free. Highlights of the annual Chicago Sports Festival include interactive zones featuring trampolines, golf, climbing walls, football, chess, obstacle course, tot’s zone, bowling, table tennis, inflatable tumbling, tennis, badminton, boxing, a pitching zone, fishing ponds, footbag, giant slide, 40-Yard dash, skateboarding area, wrestling, and open courts for volleyball and basketball. The Halftime Stage features special performances and demonstrations from 12 – 4 each day.

Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand
Mondays – Fridays, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission Free. Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand at 66 East Randolph Street: offers edible local products, all produced within 250 miles of Chicago, including fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs in season; a full range of condiments, preserves, seasonings and other dry goods items; baked goods and seasonal items as available.

Holiday Shopping in Chicago Neighborhoods There’s no better place for holiday shopping than in Chicago’s neighborhoods! Division Street and the Southport Corridor are home to specialty shops that carry the work of independent and Chicago-based designers. In the Lincoln Park neighborhood, shop along Lincoln Avenue, Clark Street, Armitage Avenue or Halsted Street, or venture further north to the Lakeview neighborhood (along Clark Street, Belmont Avenue or Broadway) for a wide variety of shopping alternatives.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights nightly through January 2, 2011
(Closed Dec. 24 & 25), 5–9 p.m. Admission Free.Lincoln Park Zoo transforms into a dazzling wonderland with a series of free seasonal festivities. Enter a winter wonderland illuminated by the laughter of children and more than two million lights at Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Charter One. Animal exhibits stay open late as guests roam the beautiful grounds to take photos with Santa, prepare family crafts and enjoy the zoo’s incredible animals immersed in an atmosphere unlike any other.

Chicago Hotel Offers

Visitors to the city should check out the Chicago Office of Tourism’s Visitor Information Center (877-CHICAGO) in the Chicago Cultural Center, located at 78 East Washington Street. Their website is a good place to start searching for lodging deals, many of which are available, especially on weekends durng this time of year.

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