That said, I absolutely love this time of year in downtown Chicago. If you are crazy about Christmastime (like me) there is nothing like spending a day-- or a weekend-- in the Loop. This is the first in a two-part series all about what to do, see, and eat in the Loop...
See a show
Never in a million years did I think I'd get my husband to take me to see a Broadway musical, but I have now managed to twice. It has become something of a holiday tradition for us, I guess. Last year we saw the Book of Mormon at the Bank of America Theatre (not a hard sell) and recently we went to see Wicked at the Oriental Theatre-- a harder sell, but he actually enjoyed it.
Chicago always has a handful of great musicals and plays showing at any given time, but during this time of year there are always a few special holiday-themed shows in town too. The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet and A Christmas Carol are perennial favorites. And this year the stage adaptation of the movie Elf is in town too!
The holiday decorations at Macy's on State Street (the former Marshall Fields store) is another notable holiday attraction in the Chicago Loop. The decor on both the inside and the outside are worth checking out.
Macy's occupies one entire city block and you can circle the entire building checking out their famous window displays. Many of them are animated, set to music, and tell a story from window to window. Personally, I'm a big fan of the holiday trumpets: they go up every year and when they go up they signal that Christmastime has arrived in Chicago.
The interior of the building is beautiful year round, but when they add the holiday decor it is particularly special. This is also a great place to take the kids to see Santa or to enjoy a holiday meal in the Walnut Room (the more upscale restaurant on Macy's 7th floor) next to their ornately decorated tree.
The Christkindlmarket is by far my favorite holiday event in Chicago. Modeled after the traditional outdoor holiday markets of Germany, this seasonal market opens up downtown in Daley Plaza during Thanksgiving week and closes promptly after Christmas.
The market is a great place to do some holiday shopping. They have a great selection of glass and handcrafted tree ornaments made right here in Chicago or in Germany and other eastern European countries. You can also find other traditional German gifts like cuckoo clocks, beer steins, wooden pyramids (the ones that spin around powered by a candle flame), figurines, woven wool goods, and more.
One of the other items I would put on your Christkindlmarket to do list is to order a mug of gluhwein. Gluhwein is a traditional hot beverage of warm red wine, honey, and spices. It's always a tradition to come down to the Christkindlmarket with my sister Emma over Thanksgiving weekend and do a little shopping while we sip on hot wine. It definitely makes walking around in the Chicago cold a little easier to bear!
Rosebud Theatre District
The Rosebud restaurants are a bit of an institution in Chicago-- classic Italian-American food in an upscale atmosphere. I love the Theatre District location for a pre-show dinner or for a more special weekday lunch. Alex and I recently had dinner here before going to see Wicked and had a great meal.
The caprese salad at Rosebud is a variation on the classic, but still delicious. Thick tomato slices are topped with fresh mozzarella, red onions, roasted red peppers, and mixed greens all tossed in a light vinaigrette. This salad is huge so Alex and I split it and still enjoyed a very generous portion each.
Dinner at Rosebud was delicious. This is one of those places where I know exactly what I want as soon as I enter the restaurant because it's so good: for me, it always comes down to the eggplant rolotini (a special that they feature frequently) or the rigatoni alla vodka. I went with the rigatoni this time around, adding a few grilled shrimp to it. The sauce is thick and flavorful and the portion was so large that I ended up with a good sized lunch for the following day too.
And while you're at it, take a ride on the CTA's Holiday Train-- the perfect way to travel around the Loop and to get into the holiday spirit at the same time!