With Chicagoans bundling up and drinking hot chocolate galore, it’s safe to say that it is officially the most wonderful time of the year. Celebrate the Chicago way with these one-of-a-kind special events.
Sip on spiced wine or a frosty lager as you explore one of Chicago’s favorite free holiday traditions. Find your way through the labyrinth of 30,000 twinkling lights to the candy cane forest or the Ferris Wheel. From holiday shopping to craft nights, there’s something for everyone here. 4:30-9 p.m., Dec. 8-23, 26-31; January 1-7; 2001 North Clark St., 312-742-2000; lpzoo.org
The Godfrey Hotel Chicago welcomes all to its second annual Winter Wonderland at the hotel’s year-round rooftop lounge, I|O Godfrey. Guests are invited to escape the chill of winter in Chicago by cozying up in a heated, clear-domed igloo or nearby one of the rooftop’s firepits—where they can sip seasonal cocktails, such as the toasty Godfrey Toddy, roast s’mores over the fire, and enjoy sweeping city views. Open through February, The Godfrey’s Winter Wonderland hosts a festive series of events throughout the season. 127 W. Huron at LaSalle, 312-649-2000;
One of Chicago’s most celebrated holiday traditions since 1996, this unique shopping experience includes German food and drinks and diverse holiday entertainment. Visit Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival through 12/24 for the ultimate holiday experience. Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.- 8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m; Daley Plaza between Dearborn, Washington and Clark St., christkindlmarket.com
Chicago’s biggest indoor winter playground returns for its 17th edition through Jan. 7. The festivities feature 170,000 square feet of rides, giant slides, a skating rink, and more. Whether you’re in the mood to create a cookie cottage or to get a little competitive in Winter Rules Mini Golf, there’s something here for everyone. Opens daily at 10 a.m., closing times vary by day; 600 E. Grand Ave., 312-595-5155; navypier.org/winter-wonderfest
Photography by Julia Fuller/Lincoln Park Zoo (Zoo Lights), Jim Prichard for Christkindlmarket (Christkindlmarket)