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While a holiday-season visit to Chicago always involves world-class shopping and dining, don’t miss the opportunity to fully surrender to the most wonderful time of year.
In the Windy City, you can make lasting holiday memories that twinkle. Get out and catch snowflakes, slide through the trees, and glide on the ice. Then, enjoy a well-deserved hot chocolate, some more decadent than ever.
LIGHTS, LIGHTS AND MORE LIGHTS
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park opens Nov. 17, the same day of the Annual Christmas tree lighting, which is also in Millennium Park. The ice rink is open to the public and has skate rentals for $12. Not comfortable on the ice? There are free weekly lessons before the rink opens to the public, so you can do your best Bambi in good company. You also can participate in winter workouts, as well as special programs like speedskating, noodle hockey and ice dancing.
If the 48,375 lights that entwine the Chicago Christmas tree aren’t enough, other lighting festivities are everywhere, including Zoolights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where over 2 million lights and a variety of illuminated animal designs decorate the grounds.
Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier is one of the biggest holiday spectacles in Chicago with lots of sparkles. Massive snowflakes and shiny icicles hang above, while over 400 evergreens and giant candy canes, gingerbread houses and snowmen make the best of winter. It’s no wonder it’s called WonderFest. And the lights aren’t the only attraction here: A Ferris wheel, ice skating rink and carousel make this a must-do for holiday fun.
Simply taking a walk outside in the midst of winter is enough to entertain the season. Along Chicago’s magnificent mile, on Michigan Avenue, the light display is iconic. More than 1 million lights adorn 250 trees while shops and hotels create their own winter wonderland windows.
WARMING TREND: HOT COCOA
After experiencing all the lights and gleaming snow outdoors, you’ll be ready for warm rooms and hot beverages. For an unadulterated chocolate drink, head to Xoco, pronounced “SHO-ko,” in River North at 449 North Clark Street. This quick-service café serves Mexican street food and snacks. Even the chocolate is Mexican; Xoco receives its cocoa beans from the state of Tobasco. As a “bean-to-cup” cafe, Xoco roasts and prepares the cocoa beans on-site, creating a creamy concoction that is mixed with steamed milk or water for an unforgettable hot chocolate. Other specialty chocolate drinks are on the menu as well.
Xoco has another location in Wicker Park at 1471 North Milwaukee Avenue.
For one of Chicagoland’s more famous hot chocolate spots, warm up at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar at 1747 North Damen Avenue. Chef Mindy Segal is a James Beard Foundation award winner for pastries, which are the perfect accompaniment to the many types of adult hot chocolate drinks on the menu. The Black and Tan combines fudge and hot chocolate; a dark version incorporates French chocolate. And don’t forget the homemade marshmallows.