Winter in Chicagoland

By+Jamey Harding

If you’ve never visited Lincoln Park Zoo, the largest free zoo and one of the oldest in the United States, Winter is the ideal time to be, well, away in a manger. Ten thousand times brighter than Rudolph’s nose, ZooLights is an event for the whole family to enjoy. Countless strands of festive lights are hung throughout the zoo, highlighting the homes of over 1,250 animals. Most exhibits are open during ZooLights hours although some animals some may be sleeping. In addition to bright lights and ice-carving demonstrations, kids will love visiting Santa Claus on “Santa’s Safari” and riding the Holiday Express train.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 742-2000

Free Admission
Opening the day after Thanksgiving, ZooLights will be turned on Friday–Sunday, until December 12, and daily from December 17–January 2, 2011. Hours, 5pm–9pm. ZooLights is closed December 24 and December 25.

Nothing warms up the cold winter months like cozying up to a fire, especially at your own dining table. Near the Zoo in the heart of Lincoln Park, Geja’s Café is a must for lovers of “all things dipped” fondue style. Romantically dark and cozy for a dinner date, Geja’s is also a great place for friends or a small group, and nightly Flamenco music performances add to the experience. Come hungry for the most flavorful seafood, premium meat dishes, cheeses, breads, and veggies, and discover a favorite combination with eight dipping sauces from which to choose. Dessert dipping is a round of Belgian chocolate fondue with fruit, pound cake, and marshmallows.

Geja’s Café
340 West Armitage Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60614
(773) 281-9101

Monday–Thursday, 5pm–10pm
Friday, 5pm–11:30pm
Saturday, 5pm–12am
Sunday, 4:30pm–9:30pm

Hosting a holiday party takes preparation, and culinary artists at the highly acclaimed Terzo Piano in the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago are offering their help. With an intimate crowd and unique surroundings cooking demonstrations are held by the restaurant’s Chef di Cucina, Meg Colleran Sahs, and Beverage Manager, Ryan Paykert, about every two months. A recipe outline is given to each participant so they can take notes as each dish is prepared. Guests enjoy a serving of each dish thoughtfully paired with wine or specially mixed cocktail. Whether or not you are attending a cooking demonstration, be sure to try the delectable modern Italian dishes at Terzo Piano, made with fresh local and organic ingredients. Lunch is served daily and dinner is offered on Thursday nights.

Terzo Piano
159 E. Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-8650

Upcoming Cooking Demonstrations:
Saturday, January 22, 2011—Warming Winter Soups, 3pm–5pm
(Guests must call (312) 443-8650 to reserve their space. Maximum of 50 guests per demonstration.)

Lunch:  Monday–Saturday, 11am–3pm Dinner: Thursdays, 5pm–9pm
Terzo Piano is open to the public without requiring admission to
the museum.

Approach the holidays from a German perspective. The Christkindlmarket is an open-air market inspired by the famous Nuremburg Christmas Market in Germany dating to 1545. Sip on a tasty glass of warm Glühwein, a German specialty mulled wine, and explore the festive booths with vendors dressed in traditional folk attire displaying authentic wares and hand-crafted ornaments. Although Jack Frost will be nipping at your nose, your sense of smell will undoubtedly lead you to an abundance of hearty German Speise (food). From oversized pretzels to potato pancakes, shnitzel to strudel, your appetite will find its match at nearly every turn of the market. After treating yourself to many delicacies, wash it down with a sizeable stein of beer. Prost!

Daley Plaza
50 W. Washington
Chicago, IL 60602

Free Admission
November 24, 2010–December 24, 2010, Sundays–Thursdays: 11am–8pm; Fridays–Saturdays: 11am–9pm

Heedless of the wind and weather, Chicago’s Green City Market, a diverse collection of local vendors selling fresh herbs, flowers, produce, breads, meats, and dairy products, moves indoors at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum on November 6. Most Chicagoans are familiar with Lincoln Park’s nationally top-rated open-air market in spring, summer, and fall. You may not realize the market continues its run through winter. The Green City Market benefits the local community and economy by connecting Chicagoland producers and farmers with the general public. Some of the most popular vendors include Mama Hoosier’s Pie Company, Zulio’s for fried doughnuts, and the apple cider is a must. Beyond a wide range of vendors, make sure to check out the popular chef demonstrations.  For the best selection, be there early for market opening!

Green City Market,
Peggy Notebart Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614

Free Admission
Open every Wednesday and Saturday, 8am–1pm

First Fridays are a great way to kick off a weekend. For singles looking to mingle, it happens the first Friday of every month at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For an admission fee of $18 (or $13 purchased in advance), guests can wander the museum with a drink from the cash bar and enjoy complimentary Wolfgang Puck appetizers. The biggest draw, beyond the featured works of an up and coming artist, is the social buzz surrounding the world’s only iMac digital dating bar. A computerized test quickly determines personality and compatibility.

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-2644
(312) 280-2660

Upcoming First Fridays
December 3: Holidaze
January 7: Fire
February 4: Sugar
March 4: Robots

First Friday of every month, 6pm–10pm with a cash bar until 9:30pm. Guests must be 21 or older to enter.  General admission: $18, Advance tickets: $13, MCA members: $10

Whether looking for a fun, family-friendly activity or a nostalgic night with your spouse, lacing up a pair of ice skates during the chilly winter months brings out the kid in anyone. At the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, the joy of ice skating is all the more enjoyable because the rink is perfectly positioned along bustling Michigan Avenue under the glow of city lights. Although access to the rink is free, skate rental is available for $10. Children laughing, people passing, and you’ll see smile after smile! 

Millennium Park
55 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 742-5222

Rink Opens November 17, 2010–March 13, 2011
Ice Skating Regular Hours:            
Monday–Thursday, Noon–8pm;                               
Friday, Noon–10pm;
Saturday–Sunday, Noon–9pm

Ice Skating Holiday Hours: 
Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving), 10am–4pm;
Friday, December 24, 10am–6pm;
Saturday, December 25, 10am–4pm;
Friday, December 31, 10am–8pm;
Saturday, January 1, 12pm–10pm

For those Cubs fans who can’t get enough of their team during the winter months, jump on CTA’s red line to the Addison stop where you can skate at a temporary rink in the shadow of Wrigley Field. Continue the fun by using your skating receipt for a discount at nearby Wrigleyville bars and restaurants.

Wrigley Field
1060 W. Addison Street
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 404-2827

Rink opens December 15, 2010– February 28, 2011 (estimated)

Ice Skating Hours (Estimated):
Monday–Thursday, 2pm–9pm;
Friday, 2pm–11pm;
Saturday, 10am–11pm;
Sunday, 10am–8pm