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Christmas in Chicago is truly spectacular.  Michigan Avenue is ablaze with lights, the storefronts are festively decorated with great care, and the streets are filled with bustling shoppers feverishly checking off their gift lists.

But if you’re anything like us, what truly sparks the holiday season are the tastes and smells that inevitably come with it!  Part of the reason Nick and I were thrilled when we were sent on our latest Mile Markers mission. Christkindlmarket is a magical space that envelops you and ignites all of your senses; we could even smell the spiced nuts from blocks away!

Chicago's Christmas tree looking over Christkindlmarket.

Chicago’s Christmas tree looking over Christkindlmarket.

 

Located in Daley Plaza, this annual tradition has been getting Chicago in the holiday spirit for 18 years. Christkindlmarket Chicago is the largest and most renowned authentic German, outdoor winter market in the United States, attracting visitors from near and far.

Christkindlmarket offers visitors a very unique holiday shopping experience. The little shops feature one-of-a-kind, hand-blown, and hand-painted ornaments, nutcrackers, hand-carved Santa figurines, cuckoo clocks, and so much more.  Each booth is more unique than the next.  One could spend hours perusing each shop searching for the perfect treasure.

Handcarved dragons at Christkindlmarket

Handcarved dragons at Christkindlmarket

One of our favorite finds was the shop Dom itp.  They work closely with artisans from Poland and commission them to make blown glass ornaments replicating some of Chicago’s most well known landmarks.  They are indeed works of art – so detailed and ornate.  From Cloud Gate (a.k.a The Bean) to the Chicago Water Tower, The El, and even The Art Institute.

Custom blown-glass Chicago themed ornaments

Custom blown-glass Chicago themed ornaments

After all that shopping, you’re bound to work up an appetite. (What we’ve been waiting for!) The food is traditional old-world German fare, including soft pretzels, wursts, kraut, potato pancakes with various sauces, and something else that is becoming a bit of a tradition out of Germany – curry wurst…who knew?! We were huge fans of the potato pancakes. The warm, crispy, salty, and crunchy bites made for a delightful treat

Oh, and what better way to wash down those delicious bites than a mini stein of Gluhwein! I was a Gluhwein newbie, and my verdict is – it’s delicious! The aroma sort of reminded me of sangria, but seasoned with holiday spices rather than summer citrus, and served up steaming hot instead of over ice.  It warms you from the inside out and makes you forget about your cold fingers and toes!  If spiced wine isn’t your thing, they have dark and light beers on tap too (German, of course) as well as hot chocolate!

Amy taking her first sip of Gluhwein

Amy taking her first sip of Gluhwein

Bottom line, if you haven’t been, GO! The giant Christmas tree lit up against the little red and white striped booths, with the stunning backdrop of Chicago is perfection. But bundle up, and don’t try to sneak your spicy wine off the premises.

Amy instagramming Chicago's Christmas tree

Amy snaps a photo of the Christmas tree

Check out more of Nick’s photos from our trip to Christkindlmarket in this Flickr Photo Set

 

Open November 26 – December 24, 2013

Sunday – Thursday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Friday – Saturday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm

 

Daley Plaza – 50 W. Washington (between Dearborn and Clark Street)

Meet the Mile Markers:

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Nick Ulivieri

Photography
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Nick is a Chicago based photographer specializing in commercial photography with a focus on food, and commercial/residential architecture. Nick began his professional career in the advertising industry where he developed a passion for the impact branding and design have on a business.

Nick’s creativity, and affinity for working a camera naturally led to photography as a career at Nick Ulivieri Photography. With a prominent following on Instagram, Nick looks forward to spreading his love for photography throughout the Land of Lincoln!
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Amy Larrick

Foodie
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An Illinois native, Amy was born in Bloomington, grew up Rockford and moved to Chicago 10 years ago for college. She studied Interior Design at Harrington College of Design and during school began working in the restaurant industry.

She’s worked for Phil Stefani in the restaurant business for nearly nine years. A foodie at heart, Amy loves dining out at restaurants, as well as cooking at home. She’s always been adventurous with food and enjoys trying new ingredients and flavors. The same can be said for her love of travel. A love for discovery of new places and soaking up the culture that goes with it lends itself to the adventures ahead in Illinois!

The 29th Annual East Peoria Festival of Lights runs through New Year’s Eve.

The 29th Annual East Peoria Festival of Lights runs through New Year’s Eve.

The 29th Annual East Peoria Festival of Lights is a month long holiday celebration well known in the Great Rivers Country region for its gigantic drive-through light displays. The festival’s mascot is a wooden solider named Folepi, which is an acronym for “Festival of Lights, East Peoria, Illinois.” One of the best parts of the event is the weekly challenge. Locals and visitors are given clues to find each week’s hidden Folepi ornament and the winner receives a prize from a local business!

Folepi’s Winter Wonderland is the perfect holiday attraction for the whole family to enjoy without ever leaving the comfort of the car.

The signature event of the festival is Folepi’s Winter Wonderland, which this year features a new route as well as light displays both on the ground and in the air. Another element of the festival is the annual Parade of Lights which covers three miles, starting on one side of the city and ending just past downtown Peoria. All floats used in the parade are made entirely of lights with appearances by favorite holiday characters such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

The majority of floats used in the parade are placed in the Winter Wonderland along with other luminous displays. Fan favorites sure to bring forth “oohs” and “ahhs” from every spectator include the 70-foot long float of the famous Clydesdale horse team pulling a delivery wagon as well as the 95-foot long, smoke-spewing Chinese dragon.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

Chicago is alive during the holidays, with things to do for all interests! (Photo: Chicago Office of Tourism)

Chicago is alive during the holidays, with things to do for all interests! (Photo: Chicago Office of Tourism)

Whether you’re a longtime resident, or are a newbie to the Chicago area, you don’t have to travel far and wide to have a great holiday season. Chicago is hustling and bustling this time of year, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a merry holiday. Here are some ideas to have an exciting winter “staycation” in the Windy City:

Do something traditional

For many, holidays are about traditions, and the Windy City is full of traditional Christmas fun to entertain its residents.

A local favorite is the Wonderland Express at the Botanic Garden that is full of beauty, trains, and holiday spirit. Head over to the Museum of Science and Industry to get a taste of traditions from all over the world. This incredible sight has dozens of trees hosting thousands of lights with each tree representing a different country. This is an experience you won’t want to miss.

Christkindlmaret in the heart of the Daley Plaza (Photo: Michael Seroni)

Christkindlmaret in the heart of the Daley Plaza (Photo: Michael Seroni)

Do something well known

With Chicago being such a well-known city, of course it’s host to many well-known things. Gather at some of Chi-Town’s famous attractions to feel the Christmas spirit.

Head over to popular Daley Plaza to see the big Christmas tree and enjoy the famous Christkindlmarket. The Plaza is close to the famous Magnificent Mile, so you can get your holiday fix and shop for presents.

Do something unexpected

Grab a hot cocoa and drive around the city to see homes new and old decked out in holiday cheer. You’ll stay warm and dry and it will put you in a great mood. Visit a Christmas tree farm, like Oney’s Tree Farm in Woodstock, and pick out something full and grand, or your very own little Charlie Brown tree.

Do something historical

Chicago is rich in history and you can learn about the old and see the new on the History & Holiday Lights Tour hosted by Chicago’s Finest. See the Magnificent Mile, Macy’s famous Walnut Room, The Drake and Knickerbocker Hotels, and more. If you want to see a part of both the city’s history and their giving spirit, take time to stop by and see the “Christmas Tree Ship.”

There is no shortage of things to see and do in wonderful Chicago, and there are dozens of ways to make your holidays merry and bright. Take time to relax and enjoy a staycation in your city this season.

-Doug Raymond, Enjoy Illinois Guest Blogger

Doug Raymond grew up in Idaho, and has worked in and around home construction and real estate for most of his life. He is interested in home building, construction, architecture, interior design, landscaping, green living, writing, blogging, internet marketing, sports and the outdoors.

Chestnut Mountain Feature
The 475-foot vertical drop at Chestnut Mountain Resort has runs for every skill level from the dare-devils to the newbies. (Photo credit: Joey Walls)

The 475-foot vertical drop at Chestnut Mountain Resort has runs for every skill level from the dare-devils to the newbies. (Photo credit: Joey Walls)

Ski and snowboarding junkies don’t have to buy a plane ticket this winter to experience a top-rated winter resort brimming with fresh power. Chestnut Mountain Resort, located 8 miles southeast of Galena and less than three hours outside of Chicago, is a full-service resort on a wooded palisade overlooking the Mississippi River. It’s home to 19 trails, a 475-foot vertical drop, half-mile runs, nine lifts and a seven-acre terrain park.

Guests can experience serene winter views of the snow-covered slopes from every room at the lodge. (Photo credit: Joey Walls)

Guests can experience serene winter views of the snow-covered slopes from every room at the lodge. (Photo credit: Joey Walls)

With slopes for beginners and experts, as well as lessons for those just getting started and the largest snowmaking system in the Midwest, it’s always a good day to head out to the Great Rivers Country region. The Lodge has 100 rooms, all with beautiful views facing the snowcapped slopes. With the Village Ski Center just steps away from the lodge, the day can begin and end whenever the visitor wants. An indoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi are available to warm frozen cheeks and ease aching muscles after a long day of outdoor exertion.

Two quad chairs, four triple chairs and three surface lifts take skiers and boarders to the top of the mountain almost as fast as they go down it.(Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

Two quad chairs, four triple chairs and three surface lifts take skiers and boarders to the top of the mountain almost as fast as they go down it.(Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

This year, Chestnut Mountain Resort will host the USSA Chestnut Roaster Race on Dec. 21 and 22.  Don’t miss the chance to see some of the best in the sport compete in a race down the mountain’s most challenging runs. Another favorite seasonal tradition guests can enjoy from Dec. 7 – Feb. 22 is the Chestnut Twilight Snowshoe Hike. Experience the glowing wood lined trails at dusk with a small group topping off the 1.5 hour leisurely snowshoe hike with a toasty bonfire.    

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

Feature Image Christkindlmarket

Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival, inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, which dates back to 1545, brings a cherished German and European tradition to the Windy City. Christkindlmarket Chicago, taking place November 20-December 24, 2015, was first held on Pioneer Court in 1996 and was relocated a year later to Daley Plaza, where it has remained a staple event marking the start of the holiday season. This flourishing winter attraction invites locals and visitors alike to sample German delicacies while perusing through the festive plaza.

Christkindlmarket (at) m_cazz44

Daley Plaza in the heart of downtown Chicago welcomes the Christkindlmarket for another year of festivities and holiday cheer. (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) m_cazz44)

The Christkind, the namesake of the market, is a fairy-like being whose folklore stems from traditional customs. Parades during the holiday season were guided by one grand angel dressed in gold and white robes with a crown on her head. Today, the Christkind is still recognized as the barer of gifts to children in most German-speaking countries.

Christkindlmarket - (at) rmanske11

Vendors at the market sell everything from German delicacies to hand-painted ornaments. (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) rmanske11)

The market is the ideal holiday event for the young and young at heart. The Kinder Korner returns for children, complete with activity books featuring coloring sheets and scavenger hunts for the event. Families can take a break from the cold at the Holiday Hub at Block Thirty Seven. This cozy cottage is open throughout the season offering complimentary hot beverages as well as arts and crafts projects and a story corner.

The Christkindlmarket Chicago offers visitors a unique holiday shopping experience unlike anything else around. Vendors offer everything from eclectic ornaments that are blown to hand-painted to classic German products such as nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks and beer steins. Some vendors even put on live demonstrations to show guests how their handicrafts are made. The most popular goods that keep people returning year after year are the large assortment of sweet and savory food, drinks and candied treats. Don’t miss the chance to take part in this popular, festive tradition!

-Illinois Office of Tourism