The temperatures have dropped sharply, suddenly, leaving us scrambling to dig out those winter clothes, hats, coats, scarves. Apparently winter really will return, despite any amount of daydreaming; picturing an endless summer of sailboats, sunny, packed beaches, and lush green parks.
This is Chicago. We all have selective memory when it comes to winter; it’s what allows us to keep living here, year after year, enduring frigid temps, icy streets and sidewalks, and blasting winds that seem straight from the arctic.
But this turn in the weather, and the scarf wrapped around my neck both bring to mind a seasonal delight; The Christkindlmarket Chicago in Daley Plaza. Each year this German market appears like magic, complete with giant decorated Christmas tree, right before Thanksgiving. It’s completely outdoors, which is part of the holiday charm; you must bundle up with every layer you can fit on your body (and still be able to move) so that you can shuffle from booth to booth without losing an extremity to frostbite.
There are plenty of vendors with unique, traditional holiday goods; this is an amazing place to purchase ornaments for the people on your list, many imported straight from Germany. Intricate Cuckoo Clocks abound, carved into leaves and animals, or sometimes shaped like tiny chalets and adorned with tiny people (maybe a beer drinker or a wood chopper). The glass ornament house is very popular, and folks stand in line to enter and then shuffle ever so slowly in a single file line past hundreds of German glass ornaments of every size, shape and theme. (The secondary bonus to the glass ornament house is that it’s indoors; so you can have a temporary reprieve from the weather as you peruse the many ornaments.)
But some of the most popular items are not gifts at all… the food vendors can have lines spanning the entire length of the plaza as people wait as patiently as possible, anticipating the radiating warmth of some authentic hot spiced wine which you can drink from a collectible glass boot. The strudel has a reputation all it’s own, with potato pancakes, crepes, and bratwurst are not far behind.
The market is open daily, and you could visit during daylight hours, but the magic happens after dark. Go in the evening to experience the glow of the holiday lights, sip something delicious and get into the holiday spirit. But this is also the most popular time, so expect the market to be packed with people. You also will find street parking to be difficult, so book your spot online in advance and save the circling for when you are inside the market.
If you live in Chicago, the Christkindlmarket will most likely become part of your holiday tradition. So gather your friends, or family, bundle up and enjoy!
Christkindlemarket Chicago Highlights and Hours
Tree Lighting Ceremony | November 26, 5:00pm
The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is proud to present the official start of the holiday season with the 99th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Musical performances and festive holiday music begin at 5:00pm and the holiday season officially commences at 6:00pm, when the switch is flipped and the lights begin to dazzle on Daley Plaza. www.explorechicago.org/specialevents.
McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade | November 28, 8:00-11:00am.
Come to State Street and see the 80th McDonald’s® Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago. Cheer to the Christkind, marching bands, Ronald McDonald®, Santa Claus and many more. The Parade starts at 8:00am on November 28 and is live on WGN. For more information, please visit www.chicagofestivals.org.