When it comes to holiday decorations in Chicago, it's hard to
beat the expertise of Mary Edsey. Author of The Best Christmas
Decorations in Chicagoland and a holiday tour bus operator, Edsey
has spent years researching what the Chicago area has to offer when
it comes to elaborate holiday displays.
And, while Edsey says families shouldn't miss the well-known
holiday displays at the major Chicago landmarks, she also has found
some lesser-known treasures.
"In the Drake Hotel, there's a village made out of gingerbread
that the chefs make with trains surrounding it," Edsey says. "And
at the Hilton Chicago there is a life-size gingerbread house that
schoolkids help them make in the lobby."
Tucked into the lobby of the 181 West Madison Building is a
holiday display complete with a train kids can ride for a limited
time on weekends.
This year, State Street will feature a new holiday display, with
LED lights synchronized to music, Edsey says.
If you want to put the kids in the car and head just outside the
city, the neighborhood of Lincolnwood Towers in Lincolnwood offers
plenty of houses decorated for the holidays. Often referred to as
Sauganash, the neighborhood off Devon Avenue just west of the Edens
expressway has a three-story Christmas tree that pops through a
roof and a tree house decorated with Disney characters.
For another amazing holiday display just outside the city, Edsey
recommends heading to Rosemont, where practically the whole town is
decorated. "Donald E. Stephen Park off of Higgins is just fabulous
on both sides of the street," Edsey says. "Park and walk over
there... It's a gated community, but tell them you want to see the
Christmas lights. They have six little houses with scenes inside
and live animals from a farm kids can pet.
"The whole town of Rosemont, they decorate practically every
tree and you'll see surprises all over town, like a Santa peering
over the roof of a shopping mall."
If you want to eat in a restaurant filled with holiday
decorations before trekking out to see the big displays, Edsey
recommends visiting Butch McGuires at 20 W. Division St. (but get
there early before it becomes more bar-like) or Marie's Pizza at
4127 W. Lawrence. Both have a festive atmosphere filled with
glittery decorations for the holidays.
Or consider trying one of Edsey's tours. She takes her riders to
various decorated homes where they not only have a chance to see
the decorations, but often the home's owner will board the bus and
talk about their work.
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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