12 beloved Chicagoland traditions inspired by Christmas carols

Real life confession: I looooove Christmas music. And once Thanksgiving Day arrives (I live by a strict code of holiday ethics), I will listen to nothing but seasonal songs until the New Year. So why not change the key of your holiday merriment this year? To help, we paired twelve of our favorite tunes with some beloved Chicagoland traditions. The result is a virtual symphony of celebration!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

It’s the 21st century, so isn’t time for Santa to enter the social media age? At Santa HQ, families can explore the Clauses’ high-tech hideaway, complete with the “Naughty or Nice O’Meter,” which proves that he really does know if you’ve been bad or good (so be good for goodness sake!).

Deck the Halls

There’s no better spot for extravagant holiday décor than Macy’s on State Street (we understand if you still call it Marshall Field’s). This year’s 50th holiday window display pays tribute to the past half-century of jolly holidays with the theme “Reasons to Believe.” 

Jingle Bells

Trade the one-horse open sleigh for a one-horse enclosed carriage and take in the sights (and lights) of the Magnificent Mile in true turn-of-the-century style. And feel free to call that horse “Bobtail” while you dash – or clip-clop – along.

Silent Night

You might not have many silent nights in your house, but maybe the view from the top of the Sears – I mean, Willis – Tower will stun them into silence. Skydeck Chicago is a must-do in any season, and The Ledge just might make you feel like you’ve boarded Santa’s sleigh. 

O Christmas Tree

The granddaddy of all evergreens makes its home in Millennium Park, where it watches over all of the holiday proceedings in our city’s front yard. Bonus points if you can manage to take a selfie with the tree reflected in The Bean.

I Have a Little Dreidel

Making things out of clay is the name of the game at Kids Clay Room, which has hour-long drop-in classes every Saturday. And the upcoming Hanukkah Workshop might even lead to some homemade holiday gifts this year!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Angelic voices can’t help but sing the praises of Heaven on Seven. This Cajun restaurant, with locations in the Loop and Naperville, is the perfect place to warm up after a day of holiday shopping. The gumbo is legendary (and yes, there are choices for your picky eaters). 

Joy to the World

The most joyful spot of the season is undoubtedly Navy Pier, where Winter Wonderfest takes over about two city blocks with holiday festivity. Included in this year’s tickets is a whirl on the Centennial Wheel, Chicago’s state-of-the-art (and heated!) Ferris wheel. 

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

It turns out that the scarlet-snouted reindeer has some friends at Brookfield Zoo. (Dasher and Dancer, is that you?) During Holiday Magic, visitors to Hamill Family Wild Encounters can carol to the resident reindeer, or take part in all kinds of festive activities.

Christmas Time is Here

You can’t hear this song without thinking of the Peanuts Gang lazily skating on a frozen pond. Here in Chi-town, we’ve got Maggie Daley Park with its “alpine-style” skating ribbon, just a quick walk from Michigan Avenue. Skating at the free rink begins Nov. 17 and it stays open all winter long.

Little Drummer Boy

Chicago’s own Bucket Boys put a bit of funk into the usual “Pa rum pa pum pum.” The southside drummers bring their signature rhythm to spots across the city, but definitely will help cheer up your kids if you lug them along for a little shopping on the Mag Mile.

Frosty the Snowman

If the singing-and-dancing snowman visited the Windy City, there’s no doubt of what he would eat. Snow Dragon Shavery serves up shaved snow at its Chicago and Evanston locations, a light, airy treat capped with all kinds of toppings. Too cold to eat some snow? They also sell macarons.

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