Chicago is a city packed with beauty – and never is it more beautiful than when it’s decked out for the winter holidays. Now is the time to fill your memory banks with illuminated visions of what Chicago can be – before January and February arrive and you contemplate escape to warmer climes. Where to begin? Try the Chicago Trolley “Holiday Lights” Tour, running through Jan. 4.
The cozy (WARM and ENCLOSED) Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus Co. trolley tour begins and ends at the John Hancock Plaza tree (875 N. Michigan). Then the 2 1/2-hour narrated tour brings you through a twinkling wonderland of some of the Loop’s best decorated sites.
As Christmas carols play and the children on board sing along (my 3-year-old ran into a friend of hers and when the trolley piped in tunes from “Frozen”, they nearly lost their minds) you’ll head down the Mag Mile past bustling shoppers and cross the river that once carried Christmas trees to the city from Michigan.
See the windows at the former Marshall Fields and hop off for 20 minutes at the famous Christkindlmarket. It gives Mommy and Daddy just enough time to grab a spiced wine or beer, hand their kid a bratwurst, and head back to the trolley, arms laden with cuckoo clocks. You’ll return to your original trolley — they’re all named after reindeer (ours was Blitzen!).
From there, you’ll pass the skaters in front of the Bean in Millennium Park and head north for another 20-minute hop off at Lincoln Park Zoo Lights. Santa is there, as well as crafts for kids, not to mention 2 MILLION lights – and you might catch some big cats up and prowling.
Back on the trolley you’ll head to maybe my favorite stop, Hershey’s Chocolate for complimentary hot chocolate and a cookie. (After that, the singing to Frozen gets even louder.)
The tour is plenty of fun in itself and also overview of what Chicago holiday events you might like to revisit. (We’ll be back to Zoo Lights for sure.) My daughter absolutely loved it, but my wife and I also would recommend it as a romantic trip for couples.
Through Dec. 21, tours run Friday-Sunday at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. From Dec. 26-Jan. 4, tours run daily at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 7 p.m. Tours hold 32 passengers and must be purchased 24 hours in advance at chicagotrolley.com and at the Delaware St. Chicago Trolley kiosk. Tickets are $29 for adults and $19 for children (3-11).