On the Top of Your Holiday Must-Dos: Christkindlmarket

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Christkindlmarket — Chicago’s take on a traditional German Christmas market—is back with locations in the Loop and Wrigleyville. Should you take the kids? Ja!  Shop, eat, enjoy free entertainment, shop some more, and even say “guten tag” to Santa Claus. Read on for the highlights and a few tips on what to do while you’re in the area.

When and Where?

Taking place Nov. 19-Dec. 24 at Daley Plaza and Nov. 19-Dec. 31 at Wrigleyville's Gallagher Way, you'll see the market's signature wooden cabins topped with festive red-and-white-striped canopies. Inspired by the real deal in Nuremburg, each cabin is packed with handmade gifts, food and drinks from around the world and many are run by native German speakers. The market is outdoors and we all know how cold our fair city can get, so bundle up and spend your time there wisely.

Meet a Real-Life Fairy

The market's ethereal, angelic mascot is a crowned fairy with gold and white robes. Called "The Christkind," she's rooted in folklore that dates back to the 1500s, when a "grand angel" led holiday parades in Germany. The Christkind is thought to be the gift bearer in most German-speaking countries (much like Santa Claus is here). This year, she will make virtual appearances during the Christkind Story Time, every Sun., Nov.20-Dec. 24, 2 p.m. 

Highlights at the Daley Location

Frank's Ornament House
You'll find sentimental gifts for everybody on your list. Nested in baskets are thousands of glass ornaments, organized by theme, shape and color. Look for those related to your kids' interests (there's everything from soccer balls to pianos) or pick up glittery starts, orbs and diamonds.

Santa's House
Santa's abode comes to the market courtesy of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago and sits next to the City's official Christmas tree. You have to stand outside in line to see the big guy in red, but it's worth the wait for a one-on-one meeting. Snap photos, dish what's on your list, and savor the "ho, ho, ho."

Food, Food & More Food
There are nearly 20 food and drink stands at the Daley location — most run by German vendors who came from as far as Tuttlingen and Stuttgart. Go for the warming delights, like schnitzel, potato pancakes and goulash soup. For a Chicago tradition, stop for stollen (a traditional German holiday cake) from Dinkel's Bakery. Don't forget hot spiced cider and hot chocolate, available at numerous cabins as well as inside the Grand Timber House next to the stage, which has seats and tables if you want to cozy up for a while.

Best Shopping Picks
Hand-poured candles made from German honey. Wooden cuckoo clocks crafted in the Black Forest. Mouth-blown glass vases from Poland. Stoneware beer steins as big as your head. Every cabin at Christkindlmarket is filled with charms and it's tough to play favorites. But if you have kids to entertain, there are some obvious stops. Go to Toy Wonderland for wooden toys and games from Dresden, Germany; and Gifts from Eastern Europe to eye up Russian nesting dolls and papier-mâché laquer boxes. Kids also love wooden nutcrackers from Hoffmann Company from Dresden. Our favorite is Der Lindwurm & Wyvern's Liar from Altenhain, Germany, which displays intricate wood-carved animals, dragons and fairytale creatures.

Highlights at the Gallagher Way Location

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Gallagher Way will host a tree lighting ceremony to kickoff the holiday season as part of their Winterland festivities. The ceremony will include special guests, a musical performance, festive decor and the opportunity to shop, skate and enjoy concessions, Nov. 29.

photo: ©Cesar Rus

While You're in the Loop

Ice skating at Maggie Daley offers sweet views of the city and ice skating at Millennium Park happens daily in front of "The Bean". Millennium Park even offers free ice skating lessons on Saturdays and Sundays.

Stop in to chat with Santa and the holiday window displays that Macy's State Street is known for.

If you're feeling ambitious, turn your trip to Christkindlmarket into a staycation. Book the Elf Decorated Room at Swissôtel Chicago and enjoy a cozy, festive space. Upgrade the experience to include toys, books and games to enjoy while in the comfort of your room.

While You're in Wrigleyville

Besides Christkindlmarket, Gallagher Way will be decked out with holiday flare bigger and brighter than ever before during this year’s Winterland. Celebrate the holidays by taking part in the many Winterland programs happening Nov. 19-Feb. 20, including a Festival of Lights celebration, ice skating, curling, ice bumper cars and skating lessons, Santa’s Workshop, wreath-making classes, outdoor holiday movies and much more.

Join Lincoln Park Zoo for their annual celebration of ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. This one-of-a-kind, festive holiday experience offers a free, merry, family-oriented celebration of joy right in the heart of the city, Nov. 19-Jan. 2.

Across the street from Wrigley Field you'll find Lucky Strike Social with bowling, video games, ping pong, pool tables, air hockey, board games and a very addictive game of basketball Connect Four.  It's a great spot to warm up, play some games and grab a bite to eat. 

Helpful Tips

  • If possible, visit the markets on weekdays when it tends to be less crowded.
  • Some booths are cash only, so be sure to make a stop at an ATM on the way.
  • Reserve discounted parking before you ever leave the house by using spothero.com. Or, check the parking deals section for both the Loop and Wrigleyville for more discounted options.
  • Print the Christkindlmarket scavenger hunt to keep the kids entertained and engaged throughout the market.
  • Special events, kids days and more will be hosted regularly, so be sure to check out both the Chicago and Wrigleyville calendars.
  • If you have a child that is wheelchair-bound, everything at the market is wheelchair accessible.

Location Details

Christkindlmarket Chicago
Held daily Nov. 19-Dec. 24
Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Admission is free
Daley Plaza, between Dearborn, Washington & Clark streets
Online: christkindlmarket.com

Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville
Held daily Nov. 19-Dec. 31
Mon.-Thurs., 3 p.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve & New Year's Eve, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Closed Christmas Day
Admission is free
Gallagher Way, 3635 N. Clark St., Wrigleyville
Online: christkindlmarket.com

— Maria Chambers & Kelly Aiglon

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