Winterland at Gallagher Way has gotten a major upgrade this holiday season—and, for the first time, visitors can step inside Wrigley Field to take part in the festive fun
Whether you’ve never been to Winterland at Gallagher Way or it’s a key spot on your Chicago holiday circuit, this year has big changes (and a much bigger footprint!) that both new and returning visitors will be experiencing for the first time. For those unfamiliar, Gallagher Way is the park right outside the west side of Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. On game days, it acts as an entryway into the stadium, as well as an area in which ticket holders can spread their legs and watch the game on the 40-foot video screen. On non-game days and outside of baseball season, it acts as a town center with activities and events for all ages throughout the year—from free movie nights, fitness classes, and musical performances.
And for several winters now, this popular section of the Wrigleyville neighborhood has transformed into a beautiful, bustling, North Pole right here in the city.
Christkindlmarket at Gallagher Way
Historically, the centerpiece has been the Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville. Christkindl markets throughout Chicago (the flagship location is at Daley Plaza) are known for their German traditions, including wooden hut structures occupied by vendors of diverse hand-crafted gifts, scrumptious food, and seasonal drink options. Make a bee-line to the raclette stand for the best melted cheese sandwich of your life. Also be sure to pick up a commemorative mug filled with Gluhwein (hot spiced wine) or hot cocoa. You can bring your mug back year after year for a discount on refills, or start a collection of mugs from every year.
Up until this year, the Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville has been set adjacent to a sizable ice rink. New this year however, Gallagher Ice Rink has been moved into Wrigley Field along with a number of other fun activities. In its place, a carousel now thrills kids of all ages as it circles under the twinkling lights of the market. The carousel being considerably smaller than the ice rink allows more breathing room for shoppers as they browse through all the stands, take pictures by the imposing Christmas tree, or enjoy the live music and performances just below it.
Winterland at Gallagher Way
Winterland at Gallagher Way is technically located within the hallowed walls of Wrigley Field. You know that feeling you get when you enter a stadium from the dark concourse tunnel . . . when you are momentarily blinded by the light, then happily overwhelmed by all there is to take in, and can just taste the excitement of the crowd? That is the feeling you get walking into Winterland. As you enter from left field, immediately on your right are holiday-themed carnival gaming stations. Straight ahead is the Infield Express train that travels the same baselines as baseball's greats, and a Hot Cocoa Cup ride (akin to a more classic teacup ride) for small children. To the left you'll find a Tilt-a-Whirl (Winter Whirl), a tubing hill (Wintertube), and of course the ice rink.
The Gallagher Ice Rink is as big as ever, but it's sectioned off for ice bumper cars. Just behind the rink is where you can pick up your rentals and sign a waiver.
Insider Tip: Everyone in your party must get in this line, whether they are getting rentals or not. You still need to sign the waiver and get a bracelet that will allow you on the ice. It's here that you may also obtain an assigned time slot for ice bumper cars. If people in your party have their own skates, they can work on putting them on while someone else waits in line, but they must come back to the line to have their bracelet put on them by a staff member.
Ice Bumper Cars
Although the ice bumper cars give assigned time slots, plenty of visitors don't realize this and instead line up alongside the arena. Therefore, at your assigned time, you should check in with the attendant to see if you still need to get on the line, or if they can get you on the ice right away.
It's not all ice sports at Winterland: there's even a Santa! Santa's Workshop, located in the lobby of the Premier Entrance (under the marquee) is open through Dec. 18 on Fridays from 3-8 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Meeting Santa and taking pictures with your own camera is free, and professional photos are available for purchase.
Along the left field wall, private chalets are available for rent, and just above third base there is The Lodge for purchasing food and drinks or warming by the fire pits. Bathrooms are located back in the main concourse. (Christkindlmarket bathrooms are located in the Cubs building next to The Lucky Door.)
Winterland, as a whole, is enveloped in holiday decorations and blaring holiday music. On Thursday nights from Dec. 1-22 at 6 p.m., you can enjoy a free outdoor holiday movie on either the Gallagher Way or Wrigley Field video boards while you walk (or skate!) around.
The combination of Winterland and the Christkindlmarket hits every festive note. Holiday lights? Check. Holiday music? Check. Shopping? Check. Fun activities? Check. Seasonal food and drinks? Check. Santa? Check, check!
Does this all sounds too good to be true?
Costs and Crowds
Well, it isn't without cost. While the Christkindlmarket is still free to walk around, entry into Winterland does cost $5 per person (children under three are free), and each activity, including the carousel in the market, requires additional tickets. Whereas ice skating used to be free if you brought your own skates, it is now $12 to skate and and additional $8 to rent.
An activity ticket costs $4. All the rides and games (except for the ice rink and ice bumper cars) cost one ticket. Rink access is three tickets, skate rental is two tickets, and ice bumper cars are four tickets (that's $16!) for a five-minute session.
Buy tickets online or at the Wrigley Field Box Office on Clark Street. Activity tickets can also be purchased online or once inside the ballpark. Carousel tickets can be purchase with a credit card while standing in line from the attendant, or in the ballpark for use after you leave Winterland.
However, your best bet is to purchase the Peppermint Pack online in advance. This bundle costs $30 and includes your admission into Winterland as well as 10 attraction tickets (a $45 value.)
Interestingly, the cost does not seem to be keeping anyone away. Be aware that it can get exceptionally crowded on the weekends, particularly with mild weather. It is also very important to note that while you can stay inside Winterland as long as you like, there is no re-entry if you leave!
Winterland runs through Sunday, Jan. 8.
Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville runs through Dec. 31.
Regular hours are:
Mon-Thurs: 3-9 p.m.
Fri & Sat: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.