This week in Chicago is your last chance to ride the CTA Holiday train and get to work in style. Afterward, head to Cloud Gate for some participatory Christmas caroling with the Chicago Choral Artists. An exhibition examining the impact of Pop Art on design is opening up at MCA, though it runs through March, so there's no huge rush. Likewise for the winter fun at Navy Pier, which will be festive through till January.
December 18 | Holiday sing-along
Caroling at Cloud Gate
Had a rough week at work? Postpone your commute home and instead head to Millennium Park for some therapeutic Christmas carol singing. Singers from the Chicago Choral Artists will be assembled in front of the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the Bean) singing classic holiday tunes, and the audience is encouraged to join the chorus. Was it a really, really bad week? Show up at 5 p.m., when Santa is scheduled to make an appearance, and ask him for a new job. Round out the evening by taking a spin around the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink just a few feet away.
6 p.m.–7 p.m. (from 5 p.m. if you want to see Santa) | Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago | Free | website
December 19–March 27 | Art
Pop Art Design
The Pop Art movement was a direct response to the fascination with consumer products that peaked in the 1960s and ’70s, but art museums haven’t delved deeply into how Pop Art itself influenced other areas of pop culture. In this new exhibition, the Museum of Contemporary Art collaborates with Germany’s Vitra Design Museum to show how Andy Warhol and others influenced the era’s distinctive sofas, lamps, chairs, and architecture. Presented alongside the MCA’s collection of classic pop works in the complementary exhibition, The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen, Vitra’s iconic design objects are just as much works of art that reflect the preoccupations of the era.
10 a.m.–5 p.m. (till 8 p.m. Tues.; closed Mon.) | Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago | (312) 280-2660 | $12 | website
Through December 23 | Christmas commute
CTA Holiday Train
It’s the last week to jump on an El train shrink-wrapped in images of Santa and snowflakes and decked out in sparkling lights. Inside the train, the seats are decorated like presents, hand rails are spooled with candy-cane ribbon, and Christmas music replaces the voice announcing each stop. In other words, it’s pure magic to ride this train, which is running on the Red, Purple, and Yellow Lines this week. Don’t forget to snap a photo of Santa on his sleigh, riding on an open-air car—even through the subway tunnels. Yikes.
El train Red, Purple, and Yellow lines | schedule
AFAR Local is published every Wednesday, so check back for insider updates on restaurant openings, festivals, exhibitions, shows, weekend escapes, and more. Planning a trip? The AFAR guide to Chicago has you covered.
Through January 10 | Winter festival
Navy Pier’s cavernous exhibition hall houses 14,000 square feet of holiday-themed attractions for kids—all indoors—during this annual winter festival. Little ones can slip down inflatable slides, jump atop a wooden animal on the carousel, go for a spin on the Reindeer Express Train, and race down a 15-foot-high “snow” tubing hill. Older kids (and adults) can strap on skates and cruise around the ice rink, test their bravery on thrill rides, and ride a Ferris wheel. Make a day of it and take a dinner or lunch break at Navy Pier’s new restaurant options, including Asian fusion spot Big Bowl and burger joint DMK.
10 a.m.–8 p.m. (till 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.) | Navy Pier, 600 W. Grand Ave., Chicago | (312) 595-5155 | From $9 | website
So precious and sweet you might get a cavity just driving through, the village of Long Grove, Illinois, has made a name for itself with its many annual festivals, though Christmas may be its best holiday. The town, just 35 miles northwest of Chicago, and the first in Illinois to be named a historic district, is decked out to the nines in holiday lights and decorations. Carolers stroll the streets, Santa makes an appearance on Saturdays and Sundays, and on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., you can hop on a horse-drawn carriage and ride through the town and on its covered bridges for free.
Laura Baginski is a Chicago-based writer and editor who specializes in travel and parenting. Because of the latter, the former doesn’t happen as much as she’d like.