The best things to do in and around Chicago Dec. 3-9
This is the perfect week to get your Christmas shopping done in Chicago at the Renegade Craft Fair's annual holiday market and a boutique craft fundraiser at the oldest house in the city. You can also get a jump on two of the city's most interesting ongoing holiday events: Experience how Christmas is celebrated around the world at the Museum of Science and Industry, and head to Morton Arboretum to interact with the brightly lit trees—try hugging one!
December 3–6 | Architecture
Victoria’s Craft Boutique
Few Chicagoans know that the oldest house in the city sits in the small Northwest Side neighborhood of Norwood Park. Built in 1833 (with an 1868 addition), the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House serves as a community center and museum. Because keeping up a house this old isn't cheap, the Norwood Park Historical Society holds an annual holiday craft boutique fundraiser in the house, allowing you to get your shopping done while checking out a piece of Chicago history. On December 5th you can also peek inside five other historical Norwood Park homes on a self-guided tour for $25.
Times vary | 5624 N. Newark Ave., Chicago | $1 | website
December 5–6 | Shopping
Holiday Renegade Craft Fair
Be the hero this year by shopping for unique handmade gifts at the Renegade Craft Fair’s annual holiday market at the Bridgeport Art Center. Local and national artists will be showcasing all kinds of beautiful items including jewelry, leather bags, men’s shaving kits, furniture, and even vividly painted canoe paddles. But there’s more to do here than just ticking off your gift list. Besides scoring a few cool things for yourself, you can also gorge on pies, cookies, tamales, cream puffs, and jerky and then commemorate the occasion in a photo booth. Hop on a free trolley from the Ashland Orange Line L stop to the fair.
11 a.m.–6 p.m. | Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St., Chicago | Free | website
Through January 2 | Woods of wonder
Illumination: Tree Lights
You've never taken a walk in the woods like this before. The trees along the mile-long path that loops through 50 acres of woods at the Morton Arboretum are lit up with thousands of colorful LED lights that are more than just decoration—they respond to your voice and your touch. Some trees even have quite a reaction when you give them a hug. Warm up at fire pits along the path, and warm your insides with special drinks such as the Chocolate Indulgence, a mix of hot chocolate and Bird Dog Chocolate Whiskey with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.
5–9:30 p.m. | The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Rte. 53, Lisle, IL | (630) 968-0074 | From $17 | website
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Through January 3 | World celebrations
Christmas around the World and Holidays of Light
The Museum of Science and Industry continues its 74-year tradition of decorating Christmas trees to represent the cultures of countries around the world. Volunteers from more than 50 of Chicago’s ethnic communities decorate trees representing their countries, from Armenia to Wales, and information posted about how each nationality celebrates the holidays (or doesn't, as the case may be) makes your visit a learning experience, too. Santa makes appearances on December weekends from 10 a.m.–3 p.m., and performances by a roster of dancers and singers from around the world will keep your toes tapping.
9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. (till 5:30 p.m. Fri–Sun) | 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago | (773) 684-1414 | Free with general admission ticket, from $18 | website
Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a less-crowded, less-expensive, and more cheese-focused version of Chicago, making it an ideal escape any time of year. This Friday and Saturday, the city’s riverside Third Ward neighborhood is celebrating Christmas with horse-drawn carriage rides, live reindeer, an ugly sweater party, bands, and food. Shop at the area’s cute boutiques, and before heading home, take a detour to the Mitchell Street neighborhood for a quick drink at Bryant’s, a small, dark cocktail lounge straight out of the ‘70s that serves some of the best drinks in the Midwest.
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.