Five of the coolest things to do in and around Chicago this week
Unlike a certain coffee behemoth, it's pretty obvious Chicago does not hate Christmas: All sorts of festive activities are kicking off this week. Two of the best ice-skating rinks are opening up, the Vintage Garage Holiday Market is trucking out its retro decorations, and A Christmas Carol begins its 38th run at Goodman Theatre. There's also the winter-themed ChillFest music celebration. And if it's still too early to face the prospect of Santa, how about rewarding your kids (or yourself) with a ride up to the model railroads Trainfest in West Allis?
November 13–14 | Skating
Outdoor ice rinks open
The pumpkin on your front stoop has only just started decomposing, and already it’s time for outdoor ice skating? Yep, and now’s the best time to go, before most people realize the rinks are open. Assuming Chicago doesn’t get another dose of last week’s record heat, two of the most popular outdoor rinks in the city will open this weekend: Skate under the iconic Bean sculpture in Millennium Park starting November 13, and experience the second season of the twists and turns of the Maggie Daley Park ice-skating ribbon starting November 14. Admission to both is free; skates will run you $10 if you don’t BYO.
Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago | (312) 552-3000 | Free | website || Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St., Chicago | (312) 552-3000 | Free | website
November 14 | Music
The Wicker Park/Bucktown chamber of commerce created ChillFest to promote both the neighborhood’s abundant boutiques and its many musicians. Now in its third year, the event brings more than 60 local bands to 23 shops for free performances on Saturday. Bands run the gamut from The Fox & The Hounds, an all-female “rock ’n’ roll burlesque band,” to rap artist Pinqy Ring. (Find a full schedule here.) Don’t miss the after-party at Chop Shop, headlined by founding Smoking Popes member John Caterer.
Noon–6 p.m. | Locations vary | Free | website
November 14–December 27 | Theater
A Christmas Carol
The Goodman Theatre is presenting its 38th year of A Christmas Carol, which starts on Saturday and runs almost daily until just after Christmas. Once again starring Larry Yando as the crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge with mesmerizingly perfect teeth, the production is a Christmas tradition for families all over the Midwest. The solid production doesn’t change much from year to year, but isn’t that what tradition is all about?
Times vary | The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago | (312) 443-3800 | From $20 | website
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November 15 | Shopping
Vintage Garage Holiday Market
Before there were giant air-blown inflatable snowmen and animatronic reindeer there were plastic blow mold Santas, wooden sleds, and oversize multicolored Christmas lights. If you’re looking to decorate your place in the simpler throwback fashion of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Holiday Market version of the monthly Vintage Garage is the place to stock up. In addition to the usual vintage wares, like mid-century furniture and clothes, this market, which takes place in an Uptown parking garage, will also have vintage Christmas trees (surely some all-white or silver ones), decorations, lights, figurines, toys, and more on display. Hot chocolate will keep everyone in a festive mood.
10 a.m.–5 p.m. | 5051 N. Broadway, Chicago | (847) 579-9079 | $5 | website
If you have a kid who loves trains (or if you still nerd out when you see model railroads), the 90-minute drive north to Trainfest, in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, is a must. The largest model railroad show in the United States features more than 70 railroads set among tiny mountains, trees, and towns made out of little more than Styrofoam and plastic. Some of county’s best modelers will be there to show off their skills. Kids can also look forward to train station–building workshops, a chance to operate some of the awesome electric trains, LEGO and wooden train table activity areas, train-themed acoustic performances and story times, and the opportunity to jump aboard a train that chugs along a track.
9 a.m.–5 p.m. Nov. 14–15 | Wisconsin Exposition Center, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, WI | From $10 | website
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.