What if your team doesn’t make Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12. Or you crave a fun event to brighten winter. Around Chicago found four events. At least one should appeal.
Celebrate Chinese New Year
Also called the Spring Festival and a celebration of the Lunar New Year, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit and goes from Jan. 22 through Feb. 5.
Chicago’s Chinatown and Uptown (Argyle) neighborhoods hold lion and dragon dances, parades and other Lunar New Year events.
Uptown celebrates Jan. 28 from noon to 4 p.m. with the parade stepping off at 1 p.m. from Argyle Street and Winthrop Avenue. For details visit Argyle Lunar New Year. Chinatown’s parade is Jan. 29, 1 p.m. at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue. See details at Chinatown Community Lunar New Year.
Or celebrate with dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Most decorate in red and some hand out red envelopes.
February starts with a fun, fanciful forecast in Woodstock, IL, northwest of Chicago. “Groundhog Day,” a movie that celebrates a rodent’s telling when Spring will come, was mostly made in Woodstock, IL. The town subbed, sorta, for Punxsutawney, PA. The month continues with the country’s largest auto show, followed by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s famed Orchid Show.
Go to Woodstock for Groundhog Day
The tiny town of Woodstock celebrates its “Groundhog” film locations and continually show the movie beginning Feb. 1, 2023. But the main event is early morning Feb. 2, when their groundhog, Woodstock Willie, forecasts the coming of Spring.
Released in 1993, the movie reappears every year similar to its theme of caught in a time warp. Directed by Harold Ramis with screenplay by Ramis and Danny Rubin it stars Bill Murray as cynical weatherman Phil Conners and Andie MacDowell as local TV producer Rita Hanson who wants “world peace.”
Take a look at today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles from SUV’s to concept cars. Use the simulators. Eat and just have fun. Held at McCormick Place, Chicago’s huge convention center, 2301. S. King Dr, Chicago, the show runs Feb. 11- 20, 2023. For the schedule, pricing and list of things to do visit About the Show | Chicago Auto Show and its links.
Discover beautiful, even bold, colors at the Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show
Stroll through CBG’s Greenhouses, Feb 11 through March 25, 2023 to see different sizes and colors of orchids. Garden notes predict 2023 will have even more color than 2022. In addition, orchid specialists and vendors will be on hand to answer questions and sales. The Illinois Orchid Society will also be there March 11-12.
If guests are in town for the holidays or enjoying Chicago’s festive downtown before the season ends is on the do list, think skating near skyscrapers, colorful lights, holiday trees. Think Downtown Chicago. Two ice rinks are in or next to Millennium Park and one is a short distance away at Navy Pier. Bring skates or rent them.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Operated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and special Events, the Millennium Park Foundation and presented by Hilton, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink has free admission. However, skaters need to reserve a time. Very few time slots may be available at the last minute. Sessions are 90 minutes.
The rink has been up since mid-November and continues through March 5, 2023, weather permitting. It’s at 11 N. Michigan Ave. between Randolph and Monroe Streets.
Skaters are requested to arrive 45 minutes before their reserved admission time. Snacks and hot drinks are available in Momentum Coffee and Millennium Hall. For Thursday through Sunday and holiday sessions at 5 p.m. and later, entrance is at a Security Checkpoint. For weather closure updates check Millennium Park’s facebook and twitter pages.
The Pier’s ice rink is part of “Light Up the Lake” festival on now through Jan. 7, 2023.. Bring skates or rent them, There’s no charge beyond the festival admission of $15 for adults and children. Lockers are also available. Area is not for photo and flashing light sensitive visitors. Online tickets needed.
With so many fun, tasty and sparkling events now happening post COVID shutdowns it’s easy to miss a couple that should be on the calendar, this year.
One of a Kind
It’s an art show, a gourmet gift show and a stuffing-stocker show.
Wear comfortable walking shoes here because One of a Kind’s holiday show takes up an entire floor of The Mart. It’s that gigantic building on Wacker Drive and the Chicago River (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza).
Held Dec. 1-4, there are more than 500 booths to peruse ranging from photography, glass, wearable art jewelry, paintings and woodwork to tasty spices, chocolates, candies and sauces.
Home to the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood is holds a Julmarknad holiday market, a St. Lucia Festival of Lights and a Julmiddag, the traditional Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord.
The Julmarknad , a holiday bazaar of Scandinavian and other crafts plus Santa and entertainment is Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m..
The St. Lucia Festival of Lights is Dec. 13 with its crowning down in the Nordic House at the Wrigley Building (400 N. Michigan Ave.) at noon and the candle-lit procession in Andersonville on Clark Street beginning at 4:45 p.m. VisitSt. Lucia Festival of Lights.
Then the Julmiddag smörgåsbord is at the Museum Dec. 18, 2022 at 5 p.m. It includes a St. Lucia procession, a visit from Tomten (Santa) and dancing around the Christmas tree. Make reservations at julmiddag. by Dec. 13.
Mark the calendar or add to the mobile phone places to go the day after Thanksgiving. One event is only Friday. The others start that day but go for a few weeks to just over a month.
Wreathing of the Lions
Be at the Art Institute of Chicago at 9 a.m. Nov. 25, 2022 to celebrate when the museum’s two famed lions are adorned with their holiday wreaths. The event is at the 111 S. Michigan Ave. entrance
Millennium Park Sing Along
Join groups and visitors at Cloud Gate (The Bean) on Fridays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 16, 2022 to celebrate holiday and other songs from 6 to 7 p.m. supported by the Millennium Park and Pritzker Foundations.
An indoor lights festival that includes a winter wonderland forest, Santa, animated lights display and skating rink, Light Up the Lake runs Nov. 25, 2022 through Jan. 7, 2023. Tickets are $15. For tickets and more information visit Light up the Lake. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave.
Plan now because it seems everything from tree lightings and light festivals are starting early this year.
Remember when we used to think the holiday season began with Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade early on “Turkey Day?” Then the Mag Mile pre-empted that with Mickey and Minnie Mouse turning on Michigan Avenue’s lights north of the Chicago River, accompanied by Santa. Meanwhile, Macy’s was following Marshal Field’s tradition of a Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful holiday windows.
Chicago area’s two big zoos soon added to the holiday places-to-visit calendar with lights and animation. More recently gardens and nature walks such as the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden, got into the holiday spirit with color, lights and movement. Germany said, why not, so entered Chicago’s holiday season with the Christkindle Market.
Macy’s liked Marshal Field’s tradition so continue the Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful, story-telling holiday windows.
Keeping track of what is around, when and where in the Chicago area can be challenging even when suburban and neighborhood residents mark their calendars with local tree lightings and events. So here is a short guide to the main holiday happenings.
Already started early November
Macy’s came out with their Great Tree Lighting, Santa visits, Walnut Room availability and windows theme the first week of November.
What to know: The Great Tree is 45 feet tall and is decorated on a toy-shop theme and is up through Jan. 8 2023. Santa Claus photo ops and wish whispers have to be reserved in advance. Santa is in his toy workshop on the Fifth Floor and reservations to visit him go through Dec. 24, 2022. The windows are already decorated and good for photos through Jan. 1, 2022. For reservations and more information visit Macy’s Holiday Celebrations: Visit Santa & More – 2022 (macys.com)
Macy’s is at 111 N State St., Chicago.
Second week in November
The switch went on and the last installation was done when Lightscape opened to Friends and Family at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nov. 9. Opened to the public (advance tickets needed) Nov. 11, Lightscape casts a fantasy vision over paths, trees, ponds and plantings with lights and music. It continues through Jan. 8, 2023. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Botanic/Lightscape.
Third week and weekend in November
This is a very busy time for holiday events ranging from the city’s tree lighting and a European holiday market to zoo lights and lit paths at an arboretum.
Go downtown for Chicago’s tree lighting Nov. 18 in Millenium Park. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. with a pre-program at 5 p.m. The action is near Cloud Gate on the Grainger Stage. Visitors should enter at the South Promenade on Monroe Street east of Michigan Avenue. Don’t expect the lighting to happen until 6:30 but stay because fireworks follow the ceremony. For more information visit City of Chicago :: City of Chicago Christmas Tree
The German village-style Christkindl Market opens Nov. 18 a few blocks west of Millennium Park on Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. A fun place to find gifts or take a yummy break from work or shopping, the Market is up through Dec. 24. For Chicago information visit Christkindlmarket | Holiday Market 2022 | Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo spreads out just west of Lake Michigan between downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville so visitors sometimes try to couple its Zoolights with another holiday goodie. Presented by Com Ed with Invesco QQQ,, Zoolights is an impressive display at the city’s free zoo and costs only $5 a ticket for this holiday event. Zoo lights is Nov. 19, 2022 through Jan. 1, 2023. For hours, dates and more information visit ZooLights.
Also opening Jan 19 is the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. Running through Jan. y7, 2023, Illumination transforms a mile long path among trees, meadow and gardens into a fairytale land of light, sound and color. The event combines old favorites such as the Enchanted Forest and Treeimagination, with new installations such as Late Nite Electric Illumination, tall, mirrored towers and a finale in the new Grand Garden. For more information visit Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum
Wait, as the commercials say: There’s more.
Last but not at all least this week is the Magnificent (Mag) Mile Lights Festival’s parade and day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at 401 N. Michigan Ave. Sponsored by Wintrust, the parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Mickey and Minnie Mouse (from the Walt Disney World Resort) lead the parade as they magically turn on one million lights along North Michigan Avenue.
What to expect: floats, helium balloons, marching bands, musical performances, Santa Claus ending with fireworks at the Chicago River. The event will also stream on Nov. 20 on ABC. For more information visit MagMileLights.
A giant helium balloon floats over State Street during a Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. (J Jacobs photo)
Fourth week and weekend in November
Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade brings the sounds of cymbals, blares of trumpets and the sight of giant helium balloons and beautiful floats to State Street, that main street, Nov. 24.
The parade goes from Ida B Wells Drive at the south end to Randolph on the north. Figure that bands and entertainment from some of Chicago’s theaters could start as early as 8 a.m. and go to 11 a.m. For more information visit Chicago Thanksgiving Parade.
Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo starts Nov. 25 and continues on specific dates through Dec. 31 from 3 to 9 p.m. Presented by ComEd and Meijer, the zoo is a blaze with two miles of lights and colors moving to synchronized music.A new feature is a 600-foot “Tunnel of Lights” by Xfinity.
Fire, color, shapes, snowflake and kaleidoscope patterns, water features, movement, and yes, past years’ popular gold-lit Cathedral, all make Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden, a fun and fanciful, winter night out.
The color-filled light spectacle starts with a large, welcoming, holiday wreath near the east end of the Botanic Garden’s ticket booths. That is the first clue that the 2022 Lightscape follows a different path with some installation changes and additions to previous years.
Hopefully you have worn good walking shoes or boots. Temperatures have dipped into late November-December mode and the Lightscape path feels longer than its approximate mile and a quarter because its first half is mostly uphill.
What to expect
Smart-phone cameras ready, look for a garden of fire set in Oriental style fixtures in the Rose Garden.
As you continue along the path, snap floating leaves in the lagoon near the Japanese bridges and colorful hula-style rings overhead.
Stop for a snack at an outdoor shack while checking out a color-changing mist.
As the commercials say, Wait, there’s more. After lots of turns, curves water-markers and color-lit trees, you arrive at the Kaleidoscope overhang of the Regenstein’s Center. There you can cross a terrace of beautifully colored globes and end up at Nichols Hall, the indoor food area.
Back out after a calorie break, follow the “continue” path where you pass colorful flowers, walk through a tunnel of stars.
You’ll see the golden Cathedral ahead and snap companions walking through it. But next clue things have changed is you learn you are not at the end. Guides with flashlights urge you on because there’s more to see ahead.
Pass the changing lights growing in a pasture between the Regenstein Center and the Pond. Follow more flashlights and paths until you’re confronted by dramatic music and a huge ball of lights. You look around and realize you have to enter it to exit.
Now, you are at the lily pond area where stairs and a ramp lead down to a path to the Visitors Center and parking lot.
Tip: Check your Smart Phone because after all those photos it probably needs recharging.
Details: Lightscape goes from Nov. 11, 2022 through Jan. 8, 2023, after 4 p.m. Lightscape entry and parking are timed tickets. Members $30, non $32. Children of members $14, non $16. Under age 2 free. Lightscape parking free to members, $10 nonmembers.
It’s only midway through fall and October which means it is not too late to take a family field trip out into the countryside to find the perfect pumpkin or explore a corn maze or take a hayride. The following three farms offer a variety of activities and a maze of possibilities for all ages.
Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm at the far northwestern (the boonies) part of Waukegan must have a local following because it is out of sight, off the main road but reasonably busy.
After finding Kroll’s with our GPS, we refueled on yummy pumpkin donuts then explored the farm. Youngsters were having fun feeding the hens and llamas while young adults and couples were taking photos of each other behind cutouts of funny figures.
Their next stop was the bench where everyone waited for hayride before wandering through the maze and then going over to the pumpkin patch for the right size large one to carve or small pumpkins to easily carry away.
Kroll’s is a good, low-keyed farm experience. For hours, pricing and more info visit Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm, 13236 W. Townline Rd. Waukegan, IL (847) 662-5733.
All Seasons, a good apple-picking place in Woodstock, turns to fall with fun activities for different ages.
It has a good-size corn maze of 10 acres with two paths – short and easy and long and harder. There is also a good pumpkin patch, pony rides and excellent apple cider donuts to eat on the way home.
All Seasons Orchard is at 14510 IL Route 176 Woodstock, IL, (815) 338-5637 For hours, pricing and more information visit All Seasons Orchard.
Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, has different experiences for different ages in the fall. It turns 28 acres of corn into a large sprawling maze of 9-10 miles of trails.
They are divided into four mazes to cater to different ages and difficulty. The maze is always interestingly themed. This year, 2022, it has a James Bond spy theme.
Among the other activities are wagon rides, zip lining and a picnic food and area.
Ricardson Farm is at 909 English Prairie Rd., Spring Grove, 815) 675-9729. Foe pricing, hours and more information visit Richardson Farm
Read Starstruck, a tell-all memoir by Michael Kutza, a Chicagoan whom international movie stars and directors know personally and whose face and name would be known to theater critics but he would not be recognized by even regular movie goers.
You will pick up info and gossip they can drop during the next Academy Awards party or when out to dinner with friends who appreciate “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with Jack Nicholson.
For instance, if you have gone to the Museum of Science and Industry and on purpose or accidently wandered into a room with a doll-house-sized castle you have seen the results of Coleen Moore’s dream.
But do you know who Colleen Moore was? The recent widow of Merrill Lynch founding partner Homer Hargrave, she was instrumental in helping Kutza realize his dream.
Already an award-winning film maker and a graphic artist, Kutza wanted to form and maintain an international film festival in Chicago before any film festival existed in the U.S. such as Sundance and before most film festivals such as Toronto popped up all over the world.
Irv Kupcinet who introduced the two of them and is mentioned several times in the book, is simply described as saying Colleen Moore as a “silent movie star.” Kutza describes her as a “real-life Auntie Mame.”
Mostly called Colleen in the book, she was that and much more. You learn that she knew the right people.
And because she loved film and its stars plus knew the movers and shakers – the men and women, who helped get things done in the arts, she adopted Kutza’s idea of having an international film festival in Chicago.
Now you get it. At the young age of 22, Kutza, a West Side (as he says) son of two doctors who expected him to go to medical school, had fallen in love with film and wanted to make more available to the public than standard Hollywood fare. He also wanted film directors, producers and actors to know Chicago.
You learn that Colleen’s friend, Joan Crawford gave Kutza a pair of glasses to make him look older than 22 so people would listen to him.
That was back in 1964, the birth year of the Chicago International Film Festival when things started to come together. The next year, 1965, was the Chicago International Film Festival’s first year of operation with screenings and awards.
Ten years later in 1975, the Chicago Festival held the world premier of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” attended by Jack Nicholson and cast. The film later won an Oscar as Best Picture.
Reading Starstruck, you understand that Kutza realized his dream. The list of premiers and directors who first showed their films in Chicago is long and ranges from Oliver Stone in the United States to Liv Ullman in Norway with dozens more from other countries in between.
Kutza retired as director of the Chicago Festival in 2018 when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Cinema/Chicago, now the presenter of the Chicago International Film Festival with the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
Starstruck takes you on Kutza’s fascinating journey from the Chicago Festival’s inception to its many awards and film screenings without covering up mistakes, bumps, triumphs and bare bodies.
Reading it reminded me of interviews I’ve done with hotel concierges who spoke of celebrity requests from alcohol and drugs to sex partners.
Yes, star peccadillos are in there. But you also feel closer to the celebrities and film makers Kutza has worked with during his tenure including silent screen star Colleen Moore Hargrave.
You learn that the original “Star is Born” story was that of Colleen’s success and the downhill trajectory of her husband at the time, John McCormick, including his attempted suicide walking into the ocean.
Starstruck by Michael Kutza is published by BearManor Media, 2022.
Background: It all started with Ludwig I. Born in 1786 in Strasbourg, France on the border with Alsace, Germany, (becoming king in 1825), Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on Oct.12, 1810.
Thus, the Oktoberfest to beat all others today started in 1810 to celebrate their marriage. It takes place Sept. 17 through Oct. 3 on the Theresienwiese, a fairground that held the original fields where Ludwig had invited citizens to gather for the wedding celebration. But that is a long name, so the fairgrounds are also called d’Wiesn and the type of beer drunk at Oktoberfest there is also calaled Wiesn.
Or visit one of the following Oktoberfests in and near Chicago, beginning this weekend.
Sept 9-11 – German American Oktoberfest At Lincoln Square in Chicago, it is held by the United German-American Societies of Greater Chicago. A no fee event, it features entertainment, dancing and authentic German Gementuchkeit (food) in tents at Lincoln and Leland Avenues. Its annual Steuben Parade is Sept. 10, 2 p.m. at Lincoln and Irving Park Rd.
Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Sept 9, with opening ceremony at 8 p.m., noon to 11 p.m. Sept. 10 and noon to 10 Sept. 11.
The longtime German restaurant at 17 W. Adams St., Chicago, is celebrating Oktoberfest with German music and beer. See the menu (and get a pretzel) and full music schedule, Thursday-Saturday at Berghoff Oktoberfest.
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Palatine as a fundraiser, the Oktoberfest is a free event but money raised supports local charities. The fest features German food, music, beer and wine.
Hours: Family Day with face painting and other activities is Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. German music is 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The event is under a large, heated tent downtown Palatine.
Rated among the 10 best Oktoberfests by USA today in 2015, the event is hosted by St. Alphonsus Church, 1429 Wellington Ave. in tghe West Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Admission is $10. It features food, beer tastings and music on two stages.
Hours: 5-10 Friday, noon – 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, for specific band times and other information visit Oktoberfest Chicago.
Held in Naperville west of Chicago, the event benefits the town’s Naperville Heritage Society/Naper Settlement, a large, walkable historic patch of “yesterday.” The event is in a large tent near the Naper settlement for food, dancing and entertainment by polka and classic rock bands. Admission is $20 adults and $15 children 4-12 . Find food choices and drinks at Oktoberfest Menu.. Hours: Sept. 30, 5-10 p.m., Oct. 1, 3-10 p.m.
You don’t have to go out of town to find something different to do Labor Day Weekend 2022. In Chicago go over to the United Center where the Bulls are generating excitement for their 2022-23 season with Bulls Fest. Or drive up to north suburban Highwood for the sounds and tastes of Nashville.
Go over to the United Center, 1901 Madison St. Sept. 3-4 for entertainment, street food, Bulls and basketball related art and memorabilia and a hoops tournament. Find schedule information here at NBS BullsFest.
The BEATS stage sponsored by Michelob Ultra features Da Brat, G Herbo, Sixteen candles, The Trippin’ Billies, Benny and the Luvabulls.
Food and drinks are sold outside the UC on Madison Street.
The event basically goes from 8 a.m to 10 p.m. both days. Admission is free.For more information visit Bulls Fest 2022.
Known as restaurant town, arguably for more restaurants within its slightly over square mile limits compared to any other small town in Illinois, Highwood is adding Nashville’s sounds to its streets, bars and restaurants Sept. 2-4, 2022.
Folks can where cowboy boots and hats, hear Country, Blues, Bluegrass and Southern Rock bands and singers. Along with Highwood’s regular restaurant choices there will be Southern-style food and drink specials.
Also, visitors can ride the Nashwood Hop On to do a loop to restaurants and bars. The event is free with no cover charges but tip jars will be out.
Nashwood will run Friday from 5 p.m. until-bar close, Saturday from noon to bar close. Sunday times vary according to venue. An All-Ages Stage will be at the Chicago Mike’s Ice Cream Co. and Tala Coffee Roasters parking lot/patios.