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There are some quintessential Chicago holiday traditions, like seeing A Christmas Carol at The Goodman, that you just can’t miss. And then there are the new traditions, the ones that get you out of your routine and onto a helicopter or surrounded by a horde of Hanukkah goblins. Here, 10 unexpected ways to celebrate Christmas in Chicago—and Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Year’s while you’re at it. 

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christmas in chicago bub city
Christina Slaton

1. Thanksgiving at Bub City

Break with your roasted turkey tradition. Bub City’s Southern-inspired hickory-smoked turkey comes with mashed potatoes, celery-and-sage stuffing, country gravy and more. Order by Wednesday, November 27, or make a reservation to dine at the Chicago location on Turkey Day (so you don’t have to cook or do dishes).

christmas in chicago chicago childrens theatre
Charles Osgood

2. Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party

When it comes to classic holiday cartoons, our minds go to Charlie Brown, but it turns out Peter Rabbit is just as good at scratching the nostalgia itch. December 7 through 29, you can see for yourself at Chicago Children’s Theatre. For five years running, its Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party has entertained kids and parents with a puppet show of the author’s classic tales, followed by cocoa and cookies in the foyer, decorated to look like a Victorian dining hall.

christmas in chicago millers pub
Pawel Skrabacz

3. Drinks, Daleys and Dead Guys

We all know the story of “The Night Before Christmas.” On this quirky (and mostly indoor) walking tour, you’ll learn how Mayor Richard J. Daley saved the Christmas parade. You’ll also get to enjoy a hot Tom and Jerry cocktail at historic Miller’s Pub and take in views of the Chicago Christmas tree in Millennium Park.

4. Second City’s Improv Holiday Brunch

We could all use a laugh come the holidays, and bottomless mimosas don’t hurt either. Second City’s Annual Improv Holiday Brunch (December 8 to 29) provides both. As you feast on farm egg scramble, crispy bacon and a roasted veggie hash, you’ll be entertained by some of the troupe’s finest. Don’t miss the evening holiday shows: Deck the Hallmark: A Greeting Card Channel Original and The Second City’s Best of the Holidays.

christmas in chicago bide market

5. BIDE Market

Handmade craft fairs abound come December, but Bide Market is Chicago’s first dedicated to sustainability. On December 15, it returns to Exchange312 for its second event. The entirely plastic-free, vegan, cruelty-free market features jewelry, skin care and apparel vendors plus panel speakers and other programming. Pick up all your holiday gifts (including one or two for yourself).

christmas in chicago strawdog theatre
Collin Quinn Rice

6. “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins”

Hanukkah goblins? You heard right. But don’t be scared—this play, presented by Strawdog Theatre, is based on a beloved, Caldecott-winning children’s book. Kids and adults will root for Hershel as he tries to outsmart the goblins who haunt the synagogue, thus saving Hanukkah.  

christmas in chicago ludlow liquors
Lyndon French

7. The Naughty List at Ludlow Liquors

Why do the good guys get all the glory this time of year? Ludlow Liquors is paying homage to the best bad guys of classic Christmas movies December 1 through 31. Stop in for appearances by the Wet Bandits, Hans Gruber and the Grinch, plus themed cocktail and food specials. Just watch out for any booby traps.

christmas in chicago chicago helicoptor experience
Chicago Helicopter Experience

8. Chicago Helicopter Experience Holiday Lights Tour

Sure, you could walk through one of the city’s festively decorated neighborhoods—or you could cover a ton of ground in a chopper. Chicago Helicopter Experience runs its seasonal tour starting November 29. The route covers 25 miles of the Chicago skyline, including Navy Pier and Lincoln Park Zoo, all done up in their holiday best.

christmas in chicago open books
Open Books

9. Clean House & Donate

If you’re suddenly inspired to volunteer, remember that most nonprofits get inundated around the holidays and need help at other points in the year. Instead, make room for your new loot by by working your best Marie Kondo magic and then donating gently used items to Chicago organizations: Open Books and Chicago Books to Women in Prison for books; Humble Design and The Brown Elephant for homewares; and Dress for Success and Goodwill for clothes.

christmas in chicago architectural artifacts
Architectural Artifacts

10. Brew Year’s Eve at Architectural Artifacts

Ring in 2020 with craft beer instead of champagne. Architectural Artifacts hosts 10 Chicago breweries, with 25 different craft beers, at its annual party. Sample artisanal brews as you wander the cavernous space, filled with vintage cars, sculptures, signs and more surprises. Tickets start at $149.

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