Chicago’s Best Winter Markets

November 28, 2017

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Christkindlmarket. Image by Daniel X. O’Neil.

Winter in Chicago is a beast. After the merriment of autumn wears off, you become acutely aware of just how numb your fingers feel, not to mention the daunting ordeal that is living through bitterly cold January, February and March. But since we can’t change the weather, we make the most we can of the winter months here with activities that embrace the cold, as well as a few that reject is entirely.

Maggie Daley Park. Image via TimeOut.

The glühwein, a hot, spiced red wine, sold at downtown Chicago’s annual Christkindlmarket will warm both your hands and your soul. Served in commemorative mugs and mini boots, the wine pairs well with the German bounty of hulking schnitzel sandwiches, doughy pretzels and spiced nuts. It’s also the perfect place to amass cool wares for the holidays, especially if your friends are interested in intricate grandfather clocks that look like they’ve been whittled in Geppetto’s workshop.

The One of a Kind Show is a holiday market so huge it would make Santa’s workshop look like a 7-Eleven. One entire floor of Merchandise Mart, a building so enormous it has its own zip code, is devoted to the show, which features a glorious line-up of food vendors, designers, artists and jewelers selling one-of-a-kind goods, all great for gift-giving or selfish hoarding.

Adding a whole new element of excitement to the requisite wintry activity that is ice skating, the “ice ribbon” at Maggie Daley Park is one of the coolest (pun intended) outdoor destinations in the colder months. The road-sized rink meanders around the park, offering expansive views of the skyline, Lake Michigan and, of course, adorable wobbly skaters who look like baby deer learning to walk. BYO skates, or rent some for a fee.

Garfield Park Conservatory. Image by Bradley Kirouac.

If your ideal winter sport is a little warmer than skating, WhirlyBall is for you. Combining elements of basketball, lacrosse and bumper cars into one giddy hodgepodge, this is a sport like no other. If the idea of extreme bumper cars is a little too intimidating, the WhirlyBall space also features laser tag, bowling and shuffleboard.

Need a complete escape from the cold, but can’t afford a tropical vacation? Head to Garfield Park Conservatory. The enormous west side retreat feels like a jungle in the city, lined with passageways that traipse through different climates and landscapes: one room transports to a cacti-filled desert, while another is an Amazonian forest. The glass-ensconced conservatory, awash with sun and greenery, does a body good, especially when the forecast is arctic.

About The HUNT Chicago Writer: When it came time to move away for college, the choice destination was obvious to New Hampshire native Matt Kirouac: Chicago. After earning a culinary degree from Robert Morris University, he became a food writer. He’s written for various publications and has served as the associate editor for Plate Magazine. Away from his laptop, Matt enjoys bowling, walking his dog around Ukrainian Village and being overly competitive when playing video games with his husband.



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