The best places to see and be seen with Santa in Chicago

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Adults may dream of a white Christmas, but for many kids, the holiday evokes another color altogether as a trip to see the old man in red is almost compulsory. Luckily, children in and around the downtown area have plenty of options:

Water Tower Place

The shopping’s never been better at Water Tower Place, a Mag Mile institution, and this year just as in years past, Santa will be around to meet with kids and pets. Reservations are encouraged to avoid a wait and there are various theme nights—like pajama night—so be sure to scroll through the options to get the perfect fit. To find the best night for your schedule and to make a reservation, check www.celebrateyourholiday.com

The Driehaus Museum

This popular destination has added Sunday dates for Santa. Kids under 2 are free, tickets for kids up to 12 are $15 and adult tickets are $20. The tickets include activities like sing-a-longs, story times and family fun. Anyone interested should get tickets as soon as possible, as several dates have already sold out. For more information, check the museum website at http://driehausmuseum.org

Soldier Field Breakfast with Santa

For a full morning with the big man, why not sign up for breakfast with Santa at Soldier Field on Dec. 8? Adult tickets are $50, $25 for kids ages 4-12 and free for younger kids. The tickets include a train display, an ornament contest and a cookie decorating area for children. This event includes a toy drive, so be sure and bring a new, unopened gift for a child in need. For more information, call (312) 235-7063 or email SoldierFieldBistro@aramark.com

Shedd Aquarium Breakfast with Santa

The Shedd Aquarium is offering a full morning of fun with Santa every weekend leading up to Christmas. Ticket prices vary for members and non-members, but the event includes breakfast, crafts, a Polar Express train ride and parade, an aquatic presentation and more. For more information, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/

Macy’s State Street Santa Events

Breakfast no good? Well, Macy’s has the solution for parents who want more options. The State Street department store is offering breakfast, lunch and/or dinner to folks who need some variety in scheduling time to visit Father Christmas. The events run through the month. For more information, visit http://macysrestaurants.com

Skate with Santa at Maggie Daley Park

Anyone who wants to get the kids out and about could do worse than this free opportunity to get the kids out on the ice with Santa at Maggie Daley Park in the heart of the New Eastside. On Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, kids can lace up and hold hands with the jolly red elf. For more information, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com

Swissotel’s Santa Suite

The hotel admits their newly-renovated Santa Suite is over the top, so expect to be wowed on the 41st floor by sights, sounds and decorations. The suite is open through Dec. 23 and tickets begin at $15 for individuals, and family packs can be had for $40. For more information, visit www.swissotel.com

Other places to find Santa

If you still can’t get enough Santa, follow the merry fellow as he travels through Chicagoland and beyond. This month, Santa will be visiting a number of nearby suburbs, and families can visit him in a variety of places. For more information, check out www.santainchicago.com

The Walnut Room adds a dash of magic to any meal

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

 

What’s it like to dine in the Walnut Room during the holidays? Whether it’s your first time setting foot in the elegant 17,000 square-foot dining room located on the seventh floor of Macy’s Department Store on State Street, or you’re a seasoned veteran, a visit there will put you right in the holiday spirit.

The Walnut Room opened in 1905 and has become a cherished landmark in Chicago. Come holiday time, the Walnut Room is transformed into a festive wonderland with the famed 45-foot Great Tree as the centerpiece. Suspended from the ceiling, the iconic Great Tree is adorned with more than 2,000 ornaments and features thousands of sparkling lights.

“Dining in the Walnut Room during the holidays is a beloved Chicago tradition,” said Carolyn Ng Cohen, Director of Media Relations at Macy’s. “With already plenty of magic in the air inside Macy’s Walnut Room, princess fairies can make it even more special for believers of all ages.”

The Walnut Room fairy princesses come each year upon the arrival of the Great Tree to spread magic and Christmas cheer, flying in from the North Pole, Candyland, Sugarplum Island and other magical places. Dressed in gowns, the fairies will charm guests of all ages. By customer request, they’ll appear tableside, asking patrons to make a wish and sprinkle some glittery fairy dust to help the wish come true. You may even get a visit from the Fairy Snow Queen, Jade Nicole, who has been sharing her fairy magic with Walnut Room diners for over a decade.

Nicole first came to the Walnut Room 11 years ago as the Keeper of Christmas Wishes from the North Pole.

“Each day I would give children and adults the chance to make a wish with a little fairy dust and a magical song. Then, I would bring their magical wishes to Santa Claus,” said Nicole.

“Some wishes are simple—a toy or a present, but some wishes are much bigger—peace on earth, comfort for the sick, hope and happiness. I like to give everyone the chance to make three wishes,”  the Fairy Snow Queen said. “A wish for yourself, a wish for someone else and a wish for the world.”

“This will be our sixth year making our annual trip to the Walnut Room,” said New Eastside resident Elizabeth Johnston, who goes with her 6-year-old daughter Dillon and a group of friends. Their evening starts with a visit to Santa in Macy’s Santaland on the fifth floor, and then they head to the Walnut Room for dinner and fairy princesses.

“Our favorite thing about the whole experience is the fairy princess,” says Johnston. “It’s so cute to watch the little girls and boys admire her. It’s a heartwarming experience to say the least, which is what brings us back year after year.”

The Walnut Room menu includes both a Holiday Great Tree buffet offered daily, as well as a la carte options. Guests can also sample Mrs. Hering’s famous original chicken pot pie which features the same recipe that has been served since 1890. For more information about dining in the Walnut Room, including holiday hours and pricing, visit http://macysrestaurants.com/walnut-room/.

Reilly announces updates to Parcel O plans

Staff report

In late September, Alderman Brendan Reilly announced that Magellan Development agreed to work a number of public improvements into their project at 193 North Columbus Drive, commonly known as Parcel O.

The public improvements came from a public meeting held with the New Eastside Association of Residents (NEAR) in July. Reilly pointed out that the development group did not need to agree to any public improvements by law, but they agreed to build the improvements after extensive negotiations with Reilly. In a recent newsletter, Reilly credited the public support for the public improvements with the success of the negotiations.

Magellan will pay for the improvements, which are expected to aid pedestrian and traffic safety.

The proposed improvements include a pedway connection through Village Market and Blue Cross/Blue Shield to the greater pedway, improved lighting, public elevators servicing the 3 levels of Columbus Dr., as well as numerous improvements for pedestrians and vehicles.

Some of those improvements include:
•    A new traffic signal will be installed at Upper Columbus and East South Water Street.
•    At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, the crosswalk will be realigned on the south leg of the intersection. The east end of the crosswalk will move to the corner next to the Aqua building rather than the corner next to the fire station.
•    At the intersection of Upper Columbus Drive and South Water Street, a curb bump-out on the southwest corner will be installed to narrow the roadway and pedestrian crossing distance on Columbus Drive.

Reilly said the project must get Lakefront Protection Approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, and when that vote occurs, Reilly will announce it in his newsletter.

Football fandom for complete dummies

By Tom Conroy |

Staff Writer

The weather is cooling off and the leaves are starting to change, which means it’s time to stay inside all day Sunday and watch football. That’s an easy task if you are a football diehard like myself. However, that can be far more daunting for someone who may only be a casual fan or for someone who does not watch at all. If this is you, and you find yourself at a bar or a Sunday watch party, here is how to get by like a pro:

 

  1. Following multiple games is necessary

 

Your friends might all be Bears fans, but don’t be alarmed if someone insists on switching over to the Steelers-Bengals game. It probably means that someone at your gathering has Ben Roethlisberger or A.J. Green in their fantasy game. Things can get even more confusing if your host has the NFL RedZone channel, which switches between games automatically if a team is close to scoring. If you find yourself lost, just latch on to the Bears’ bandwagon and cheer whenever you see the navy-blue-and-orange pop up on the screen.

 

  1. Everyone hates Roger Goodell, and you do, tooYour friends will probably bring up the NFL commissioner at least once and it will be negative. Whether it has to do with the national anthem, concussion protocols, new penalty rules or his absurd $200 million contract, Goodell will always draw the ire of fans regardless of their viewpoints. Do not waste time forming your own opinions about the man; just hiss whenever you hear his name.
  2. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are necessary evil

Bears fans are sick of losing to Rodgers and the Packers. The entire NFL is sick of watching Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. However, refrain from wishing season-ending injuries on either quarterback. I was at the Bears-Packers season opener at Lambeau Field and witnessed Bears fan cheering at the sight of Rodgers leaving the field with a potential knee injury only to exclaim in agony when he returned later in the game to pull off the victory. Guess what? It was one of the most exciting and compelling games I’ve ever watched. Rodgers and Brady may win all the time, but football is more compelling when they are on the screen. If you hear your friends complaining, remind them how unwatchable the Packers were last year with A.J. Hundley at QB.

 

  1. Sundays are now your new cheat dayDiets are hard when pizza, wings, beer and every other game-day-indulgence surround you. If you know that you will be gorging yourself on Sunday, plan ahead. Get in your exercise and healthy eating during the week. Pack some fruit if it is a potluck gathering. And make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid a Monday hangover.

Published October 2, 2018