Culture & Arts Videos, Festivals, Holidays

Best places to get your Christmas lights fix in Chi-Town

As if Chicago wasn’t already dazzling enough, the holiday season will take the urban light show up a notch. From the awe-inspiring Magnificent Mile Lights Festival to the animal-centered Lincoln Park ZooLights, the city abounds in opportunities to rekindle the Christmas spirit even if you’re well past the age of believing in Santa. Here is a list of the best places to be wowed.

(Note: Don’t forget your mittens; the lights might warm up your heart, but they won’t protect your hands from freezing.)


  • Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

When you live in a city famous for its grueling blizzards, you make the most out of every street celebration while you can still go outside without a face mask.

Last night’s ceremony is yet another proof of Chicagoans “go big or go home” approach to the holiday season. According to organisers, over 1,000,000 lights on 200 trees along North Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s largest shopping district, were lit up and a Disney-like world came into existence. The crowds were then treated with a mesmerising firework show over the Chicago river that literally turned the night into day.


  • Millennium Park Christmas Tree

The notorious “Cloud Gate,” aka “The Bean” just got some serious competition. Chicago’s 102nd Christmas Tree will be relocated from Daley Plaza in the Loop, its usual spot for 50 years, to Millennium Park. This way, locals and tourists alike will get the biggest bang for their (travel) buck: an ice-skating rink, a jaw-dropping sculpture and a 63-foot worth of lights. The tree, brought to life Tuesday, November 24, at 5.30 p.m., will rapidly become everyone’s selfie sidekick.


  • Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest

Unless you have relatives living at the North Pole, this is the closest you’ll get to Santa’s home. Scheduled for December 5, 2015 through January 10, 2016, the Winter WonderFest includes 24 rides such as a an indoor Ferris Wheel and a Reindeer Train Express. But the real show-stopper in addition to nearly 500 trees decorated with 25,000 ornaments is a 42-foot giant tree adorned with sparkling lights. (You might want to bring sunglasses.) And the best part? The general admission is $10, a small price to pay compared to the cost of a plane ticket to Alaska.


  • Lincoln Park ZooLights

What happens when a free admission zoo gets blanketed into a sheet of multi-colored lights? Well, even as an adult, you can’t help but think that Madagascar’s creators were onto something: animals have the ability to speak.

Sweet treats, live ice carving and rides on the Lionel Train Adventure are just a couple of things that keep the magic alive for little ones. There’s a better surprise for grown-ups: BrewLights, a beer-tasting event that allows participants to sample a dozen of different draft beers. The ZooLights  more than two million   will shine Friday to Sunday, from November 27 until December 13, and then nightly until January 13.


  • The Buckingham Fountain

Located in the heart of Grant Park, this architectural jewel seems, particularly at night, plucked from a Christmas postcard. Surrounded by skyscrapers and with more than 800 shimmering lights accompanied by music, the fountain offers a hypnotizing spectacle. While its powerful glow can be hard to capture on camera, it makes for an unforgettable memory. Fun fact: the fountain was featured in several movies including “Married…with children.”


Neighborhood Experts

Bunnies have Taken Over the North Side!

If you live in River North, Old Town, Lincoln Park, or Lakeview, this isn’t news to you: rabbits have completely taken over the sidewalks and parks in the northern Chicago neighborhoods. You can’t swing a Cubs bat without knocking out at least a dozen of these fuzzy little guys. Though we all secretly want to capture one and name it, “Peter” or “Beatrix Potter”, these adorable creatures have wreaked some serious havoc on local landscaping. The Horticulture Department at the Lincoln Park Zoo, for example, estimates that Peter has chowed down on nearly $15,000 worth of landscaping over the winter.

So why all the bunnies? Thankfully WBEZ 91.5 Chicago did some research on the topic:


What kind of rabbits call Chicago home?

These bunnies are unsurprisingly the region’s dominant species, the Eastern Cottontail. 

Why Chicago? 

We’re warm! Downtown Chicago radiates enough heat to attract bunnies from all around, and the comfy parks on the North Side make it nice and cozy.

Just how many bunnies are we talking about here?

It’s difficult to nail down a set number, but The Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo set up 118 cameras around the area to catch the rabbits doin’ their thang. The cameras were heat sensitive and took photos every 30 seconds. The results? At the zoo alone, at least 200 rabbits were recorded, which comes out to about 30 rabbits per about 2.5 acres.

Let’s give you an idea of what that translates to. In Robert Sullivan’s book on the rodent problem in Chicago, Rats, Sullivan equates our rabbit infestation to the rat infestation in NYC’s subways. “I also noticed that in addition to a rat problem, Chicago public parks appear to have a bit of a rabbit problem,” writes Sullivan. “Rabbits were hopping all over the place, believe it or not. It was a little scary.”

How do they survive the harsh Chicago winters?

Short answer: they don’t. Their mortality rate over the winter is estimated to be somewhere around 70%. If it wasn’t hard enough, experts also estimate that the about 2,000 coyotes that roam our city also deplete the rabbits’ numbers over the winter. So why are there still so many rabbits? I think you know. The rabbits do what rabbits do best and by spring, the numbers continue to grow.


So now we know! Our furry friends can be pretty fiendish. But it’s hard not to admire their tenacity! Peter and Beatrix aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and compared to our other infestations, I think we can agree that the bunnies can stay for a while.


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Your Top 8 Things to Do in Chicago

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Top Things to Do in Chicago

1. Art Institute of Chicago
2. Cloud Gate
3. Millennium Park
4. Museum of Science and Industry
5. Wrigley Field
6. Lincoln Park Zoo
7. Crown Fountain
8. Blue Chicago

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