The quarter is winding down, assignments are leisurely trickling in, and the weather is getting just a bit too cold for continuing to layer increasing amounts of hoodies in lieu of a coat – that’s right, it’s almost time for the holiday break! While some of you may be traveling across state lines to visit family or friends and escaping the chilly Chicago climate, many are planning on staying local this winter season. And while your windowpanes might be frosty and the temptation is real to cozy up under a weighted blanket with a wi-fi connection until mid-March, there are heaps of sensational seasonal activities going on around town and the outlying suburbs. Psst – the best part is they’re all either free or super cheap for the average college student to squeeze into their budget with a little bit left over for holiday treats!
1. Christkindlmarket (Ends Dec.31)
We’re sure you’ve heard of this one. The German themed market in Daley Plaza is the perfect place to get your yearly dose of holiday magic. Sample traditional German food and ogle at delicate ornaments and Christmas decorations at each of the booths. You can absolutely use this as an excuse to get your holiday shopping done in one fell swoop, but window shopping and smelling the cider and schnitzel is just as good – and free too!
2. Lincoln Park Zoo Lights (Ends Jan. 5)
It’s the zoo you remember but better – this year boasts more than 2.5 million lights that adorn displays around the zoo area. Admission is free and you get access to beautiful light shows, ice sculptures, holiday shopping and snacks, carolers, and more. It’s kid friendly and has enough action that it’ll keep you occupied for hours at a time. Bring a friend or two and rediscover the zoo!
At RMU, you never have to even leave the building for gourmet cuisine. This quarter’s pop-up restaurant, Icebox, has hours every Thursday and features a dine-in option as well as to-go orders. And for only 10 bucks for a full-course meal, you’re sure to leave with a full belly!
4. Harry Potter Pop Up (Ends Jan.5)
If you’ve ever gazed wistfully out your window for a long-anticipated letter from a feathered friend or wished you could attend the Yule Ball of your dreams and dance with witches and wizards under the stars, now is your chance. Replay, an arcade bar in Lincoln Park, is hosting a Harry Potter-themed Christmas Pop-up with all the magical trimmings. Hogwarts inspired drinks, house décor, festive food, and even a replica of the Whomping Willow complete with battered Ford Anglia complete the magical experience. It’s an enchanted event you won’t want to miss.
5. Holiday Cocktail Festival (Saturday, Dec. 21)
For those students 21 and older, head on over to Moe’s Cantina in River North and sample all kinds of cocktails perfect for the holiday season. The event includes giveaways and drinks for only $20. It’ll be a sure hit for the holidays, so wear an ugly sweater to really get in the spirit!
6. Matzo Bash – Chicago’s Christmas Eve Party (Tuesday, December 24)
No plans for Christmas Eve? Grab a discounted ticket for Chicago’s Christmas Eve Gala! 15 bucks gets you access to a cocktail reception, appetizers, music, dancing, giveaways, and more in Joy District in River North. Plus, proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Jewish United Fund. It’s a great way to get in the holiday spirit while doing a good deed at the same time!
Did you know that the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5-8pm? This stop will also be perfect for a photo opportunity as the iconic lions are all decked out in their giant holiday wreaths for the 28th straight year.
If you attend any of these events, make sure to share the photos on social media with #rmyou!