Don’t let the winter blahs get you down, no matter what the season, there is still plenty of fun to be had here in the Windy City. SNOW DAYS CHICAGO is a free three-day winter festival that brings people out of hibernation for some fun in the snow. The festivities take place in Navy Pier, and include a snow sculpting competition, a dog sled demonstration, a snowboarding jail ram, and an Activities Igloo for kids. Teams of professional snow sculptors from all over will work to create beautiful and unique sculptures out of man-made snow over the three-day span. Visitors to the competition will have the chance to vote on the best sculpture, and see the winner honored at the awards ceremony. The festivities takes place Friday & Saturday 11am-8pm, and Sunday 11am-6pm at Nave Pier at 600 E. Grand. Admission is free. 312/595-PIER. Need a winter warm-up? Stop by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (312/252-4867) or Harry Caray’s Tavern(312/527-9700), both located on the Pier grounds.
Think the New Year’s celebrations for 2012 ended when the last fireworks fizzled out and confetti was swept up on January 1? Think again. In Chicago’s vibrant Chinatown enclave, the party is just getting started. Considered the most important holiday of the year for the Chinese culture, the Lunar New Year celebration brings hundreds of thousands of revelers to the streets of Chinatown to soak in the lively atmosphere and colorful displays of their annual Chinese New Year Parade. The 2012 Lunar New Year celebration not only marks the Year of the Dragon, but also marks the 100th Anniversary of Chicago's Chinatown. The parade steps off at Wentworth and 24th at 1pm on Sunday, January 29, and promises a dazzling array of marching bands, floats, dance teams, and, of course, a traditional paper dragon made out of silk, paper, and bamboo. Additional activities start as early as 11:30am. After the parade, follow the crowds as they take the party into some of the neighborhood’s most popular eateries, including favorites like Three Happiness (209 W. Cermak; 312/842-1964) and Phoenix Restaurant (2131 S. Archer; 312/328-0848).
The Chicago Theatre will be packed this weekend for two big shows with comedian Kathy Griffin, who brings her great appreciation for both pop culture and the skewering thereof to town in the form of a reliably hilarious and snarky standup act.
Also sure to be packed both before and after those shows is the most recent addition to Chicago’s burgeoning gay and lesbian nightlife scene that just happens to sit outside of the usual North Side LGBT havens – the nearby Downtown Bar & Lounge. Expect a nicely diverse crowd of both gay and straight patrons, plenty of plush, eclectic ornamentation, and an ebullient, energetic vibe throughout the room. Just don’t expect food – this is a bar and lounge, after all, and not a bar and grill.
So come prepared with an appetite for fun and drink (and drink and drink), and don’t be surprised if the celebrity gossip continues all night long. 440 N. State. 312/464-1400.
As tempting as it may be to get out and experience the city at this time of year, this is still wintertime in Chicago, and the weather outside has a tendency to be more frightful than even the most snow-loving reveler would prefer. But with the proliferation of fantastic dining options popping up inside hotels all around town of late, many lucky visitors are just an elevator ride away from a great meal – sans coat and mittens. Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse at InterContinental Hotel The name alone is probably enough to pack them into the latest entry in the city’s ongoing steakhouse proliferation, but the real draw here is less the name on the marquee and more the beef on the plate. 505 N. Michigan; 312/321-8823. Cape Cod Room at Drake Hotel For decades, the see-and-be-seen seafood spot has been the New England-themed dining room inside this landmark lodge on the Gold Coast. 140 E. Walton; 312/787-2200.
Aria at Fairmont Hotel Forget room service – there’s no better way to experience pan-Asian creations by Top Chef Season 9 contestant and Chef de Cuisine, Beverly Kim, than in the hipper-than-hip dining room. 200 N. Columbus; 312/444-9494. Aja at Dana Hotel and Spa
(pictured) Sushi selections and Asian small plates compete for diners’ attention with the lavishly decorated two-story dining room at this River North hotspot. 660 N. State; 312/202-6050.
Most famous for its amazing sky-high views of the city’s celebrated lakefront and skyline, the John Hancock Observatory takes the meaning of ‘winter wonderland’ to a whole new level––literally! For the second year in a row, guests can skate above the Magnificent Mile, at more than 1,000 feet in the sky, alongside family and friends on an intimate synthetic ice-skating rink, with Skating in the Sky. No matter how big or small, this exiting wintertime activity promises fun for the entire family. 875 N. Michigan, 94th Fl. 888/875-VIEW.
Or grab your coats, scarves, and skates (if you have them), and head outside for a few memorable laps around Millennium Park’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. Breathtaking cityscape and the Park’s stunning seamless bean-shaped sculpture by Anish Kapoor, titled Cloud Gate, will be the backdrop to your day of figure eights and fun. The seasonal ice-skating rink attracts over 100,000 skaters annually with its convenient downtown location at the corner of Madison Street and Michigan Avenue. Admission is free; skate rentals are available for $10 and on-site bath- rooms, concessions and lockers are just a few strides away. 312/742-1168.