Safe and festive winter activities offered around Chicago


Lucia Kouri

Skaters gather to skate at Midway Plaisance Ice Rink in Hyde Park.

Adrianna Nehme, Assistant Editor

While many might be skeptical to participate in typical holiday traditions during the coronavirus pandemic, several attractions around the city have adapted their regulations to provide a safe environment to enjoy the festive season.

Ice Skating: The winter season isn’t complete without a trip to the ice skating rink. This year, the Maggie Daley Park Ice Skating Ribbon is allowing families to continue this tradition safely through March. While skaters clutch onto the rails of the rink and glide around the turns of the ribbon, they face the city skyline, scenery that is difficult to find at your typical rink. A reservation on the Maggie Daley Park website and a mask are required to skate the ribbon. Social distancing guidelines are enforced, with no more than two people permitted to skate together. Skate rentals are usually $16, but they are $20 during holidays and the holiday season, Dec. 18- Jan. 3. Visitors can also skate with their own skates for $5.

The Midway Plaisance Rink in Hyde Park is also open weekly through Feb. 17, with specific hours provided on its website. Admission is free and skate rental is $7 for all ages. The rink has a 50-person capacity, and no more than two people are permitted to skate together. Masks are also required while skating.

The Chicago Park District has several open ice rinks throughout the city. Indoor rinks at sports centers are closed due to state restrictions. 

JoJo’s Shake Bar: Extravagant milkshakes topped with a unique variety of sugary treats are a JoJo’s Shake bar specialty. For this holiday season, the shake bar has a Winter Wonderland-themed outdoor dining on 23 West Hubbard St. Aside from the regular menu, which includes sandwiches and signature drinks, they have added holiday drinks: the Winter Wonderland Shake, Santa’s Milk & Cookie Flight, and Peppermint Party Hot Chocolate. JoJo’s Shake Bar is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for walk-ins or reservations through OpenTable. There is a $20 table fee to offset costs of outdoor dining facilities and personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nutcracker: This year, Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” has transformed into a socially-distant experience at Art on the Mart. The performance runs for 30 minutes nightly through Dec. 30 at 7 and 7:30 p.m. While listening to Tchaikovsky’s scores, people can view scenes from the holiday classic projected on the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. The program can be viewed from the Riverwalk Jetty or Wacker Dr. between Wells and Lake St. While tickets are not required to view the screening, no more than 100 people are allowed on the Riverwalk Jetty and all individuals are required to wear a mask and comply with social distancing guidelines. The screening can also be viewed on the Art on The Mart website

CTA Holiday Train and Holiday Bus: Wrapped in holiday images and lights, the CTA Holiday Train and Holiday Bus will travel “out of service,” which means customers are not allowed on board. The train will travel through Dec. 21 and the bus will travel through Dec. 24. As the CTA Holiday train pulls into each station, Santa and his reindeer will wave to customers. The train will travel all eight lines on select dates. To avoid crowds, the CTA recommends seeing the train during the afternoon. The bus will travel along the streets of Chicago on 15 routes. The full train and bus schedule is listed on the CTA website.

Morton Arboretum: This year, the Morton Arboretum is offering a 30- to 40-minute drive-through experience until Jan. 3 at “Illumination: Tree Lights.” Located at 4100 Illinois Route 53 in suburban Lisle, one can expect to drive down a two-mile trail filled with colorful lights, accompanied by a musical soundtrack that can be accessed through the car’s radio. Along with their traditional sights such as Symphony Woods and Woodland Wonder, five newly designed sights will be displayed along the road. All outdoor concessions and Arboretum buildings are closed as a safety precaution. The exhibit will remain open from Sunday through Thursday until 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. New tickets are added every Monday and can be purchased through the Morton Arboretum website.

Holiday Drive in Movie Experience: This winter, Replay Lincoln Park is hosting a 90-minute “Holly Jolly Drive-in” movie experience at 2875 N. Sheffield Ave. until Dec. 24. As visitors pull into the decorated parking lot and begin the movie, they will be greeted by holiday characters such as Santa, The Grinch and elves. Visitors must remain in their car for the duration of the movie except to use the bathroom during 15-minute periods before and after the movie. Admission is $75 per car, with no limit on the number of guests in the car. Tickets can be purchased on the Holly Jolly website, where specific time slots and dates can be selected.