Despite its reputation for intolerably cold climates, Chicago abounds with fun and festive winter activities. While you can (and should) check out Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo and the spectacular new ice ribbon at Maggie Daley Park, there are a handful of luxury hotels that have wintertime experiences that rank right up there, too. Here are three we’re really excited to visit this season:
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile
Whether you’re a Grinch or filled with holiday spirit, you’ll want to check out the intricate creation of Whoville from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas inside the lobby of this Michigan Avenue luxury hotel. Executive chef Randy Reed led the month-long effort to re-create the famous town square out of gingerbread. The display is ideal for both kids and adults, and once you’re in the historic building, go ahead and check out the elaborate holiday decorations and enormous Christmas tree. For a sweet and indulgent treat, head to the adjacent ENO, a hot spot for chocolate, cheese and wine. Its holiday chocolate flight includes blood orange truffle, gingerbread and eggnog chocolates. Runs through January 1.
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
If you’ve never seen the jaw-on-the-floor views from the 16th floor of Chicago’s Trump hotel, know that now is one of the best times of year to do it. This winter season, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel has one elevator — called the Gingerbread Express — that shoots straight up from the lobby to the level where you’ll not only find seasonal fun but exceptional dining at Five-Star Sixteen as well. Pastry chef Aya Fukai and her team spent more than 450 hours decking out the elevator with elaborate (and edible) trimmings, including a faux-lit fireplace, a Christmas tree and a toy train that runs on a track overhead. Once you get off the lift, head to The Lodge at the Bridges Room, a cozy pop-up eatery connected to Sixteen’s bar that’s decorated to replicate a mountain lodge — it just happens to have incredible views of the Windy City through floor-to-ceiling windows, too. Warm up from the cold with apple cider, hot chocolate and festive snacks. Runs through December 31.
The Peninsula Chicago
Perched four stories above Michigan Avenue’s twinkling lights, The Peninsula Sky Rink is a pretty magical experience come wintertime. The large outdoor terrace at the Five-Star hotel is transformed into a veritable wonderland with a 2,100-square-foot ice skating rink, a slew of lit evergreens and a festive “chalet” serving warming treats like apple fritters with caramel sauce, hot cider and traditional glühwein (a warm spiced wine). While there is a suggested donation to take to the ice ($15 for adults, $10 for kids under 12), all of the proceeds benefit two local children’s charities. Tip: The rink is open to hotel, spa and restaurant guests only, so book a warming treatment at the Four-Star spa (perhaps the seasonal Mistletoes Pedicure with peppermint oil and lotion?) if you’re not staying overnight. Runs through March 31.