Chicago Loop holiday shopping – part 3, Block 37

One thing uncomfortable about holiday shopping is when it’s real cold outside, once you’re in the store, you may find yourself rushing about in your coat and sweating by the time you go back out into the frigid temperatures. Alternately, you may take your cold weather gear off and put it back on again over and over each time you pop in and out of stores, which is a hassle plus time-consuming.

Also, when you strip off all your outerwear and drape it over one arm to lug that heavy clump around, that leaves you only one arm to shop with, which any serious shopper knows is truly not ideal. In fact, a shopper who really wants to take care of business probably wishes for several arms.

One suggestion to get around this is to stuff your gloves into your pockets, your hat in one sleeve and your scarf in another (securely, to make sure they don’t fall out) then securely drape your coat over your shoulders without actually putting it on. Or try a combination of utilizing your pockets, depending on how big they are and how much they can accommodate, purse or briefcase. If you’re in a hurry, you can do all this while you’re on the move.

Another way around doing too much of the coat-off, coat-on routine is to visit an indoor mall like Water Tower Place, The Shops at Northbridge or the 900 North Michigan Avenues stores. And right in the Loop, there’s the snazzy Block 37.

Picture1It’s centrally located on State and Randolph with an entryway on Dearborn too (right across from Christkindlemarket) and is convenient to blue and red line trains plus surrounding bus stops. Block 37 is even connected to the Loop’s underground pedway, which makes shopping during the winter less stressful. If you work downtown in a building connected to the pedway, you may not even have to don your winter outerwear to get there and do some lunch time shopping plus grab a bite to eat. Imagine the convenience, the joy of not being heavy-laden with winter wear!

Block 37 was thoughtfully designed with your convenience in mind. ATMs are located in the pedway and on Level 1. The pedway has several food vendors and small shops including a GNC health food store. There’s a newsstand in the pedway for your convenience (closed on weekends) as well as specialty kiosks, including a Boost Mobile, Dakota Watch and Fashion Accessories.

Picture1.5There’s a Guest Services office on Level 1, or you can call 312-261-4738. Free maps and travel guides are available, keeping you abreast of Chicago events. If you need a stroller or wheelchair, those are available for free. There’s also a Hot Tix and a Godiva Chocolatier.

During the holiday season, Block 37 shops are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day except Sunday when they’re open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Be aware, however, that some of the food vendors have shorter hours and not all of them are open on weekends.

Here’s what you’ll find at Block 37 for your holiday shopping needs and more:

  • Apparel and accessories for men, women and children: AKIRA, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Iridium Lab, Made of Chicago, North & Hudson, Zara
  • Beauty products: L’Occitane en Province, Sabon, Sephora
  • Jewelry and accessories: Eddie’s Treasures, Les Nereidies, Local Charm, Sunglass Hut
  • Especially for children: Disney Store

Don’t “shop till you drop;” there are plenty of places to refuel at Block 37: Fast food in the lower level; Latinicity, Pueblo restaurant; and for dessert, Magnolia Bakery. Or if you’d like to reward yourself with dinner and a movie after shopping, there’s a dine-in AMC theater in Block 37.

Happy shopping!


Chicago Loop holiday shopping – part 2, Christkindlemarket


“Oh the weather outside is frightful…” but Christkindlmarket is oh-so delightful!

It seems to happen almost every year without fail: Come December, Chicago seems to get hit with sudden winter comprised of temperature dips plus snow. One thing we can depend on here in the Chicago area is that no matter how pleasant autumn may be, it’s a short season, and winter usually bears down in December, just in time to make holiday shopping all the more tricky.

But we’re Chicagoans; we expect it, we’re used to it and we’re tough enough to handle it! So pull on your heavy hooded coats and water-proof boots, big scarves and serious gloves and head over to Christkindlmarket at the Daley Plaza for some holiday cheer along with your holiday shopping! Also, to duck out of the cold and slush, you can take the pedway and come right up into it.

If you work nearby in the Loop, how ideal to pop over on your lunch break, when the sun is warm and high in the sky, for a hearty sausage sandwich with a side of potato pancakes, a hot chocolate to wash it down and one of the several wonderful old world bakery treats to end your meal on the perfect note.

For those who can take it, there are spots to stand around outdoors and eat, though your food will stay warmer if you head indoors for a more comfortable meal in a tent set up for indoor dining. Your co-workers will adore you for bringing back some of the baked goods or the interesting candy sold at Christkindlmarket. Stock up on baked goods while you can here, for holiday parties or your own pleasure. Traditional old world bakeries are scarce downtown.

IMG_1432 (1)

But let’s not forget why we stopped by: To shop for holiday gifts! Christkindlmarket abounds with everything from delightful trinkets to toys to fine jewelry. Here you can find unique tree ornaments, quaint holiday decorations, old-fashioned toys for the kids, one-of-a-kind jewelry for someone special and much more!

If you stop by in the afternoon or evening, you may experience the pleasure of live entertainment. And if pass through after work, there’s beer and a potent and tasty hot spiced wine (glug) very popular during the colder months in parts of Europe. Be sure to try it at least once (if you’re of age); you’ll find you start to forget about the cold, plus you can take the festive mug home as a souvenir. Drink up, though, because no alcoholic beverages are allowed outside the perimeter of the marketplace.

Cops stand guard watching, and of course security is extra vigilant – you have to get past cops in both directions, on your way in and on your way out and be subject to search — so don’t worry about safety issues.

If you come downtown with the family for some festive winter events and shopping, be sure to bring the children by Christkindlmarket to meet with Santa in the traditional manner.

This charming village, that seems to be transported straight from the scenic hills of Germany and plunked right down in the midst of the city, only comes once a year and only lasts about a month (from mid-November till Christmas Eve). Be sure to come and enjoy it and gather up some unusual gifts!

Happy shopping, and happy holidays to my readers near and far!

IMG_1358 (1)

Chicago Loop holiday shopping – part 1, hot tips

Seasonal shopping is easy if you work and/or live in Chicago’s Loop, especially if you’re nearby State Street! If you plan it right, you should be able to get almost anything you need by simply popping over and strolling down State Street on your lunch breaks or on your trip home from work.

One good reason to shop State Street on your lunch break is because even with holiday store hours, stores downtown simply do not stay open nearly as late as their suburban counterparts. Whereas in the suburbs, some stores will even stay open till midnight during the holiday rush, downtown, most stores close by 9:00 at the latest during the holiday season; and depending on how long your shopping list is, that may not give you enough time to get everything you want in one enthusiastic sweep of State Street.

Think of everyone you want to bless with a gift this year; make your list; check it at least twice to avoid last-minute panic shopping. A good idea is to always buy a few extra gifts and have them ready to avoid an awkward faux pas in case someone you didn’t expect suddenly presents you with a gift. Make them something universal and unisex that you yourself wouldn’t mind having, like a Starbucks gift certificate, in case you don’t end up giving them away.

Also have booze or pop handy for any holiday parties to which you may be invited. Now Loop pharmacies, like CVS and Walgreens, sell alcohol as do other stores, like City Target.

Holiday shopping can be daunting, but if you break it up into little bits here and there on your lunch breaks or trek home from the office, you’ll be done before you know it. Start now before a blizzard hits and walking becomes sloppy, even treacherous – already the temperature has plummeted and it’s snowed in the Windy City! Besides, as you know, stores are only going to become more crowded and chaotic with each passing day leading up to the Christmas.

One more thing to keep in mind, perhaps the most important: Remember to buy yourself something too! Whether out of a sense of reward for having gotten all of your requisite shopping done, or due to a feeling of self-love, or for no reason at all, splurge a bit and get yourself something special!

The Presence of Presents-2007

Chicago: Where the holiday action is, part 2


Part 1 in this two-part series announced the kick-off of the holiday season in downtown Chicago. Here is more of what’s happening during this jolly month ahead across Chicago:

Through January 8 – Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier. Navy Pier boasts one-of-a-kind shops, famous food spots, carnival rides and entertainment of almost every type and truly is a wonder to behold and enjoy during every season. But at this time of year, the decorations are larger than life. Plus Navy Pier hosts its annual Winter Wonderfest, including ice skating, which is like a holiday paradise for all ages.

December 8 and 15 – Fairly recently, I discovered the famous Cloud Gate in Millennium Park talks and tells its story. Now there’s singing there too through mid-December. On Friday evenings at 7:00 p.m., there will be choral performances and gigantic sing-alongs around “the Bean.”

December 8, 15 and 22 – Andersonville Late Nights 2017. Late night shopping, especially at holiday-time, while common in the suburbs, is rare in the city. Get some late night shopping in at the fascinating neighborhood of Andersonville. Seasonal fun and specials go on all around you to brighten these very special nights. Andersonville is a very vibrant neighborhood that really shines at this time of year. Click here for a list of deals and events. A special event that takes place in Andersonville (originally an area where many Swedes settled) is the Swedish tradition the Festival of Lights on Wednesday, December 13.

December 8-23, 26-31 and January 1-7 – Lincoln Park Zoo Lights. In my article about Lincoln Park Zoo, I pointed out the fun never stops at this zoo. Driving along Lake Shore Drive at night, the zoo looks like a magical place with its colorful lights – and it is. Don’t just be content to gawk at it from afar; join the Zoo Lights winter revelry which includes food, drink, a holiday market and live music – and it’s free!

December 9-24 – If you’ve not yet experienced the way the Music Box Theatre celebrates the season, I highly recommend it! Think you’ve seen all the classic Christmas movies too many times already? I guarantee you’ve never experienced them quite like this. Many attendees really get in the spirit by dressing up, bringing props including noise makers, reciting famous lines and best of all, singing along to these old-time movies. The Music Box Christmas Double Feature & Sing-A-Long will put you in the Christmas spirit! You can catch a single feature too if you’d rather. Check the website to see the schedule and order your tickets – get them while you can, because this is a very popular event. Devotees to this event go faithfully year after year.

December 12 & 19 – The Do It Yourself Messiah at Millennium Park. George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” is one of the most glorious oratorios in history – and one of the most popular especially at Christmas time and Easter. The music is so elevating, it’s natural to want to sing along. Here’s your chance, under the guidance of conductor Stanley Sperber and along with famous singers and musicians. Not much into singing? Maybe you should be! Several studies have concluded that singing is good for you: for your heart, lungs, circulation, sinuses and brain, immunity…as well as being emotionally uplifting and, ultimately, relaxing.

Add to all the great shopping and entertainment and sights to take in downtown, there are also great places to dine and drink. Whether grabbing lunch or enjoying a meal before the trek homeward, these are fascinating places to dive into the mix of regular locals, local tourists and people from around the world.

If you live downtown, there’s no excuse to miss all Chicago has to offer at this time of year, whether to join in an event, or simply enjoy this beautiful, colorful and classy city.

I advise you get up and out; take a revitalizing walk (perhaps at least partially by pedway if it’s frightfully cold) enjoy all that Chicago has to offer, from it’s gigantic events to the green and red-lit buildings to the planters bursting with fragrant evergreens and all the touches of beauty that Maggie Daley added to this town that transformed it from an old grey city to one of the world’s most beautiful.

If you don’t live downtown, Chicago during the holiday season is definitely worth at least one if not several trips downtown to make a day or a weekend of it; bring the whole family!

Happy Holidays! Shop, eat, drink, be merry, stay safe (be vigilant) and have fun!

Chicago: Where the holiday action is, part 1

yes2‘Tis the season to stop lamenting those bygone hot summer days, leave Halloween behind, and start enjoying all the fun Chicago has to offer during the holiday season! Whether you live downtown or commute into the city, Chicago has good times for everyone now — so bundle up, come on out and let’s have some fun!

The Chicago Lights Festival is this weekend through Saturday, November 18. Festive lights lining the Mag Mile get turned on to brighten up the winter in conjunction with a parade. Get over to Pioneer Court to revel in all sorts of entertainment including live bands. Bring the kids, because Santa has arrived in town! Many shops and restaurants in the area offer special deals at this time. The only ones who may not be pleased about all this are residents of the area trying to commute in vehicles, as there are street closures necessitating detours.

Macy’s on State Street now has its Christmas windows on display through January 7. Their theme this year is “Reasons to Believe,” promoting their Believe campaign (in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation that grants wishes to children with serious illnesses). How can you help? Write a letter to Santa – even if you’re an adult – and money will be donated to this wonderful cause. Instructions are here.

Crowds gather to view these, and it’s hard to get up front and see. If the kid in you wants to get close to the windows, the best times to do this are before schools let out for winter break and before or after shopping hours, which are extended during the holidays.

yes3No matter the weather, huddle with the crowds at Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza in Chicago, open now through December 24. It will probably put your mind at ease to know the City of Chicago has beefed up security for this and holiday events in general throughout Chicago. So come gawk at the gorgeous tree and the charming shops. The food and drink will warm you and the shops will dazzle you with unique items, plus there is live entertainment.

Also during this exciting mid-November weekend, the ice skating rinks have just opened: You can now ice skate at the Millennium Park ice rink and the Maggie Daley Park ice skating ribbon. Skates are available for rent. Don’t miss your chance this year to do this! These skating rinks are like no place else anywhere; you’ll be surrounded by sparkling skyscrapers.

Thanksgiving weekend is coming right up. This includes the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. If you live right on State Street and plan to stay out partying the night before (“Black Wednesday”), be aware the parade preparations start in the wee hours of the morning on and around State Street. New residents in the area will no doubt be completely caught off guard by this.

Ear plugs could come in handy if you’re trying to get your sleep, because there’s always some guy with a bullhorn bellowing out instructions; this starts well before the parade and continues throughout. Bands line up and practice before the parade starts too. It gets very noisy. In the past, we simply gave in when the parade started, no matter how little sleep: Got up and sat in our pj’s by the window, coffee in hand, watched the parade, and then went back to bed for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner nap.

The annual Turkey Trot takes place the day after Thanksgiving in Lincoln Park. The cool thing about this is it’s  for walkers as well as runners and people of all ages. There’s a Turkey Day Run 5K/8K and a Plymouth Rock Ramble kids race. These are followed by yet more fun activities including Corn Hole, Football Toss and Turkey Bowling. Thanksgiving costumes are encouraged. Dress as a turkey — but don’t be one: Sign up now or sponsor a participant, because proceeds go to feed Chicago’s hungry via the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

yes, smallAdditionally, for those who don’t wish to cook and have no place to go for Thanksgiving or just want to do your own thing, there are loads of Chicago restaurants serving tasty Thanksgiving dinners. Click here for a list of just some of the excellent restaurants offering Thanksgiving feasts.

Check back soon for part 2 and learn about more Chicago seasonal events hosted with your delight and enjoyment in mind! If you subscribe to my blog (a free and easy process, right from this page), I will keep you informed so you can experience loads of holiday fun this year in downtown Chicago.