These 7 Festive Pop-Ups and Experiences Bring Holiday Cheer to a Whole New Level

By Emma Sarran Webster | December 7, 2018 | Food & Drink

The great thing about December in Chicago is that, while the weather is getting cold and grey, the rest of the city is getting warm and bright. It’s an undeniable fact: Chicago knows how to do the holidays, which means there’s no lack of places to go and things to do when you want to lean in to your most festive feelings. Not sure where to start? Try these seven Windy City places and experiences that are majorly amped up for the holidays.

Santa Baby Christmas Bar

(Photo: Kailley Lindman Photography/courtesy Santa Baby)

There’s no confusion about what season it is when you walk into Santa Baby—or as you’re approaching it, for that matter. The exterior of the pop-up Christmas bar is decked out in lights you can spot a block away, and the interior only ups the ante: There’s wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling Christmas decor, several indoor and outdoor bars and experiences (from “Alpine Village” to “Brat Haus Beer Hall” and “Winter Wonderland”), iconic visitors (of the Santa and elf variety, of course), and an extensive menu of festive food and drinks (think: “Yule Mule” and “Elf Fashioned” cocktails, red-and-green “Holiday Sliders,” and a “Green Grinch Mint Shake” dessert). The bar is also hosting special events (like Christmas karaoke and gingerbread house making) throughout the season and donating a portion of its proceeds to Toys For Tots, as well as including donation bins on-site if you want to contribute a toy or two yourself. Santa Baby is a ticketed experience and will be open through January 6. 3505 N. Clark St., 833.YO.SANTA

Miracle at Sable Kitchen & Bar

(Photo: Melissa Hom/courtesy Miracle)

Why drink a boring cocktail at home when you can drink a Christmas-inspired one served up by an award-winning cocktail bar in a festively-adorned space? This holiday season, the national Christmas-themed pop-up bar, Miracle, is taking over Chicago’s own Sable Kitchen & Bar for a kitschy and delicious experience. The cocktail menu, which was developed in partnership with Cocktail Kingdom, includes 10 cheeky tipples—like a “Christmapolitan” (complete with spiced cranberry sauce), a toasty “Bad Santa” (including popcorn and bacon butter), and a “Run Run Rudolph” (incorporating gin, prosecco, and mulled wine puree). Sip your favorite among the cheerful decor, and buy the Santa mug to take home as a souvenir). Bonus: The bar is donating a portion of its proceeds to Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. The pop-up runs through December 31. 505 N. State St., 312.755.9704

Summer House Santa Monica

(Photo courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You)

If you’d rather spend your December evenings in, watching Christmas movies by the glow of your freshly-decorated tree while the kids sleep, well...we don’t blame you. But it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the city’s most festive spots. Get in on the action with your family during brunch at Summer House Santa Monica, where Santa will be visiting before he gears up for his big trip around the world. On Sunday, December 16 (from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM) and Sunday, December 23 (from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM), St. Nick himself will be buzzing around the restaurants, listening to wishlist requests and giving out holiday treats to the kids. 1954 N. Halsted St., 773.634.4100

Chicago Helicopter Experience

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Helicopter Experience)

There’s nothing quite like seeing Chicago from the sky—especially when the city is decked out in its holiday finest. Chicago Helicopter Experience (CHE) is once again making that possible with its annual Holiday Lights Tour offering. Book a flight for anytime between now and December 31, then head over to CHE’s private heliport for a magical evening ride. Once in the sky, you’ll get an incredible view of some of Chicago’s most iconic sites, like the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, and Willis Tower. Just think: It’s probably exactly what Santa sees as he and his reindeer zoom over on Christmas Eve. 2420 S. Halsted St., 312.967.8687


(Photo: Robby Nichols from 360 Chicago)

There are few sites more classically Chicago than 875 North Michigan Avenue (formerly the John Hancock Center), and few ways to get a cooler view of the city than the building’s 94th-floor 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck and TILT experience. During the holiday season, the entire floor is sporting a festive makeover with holiday décor galore. Take it all in, and then get a glimpse of the city lights down below with a turn on TILT, which literally tilts the window panes out and down (safely, of course!), for an adrenaline-pumping look out. To add to the festive feelings, 360 CHICAGO is also doing a month-long partnership with the local Daisie Foundation, with all revenue from youth (ages 3 to 11) TILT ticket sales, a portion of proceeds from the sales of a specialty Bar 94 cocktail, and money raised through special donation boxes going to the organization. Bonus: Admission to 360 CHICAGO for kids ages 3 to 11 is free through December 30. 875 N. Michigan Ave., 312.751.3681

Swissôtel Chicago

(Photo courtesy of Swissôtel Chicago)

You don’t have to be a visitor to take advantage of Swissôtel’s coolest holiday tradition: the Santa Suite. For the fifth time, the hotel has transformed an entire suite into a magical wonderland that anyone can visit. Among other amazing features, the suite has 16 Christmas trees, a full dining room table (complete with desserts), and weekend offerings like a hot chocolate bar, face painting, and kids crafts. This year, the theme is “Christmas Around the World,” which means the suite also incorporates holiday traditions from far and wide. Book a visit to the suite online (a portion of the proceeds go to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois), or use it as an excuse to take a staycation with one of Swissôtel’s festive packages—like the Elf Decorated Holiday Room, which includes a visit to the Santa Suite. 323 E. Upper Wacker Dr., 312.565.0565

Frosty’s Christmas Bar

(Photo courtesy of Frosty’s Christmas Bar)

Walking into Frosty’s Christmas Bar is like walking into the set of an elaborate Christmas movie—and the joy continues throughout the three-level pop-up experience. The entire bar is decked out in endless amounts of lights, lifesize toy soldiers, giant candy canes, and more. Grab a drink (perhaps the “Nutcracker,” a spin on the classic Old Fashioned with a gingerbread twist, or “The Grinch,” a refreshingly minty vodka concoction), chill out on one of the adorable ornament-shaped chairs, enjoy a Singing Santa show (happening every hour), and take advantage of the many, many photo opps to Christmas-ize your Instagram feed. Frosty’s is a ticketed experience, and is open until January 6. 809 W. Evergreen, 312.535.3355

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