On the road: Christkindlmarket ramps up the German
JW puts you in the black
Whether you're shopping in the city, have out-of-town guests who would be better served elsewhere, or just need to get out of the house, the JW Marriott Chicago has a half-price deal for you. The landmark, luxury hotel offers a steal of a stay starting at $149 a night Dec. 15 through Feb. 13. (The usual room rate is between $289-$369 a night). Since you're saving so much green, consider sampling the seasonal Italian cuisine at The Florentine or relax at VALEO, the hotel's 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center.
Book Nov. 29-Dec. 2 for stays from Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, through Thursday, February 13, 2014. JW Marriott, 151 West Adams St., Chicago. The special room rate is $149 when reserving on Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Use the promotion code BAR at jwmarriottchicago.com or by calling (800) 228-9290 between Nov. 29-Dec. 2. Rate may vary based on availability.
German holiday shopping
Call it Glockenspiel's R Us: Christkindlmarket Chicago celebrates 18 years of bringing the best of German holiday traditions to the Midwest with one-of-a-kind handblown and painted ornaments, German nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, and beer steins, toys, jewelry, clothes, home décor and more. Watch artisans demonstrate techniques and purchase creations directly from the workbench. Tempting aromas waft through the market: sausages galore, sauerkraut, potato pancakes, waffles, cheese Schnitzel, goulash soup and strudels. Take a slug of Gluehwein, a traditional German holiday market hot spiced wine, to warm the heart or go with German beer. Buy chocolate covered fruit, cookies, Stollen or freshly baked apple, cherry, cheese or apricot almond strudel to take home. Entertainment includes a cappella groups, church and school choirs, Victorian caroling ensembles and spirited arrangements of traditional German music and holiday singalongs. Get the little Hans and Franz to enter the annual Children's Lantern Parade patterned after the German St. Martin tradition that celebrates Samaritan deeds.
Lantern Parade at 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 (children must register to be in the parade). Christkindlmarket hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday to Saturday, Nov. 26 to Dec. 24; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve. Held at Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St., Chicago. Free admission. (312) 494-2175 or christkindlmarket.com.
Dragging the kids all around the city to shop will not result in a Norman Rockwell scene. Break up the shopping with a stop at the Palmer House Hilton during one of four, fun-filled family baking classes led by Executive Pastry Chef Fabrice Bouet. Chef shows families how to create some of the hotel's signature holiday treats. The hands-on approach guides children and parents through the sweet recipes as they work together to bake Christmas cookies and decorate cupcakes in the historic setting of the Palmer House's pastry shop.
2-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14. Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe, Chicago. Classes are $20 per person and include sweets to take home. Sign up by calling Lockwood at the hotel at (312) 917-3404.
Xmas Train is coming
Join jolly St. Nick, Mrs. Claus and cheery elves aboard the East Troy Electric Railroad's Christmas Train, which will once again ride the rails for three consecutive weekends. The carefully restored Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad cars, originally built in the 1940s, make the 10-mile round trip jaunt linking East Troy to Mukwonago, Wisconsin. The heated Pullman cars are festively decorated as carolers and storytellers entertain during the 41st anniversary of the Christmas Train.
11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 14; Sunday, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 15. The train departs the historic East Troy depot at 2002 Church St., East Troy, WI. Fares are $12.50 for adults, $10.50 for seniors, $8 for kids 3-11, and free for age 3 and under. Save $2 with a donation of a nonperishable food item for the East Troy Food Pantry. (262) 642-3263 or easttroyrr.org.
An authentic, old-fashioned Christmas is as close as historic Madison, Indiana and the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes. This 32nd annual Christmas tour features public and private historic sites, including the Lanier Mansion, the Masonic Schofield House, River View Cottage and the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum all decked out in Christmas finery. Singing groups warble seasonal carols throughout the area, and carriages and trolleys ride along festive Main Street. Enjoy holiday treats at restaurants and wineries; shop at Madison's antique shops and specialty stores; and plan to spend the night at a bed & breakfast, hotel or guest cottage.
5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, Nov. 29 and Dec. 6; 3 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. Madison, Indiana. Tour tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-15. Purchase at the Madison Visitors Center, 601 West First Street. (800) 559-2956, nightsbeforechristmas.com or visitmadison.org.
Visiting Egg Harbor
Pencil in a visit to scenic Door County, Wisc., during Holly Days in Egg Harbor. Have breakfast with Santa, hunt for elves, enter the Mistle Dough shopping contest, watch the tree lighting and a holiday performance at the Third Avenue Playhouse and enjoy caroling and horse-drawn wagon rides. Children's activities include cookie decorating, glitter tattoos, storytellers and more.
8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30. Venues vary by event in Egg Harbor, Wisc. For details, go to eggharbordoorcounty.org.