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Three Cool Architectural and Historical Holiday Things to Do

By Amanda on December 22, 2014



Figuring out how to pass all that free time at the holidays can be daunting. But have no fear, the Chicago Detours staff has created a list of the best holiday things to do around the Windy City.

Chicago holiday things to do
Photo credit: Scott Brownell, Museum of Science and Industry

Christmas Around the World and Holiday Lights at MSI – EXHIBIT

5700 South Lake Shore Drive. – through January 4, 2015

FREE with museum admission

This special exhibit is a 73-year-old Chicago tradition in the historic structure of the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the great holiday things to do in Chicago. A visit to this behemoth building with its historic detail is such an experience. Originally the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the building was faced in limestone for its 1920s conversion into the Museum of Science and Industry. The adaptation retained the Beaux Arts look with columns and ornate ornamentation, which gives the feeling of stepping back in time as you enter. Instead, high-tech exhibits abound, and this special holiday exhibit includes a towering 45-foot holiday tree within a contemporary interior space. For the “Christmas Around the World” exhibit, volunteers from Chicago ethnic communities create more than 50 trees and displays. This year a Disney theme unites the displays Disney-inspired ornaments on the tree, and a special exhibit called “Treasures of Walt Disney Archives.” Go there through January 4, 2015.

Christmas Eve at Rockefeller Chapel – EVENT

5850 South Woodlawn Avenue. – Wednesday, December 24 at 4:00pm


On Christmas Eve the breathtaking architectural space of the Rockefeller Chapel becomes the setting for a traditional candlelit Christmas service. Carols will be sung by the adult and children’s choirs for this University of Chicago institution, along with the congregation joining in.  With its stunning gothic facade, beautiful stained-glass  windows and grandly tall nave, this Neo-gothic structure, funded by John D. Rockefeller and designed by architect Bertram Goodhue, will bring an architectural experience into a religious one.

Interior Walking Tours with Chicago Detours – TOUR

Downtown Chicago – Morning, afternoon and evening tours Wednesday through Monday (check availability)

$26-34+ per person, RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

A great holiday activity with family and friends is to join Chicago Detours on one of our walking tours that stay mostly indoors. Available six days a week, our Loop Interior Architecture Tour is a warm walking tour of Chicago that takes you on a creative route that weaves through buildings and secret short-cuts. The Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour explores Chicago’s entertainment history of prohibition, jazz, theater, vices, and social clubs. This tour also has a very cool architectural element to it, and of course we stop for drinks and appetizers, too. Both walking tours are fun and educational, and make for cool bonding experiences for family and friends looking for holiday things to do in Chicago this winter.

You can also sign up for our annual Holiday Tour of Drinks, Daleys and Dead Guys. We explore the history and traditions of the holiday season in the Second City. The tour includes drink stops at The Walnut Room and Miller’s Pub and delves into stories like the “Christmas Tree Tragedy.”

chicago architectural giftsIf you have a group of eight or more, both these walking tours may be available to be scheduled for around your plans as private group tours.

And p.s. if you need any last-minute holiday gifts, we now have an online store with cool architectural gifts such as the architectural wall art pictured here. We offer holiday gift cards for our public tours in various denominations. Gift cards you can easily get via email for quickest delivery, too!

– Chicago Detours Staff


Chicago Detours offers guided walking and bus tours of architecture, history and culture to public and private groups. We are a passionate team of educators, historians, artists and storytellers, and are proud to be one of very few tour companies in Chicago that is rated five stars on both Google and TripAdvisor.


Call: 312.350.1131
E-Mail: [email protected]