A Guide to Christmas in Chicago

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The holiday season is here and I don’t beat around the bush in claiming that Chicago is the best city in the world to enjoy the holidays. It is just a fact. But if there is anything negative about all of the holiday awesome in our fair city it is that there is so much- how do you possibly know what is happening and when and make plans to do it?!? That’s what I am here for. Below you will find links, dates and details for all sorts of fun Chicago Christmas goodness. Mark your calendars, friends!

Tree Lighting at Daley Plaza: November 25th at 5pm

Thanksgiving Day Parade: November 27 at 8am

Christkindlmart: November 21-December 24 Sunday-Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday-Saturday 11-9pm; this German open-air market is open in the Daley Plaza to satisfy your craving for mulled wine in little boots, ornament shopping and wiener-schnitzel.

Wreathing of the Lions: November 28th at 10am the beloved Lions at the Art Institute get their traditional evergreen wreaths and following the ceremony, families are invited inside the Ryan Center to create their own wreaths, totally free.

Zoo Lights: November 28-January 4 frpm 5-9pm (check the website for specific days as it’s a bit inconsistent and you would hate to be stuck outside the gates with your spiked roadie. Or not…)

BrewLights: December 3rd from 5:30-9pm- $40 will get you a dozen holiday beer samples that you can use to keep warm while checking out the Lights.

Southport Holiday Stroll: December 5th from 5-9pm; free cocktails, shopping, sales, more free cocktails, a sleigh that acts like a bus to transport you up and down Southport (for free!), Victorian carolers and Santa & Mrs. Clause. Such a quaint experience for such a big city.

Ice Skating at The Peninsula: The “Sky Rink” opened last Saturday and sits 4 stories above Christmas-ready Michigan Avenue. Combine that with spice wine and you’ve got my kind of outdoorsy activity. Open Monday through Friday 3-8pm, Saturday 12-9pm and Sunday 12-6pm.

Ice Skating at Millennium Park: Monday-Thursday 12-8pm, Friday 12-10pm and weekends from 10am-10pm

Caroling at Cloudgate: Fridays at 6pm starting on November 28th until December 19th, choirs will lead a community singalong in front of the Bean. Mark this down as the most festive thing you could possibly do. I sang my heart out last year.

30th Annual Music Box Theatre Christmas: December 13-24th, The Music Box Theatre does showings of It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas. Sometimes Santa shows up and there’s a group singalong. Gosh, I love a singalong.

Kris Kringle’s Kandy Kane Ball: Festive cocktails for a cause at Joe’s on Weed on December 13th from 9pm-12am. Proceeds benefit Chicago Children’s Charities and don’t forget to bring a toy to donate at the door!

Claymas Christmas: December 21 at 9:30pm- Holiday improv. These guys are hilarious.

CTA Santa Train: November 28- December 23- check the schedule for when this hub of Christmas cheer is on your tracks. It smells like cinnamon, Santa and the reindeer are on a flatbed and the inside is covered in decorative holiday awesome. So, basically, the only time during the year when you actually want to get on the El.

Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”: December 5-28; Joffrey is one of the best ballet companies in the world and to see them do The Nutcracker is so special.


Love Actually Is All Around

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One of my favorite movie scenes is in Love Actually when people are meeting their loved ones arriving at the airport. Something about the hugging and smiling and Hugh Grant saying that “if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that love, actually, is all around” that makes me tear up.

I have been to Midway Airport 15+ times this year to fly out for work travel; I don’t hate it but I wouldn’t exactly call it my happy place. But last night I went to pick up my best friend who was flying in from LA and I had so much fun. I was a few minutes early and was so happy to be standing at Arrivals, watching people come out. Big hugs and hellos, kisses and handshakes, going back in for that second hug…I didn’t know people actually parked cars and met people at the airport anymore and I love that they do. It was totally Love Actually last night at Midway…and then it was my turn to give my friend a huge hug and touch her belly which is growing my new best friend that will arrive in February. Pick up people from the airport is where it’s at, I tell you. A instantaneous happiness burst.

Love actually IS all around. In this season and all of them. That’s so cool to remember.

Weekend Forecast: Brunch with a Chance of a Bloody Mary

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Cheers! It’s Friday!

If brunch and a Bloody Mary sounds as good to you as it does to me right now, here are some great spots in Chicago to hit up this weekend: Crosby’s Kitchen (pictured above), Homeslice (pictured below, it comes with a slice of cold pizza!), Sunda (two words for you: Sumo. Mary.), Tweet (so.many.combos) and Rockit (the build-your-own Bloody Mary bar was clutch for our group the day after our wedding). If you’re snuggling in at home, you can’t go wrong McClure’s mix.

Happy weekending!

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Owen + Alchemy: A Friend Date

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There are those coffee dates you have in your calendar that you’re looking forward to but if something comes up, you’ll cancel or reschedule. And then there are those coffee dates, or juice bar dates in our case, where you would sooner die than not show up for time with that person. That was yesterday for me. A 75 minute yoga class followed by a much needed catch-up at Owen + Alchemy juice bar in Logan Square followed by me being positively on fire the rest of the day.

Don’t you just love people who set you (figuratively, of course) on fire? The people who you can’t come in contact with and not walk away inspired/excited/confidant/grounded?

I do. I really, really do.

Owen + Alchemy is awesome, by the way. A chef-driven juice bar, it has a gazillion different combos that not only are really delicious but are geared toward specific health issues. “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food” is their motto. I agree, Owen + Alchemy. My kombucha was amazing and I have #58 in my fridge for today- cold brewed organic coffee, raw almond and cashew, maca and vanilla bean. Amen and good morning!


Just a Chi Town Update: Sparkly & New

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Well, hello there! Welcome! Am I overdressed? Do you like my shoes?

As you may have noticed, things look a little spruced up around here. Real talk- things are a lot spruced up around here.

I have been writing Just a Chi Town Girl for 5 years now and in that time, the experiences, photos, writing and everything in between have grown, just as I have. The website itself though? Not so much. I don’t have the same haircut I had 5 years ago, why in the world did I have the same website design? It was time.

For as much as things change, they do stay the same. I am still that girl who loves Chicago and calling it home makes me wildly happy. My family is my heart and my husband Ryan and our cat Luna Bell have grown that love times a million, to say the least. Some days, I am confidant my cooking skills have grown as well…other days, not so much (buckwheat waffles did not go well). I started this blog while sitting/living on a friend’s couch and while I have an actual house (err, condo) now, I share the same enthusiasm I did about it that day 5 years ago.

Thank you for reading and for being a part of this little community. I hope you love this new and improved little corner of the internet and are living a life you love in a place you love too.



ClassPass Chicago + a Giveaway!

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Hi, my name is Nina and I am a workout jumper arounder.

Let me elaborate: being active and working out is a huge part of what keeps me feeling healthy and balanced. A good sweat is my favorite way to start a day, end a day, work through ideas/troubles/stress and…I am about as loyal to specific workouts as Tiger Woods was to his wife. I love Flywheel, Pure Barre was my jam before the wedding (lift/tone/burn, baby!), there are so many great yoga studios in town, and don’t get me started on my love for Exhale Spa.

And, spoiler alert, belonging to every single one of those studios would cost approximately a million dollars.

Enter ClassPass, a monthly membership that gets you into the best boutique fitness facilities in Chicago for $99. All of the studios I mentioned are fair game plus Moksha, PilatesProWorks, Sweat on State and more. You get unlimited classes, can go to each studio up to 3 times and it costs less than a gym membership. AND you won’t get stuck in a workout rut because you’ll be mixing it up so often.

I went to a Core Fusion class at Exhale last night for the Chicago launch of ClassPass and it reminded me why I love working out- packed class, killer instructor, good energy. I am stoked about ClassPass because I think you should have access to sweat where you want to, when you want to. It’s what I want and it’s awesome that ClassPass is making it happen.

In celebration of sweating all over town, I want to gift one of you a month ClassPass so you can try it for yourself! Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite way to sweat. I will choose a winner at random by 5pm on Friday.

Happy sweating, all!

A Labor Day Weekend Adendum

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Something that must be added to the Labor Day weekend post…The J.Parker. I met a girlfriend for drinks there last night and was greeted by this view of the sunset. It was breathtaking and felt like the absolute best place to enjoy such a stunning evening. Our conversation was punctuated with “Can you believe this sky?!”, “What a gorgeous evening!” and “The moon! Look at the moon!”. Summer nights like last night are like unicorns- you can hardly believe it’s real and all you want is to figure out how to capture it, replicate it.

Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend and are squeezing out every last drop of summer.

Labor Day Weekend in Chicago

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I struggle with Labor Day weekend. I want to soak in every last drop of summer but if we’re being honest, I am also ready for college football, chili and leather boots. In the spirit of not denying ourselves our respective college season openers and making the most of summer specific activities, here’s a list of both to help make planning for the long weekend less of a challenge.

Chicago Jazz Fest: Pack a picnic and head to Millennium Park for jazz with a side of skyline. Here are four bands you have to see.

Headquarters River North: This Lakeview favorite brings their huge craft beer selection and arcade games to River North. Opens today and in case beer and pinball isn’t enough for you, this location is going to have food.

Magnificent Mile Women’s Half Marathon & 5k: Ladies, if you’ve been hitting the pavement all summer, do a victory lap by running the first ever race to hit the Mag Mile. Registration for both the half and 5k looks like it’s still open.

Critical Mass Ride: A few weeks ago, we were test riding bikes and I fell off mine at a stop sign and yelled “I DON’T WANT TO RIDE BIKES!” as I got up so this is a suggestion for you, not me. But if you are a biker of the pedal-y sort, head to Daley Plaza on Friday at 5:30 for this free ride through the city’s streets with a few thousand of your biker friends.

Fireworks Cruise: Water. Skyline. Fireworks. Enough said.

College Football Bars: We live in a city with a bar for every.single.college there is. Here’s a complete list of where to see your team on college game days. (And here’s the Spartan Fight Song for good measure.)

Elle on the River: one last shot at tacos and punch al fresco. This has been one of my favorite spots this summer and the only thing better than their fish taco on chickpea flatbread is the views of the river.

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Brown Bag Seafood

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Lakeshore East is one of my favorite neighborhoods. Yes, I am biased because we lived there for 2 years but this little hidden gem on Lake Michigan and steps away from Michigan Ave is just the best…and now it has Brown Bag Seafood.

I was starvation city last night after Flywheel but wanted something fresh, healthy, that wasn’t a sit down restaurant but also wasn’t Whole Foods. Brown Bag Seafood fit the bill and then some. I grabbed one of their “brown bags” (piece of paper with all the food options), marked down what kind of fish I wanted and how I wanted it prepared (tacos, salad, sandwich, plain, etc) and obviously checked the box for a glass of wine and a few minutes later…dinner.

After much debate (and the help of the sweet man taking my order), I went for the Power Pack: white fish on top of a red quinoa & wild rice blend atop spinach with lemon and herbs. But with 4 different types of tots, I will be back soon to try those and the fish tacos. And probably a sandwich. Such a fun find, this urban fish shack!



RPM Steak Opening Party

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There are some plans I have to remind my husband of multiple times…attending the Opening Party for RPM Steak was not one of them. From the second we were invited, August 9th at 7pm was top of mind- I would imagine it had something to do with visions of steak and manhattans dancing in his head.

The new space at 60 W. Kinzie is beautiful. Huge and airy with the same sleekness RPM Italian has but toned down to highlight what’s clearly the star of the show: the steak. Chef Psaltis was on hand serving up quite the spread and while I first congratulated him on the gorgeous new restaurant, Ryan went back and congratulated him on the steak. He was wildly impressed with everything from the ribeye to the lamb chops to the skirt steak.

Me? Glass of champagne in hand, I was happy as could be…and then I made my way upstairs to what will be the private dining space and found lobster and oysters perched atop a bar made entirely of ice. Jack.pot.

Also to be noted: dessert. Mini lemon sorbet baked Alaska. Basil hazelnut cream puffs. Yes.

It was such a fun, almost interactive date night. We walked around, sampled the food, ran into some people we hadn’t seen in ages, caught up on our weeks. There’s no official opening date announced yet but a waiter told us that Bill Rancic (partial owner) told them 10 days so get ready to snag a reso- I know we can’t wait to try RPM Steak in full.