“You don’t stop having fun because you get old, you get old because you stop having fun.”
The Windy City is a Winter Wonderland. In December, Chicago pulls out the stops – it’s hard to pick where to go, what to do, and which traditions to stick with.
Like many people, I draw from our past traditions, tweaking, and then adding our own anew.
This year, we leveraged an existing tradition of checking out holiday lights.
As a child, I eagerly anticipated our annual holiday light tour. Every year, on a night leading up to Christmas, my family would hop in the car and drive around Green Bay to look at Christmas lights.
Houses donned with lights, inflatable snowmen, dazzling ornaments, heinous garland, oversized wreaths, and Christmas trees of all shapes, colors, and sizes decorated the landscape. As we passed by (and sometimes paused), we graded each house – A +, A, B+ , B, C, D, F, and the worst F -.
It felt so fun playing the role of teacher. You get an F, ahhahahaaaaaa. (Kidding, I’m not that kind of teacher).
Prior to this year, we hadn’t graded in our family. Our kids were too young, and we drive by the best Christmas house in town every night. It’s an easy A ++.
This house is a sight that does not disappoint, and on Logan Boulevard, it’s a only few blocks from our home:
But this year, well, this year, we’re in the sweet spot for grading (V is in first grade, and curious about grades), so we boarded on a trajet the girls are sure to remember.
Loaded up on chocolate sundae from downtown Ghirardelli, we made the trek to the north shore suburb of Winnetka.
To see the Home Alone house.
We peeked out at the Zoo lights as we made our way up Lakeshore Drive (maybe next year Lincoln Park Zoo – you sure look lovely!)
Excitement brewed – we giggled, we graded. The girls saw Home Alone for the first time a few months ago, and naturally, thought it was HILARIOUS! At one point on the drive, both girls chanted, Kevin’s house, Kevin’s house, we’re going to see Kevin’s house.
Which was met moments later with dead silence from our youngest. Clearly recalling the movie’s violent antics, she whispered, “Mommy, I’m scared of that house.”
Followed by: “Daddy will you hold my hand?”
I reached back to clasp her tiny hand, her poor clammy hands. V, knowing I am a mommy not a contortionist, linked fingers with her sissy the rest of the ride north.
We set our criteria for grading. It’s our first year, so we’re no experts …
A – Outside display spectacular – lot of lights, a unique point of interest (perhaps an ice rink)
B – Outside display apparent – plenty of lights, wreaths, a blow-up Santa
C – Christmas tree in the house, in view from the road. If no tree, a string of holiday lights outside
D – Porch lights on
F – No lights. Dark as night. Bah humbug.
Let’s say, we’re easy graders: A lot of A’s, B’s and many A +’s, were shouted out.
Giddy all the way, we listened to the Christmas music station, graded the city apartments, and made our way to the Home Alone house. And we were not alone. Several other cars were stopped to take the classic shot. Ahhhhhh!
We jumped out and followed suit.
V in front of Kevin’s house:
As we were walking back to our car, a police car drove by – clearly this is a hot spot.
Rocking around the Christmas Tree came on the radio and my husband continued to drive around the streets Kevin roamed.
Around the neighborhood we went … four times.
Literally my husband said à la European Vacation,
Look kids, ice skating rink, (at the rink in someone’s front yard.)
Look kids, Kevin’s house.
Winding along the ravine where Cameron trashed the Ferrari, we laughed and viewed the light displays on the estates that peppered the neighborhood that Ferris roamed.
It really put me in a holiday state of mind.
Check out this display in Winnetka. It’s one of the best in Chicagoland and done by a teen.
Do you have a tradition of driving around to look at holiday lights …ooohing and ahhhing … giving houses a grade? Do you have a specific route?
Ciao for now.
P.S. Have you heard of the CTA Holiday Train in Chicago?
My husband stumbled upon it last year on the way home from work. He said it made him smile. I’ve never had such luck. Last Saturday, V and I missed it by a mere 30 minutes! We were heading downtown to have a special girls’ afternoon of Christmas shopping. Word is holiday music plays throughout the six cars, which are tricked out with holiday-patterned upholstery and tinsel garland-wrapped poles.
Sounds fun! I may have to hunt it down next year.