Studio Brunstrum

Our Magical Holiday Places

December 22, 2016

We all seem to have a special holiday outing that makes the season bright, so I asked the Sweet Peas Design team to share one of their favorite spots for “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Enjoying afternoon tea in a posh hotel downtown.  Driving around at night to see the Christmas lights. Attending a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. We all seem to have a special holiday outing that makes the season bright, so I asked the Sweet Peas Design team to share one of their favorites for “the most wonderful time of the year.”

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I’ll kick off our list with my annual trip to see the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights. I call it “forced family fun” because my kids were never as crazy about this adventure as I am! Now they’re both adults and have grown to accept it, but I think deep down they really enjoy it too! Typically we choose what turns out to be the coldest night of the year – I don’t know how that happens - but we just bundle up and go. It’s really magical for me to see all the animals out at night, and we treat ourselves to hot cocoa.

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Afterwards we have a homey meal at the historic Twin Anchors Restaurant and Tavern in Old Town, where the ribs are legendary! It’s 84 years old, the building dates back to 1881, and it was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite spots in the city. The whole evening just “makes” the holiday season for me.

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Studio Manager Lauren Brown 

Every since before we had kids, my husband, Jordan, and I have gone to the Libertyville Holiday Tree Lighting in Cook Park and then out to dinner. When our children, Ava and Elle, came along we had to bring them too, and it has become a family tradition that kicks off the holiday season for us. I love it because it’s not commercial, it’s just a nice community event that’s really cute and a little corny. There’s always a group of elementary kids who sing; Santa rides around the square on a fire truck, and then he does the big countdown to the tree lighting. It’s always too cold and too long, but this year we headed over to Timothy O’Toole’s in Libertyville to warm up and enjoy dinner together.

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Senior Designer Angela LaVista  

Of course, I always go to Marshall Field’s - oh, I mean Macy’s! – on State Street for lunch in the Walnut Room near the giant tree, and a stroll up Michigan Avenue to see the beautiful windows.

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This year the theme for the windows is “Reason to Believe,” and it features a tribute to the Chicago Cubs – how appropriate after winning their first World Series in more than 100 years! That visit just feels like Christmas in Chicago to me.

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Junior Designer Lauren Benditzky 

My favorite holiday tradition is seeing the Nutcracker. I’ve been going since I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6. We always saw the Libertyville Dance Center North production when I was young, then during college I’d wrangle up some friends to go with me to see the Indiana University ballet production, and when I was living downtown we saw the Joffrey Ballet production. Although the ballet company changes, the story and music is always constant. It’s festive, a little magical and colorful. Nothing but happy memories!

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PR Manager Laura Bianchi 

Maybe it’s because my big brother and I had a Lionel model train set when we were kids – Dad always laid it out around the Christmas tree - but I fell in love with the “Wonderland Express” at the Chicago Botanic Garden a few years ago and it became an instant tradition. I take anyone I can railroad into joining me (pun intended!) and everyone has been enchanted. “Wonderland” is an entire room of model trains on multiple levels, chugging through a scaled-down cityscape of Chicago landmarks. Almost everything except the trains and track is meticulously constructed with nature’s own building materials – twigs, bark, acorns, mosses and much more. It even snows inside! This is great fun for any age – I’ve gone with my young nieces, my grown daughters and my nonagenarian father. There’s hot chocolate and cookies available afterwards, and if you haven’t had enough, take a stroll through the nearby greenhouses, which are all dressed up for the holidays, too. Brilliant.

Susan Brunstrum
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