Packed malls, (over)extended family visits and a parade of school activities ... ready to take a break? We asked three Chicago experts where they go to find holiday calm.

Revel in Tree Time

An 18-foot tree sparkles with 7,000 lights in the lobby of the storied Palmer House Hilton. For Chicago Detours tour company founder Amanda Scotese, serenity is a table near its boughs, sipping hot buttered rum made with ice cream under the elaborate ceiling frescoes. "I love the elegance of the space," she says.


Photos by John Noltner

Time It Right

Chandra Ram, editor of chefs' magazine Plate, plans a weekday off with her husband. "We call it our skip day," she says. Last year, they avoided crowds by visiting Millennium Park's ice rink early on a December Tuesday. "I stumbled around a few times while he glided past me," Chandra says. To warm up, they crossed Michigan Avenue and slipped into The Gage for beer and a bowl of mussels in vindaloo sauce. The day ended with a five-block stroll to the Christkindlmarket on West Washington at Dearborn Street.

Photo courtesy of Adam Alexander/Choose Chicago

Reserve Your Teatime

Kathy McClanathan, president of the Chicago Hotel Concierge Association, recommends the holiday afternoon tea service at the historic Drake Hotel, just off the Magnificent Mile. In the sparkling Palm Court, a harpist and strolling carolers provide the soundtrack, while a tree, gingerbread house and model train supply yuletide charm.

Photo courtesy of Borterwagner

Sip With Swedes

On Thanksgiving eve, a sign lights up Simon's Tavern in Andersonville: "It's glögg time." The low-key neighborhood bar honors its Swedish roots with a mulled wine seasoned with raisins and spices. "It warms the belly during the chilly Chicago winter," Amanda Scotese says.

Get Above It All

Chandra likes the lights but not the chaos of the Mag Mile, so she heads seven floors up to NoMI Kitchen in the Park Hyatt Chicago. "If you luck out with a window table, you have a fantastic view of the lights and decorations of downtown but in a beautiful, civilized space with delicious food," Chandra says. She suggests a bottle of Burgundy and a few nibbles from the cheese cave.

Photo by Bob Stefko