10 Chicago bars decorated for the holiday season

Chicago bars are going all out for Christmas, with animated displays, model trains and upwards of 35,000 lights decking the halls.

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  • Photograph: Crystal Garcia

    Augie's Booze & Schmooze goes all out for the holiday season by decorating with lights, a model train and more.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    The Bar on Buena decks its halls for Christmas, with lights, stockings and more.

  • Butch McGuire's decorates for Christmas with mobiles, double-decker model trains and 35,000 lights.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Rockit Bar & Grill transforms into a ski lodge for the holiday season.

  • Photograph: Martha Williams

    Simon's Bar, home to gl�gg, decorates for the holidays with lights and a fireplace display.

Photograph: Crystal Garcia

Augie's Booze & Schmooze goes all out for the holiday season by decorating with lights, a model train and more.


Christmas decorations feel a lot more festive in the presence of booze. Chicago bars embrace the holiday spirit by going all out with Christmas decor, transporting guests from the cold Chicago tundra to decidedly jollier terrain. From toy trains to mistletoe, here’s how some of Chicago's best bars are getting into the holiday spirit. Want more? Here are nine restaurants that decorate for Christmas.

RECOMMENDED: Christmas events in Chicago

Augie’s Booze & Schmooze
This quaint, timeworn Lincoln Park haunt is renowned for its elaborate Christmas decorations, which cost upwards of $80,000 to procure each year. The trinkets are so meticulous that it’s a weeks-long endeavor to get them all in place, starting with vintage ceramic houses and villages, figurines, a train that runs along Augie’s ceiling encircling the entire bar and, of course, a sea of lights.

Butch McGuire’s
Butch McGuire’s is the preeminent destination for all things jolly in the Gold Coast. For more than 50 years, the bar has been decking itself out with Christmas gizmos and gadgets. The bar has an in-house artist responsible for much of the decor, including unique mobiles inspired by Christmas, cartoons and Claymation specials. Four double-decker trains traverse the bar along the ceiling, while 35,000 lights illuminate the space.

Lottie’s Pub
Regardless of the forecast, it’s going to be a white Christmas when you’re at Lottie’s Pub. The Bucktown corner bar decks out its ceiling with an array of white lights, which also enliven the exterior facade and the trees along the adjoining sidewalk. The bar is open on Christmas, just in case you need someplace extra Christmassy to drink.

Sidetrack
This boisterous Boystown bar takes its holiday decorations seriously, adjusting the accoutrements per holiday in a thoughtful, elaborate manner. It’s all courtesy of designer Matthew Harvat, who curates Sidetrack’s seasonal aesthetics and prides himself on establishing enough Christmas spirit to rival the Griswolds. Each year brings a completely new design and theme, and with three floors and 11 areas to decorate, that’s a lot of work to undertake on the behalf of merriment. This year’s theme is Candyland, featuring 8-foot-tall gingerbread men, 3-foot-tall candy canes, 15,000 lights, 8,000 ornaments and a hand-painted Fruit Striped Gum Zebra out front to beckon patrons.

The Bar on Buena
Classic ornaments, Chinese lanterns, paper snowflakes and icicle lights decorate the Bar on Buena, an Uptown staple that drapes itself head-to-toe in holiday cheer each year. Artwork is wrapped like presents, a tree is poised on a ledge atop the bathroom, red and green lights lend a festive note to a chandelier and staff stockings are strung up on the wall. There’s also mistletoe, should you get drunk enough to brave it.

Cork & Kerry
The nexus of Christmas glee in Beverly can be found at Cork & Kerry. The South Side stalwart practically transforms into Santa’s workshop for the season, with animated displays, lights aplenty, mini Christmas tees, holiday figurines and the Christmas Mice, a brigade of jovial rodents dolled up in Christmas attire.

Rockit Bar & Grill and Rockit Burger Bar 
You may not be able to ski in Chicago, but you can still bask in ski lodge–esque glory at Rockit Bar & Grill and Rockit Burger Bar. The bars are decorated like urban lodges for the season and enhanced with birch, hemp burlap cloths and ribbons, shimmering red balls and berries, and white lights.

Simon’s Tavern
The only thing that can make Christmas decorations even better is a hot cup of glögg. The beverage is the seasonal staple at Simon’s Tavern in Andersonville, where warm port mixes with spices, raisins and aquavit for the most warming beverage this side of a pumpkin spice latte. While your innards are enjoying the merry quaff, you can sit back and take in the holiday-centric fireplace and holiday lights.

Exchequer Restaurant & Pub
One of the most storied bars under the Loop’s El tracks is also one of the most festive. Exchequer Restaurant & Pub completely morphs into a Christmas extravaganza this time of year, adding a fully decorated Christmas tree, white wreaths, red napkins, stuffed snowmen, red and white flowers, Santa figurines, polar bears and plenty more. 

Miller’s Pub
Right next door to Exchequer is another jolly dive. Miller’s Pub rises to the occasion with aromatic wreaths and a copious amount of string lights shimmering throughout. Another staple at Miller’s Pub is its Tom & Jerry, a warm Christmastime drink made with rum, eggnog and brandy that has been served at the bar for decades.


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