Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour | Review

The annual Holiday Lights Tour takes riders through several stops in the Loop and the Near North Side.

The annual Holiday Lights Tour takes riders through several stops in the Loop and the Near North Side. Photo:

One of the best parts of being a parent is that you have an excuse to surrender yourself to stuff like holiday pageantry. Go ahead and let other people roll their eyes at ooo-ing and ahh-ing over twinkly lights, photo ops with Santa, and shopping the decked-out chain-store flagships—you've got kids, so you're cool.

That said, sometimes the logistics and expense make it hard to wipe the Scrooge off your face. Treating the family to holiday cheer can involve wrangling a horde of out-of-town guests, braving crowds and traffic and paying an arm and leg to do it.

That's why it was fun to check out the Holiday Lights Tour from Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co., which made its inaugural run of the season last weekend. Previously available only to groups, this year the individual tickets ($26, $19 for kids ages 3–11) are available for the tour on Friday and Saturday evenings through December 23.

The two-hour ride is a great way to see a bunch of the city's festive offerings without having to deal with driving and parking hassles. The trolleys leave from the Water Works Pumping Station on Michigan Avenue, with half-hour stops at both ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo and the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. They also drive by the Macy's holiday windows on State Street (slow enough for the kids to get a good look), and the lights at Navy Pier and Buckingham Fountain. The heated trolleys play holiday music and the drivers offer a light narration/city history–just the thing when you want to take a break from playing tour guide with your family, saving you from a painful retelling of the "Mrs. O'Leary's cow" story. 

If you can stand just a little more of the touristy good times, each ticket comes with a coupon for a free hot chocolate and brownie at Hershey's Chicago on Michigan Avenue, just across the street from the trolley pick-up/drop-off point. So in a little more than two hours, you get to cross a boatload of must-dos off your family's holiday list, all while partaking in the fun instead of playing chauffer. To us, that's a big win-win.

The Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour runs though December 23. For times and tickets, click here.  




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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)