Chicago is the place to be this Thanksgiving or holiday season

No need to look further than Chicago for places to go and things to do as Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches. But you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to have some holiday fun.

Chicago's North Michigan Avenue lights up for the holidays

Chicago's North Michigan Avenue lights up for the holidays

Department stores are already pulling out sparkling holiday decorations with hardly a back glance at fall and Halloween.

Such year-round destinations as the Chicago Botanic Garden and Art Institute of Chicago are already on their get set and go schedule for this year’s holiday wreaths, miniatures and teas.

In addition, several downtown hotels have enticing stay, play and shop packages.

Here is just a sampling of how Chicago celebrates the holidays:

Miniatures – The Thorne Miniature Rooms are a favorite display at the Art Institute of Chicago. But this year, the museum is dressing six of the rooms for the holidays with tiny plants, toys and intricate decorations.

When unveiled Nov. 1, visitors will see, among other special additions, a Victorian English Drawing Room with a trimmed Christmas tree, a Tudor English Great Hall with wassailing bowl and Yule log, mistletoe and garlands in the Virginia Entrance Hall and a mid-century menorah in a modern California hallway.

The museum is on Michigan Avenue at Adams Street between Millennium Park and Grant Park.

Thousands of lights guide visitors through the Botanic Garden during the holidays

Thousands of lights guide visitors through the Botanic Garden during the holidays

Even more miniatures – In north suburban Glencoe, diminutive landmarks and trains return to the Chicago Botanic Garden from the day after Thanksgiving through the January 2, 2011.

However, just as a much a draw are the lights – more than 750,000 of them. They drip from trees, walkways, fountains and bushes. The green houses are also decked out for the holidays.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is just east of Edens Expressway on Lake Cook Road.

Department store windows and treeMacy’s begins its State Street store holiday celebration with the lighting of its Great Tree in the Walnut Room (7th floor) Nov. 6. Dining under the tree starts Nov. 7. But don’t miss the store’s holiday windows. This year they are based on the “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause” theme.

Macy’s takes up the entire block from Randolph to Washington Street between Wabash and State Streets.

Stay and play package – The high-end French-accented Sofitel Hotel is doing a “White Christmas” package of theater, shopping and staying plus dining in its award-winning Café des Architectes restaurant. The package, about $455, covers two premium tickets to

Broadway In Chicago’s “White Christmas, access to a pre-show and intermission suite access for the show, pre-theatre lunch or dinner for two in Café des Architectes, a  $50 gift card and discount coupons from The 900 Shops at 900 North Michigan Avenue, welcome gift, late check-out and Superior King accommodations. Broadway performances are Dec. 19, 24 and 26.

The Sofitel is near the north end of Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile. 

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