Skating through the outfield: ‘Winterland’ at Wrigley Field

Winter activities at Gallagher Way have been expanded into the ballpark this year, with a bigger ice rink and carnival rides. Outside, the Christkindlmarket is back.

SHARE Skating through the outfield: ‘Winterland’ at Wrigley Field
Dozens ice skate around an ice rink located inside Wrigley Fields outfield, Friday afternoon, Nov. 25, 2022.

Ice skaters at a rink set up inside Wrigley Field as part of a new Winterland attraction, open through Jan. 8.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A Tilt-A-Whirl sits where Jason Heyward once caught pop flies, hundreds of people circle the bases on a train and more mill about the shops offering food, drinks and holiday wares.

It’s not a dream. It’s Winterland at the Friendly Confines.

This year marks the first time the field was put to use as part of Gallagher Way’s winter celebrations, allowing a carousel to be added outside the ballpark along with the new features on the playing field.

Construction on the attractions — 12,000-square-foot ice rink, carnival rides and all — started at the end of October to be ready for opening day on Nov. 18.

Dozens ice skate Friday around an ice rink set up on Wrigley Field’s outfield.

Dozens ice skate Friday around an ice rink set up on Wrigley Field’s outfield.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

But one feature didn’t need to be built. It was already there, and for many, it was the main attraction: Wrigley Field.

Karen Evans, who attended Friday with her family, said her father worked the hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley for a stint in the 1940s, so part of Winterland’s draw was being able to set foot on the field.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Evans, a lifelong Chicago resident.

Some came from farther away to experience the Cubs’ home turf.

Children and parents ride on a small train around Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, Nov. 25, 2022.

Children and parents ride on a small train around Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Matt Jackson, a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, came to the market with his children to cap off a tour of Chicago’s sites, after stops at the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium.

Jackson, 39, was visiting friends for Thanksgiving and said they insisted he join their annual tradition of visiting Winterland. Jackson may be a Braves fan, but he didn’t need much coercing.

“Any baseball fan, no matter what team they root for, has to come to Chicago and see Wrigley Field,” Jackson said.

But just like during the baseball season, it costs to get in — $5, plus tickets to the various activities, including the train ($4), bumper cars ($16) and skating rink ($20 with skates, $12 if you bring your own).

Getting into the Christkindlmarket set up outside Wrigley at Gallagher Way, however, is free. The Belgian hot chocolate, along with other drinks, as well as food and various products for sale seemed to be a hit with the crowds — some even stopping to watch a rendition of “The Nutcracker” put on by Roselle-based dance studio HOTT Productions.

A woman hands a credit card to an employee at the Barbarian Tradition stall at the Christkindlmarket in Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, Nov. 25, 2022.

A shopper hands a credit card to an employee at the Barbarian Tradition stall at the Christkindlmarket in Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The market features vendors from around the world, hailing from as far away as Kyrgyzstan or as close as nearby neighborhoods.

Chris Bauer, who helped to run the Sweet Castle tent, said the market gives him, as a native of Austria, a chance to share his culture with another place he calls home — and that’s something he takes “a lot of pride” in.

“When you live so far away from what you grew up with and your heritage and your family, it’s nice to find that sense of place in another country,” Bauer said. “We want to bring the best of Europe here.”

The market runs through year’s end. The Winterland inside Wrigley is open through Jan. 8.

Performers with Helping Others Through Theatre staged a rendition of The Nutcracker in the Christkindlmarket in Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon, Nov. 25, 2022.

Performers with Helping Others Through Theatre staged a rendition of “The Nutcracker” in the Christkindlmarket in Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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