9 top holiday markets around the U.S.

One of the best parts about living in a city during the holidays is the festive nature of it all: The lights, the decorations, and the hustle and bustle of locals rushing to holiday parties wearing ugly sweaters and weighed down by presents. But another tradition—the outdoor holiday market—has emerged as a key event in cities across America.

Borrowed from the European tradition, the outdoor holiday market is modeled after long-standing events like Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremburg, Germany. Arguably the most famous Christmas market in Europe, Christkindlesmarkt offers more than 180 wooden stands full of handcrafted ornaments, games, and treats and runs from late November to December 24.

The American version looks a bit more contrived and more corporate, sometimes featuring big time sponsors like banks. But the main elements of the European holiday market are there—think twinkling lights, wooden stalls, steaming cups of Gluehwein (mulled hot wine) and most importantly, an outdoor location. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, and in fact, sometimes that’s the point.

If a trip to Europe isn’t in the cards this holiday season—and let’s be frank, for most of us that’s unlikely—don’t fret. We’ve rounded up the 9 best holiday markets around the country, so you too can experience the joy of sipping hot wine on a cold winter night in a city you love. Bonus: Many of the markets are free and all of them are family friendly.

The Union Square Holiday Market in New York City, New York

Located in Union Square Park, this holiday market is a favorite of New York locals thanks to its prime location, warming huts, kids craft station, and live music. It also offers artisan-focused products, some of which are handmade in New York, made from recycled or vintage items, or certified organic. The twinkling lights of the surrounding city don’t hurt the aesthetics, either.

Christmas Village in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Christmas Village takes over Philadelphia’s City Hall for the first time this year.
Courtesy of Cory J. Popp and via Curbed Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s Christmas Village is always a hit each holiday season, but thanks to construction at LOVE Park, the event has been moved to the country’s biggest city building: the Philadelphia City Hall. This year’s Christmas Village features more than 80 outdoor vendors, a carousel, an ice-skating rink, and a winter garden maze at Dilworth Park.

The Christkindl Market in Chicago, Illinois

The Christkindl Market in Chicago.
Courtesy of the Christkindl Market Chicago

This outdoor market in the Chicago Loop offers typical German food and drinks, hot wine, live music, and various vendors selling holiday-themed goods—60% of which are from Germany. Pro tip: try a baked apple and order the kids a Kindergluhwein, a blend of apple and grape juices with the same spices as the adult version.

Downtown Holiday Market, Washington D.C.

Located on F Street in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, locals love that this market is home to more than 150 artists selling jewelry, prints, and holiday cheer. Don’t miss the live music and the hot donuts.

The Christkindl Market in Denver, Colorado

The Christkindl Market at Skyline Park in Denver, Colorado.
Shutterstock

Running from November 18 through December 23, the Christkindl Market in downtown Denver offers music, beer, abundant Gluehwein, and decent shopping in the food and craft stands on site. Don’t miss the nearby ice skating rink at Skyline Park.

Christmas Village in Baltimore, Maryland

The Christmas Village in Baltimore.
Courtesy of Christmas Village

Located at the West Shore Park in the Inner Harbor and running until December 24th, this market uses wooden huts to house ornaments, holiday gifts, and plenty of treats.

Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt in Cincinnati, Ohio

The fifth annual Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt brings an authentic German Christmas market to downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square through December 18. Although not quite as large as some of the other markets on the list, you’ll still find traditional wood stalls and plenty of hot wine.

Texas Christkindl Market in Arlington, Texas

From November 25 through December 23, the Texas Christkindl Market in Arlington, Texas hosts one of the largest open-air holiday markets in the Southwest. Festival goers can take photos with Santa, tube down a snow-free tubing hill, and partake in traditional German cuisine and gifts.

Christmas City Village and Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Courtesy of Discover Lehigh Valley

Head to this eastern Pennsylvania city—coined Christmas City in 1937—for two stellar holiday markets. Christmas City Village (weekends November 16 through December 23) is an authentic German Weihnachtsmarkt located along the city’s Main Street, with local vendors offering up unique presents from wooden huts. Similarly, Christkindlmarkt (weekends November 16 through December 23) showcases aisles of handmade artisanal goods and collectables.

Did we miss your favorite outdoor market? Let us know in the comments.

Local commercial sales approaching record high

It’s been a big year for Chicago commercial real estate deals.

Investors spent $16.3 billion on local commercial properties during the first nine months of the year, the most for that period since 2007, according to data from Real Capital Analytics, a New York-based research firm.

Deal volume year-to-date through the third quarter was 32 percent higher than during the same period last year and will reverse a two-year downward trend for local commercial property sales, Real Capital data show.

The sales of office, retail, apartment, industrial and hotel properties are approaching their highest collective mark since 2015, when the market—helped by a $1.3 billion sale of Willis Tower—notched a record high $23.3 billion in deals.

It’s an illustration that investor appetite in the market hasn’t been fully satiated for the current real estate cycle and that landlords continue to cash out as prices have surpassed their pre-recession highs.

One factor in the sales spike is a series of corporate mergers. Thirty-five Chicago-area properties changed hands when Nesta Investment Holdings bought out Global Logistics Properties in January, and 35 more industrial properties were part of a merger between San Francisco-based Prologis and Denver-based DCT Industrial Trust, according to Real Capital. Brookfield Property Partners’ acquisition of Chicago-based GGP also brought some big local malls under new ownership, including Water Tower Place, Northbrook Court and Oakbrook Center.

But Chicago deals also grew because investors are generally finding better returns on their money in the area compared to expensive coastal markets, said Real Capital Senior Vice President Jim Costello.

“There is a yield opportunity that these investors are chasing in Chicago that’s just not as attractive in some of these other cities,” he said.

That’s especially true for office sales, which were up 78 percent year-over-year through the third quarter to almost $5.3 billion.

Boosting that figure is a run of big trophy property sales: Developer Sterling Bay paid $510 million in February for the Groupon headquarters building at 600 W. Chicago Ave. and $680 million in April for Prudential Plaza. Brookfield paid $305 million in April for the office building at 175 W. Jackson Blvd., and billionaire Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto paid $255 million for the Wrigley Building over the summer.

Even as massive new office towers have flooded the market with supply over the past two years, deep-pocketed real estate investment firms see the healthy demand that has kept pace and prices they can justify, says Cody Hundertmark, an investment sales broker in Chicago at Cushman & Wakefield.

“The margin of error here is just wider” than in coastal markets, he said. “People wouldn’t be willing to come here unless you had a good story line, and the demand story line is front and center in everybody’s mind. You’re hard-pressed to find good product with much vacancy.”

Vacancy is almost non-existent in the industrial sector, which saw sales surge by 48 percent to nearly $4.4 billion this year through September, according to Real Capital.

With the rise of e-commerce fueling demand for big warehouses and supply chain distribution centers, investors have bet heavily on a Chicago area industrial market that touted a vacancy rate of 6.4 percent at the end of the third quarter, a 17-year low, according to Colliers International.

2018 Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday was launched in 2012 as a charitable counterpart to the holiday shopping extravaganzas known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When New York City’s 92nd Street Y created the fundraising event with the United Nations Foundation, they could only hope and dream that its impact would spread far and wide. Now, those hopes and dreams are fully realized, with nearly 40,000 organizations participating. Crain’s Custom Media is proud to promote the Giving Tuesday campaigns of the fine Chicago-area nonprofits you see here. Please consider supporting them with your money, time or other resources on this Giving Tuesday and beyond.

Here’s how you can give

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation
Supporting educational and cultural programs of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum; fostering scholarship and promoting historical literacy.

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Accelerate Institute

Accelerate Institute
Committed to closing the achievement gap by creating high-impact school leaders who accelerate student achievement.

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After School Matters

After School Matters
Providing Chicago’s teens with opportunities to explore and develop their talents, while gaining critical skills for college, careers and beyond.

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Allendale Association

Allendale Association
Help us build a playground at ALLENDALE where kids learn…grow…heal and PLAY! Serving youth and families with serious emotional, mental and behavioral health challenges for over 120 years.

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Angel Harvey Family Health Center

Angel Harvey Family Health Center of the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago
Providing a continuum of integrated, quality and preventive health care services to children and their families, enabling them to lead healthy and productive lives.

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The Ark

The Ark
Feeding the hungry this holiday season. Your $60 buys food and toiletries for one person.

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Aunt Martha's Health & Wellness

Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness
A caring community resource for children, youth and families.

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Bright Pink

Bright Pink
Helping to save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and manage their health proactively.

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Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago
For more than 100 years, Catholic Charities has been there for anyone in need. Every 30 seconds, someone counts on Catholic Charities on their journey to self-sufficiency.

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Center on Halsted

Center on Halsted
Advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the LGBTQ people of Chicagoland.

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Chicago Cares

Chicago Cares
Mobilizing volunteers to build a stronger, more unified Chicago.

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Chicago Children's Advocacy Center

Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center
Uniting public, private and community partners to ensure the safety, health and well-being of abused children.

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Chicago Children's Choir

Chicago Children’s Choir
Providing high-quality choral education to 5,000 youth citywide and using music to unite diverse people and build communities.

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Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Organizing and advocating to prevent and end homelessness, because we believe housing is a human right in a just society.

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Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts)

Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts)
Developing diverse, promising young artists through intensive arts training and a complete college preparatory curriculum.

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Chicago Lights

Chicago Lights
Providing hope and opportunity to our city’s children, youth and adults who face the challenges of poverty.

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Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity

Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity
Building strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter– because everyone deserves a decent, affordable home.

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City Year Chicago

City Year Chicago
Recruiting, inspiring and mobilizing emerging leaders to empower at-risk Chicago Public School students to reach their highest potential.

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CJE SeniorLife

CJE SeniorLife
Enhancing the lives of older adults by providing life enrichment programs, supportive resources, healthcare, research and education.

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Collision Repair Education Foundation

Collision Repair Education Foundation
Supporting auto collision repair educational programs to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities.

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The Cove School

The Cove School
Providing highly individualized education and life strategies for students with complex learning disabilities.

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Cradles to Crayons

Cradles to Crayons
Providing children ages 0-12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive.

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Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund

Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund
DMSF provides high school scholarship assistance and programmatic support to bright, hard-working Chicago students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Easterseals Chicago

Easterseals Chicago
Changing the way the world defines and views disabilities by making profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day.

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Envision Unlimited

Envision Unlimited
Promoting choice, independence and inclusion for people with disabilities.

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Forefront

Forefront
#ILGive for #GivingTuesday is powered by Forefront. Connect with hundreds of Illinois nonprofits – and give – at ILGive.com.

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Gateway Foundation

Gateway Foundation
The country’s largest nonprofit treatment provider specializing in substance use disorders for men, women and adolescents.

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GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers

GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Achievement Centers
Changing the way the world views Down syndrome and sending a global message of acceptance for all.

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Gilda's Club Chicago

Gilda’s Club Chicago
Ensuring that anyone impacted by cancer is empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. Our innovative program, including more than 300 FREE activities each month, is an essential complement to medical care.

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Glenkirk

Glenkirk
Proudly serving individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and their families, since 1954 via a broad range of personalized, lifelong services.

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Good Sports

Good Sports
Giving all kids the lifelong benefits of sports and physical activity by providing equipment, apparel and footwear to those most in need.

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Greater Chicago Food Depository

Greater Chicago Food Depository
Providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in our community.

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Have Dreams

Have Dreams
For over 20 years, helping individuals with autism reach their full potential. Programs foster social, communication and independent living skills at every stage of life.

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Heartland Health Centers

Heartland Health Centers
Improving the well-being of the communities we serve by providing accessible, high-quality healthcare.

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i.c.stars

i.c.stars
Creating equitable access to opportunity through technology job skills training and leadership development.

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The Institute for Clinical Social Work

The Institute for Clinical Social Work
With a tradition embedded in social work, preparing scholars and practitioners to serve diverse communities.

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Israel Cancer Research Fund

Israel Cancer Research Fund
The largest organization in North America devoted to supporting cancer research in Israel.

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Jackson Chance Foundation

Jackson Chance Foundation
Helping critically ill babies by removing the financial burden of parking fees, giving every family the opportunity to be with their child each and every day.

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JDRF

JDRF
Accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat type 1 diabetes (T1D) and its complications.

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Jewish Child & Family Services

Jewish Child & Family Services
Providing help, healing and caring services infused with Jewish values to strengthen lives in our community.

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Jewish National Fund

Jewish National Fund
Giving all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.

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Juvenile Protective Association

Juvenile Protective Association
Providing vital mental health services to over 2,000 vulnerable children and families each year so they can to reach their full potential.

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Keshet

Keshet
Enhancing potential and supporting communal inclusion for people with disabilities through education, recreation, vocational and residential opportunities.

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Lakeview Pantry

Lakeview Pantry
Founded in 1970, Lakeview Pantry is Chicago’s largest food pantry, distributing over 1.4 million meals to the North Side’s most vulnerable residents every year.

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LEARN Charter School Network

LEARN Charter School Network
A network of 10 college prep elementary schools providing 4,000 low-income students with the academic foundation and ambition to earn a college degree.

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Les Turner ALS Foundation

Les Turner ALS Foundation
The leader in comprehensive ALS care in Chicagoland, providing individualized care, local community support and hope through scientific research.

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Leukemia Research Foundation

Leukemia Research Foundation
Dedicated to conquering all blood cancers by funding research into their causes and cures, and enriching the quality of life of those touched by these diseases.

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Lutheran Life Communities

Lutheran Life Communities
Empowering vibrant, grace-filled living across all generations. A not-for-profit system of life plan communities and senior services.

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MENTOR Illinois

MENTOR Illinois
Elevating the impact of mentoring today so more kids reach their potential tomorrow.

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Mercy Home for Boys & Girls

Mercy Home for Boys & Girls
Providing healing for children and families in need since 1887.

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Mercy Housing Lakefront

Mercy Housing Lakefront
Creating stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.

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Misericordia Heart of Mercy

Misericordia Heart of Mercy
Sharing life with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a full continuum of care.

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National Runaway Safeline

National Runaway Safeline
Keeping America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.

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The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy
Conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.

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The Night Ministry

The Night Ministry
Providing housing, health care and human connection to youth and adults experiencing homelessness or poverty.

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Northern Illinois Food Bank

Northern Illinois Food Bank
Leading the Northern Illinois community in solving hunger by providing nutritious meals to those in need through innovative programs and partnerships.

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Saga Innovations

Saga Innovations
Serving underserved students through relationship-driven personalized tutorials during the school day, generating impressive academic results.

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Salt and Light Coalition

Salt and Light Coalition
A grassroots movement mobilizing individuals and organizations to heal, educate, and empower youth and women in the fight against slavery.

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The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army
Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting human needs in His name without discrimination.

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Special Olympics Illinois

Special Olympics Illinois
Providing year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

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UNCF

UNCF
Building a robust and nationally-recognized pipeline of under-represented students who, because of UNCF support, become highly-qualified college graduates.

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United Way of Metro Chicago

United Way of Metro Chicago
Fighting for the health, education, financial stability and safety of every person in every neighborhood across the Chicago region.

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Urban Initiatives

Urban Initiatives
Heightening the inherent power of sports and unifying diverse stakeholders to develop and support Chicago youth.

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WINGS

WINGS
Providing housing, integrated services, education and advocacy to end domestic violence.

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Women's Business Development Center

Women’s Business Development Center
Supporting women and other diverse business owners throughout their entrepreneurial journey to fuel economic growth and strengthen communities.

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YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago
Working to achieve gender equity and inclusion through services that help women and families find personal and financial empowerment.

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Ride the CTA holiday train decked out in thousands of lights

Seasons Greetings from the CTA! That’s nearly all it took to kickstart this holiday tradition. In 1992, an out-of-service Blue Line train was used to deliver food to charities across the city with that humble salutation.

Today there’s definitely a bigger spectacle: Santa and elves staff the train, thousands of lights decorate exterior, evergreen garlands hang from the windows, hand poles turn into candy canes and buses are outfitted with “Ralphie the Reindeer” wraps and red noses.

Though CTA hasn’t forgotten where this tradition started, employees donate time, money and assemble around 500 food baskets for local community organizations this year.

If you’d like to join in on the festive transit tradition, find the schedule for both the CTA’s holiday train and bus below.

CTA Holiday Train schedule

The holiday train will return on Friday, November 28 starting on the Green and Orange Lines then making its way across the city. You’ll always be able to find the holiday train schedule on the CTA’s website and as it gets closer to the date click on the linked date for an exact minute-by-minute schedule of when the train will be rolling through.

There are only 19 special days to catch the magical holiday train. But you might want to mark your calendar for the Saturday dates (November 24, December 1, December 8, December 15) which feature photo ops with Santa and the Elves’ Workshop Train following the main holiday train.

CTA Holiday Bus schedule

If you’d like to catch the CTA’s holiday bus, it’ll be running between November 29 and December 23 on 13 different lines. The bus will roll out in a reindeer wrap with Santa’s sleigh, a glowing red nose, tons of multi-colored lights, festive decor inside and a photo opportunity in the back. You can find the schedule for the “Ralphie the Reindeer” bus on the CTA’s website but its recommended to use the holiday bus tracker.

Our houses are selling faster each year

The time it takes to sell a Chicago-area house has been getting shorter each year, thanks to both a slim inventory for buyers to choose from and rising interest rates, according to data pulled by a northwest suburban real estate executive.

In the 12 months ending Nov. 1, single-family houses that sold had been on the market 84 days on average, according to data compiled by Paul Wells, owner of Re/Max of Barrington. That’s down 6 percent from the previous 12 months and down more than 14 percent from five years ago. (See chart at bottom.)

“We’re seeing steady improvement in getting them sold,” Wells said. In three of the past four years, the average market time for a house dropped from the previous year, for a total drop of 20 days since 2015, Wells’ analysis found.

The implication for sellers is that they may not have to hold their breath and keep their house spic-and-span so long to keep it in showing condition. For buyers, it means “being ready to grab the good ones when they come on the market,” Wells said.

The data, which are for single-family homes only, cover the entire service are of Midwest Real Estate Data, which is all or part of about 20 counties in northeastern Illinois. But “the vast majority of the sales are in Cook and the collar counties” DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will, Wells said.

The two key factors speeding up sales, Wells said, are the epochally low inventory of homes that has been plaguing not only Chicago’s but the nation’s housing market for a few years, and mortgage interest rates increasing after nearly a decade of epochal lows after the housing crash.

It’s hard to gauge the relative weight of the two factors, though Wells said for middle-class buyers who are more sensitive to changes in what they can afford, “interest rates have put a sense of urgency into buying this year that we haven’t seen in a long time.”

Despite slight decreases in recent weeks, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage has risen more than a full percentage point so far in 2018, according to this Zillow tracker, and in recent weeks has been near five percent. “Five percent is almost a magic number in (buyers’) heads,” Wells said.

Because five-percent mortgage rates seem like a relic of an earlier era, when rates weren’t being kept artificially low, “they think they’d better buy now, under five,” Wells said.

The other factor, short inventory, “has been undermining the real estate industry for years,” Wells said.

The inventory of homes for sale has been tight for several reasons. Among them: Chicago’s slow home-price recovery leaves a large proportion of people who are underwater on their mortgages and so can’t afford to move, increases in home prices making current homeowners hesitant to sell because they may not be able to afford the jump to the next house and construction of new housing “is almost at a standstill,” Wells said.

Suburban homebuilders are nearing the end of the 10th consecutive year when they sold fewer than 5,000 homes, while in the years from 1997 to 2006, sales ranged between 16,000 and 28,000 a year, Schaumburg-based consultant to homebuilders Tracy Cross & Associates reported in October.