10 Ideas for Company Holiday Parties in Chicago

By Jenny Berg November 29, 2011, 9:50 AM EST

Photo: Angel Eyes Photography

The company holiday party season has arrived. If you’re still searching for entertaining ideas for corporate groups in Chicago—whether you're hosting an office party, after-work drinks in a bar, or a big blowout—check out these resources for food, entertainment, gifts, event decor, rentals, group activities, and more.

1. Previously specializing in at-home cooking classes, Give Me Some Sugar opened a Roscoe Village studio earlier this month. The new space can host classes for groups of as many as 25. Seasonal topics include gingerbread houses and cookie exchanges, though less holiday-specific subjects, like fondue and empanadas, are available as well. Classes typically last two-and-a-half hours and are led by pastry chef and company owner Alessandra Sweeney or another chef from the Give Me Some Sugar team. Pricing starts at $75 per head, and the company requests at least one week advance notice for private events.

2. Affinia Chicago, which has 3,000 square feet of event space, hosts interactive private gift exchanges called Cut-Throat Santa. Modeled on the old-fashioned holiday game known as Yankee Swap, participants open gifts in a designated order, then either keep their present or exchange it for a not-yet-unwrapped item. Planners can bring in the gifts, or the hotel can provide gift certificates for hotel stays or meals at on-site restaurant C-House. For any type of holiday party booked at the hotel, staffers can provide candy buffets from Candyality, spiked hot chocolate from C-House, and photo booths that print out strips branded with a company's logo.

3. Marking their first time appearing together on a Chicago stage, Donny and Marie Osmond will sing classic holiday tunes in Donny & Marie, Christmas in Chicago. Running at the Oriental Theater from December 6 to 24, the show still has has group tickets available. Through Broadway in Chicago's Suite Service, groups can access a private room before and after the show, as well as during intermission. Stocked with appetizers and a private bar, the suite can be reserved for groups of 20 or more.

4.  Entertaining Company's holiday menu includes food stations with thematic decor. The Winter Lodge Gourmet Barbeque is styled with birch-tree branches and pine and offers smoked beef with wild berry vinaigrette, chicken lollipops with soy-honey glaze, and crepes stuffed with lobster, scallops, and crab by a live-action chef. Their vegetarian Rock the Casbah station is decorated with jewel-colored textiles and lanterns and serves warm Moroccan-style tagines.

5. Blue Plate Catering also has menus geared toward holiday entertaining. Holiday specials include a hot chocolate and cookie exchange bar, featuring offerings such as eggnog truffles, peppermint-bark lollipops, and shortbread with fondant icing. Savory options include sun-dried tomato pesto chicken breast, turkey with pan gravy, and candied sweet potatoes with brown butter sauce. The company can prepare catering orders in as few as 24 hours.

6. Pistil and Vine, which opened in March, can prepare holiday-party arrangements or gift deliveries on short notice. Owner Meg Musschoot describes her aesthetic as “lush, romantic, and textural.” She also encourages customers to stop by her shop for “grab-it-and-go” bouquet arrangements that can spruce up last-minute holiday gatherings.

7. The Museum of Science and Industry is still booking holiday celebrations around its current exhibits. There’s Fun to Be Done! Dr. Seuss & The Art of Invention runs through January 8 and showcases drawings, sketches, and cartoons from the famous artist. The in-house catering team is offering special menu items inspired by the Dr. Seuss exhibit, including the Pink Ink Yink drink (a bubblegum martini) and “Green Eggs and Ham” deviled eggs. In the Rotunda, Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light—a Chicago tradition that began in 1942—includes a 45-foot-tall Christmas tree and smaller satellite trees decorated to represent different countries' holiday traditions. The Rotunda can host events for as many as 300 guests. 

8. The Wonderland Express, an annual holiday tradition at the Chicago Botanic Garden, is a 10,000-square foot exhibition of miniature trains that includes 80 replicas of Chicago landmarks. With live plants, waterfalls, and bridges, the train track winds through the interior of the garden's Regenstein Center. Well-suited to family friendly holiday parties, the center is available for private events and can hold as many as 300 guests. Holiday menus include plated dinners with pomegranate-lacquered duck breast, duck confit bread pudding, and pinot noir-poached pears. For more causal receptions, options include hot chocolate bars and pizza stations. Staffers request one week minimum notice for bookings.

9. Piccadilly Tea, a year-old company, brings afternoon tea service to offices or event spaces. Hosts can opt for traditional sit-down service or a less formal, buffet-style tea for eight to 40 guests or more. Menu options include cucumber sandwiches, lavender scones, and lemon tea cakes, and tea selections include English breakfast, maple-cream, and raspberry-honey. Piccadilly Tea can bring in loose teas and small tea accessories to distribute as parting gifts and offers drop-off service or on-site servers. Pricing varies but typically ranges from $25 to $40 per head.

10. Flip Crepes, which has a shop at the French Market, can set up sweet, savory, and brunch crepe stations at offices or event spaces. Crepe flavors include ham and cheese, sesame tuna, caramel-apple, and s'more. The minimum service charge is $350 plus tax. The company also hosts crepe parties in its shop, allowing guests to flip and fill the French pancakes themselves. The in-shop classes are B.Y.O.B., can accommodate 20 to 50 guests, and cost $20 per person.

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