Compiled by Selena Fragassi | For the Sun-Times
O, Christmas Tree! In case you didn’t get the memo, the city’s official evergreen is moving this year. With long roots in Daley Plaza, officials opted to station it in Millennium Park for the first time in 48 years where it will be surrounded by a flurry of winter activities. That includes the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (open Nov. 13 through mid-March), Caroling at Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), (Fridays, Nov. 27 through Dec. 18) and visits with Santa Claus (Nov. 24 and 26 and weekends, Nov. 28 through Dec. 20). The season begins with the 102nd annual lighting ceremony on November 24.
There’s still good reason to head over to Daley Plaza, though. The long-standing Christkindlmarket is in season November 20 all the way to Christmas Eve. Modeled after the festive outdoor market in Nuremburg, Germany, Christkindlmarket imports artisans and chefs from abroad who dish out goodies like authentic steins, cuckoo clocks and ornaments and delectables including bratwurst, stollen and gluhwein (spiced wine). Visits from the Christkind angel, a sweet house and outdoor beer tents make it a must-do this holiday season.
Here are some of our other favorite traditions, new and old, coming to town this holiday season:
Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights: The crew flips the switch on November 27 and will keep the lights on each Friday and Saturday until Dec. 13, then nightly until Jan. 3 (with the exception of Christmas Eve and Day). Family days are an option as is an adult-only night called BrewLights (Dec. 2) where participants can taste a dozen craft beers. There’s also live ice carving, train and carousel rides, musical light shows and photos with Santa. Plus ice skating through Feb. 28. 2001 N. Clark; lpzoo.org. Free.
Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic: New this year is Polar Lights, an interactive experience with 30 moving lights that let you change colors and shapes. But the real magic is the one million-plus LED bulbs that illuminate the grounds, making it Chicagoland’s largest lights festival. Also enjoy a 40-foot talking tree, trains, carolers and photos with the animals and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Open Saturdays and Sundays Dec.5-26 and daily Dec. 28-31. 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield; czs.org.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra 12th Annual Christmas Rocks! Tour: Jump, jive and wail at this holiday rockabilly revue. Nov. 17 at Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan; geneseetheatre.com. $34.50-$94.50.
Irish Christmas in America: The evergreen traditions of Ireland are explored in holiday song and dance, produced by Sligo fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada. Nov. 28 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; oldtownschool.org. $27.
Vienna Boys Choir: The legendary troupe returns for an annual Thanksgiving weekend performance. Nov. 28 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; cso.org. $25-$85.
Holidays a cappella with Chicago a cappella: Appearing at a number of churches across the city and Oak Park. Nov.29–Dec. 19; chicagoacappella.org. $12-38.
A Rocky Mountain Christmas: John Denver’s many, many, many Christmas albums get new life with a show from Jim Curry and band. Nov. 30 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights; metropolisarts.com. $30-$35.
A Chanticleer Christmas: Hear Baroque and more modern Christmas classics performed by the Grammy-winning “orchestra of voices.” Dec. 1 & 2 at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut; cso.org. $39-$61.
Ho! Ho! Hoey Christmas: The prolific guitarist Gary Hoey will have you rocking around the Christmas tree with his seasonal licks. Dec. 3 at Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles; oshows.com. $19-$49.
Decembersongs: Nashville songwriters Amy Speace, Rod Picott and Doug & Telisha Williams bring a dash of Grand Ol Opry. Dec. 3 at Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; hideoutchicago.com. $20.
Joyola!: Students from Loyola University’s Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Women’s Chorus, University Chorale and Chamber Choir give one last show before going on break. Dec. 3 at Mundelein Auditorium, 1020 W. Sheridan; luc.tix.com. $10.
WXRT’s Big Holiday Concert: Starring Death Cab for Cutie. Dec. 3 at Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; ticketmaster.com. $49.50-$59.50
WKQX’s The Nights We Stole Christmas: Starring Twenty One Pilots, Bastille, AWOLNATION, Silversun Pickups and a bunch of stocking stuffer support over four crazy nights. Dec. 3-6 at Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence; ticketmaster.com. $35.
The Blind Boys of Alabama Christmas Show: Gospel favorites give reason for the season. Dec. 4 at Dominican University’s Lund Auditorium, 7900 Division St., River Forest; events.dom.edu. $26-$56.
Judith Owen & Harry Shearer’s Holiday Sing-A-Long: Songwriter and comedian couple team up for a not so silent night of laughs. Dec. 4 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; evanstonspace.com. $20-$70.
Chicago Gay Man’s Chorus—Miracle on Thirty Funk Street: Pearl Bailey, James Brown and Donny Hathaway are part of the night’s covers. Dec. 4 at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; northshorecenter.org. $25-35.
101.9 The Mix Presents Miracle on State Street: Featuring Elle King, Third Eye Blind and George Ezra. Dec. 5 at Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; ticketmaster.com.$39.50-$65
Michael McDonald — This Christmas: The crooner gives some soul to the holidays. Dec. 5 at Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles; oshows.com. $59-$125.
The Lettermen Christmas Show: The ‘60s vocal trio digs into Christmases past with a full catalog to perform. Dec. 6 at Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles; oshows.com. $39-$95.
Christmastime in the City — An Evening of Jazz-Infused Holiday Music: With performances by Typhanie Monique and The John Erickson Trio. Dec. 6 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; oldtownschool.org. $14.
Andrew Bird “Gezelligheid”: The ever-popular four-night residency returns. Dec. 7-10 at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut; jamusa.com. Sold out.
Marc Broussard Holiday Show: Also appearing is Chicago blues rock act The Lucky Dutch. Dec. 8 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph; citywinery.com/chicago. $32-$40.
A Carpenters’ Christmas: Based on the music of The Carpenters’ two holiday albums and Christmas variety shows. Dec. 8 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights; metropolisarts.com. $30-$35.
A Johnnyswim Christmas: One of Chicago’s newest holiday traditions as the soulful duo comes to town. Dec. 9 at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport; thaliahallchicago.com. $25-$37.
The 12 Dames of Christmas: Singer Angela Ingersoll impersonates everyone from Judy Garland to Edith Piaf and 10 more. Dec. 10 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights; metropolisarts.com. $40-$45.
Rhett Miller’s Holiday Extravaganza: The Old 97’s frontman is sure to have a few holiday surprises at the ready. Dec. 10 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph; citywinery.com/chicago. $25-$32.
“Handel’s Messiah”: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra leads a joyous performance of the choral favorite. Dec. 10-12, 15 and 20 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; cso.org. $36-$255.
The Lawrence Arms First Annual War on Christmas: The Chicago punk band decided they want a piece of the holiday pie. Dec. 10-12 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; doubledoor.com. $26 (in advance).
Brendan Bayliss & Jake Cinninger’s 13th Annual Holiday Show: Spreading the good cheer with donations to The People’s Music School of Chicago. Dec. 12 at Park West, 322 W. Armitage; jamusa.com. $30 (in advance).
B96 Jingle Bash: Featuring Demi Lovato, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jason Derulo, Pentatonix, Hailee Steinfeld, more. Dec. 12 at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont; ticketmaster.com. $60-$105.
David Benoit “Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown” with special guest Jane Monheit: Vince Guaraldi’s staple gets some jazz hands on it. Dec. 12 at Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College, 30 N. Brainard St., Naperville; finearts.northcentralcollege.edu. $40-$55.
Dave Koz & Friends: Revered saxophonist is joined by Jonathan Butler, Candy Duffer and Bill Medley on a special Christmas tour. Dec. 12 at Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; ticketmaster.com. $29.50-$109.50.
Chicago Chamber Orchestra Holiday Pops!: With cabaret duo Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael. Dec. 13 at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut; chicagochamberorch.org.$40-$50.
Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever!: One of The Ronettes, Spector’s powerful pop voice defined a generation, making this show one cool gift. Dec. 13 at Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles; oshows.com. $39-$69.
A Darlene Love Christmas — Love for the Holidays: One of the best modern voices serenades with hits like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” that she performed for years on “Late Show with David Letterman.” Dec. 16 at Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan; geneseetheatre.com. $30.50-$65.
Dave Specter’s Adventures in Guitar with Guy King — Holiday Blues Party!: Long-running series wraps up for the year with a new Chicago blues “Guy.” Dec. 16 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; evanstonspace.com. $12-$22.
KISS FM’s Jingle Ball: With sets from Nick Jonas, Selena Gomez, 5 Seconds of Summer, Tove Lo, DNCE and more. Dec. 16 at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont; ticketmaster.com. $35-100.
Andrew Belle Christmas Show: Local songwriter is joined by Jon Guerra. Dec. 18 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; evanstonspace.com. Sold out.
Ides of March Christmas Show: Popular Berwyn band comes home for the holidays. Dec. 18 at Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles; oshows.com. $39-$49.
Merry Merry Chicago with the von Trapps: The great-grandchildren of the Captain and Maria are joined by Midwest Young Artists for holiday-filled “Sounds of Music.” Dec. 18-19, Dec. 21-23 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; cso.org. $38-108.
“Handel’s Messiah”: Presented by the Apollo Chorus, who has been doing so since 1879! Dec. 19-20 at Harris Theater at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph; harristheaterchicago.org. $30-$60.
The Flat Five Family-Style Holiday Show: Enjoy Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough and Alex Hall with a round of hot cider. Dec. 20 at Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; hideoutchicago.com. $20.
Wizards of Winter: Featuring original members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra lighting up the room with rock opera gems. Dec. 20 at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport; thaliahallchicago.com. $34-$39.
Sons of the Never Wrong Christmas CD Release Show: Whimsical folk group takes on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Joy to the World” in their latest album. Dec. 20 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston; evanstonspace.com. $15-$35.
Shemekia Copeland’s Holiday Party: Seeing this versatile vocalist powerhouse is all the gift you need this year. Dec. 20 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph; citywinery.com/chicago. $28-$38.
Do-It-Yourself Messiah: Now in its 40th year, amateur volunteers are joined by a professional orchestra for a DIY version of the choral masterpiece. Dec.21-22 at Harris Theater at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph; harristheaterchicago.org. $15.
Michael McDermott’s “Mischief and Mistletoe”: Including his famous all-request show on opening night. Dec. 21-23 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph; citywinery.com/chicago. $25-$30.
“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”:
“A Christmas Carol”: At Christmastime, traditions are traditions, and there’s no greater one than seeing this Goodman production, now in its 38th year. Nov. 14–Dec. 27 at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn; goodmantheatre.org. $20-$102.
“A Christmas Carol”: Quest Theatre Ensemble chooses the Alan Menken musical version, from the man behind some of the biggest Disney musicals. Nov. 20–Dec. 20 at the Blue Theatre, 1609 W. Gregory; questensemble.org. Free.
“A Christmas Carol”: One of the more traditional adaptations; also bring canned food for the food drive to ward off your inner “bag humbug.” Nov. 28–Dec. 24 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights; metropolisarts.com. $15-30.
“A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol”: A hip-hop remix with ghosts of hip-hop past, present and future. Nov. 28–Jan. 3 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand; chicagoshakes.com. $20-$48.
“Twist Your Dickens”: The Second City has their own satirical version of Scrooge, created by former “The Colbert Report” writers. Dec.4-27 at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn; goodmantheatre.org. $15-$45.
“Christmas Dearest”: Hell in a Handbag Productions infuses “A Christmas Carol” with some Joan Crawford drama. Dec. 5-30 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark; handbagproductions.org. $22-$30.
“A Christmas Carol”: Presented by Theatreworks USA, the largest professional not-for-profit theatre for young and family audiences in America. Dec. 15 at Rialto Square Theatre, 15 E. Van Buren St., Joliet; rialtosquare.com. $10.
House Theatre of Chicago Presents “The Nutcracker”: Ballet-free but no less beautifully choreographed and full of story. Nov. 6¬–Dec. 28 at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; chopintheatre.com. $15-$45.
“Clara and the Nutcracker”: You won’t find tutus here; rather this is a goofy take that will “crack you up.” Nov. 13–Dec. 20 at Piccolo Theatre, 600 Main St., Evanston; piccolotheatre.com. $27.
“The Nut Tapper”: Dancers provide a percussive variation on the classic with multicultural notes of tap, flamenco and zapateado. Nov. 29 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; oldtownschool.org. $15.
The Joffrey Ballet Presents “The Nutcracker”: More than sugarplums are dancing in this ultimate holiday tradition, conceived by Robert Joffrey, with Tchaikovsky’s score performed live by The Chicago Philharmonic. Dec. 4-27 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy; ticketmaster.com. $32-$121.
Schaumburg Dance Ensemble Presents “The Nutcracker”: New this year, the narration will be provided by a grown-up Clara. Dec. 4-13 at Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Ct., Schaumburg; prairiecenter.org. $18-$28.
Dance-along “Nutcracker”: Ballet Chicago will lead instruction and then everyone is can take the stage under the gorgeous Tiffany stained-glass dome; music provided by Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band. Dec. 6 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; chicagoculturalcenter.org. Free.
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian “Nutcracker”: The international troupe is one the most respected in the world, and their ballet comes with a message of peace on earth. Dec. 6 at Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont; ticketmaster.com. $28-$88.
Hyde Park School of Dance Presents “The Nutcracker”: The 175 dancers range in age from four-year-olds to grandparents; stay after for the holiday bazaar. Dec. 11-13 at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St.; hydeparkdance.org. $10-$30.
Dancenter North Presents “The Magic of The Nutcracker”: Lake County’s most lavish production of the ballet for 20 years featuring more than 100 performers. Dec. 12 at Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan; geneseetheatre.com. $15-36.
Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet Present “The Nutcracker”: With music performed by the New Philharmonic. Dec. 19 & 20 at McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn; atthemac.org. $32-$43.
The Ruth Page Civic Ballet: It’s the 50th annual presentation of the troupe’s “The Nutcracker,” presented this year at Northeastern Illinois University, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr, Dec. 5-6 ($20-$25), ruthpage.org; and Ravinia Festival, 200 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park, Dec. 13 ($10); ravinia.org
“Hershey Fielder at Irving Berlin”: Playwright Fielder brings “America’s composer” (and the man behind “White Christmas,” perhaps one of the most beloved holiday tunes ever) to life in this new production, making its Midwest debut. Now through Dec. 6 at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted; ticketmaster.com. $60.
“ELF”: The wacky story of “Buddy The Elf” (portrayed by Will Ferrell in the 2003 film) gets reinterpreted as a Broadway musical. Now through Dec. 31 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire; marriotttheatre.com. $50-$55.
“White Christmas The Musical”: Irving Berlin’s beloved tale of two Army buddies who meet two singing sisters has been turned into a musical, nominated for two Tony Awards. Now through Jan. 3 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace; drurylanetheatre.com. $45-$60.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas”: The whole gang’s here, along with that sad little tree, in this family show. Nov. 14–Jan.3 at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut; broadwayinchicago.com. $15-$29.
“That’s Weird, Grandma: The Holiday Special”: Every seasonal short story is written by CPS students and adapted for the stage by Barrel of Monkeys Company. Nov. 16–Dec. 28 at The Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland; barrelofmonkeys.org. $6-$12.
“It’s A Wonderful SantaLand Miracle Nut-Cracking Christmas Story… Jews: Welcome”: All the world’s Christmas stories are in one show, topped off with non-denominational eggnog. Nov. 19–Dec. 27 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont; stage773.com. $25.
“Holidaze 2015”: Step Up brings comedic short plays to the stage that detail all the chaos—and cheer—of the season. Nov. 20–Dec. 20 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; athenaeumtheatre.org. $19-$26.
“It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!”: American Blues Theater recreates the magic of a 1940s-era radio broadcast of Frank Capra’s classic. Nov. 20–Dec. 27 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln; greenhousetheater.org. $19-$49.
“A Christmas Story”: Theatre at the Centre in Munster, Ind., closes out its 25th anniversary season with the holiday classic based on the beloved film. $40-$44; TheatreAtTheCenter.com
“The Santaland Diaries”: Humorist David Sedaris’ tale of working as an elf in the Macy’s Santaland display really spreads the cheer. Nov. 20–Dec. 30 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont; theaterwit.org. $28.
“Holidazed and Confused”: The Second City is like that crazy uncle at your Christmas dinner who holds back nothing with this holiday tell-all. Nov. 23–Dec. 28 at Second City 1616 N. Wells; secondcity.com. $17-$27. (Also appearing at Paramount Theatre Dec. 4-20 and Metropolis Performing Arts Center Dec. 11-31.)
“A Christmas Schooner”: The story of the first Christmas tree ship to come to Chicago is based on real-life events. Nov. 25–Dec. 27 at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport; mercurytheaterchicago.com. $25-$65.
“A Christmas Story” — The Musical: You might not shoot your eye out but you could bust a gut at this retelling of Ralphie Parker and family’s unforgettable holiday. Nov. 25–Jan. 3 at The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora; paramountaurora.com. $41-$56.
“Barney the Elf”: This production bills itself as “a musical parody of the film with a queer twist.” Dec. 2-20 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln; greenhousetheater.org. $25.
“The Toy Shoppe”: Country crooner Kenny Rogers brings his original musical to the stage, starring Alan Thicke. Dec. 4 at McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn; atthemac.org. $55-$75.
“A Kokandy Christmas”: A night of stories and song, including new musical arrangements of songs you know. Dec. 4-23 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont; theaterwit.org. $30.
“Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular”: The circus goes to the North Pole with this daredevil acrobatic show set to familiar holiday tunes. Dec.12 at Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont; ticketmaster.com. $25-$85.
“Sherlock Holmes”: David Arquette, James Maslow (“Big Time Rush”) and Renee Olstead (“Still Standing”) star in an original adaptation inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tales directed by Andrew Shaver. Nov. 24-29 at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph; broadwayinchicago.com
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose”: It’s a Christmas mystery but not one that Sherlock Holmes himself can’t take on; back for its 5th year. Dec. 12–Jan. 3 at Raven Theatre Company, 6157 N. Clark; raventheatre.com. $17-$24.
“Fa La Frickin’ La”: Stories, songs and humor provide for a mixed bag of holiday emotions from cabaret artist Kevin Wood. Dec. 18 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont; stage773.com. $15-$20.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: The television special comes to life on stage with all the beloved characters Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, and, of course, Rudolph. Dec. 18-19 at Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont; ticketmaster.com. $29.50-$75.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” with Zuzu — A Conversation with Karolyn Grimes: The actress presents the holiday classic and talks about playing the role of the youngest Bailey daughter. Dec. 6 at Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan; geneseetheatre.com. $13-15.
“Home Alone” with Live Orchestra: John Williams’ score is performed live to the backdrop of the John Hughes holiday film. Dec. 11-13 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; cso.org. $35-$98.
32nd Annual Music Box Christmas Sing-A-Long & Double Feature: “It’s A Wonderful Life” And “White Christmas” play back-to-back accompanied by indoor holiday caroling led by Santa and bags of props to add extra holiday cheer. Dec. 11-25 at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport; musicboxtheatre.com. $10-$24.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at Museum of Science & Industry: Now in its 74th year, Christmas Around the World starts with a 45-foot Christmas tree covered in 30,000 lights, surrounded by 50 smaller trees each decorated to represent cultural traditions around the globe. Holidays of Light adds to the experience with a display of holidays that celebrate enlightenment including the Chinese New Year, Dwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah and St. Lucia Day. Nov. 19–Jan. 3 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.; msi.org. Included with admission.
Holiday Happenings at the Art Institute of Chicago: Artful Christmas displays begin with the annual “Wreathing of the Lions” (Nov. 27) and continue with Holiday Choirs (Dec. 7-11), a special “Christmas Story Lecture” (Dec. 10) and the 13th Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party (Dec. 13). Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan; artic.edu. All included with admission is except treasure hunt, which is $15-$35.
Breakfast with Santa and SUE at the Field Museum: Fill up on a buffet breakfast in Stanley Field Hall before creating holiday crafts. Then get pictures taken with the man of the hour, Santa, and his prehistoric companion, Sue. Dec. 5, 12 & 19 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.; fieldmuseum.org. $24-$45.
Holiday Breakfast at The Shedd Aquarium: Catch up with Santa over breakfast and hot chocolate then watch a screening of “The Polar Express 4-D Experience” and then cap the day with reserved seats to the Holiday One World aquatic show. Dec. 12, 19 & 22 at the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.; sheddaquarium.org. $34.95-$49.95.
Cool Yule: Holiday Cabaret and Santa Saturdays @ the Driehaus Museum: Cabaret singer Spider Saloff will offer retro renditions of songs like “Cool Yule” and “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” in a special performance (Dec. 12) but not before breakfast with Santa and family portrait session earlier in the day (Dec. 12 && 19). Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie; driehausmuseum.org. Breakfast is $8-$12 and Cool Yule is $40-$45.
MORE FUN UNDER THE MISTLETOE
Illumination: Tree Lights: Enjoy a festive walk through the woods where tree lights respond to your touch and voice, all at the Morton Arboretum. The one-mile path is surrounded by 50 acres of trees decked out in bright LED lights. New this year: Symphony Woods has an updated music program recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Tree Harmony asks you to sing to the trees which will result in a stream of falling tinsel. Nov. 20–Jan. 2 at Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Route 53, Lisle; mortonarb.org. $6-$20.
Wonderland Express: The city of Chicago goes miniature in this lavish railroad display held inside a beautiful greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden. This year focuses on landmark history and also includes the Maggie Daley Ice Ribbon, Glencoe’s Writers’ Theater and “El” trains. Special events include a Hanukkah concert (Dec. 6), a Seasonal Beer Tasting (Dec. 9), Christmas concert (Dec. 12) and Breakfast with Santa (Dec. 19 & 20). Ice sculpting, a holiday market and caroling add to the festivities. Nov. 27–Jan. 3 at Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe; chicagobotanic.org. $8-$12.
Winter Flower & Train Show: Lincoln Park Conservatory’s greenhouse gets in the Christmas spirit decked out with poinsettias, trees, lights and model trains. Nov. 27–Jan. 3 at Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N Stockton Dr.; chicagoparkdistrict.com. Free.
Caroling at Cloud Gate: Local choirs lead stunning performances of holiday classics and encourage sing-alongs. Participants include the Oakdale Youth Choir (Nov. 27), Lutheran Choir or Chicago (Dec. 4), Wicker Park Choral Singers (Dec. 11) and Chicago Coral Artists (Dec. 18). Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, Michigan & Randolph; cityofchicago.org. Free.
One Of A Kind Holiday Gift Show at the Merchandise Mart: Santa’s Workshop touches down in Chicago. More than 600 artists sell their jewelry, homeware, food, clothes, art and other items at this extravaganza. Dec. 3-6 at Merchandise Mart, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza; oneofakindshowchicago.com. $12-$18.
Hinsdale’s 50th Annual Christmas Walk: Shop your way through downtown Hinsdale while being greeted by holiday characters and carolers. Take a ride on the trackless train, shop to watch ice carvers, take a trip through the Storybook Village and end the night with the annual tree lighting ceremony. Dec. 4 in downtown Hinsdale; hinsdalechamber.com. Free.
35th Annual Lambs Farm Holiday Lights Gift & Craft Fair: Hundreds of vendors gather selling goods that help you find the perfect gifts. All of it benefits Libertyville’s Lambs Farm that serves people with developmental disabilities. Dec. 4-6 at Arlington International Race Course, 2200 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights; hoildaylightslambsfarm.com. $8 (parking $7).
Christmas and Winter Beer Tasting: Know what to bring to the dinner table this holiday season with the most comprehensive tastingof its kind anywhere in North America. More than 100 beers will be available to sample. Dec. 5, noon to 5 p.m. at Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln; delilahschicago.com.
Renegade Holiday Craft Fair: Shop handmade, DIY goods for everyone on your list, and bring an extra bag for yourself. Renegade only comes around a few times a year! Dec. 5 & 6 at Bridgeport Arts Center, 1200 W. 35th; renegadecraft.com. Free.
Winter Wonderfest: There’s no Christmas slumber at this annual Navy Pier wonderland, including a 170,000-square-foot Chicago Blackhawks ice skating rink, winter mini golf, 24 rides (including the new Ice Peak Climbing Walls) and indoor Ferris Wheel. Family karaoke, aerial arts and dance lessons add to the family fun. Dec. 5–Jan. 10 at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand; navypier.com. $9-$25.
Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade: The annual toy drive culminates in this, Chicago’s biggest motor parade that delivers gifts to deserving kids across the city. Dec. 6, beginning at Dan Ryan Woods; chicagolandtft.org. Free.
TBOX Twelve Bars of Christmas Pub Crawl: Wrigleyville’s annual day of debauchery, if you dare. Dec. 12 at various locations; festaparties.com. $50.24.
Polar Adventure Days: Explore nature in winter with snowshoeing adventures, seasonal crafts, and appearances from Siberian Huskies, wolves and other live animals as well as birds of prey. Finish with a performance from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Dec. 13 at Northerly Island, 1521 S. Linn White Dr.; chicagoparkdistrict.com. Free.
NOTE: All information was accurateas of publication date. Subject to change without notice. Check websites for updates.
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.