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“Illumination: Tree Lights” at Morton Arboretum. | Michael Hudson

Our guide to holiday fun at Chicago’s museums, zoos, gardens

SHARE Our guide to holiday fun at Chicago’s museums, zoos, gardens
SHARE Our guide to holiday fun at Chicago’s museums, zoos, gardens

Here are a few entertainment suggestions the whole family will enjoy this holiday season throughout the Chicago area:

MUSEUMS

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at Museum of Science & Industry: An annual tradition began in 1942, Christmas Around the World features a 45-ft Christmas tree covered in 30,000 lights, surrounded by 50 smaller trees and displays representing holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. Holidays of Light is a display that celebrates enlightenment including the Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah and St. Lucia Day. Nov. 15-Jan. 7 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., included with museum admission.

“Christmas Around the World” at the Museum of Science and Industry features a 45-foot Christmas tree covered in 30,000 lights, surrounded by 50 smaller trees and displays representing holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. | JB Spector/Museum

“Christmas Around the World” at the Museum of Science and Industry features a 45-foot Christmas tree covered in 30,000 lights, surrounded by 50 smaller trees and displays representing holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. | JB Spector/Museum of Science and Industry

Holiday Happenings at the Art Institute of Chicago: Christmas events begin with the annual “Wreathing of the Lions” (Nov. 23) and continue with Holiday Choirs (Dec. 3-7), Holiday Throne Rooms and Neapolitan Creche (Nov. 17-Jan. 8), the Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party (Dec. 9, $25-$75), Lecture: Celebrating the Christmas Story in Art (Dec. 14, free with admission), Gingerbread House Decorating (Dec. 15, $55, $70) at Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan, included with admission except where noted.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum: The museum is adorned with vintage decorations for the season. Holiday Carolers on the Porch (Nov. 17), Gilded Age Traditions includes a visit to historic landmarks and tea at The Drake Hotel (Nov. 30-Dec. 15, $105), visit with Santa includes art projects, story time and sing-a-longs (Dec. 8-16, $15, $20), Holiday Cabaret with Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael (Dec. 14, $60) at Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie.

Holiday Breakfast at The Shedd Aquarium: Includes breakfast, a screening of “The Polar Express 4-D Experience” and a meet-and-greet with Santa. Follow these with a visit to the Polar Play Zone exhibit and the aquatic presentation. Sat-Sun, Dec. 2, 9, 15-16, 22-23 at Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. $29.95-$54.95, children under 3 free.

ZOOS

Lincoln Park Zoo’s ZooLights: The zoo grounds are transformed into a land of twinkling lights Nov. 23-Jan. 6. There are also photos with Santa, 3D displays, strolling carolers, ice sculpture carving and musical light shows. Other events include a Holiday Market (Nov. 27, $10) features local artisans; Holidaze (Nov. 29), an after-hours event for adults with music and cash bar; Brewlights (Dec. 6, $40), an evening to enjoy seasonal and international craft beers; Chris White Trio (Dec. 9, $25) with a tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s “Charlie Brown Christmas”; Breakfast with Santa (Dec. 16) at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark, Free unless otherwise indicated.

Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic: The zoo is lit with more than one million twinkling lights, animated light displays and a video light show. Plus there’s entertainment in the Holly Jolly Theater, a train display, caroling to the animals, ice carving demonstrations, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Plus Chicago Wolves Skating Rink (to Jan. 27), Reindeer Run (Nov. 24, $25), a run/walk event throughout the zoo; Lights & Lagers (Nov. 30, $45), sample beers and stroll the zoo at Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield, Free with admission unless otherwise indicated.

GARDENS

Morton Arboretum’s Illumination: Tree Lights: Enjoy a festive walk through the woods where tree lights respond to your touch and voice. The one-mile path is surrounded by trees decked out in bright LED lights with treelike sculptures that spread intricate designs of life. Nov. 17–Jan. 1 at Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Route 53, Lisle, $12-$23.

Chicago Botanic Garden— Wonderland Express: A family-friendly, made-for-memoires experience featuring an exhibit of miniature trains in a mini-replica of Chicago and light show (Nov. 23-Jan. 6), a holiday market (Dec. 1-2), Chicago Brass Band (Dec. 8, $20, $23), Hanukkah Concert with Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, (Dec. 9, $20, $23) at Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook, Glencoe, $8-$13, children under 2 free (parking $25).

Lincoln Park Conservatory – Winter Flower & Train Show: Transforms the conservatory into a winter wonderland with festive plant arrangements and a model train exhibit. Nov. 23-Jan 6 at Lincoln park Conservatory, 2931 N. Stockton. Free.

Need more suggestions for holiday fun? Check out our complete Holiday Entertainment Guide.

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