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The Chicago area is resplendent with holiday shows, concerts and fests

Zoo patrons look for polar bears during Holiday Magic ZooLights programs offered Brookfield Zoo.  |  File photo

Zoo patrons look for the polar bears during the Holiday Magic and ZooLights programs offered at Brookfield Zoo. | File photo

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Updated: December 30, 2013 11:48AM



Christmastime in Chicago is truly a magical time. Take, for example, the splendiferous tree in Daley Plaza. This is the 100th year Chicago has had an official city Christmas tree. And like the first official city tree, it was donated. Nearly 29,000 lights and 300 decorations (including a star on top) adorn the tree, city of Chicago spokeswoman Mary May said.

Santa has set up shop in his house in Daley Plaza — also the site of the annual Christkindlmarket Chicago, skaters are gliding around the rink at Millennium Park and carolers are caroling at Cloud Gate.

There are a plethora of activities to make your season merry and bright, from sipping mulled cider at the Christkindlmarket to marveling at the window displays at Macy’s.

“People are out on the streets enjoying the holiday season and being together. There’s just so much to do here. It’s just a magical time of year,” May said. “There are so many classic traditional things we do here in the city to celebrate the holidays, it’s truly magical for Chicago.”

And that’s just downtown. There are events all over the city and suburbs that celebrate the season.

Here are some holiday events in Chicago.

ARBORETUMS, CONSERVATORIES, GARDENS

CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN’S WONDERLAND EXPRESS: Holiday-themed miniature train exhibit runs through Jan. 5. $8-$10. Hanukkah concert Dec. 1, Holiday Cheers! Seasonal Tastings Dec. 11, Christmas concert Dec. 21 and Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus Dec. 23. Parking is $20 per car, $25 per van. 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440; chicagobotanic.org.

MORTON ARBORETUM’S ILLUMINATION AND ENCHANTED RAILROAD: New is the Arboretum’s first lights event: a mile-long trail filled with light experiences that runs through Jan. 4. Enchanted Railroad is a garden railroad through an indoor winter wonderland; through Jan. 6. $9-$12. Illumination event $10-$15; includes admission. 4100 Illinois 53, Lisle, (630) 968-0074; mortonarb.org.

GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY’S HOLIDAY FLOWER SHOW: Nov. 30-Jan. 5 in Horticulture Hall, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago. Voices of the Season free concert is Dec. 7. (312) 746-5100; garfieldconservatory.org.

LINCOLN PARK CONSERVATORY’S WINTER FLOWER AND TRAIN SHOW: To Jan. 6 at 2391 N. Stockton Ave., Chicago. Trains wind through a miniature village surrounded by poinsettias. (773) 742-7736; chicagoparkdistrict.com.

OAK PARK CONSERVATORY’S WINTER HOLIDAY CRAFT FAIR: Local artists sell their creations Dec. 1. Santa will attend. 615 Garfield St., Oak Park, (708) 386-4700; pdop.org/parks-facilities/oak-park-conservatory.

ZOOS

BROOKFIELD ZOO’S HOLIDAY MAGIC: Weekends from Nov. 30-Dec. 31. Entertainment from local groups, laser light show, carolers, themed Zoo Chats and a holiday light and video display on the Reptile and Bird houses. 450 decorated community and 50 corporate trees. Santa and Mrs. Claus in the holiday shop. $10.50-$15. Parking, $10. 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield, (708) 688-8000; czs.org.

LINCOLN PARK ZOO’S ZOO LIGHTS: Luminous Displays shine Fridays-Sundays to Dec. 13; then nightly to Jan. 5 (except Dec. 24-25.) Crafts, photos with Santa, live ice carving and 3-D displays. Ice skating rink open through March 2. Parking, $20. 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. (312) 742-2000; lpzoo.org.

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS AND TREES: 20,000 twinkling lights and spectacular displays transform Cosley Zoo into a fairy tale winter wonderland Nov. 29-Dec. 30. Lights are on at 3 p.m. daily at Cosley Zoo, 1356 Gary Ave., Wheaton. (630) 665-5534; cosleyzoo.org.

MUSEUMS

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD AND HOLIDAYS OF LIGHT: At the Museum of Science and Industry, more than 50 trees decorated from Chicago’s ethnic communities to Jan. 5. Ethnic dance and choral groups perform. A 45-foot grand tree in the Rotunda. $18-$36. 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, (773) 684-1414; msichicago.org.

SNOWFLAKES AND STORIES: At the Adler Planetarium Dec. 7, a paper snowflake lesson, stories and the World’s Largest Snow Globe. $8-$12. 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, (312) 922-7827; adlerplanetarium.org.

SHEDD HOLIDAY BREAKFASTS: Dec. 14, 20 and 21 at Shedd Aquarium. Buffet, viewing of “The Polar Express 4-D Experience,” a visit to the Polar Play Zone to take a photo with Santa, and reserved seats to “A Holiday Fantasea.” $34.95-$49.95. 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, (312) 939-2438; sheddaquarium.org.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER’S HOLLY JOLLY HOLIDAYS: Winter-themed building challenges, scavenger hunt and photos with life-size Santa and snowman Lego models. Dec. 7-31 at Legoland Discovery Center, Streets of Woodfield, $20. 601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg, (866) 823-9546; legolanddiscoverycenter.com.

CHRISTMAS AT THE CLARKE AND GLESSNER HOUSE MUSEUMS: Experience a traditional 19th century Christmas. Christmas Candlelight Tours at both houses Dec. 14-15. Clarke House Museum, 1827 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago; Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave., Chicago, (312) 326-1480; glessnerhouse.org.

DANCE

THE DANCE-ALONG NUTCRACKER: Join professional dancers Dec. 1 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Rehearsal before each show. Preston Bradley Hall, 3rd Floor South, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago. Free. cityofchicago.org.

“THE NUTCRACKER”: Presented by the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago Dec. 6-28 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. $31-$117. (312) 739-0120; joffrey.org.

CHICAGO TAP THEATRE, “TIDINGS OF TAP!”: Interpretations of songs of the season Dec. 13-15 at the UIC Theater, 1044 W. Harrison St., Chicago. $22-$35. (800) 838-3006; chicagotaptheatre.com.

REDMOON THEATRE “WINTER PAGEANT”: Dec. 13-15 and 20-22. Dance, machines, magic and masks. $10-$25. 2120 S. Jefferson St., Chicago. (312) 850-5440; redmoon.org.

VON HEIDECKE’S CHICAGO FESTIVAL BALLET’S “THE NUTCRACKER”: Dec. 1 at the Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet. $20.50-$38. (815) 726-6600; ticketmaster.com.

SALT CREEK BALLET’S “THE NUTCRACKER”: Dec. 7 at Governors State University, 1 University Parkway, University Park. $20-$40. (708) 235-2222; saltcreekballet.org.

MOSCOW BALLET’S “GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER”: Dec. 8 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. $38.20-$134.55. (847) 671-5100; rosemonttheatre.com.

“THE NUTCRACKER BALLET”: Presented by Ballet Legere Dec. 14-15. Performances are at Dominican University Lund Auditorium, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest. $20-$25. (773) 237-1874; balletlegere.org.

MUSIC

STREET CAROLS ON STATE: Nov. 29. The Chicago Theatre’s downstairs theater, 175 N. State St., Chicago. $46. (800) 745-3000; thechicagotheatre.com.

CAROLING AT CLOUD GATE: Fridays to Dec. 20. Millennium Park, Chase Promenade Central, North Michigan Street and East Randolph Street, Chicago. (312) 744-3316; cityofchicago.org.

JIM BRICKMAN’S “THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS”: Nov. 30. At the Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet. $35-$100. (815) 726-6600; rialtosquare.com.

CHICAGO A CAPPELLA: Anne Heider, artistic director emerita of Bella Voce, serves as guest music director this holiday season, bringing her renowned musicality to traditional European and American carols, Christmas spirituals, folk songs, Hanukkah delights and more. See the group’s website for its Chicago-area appearances this season. (773) 281-7820; chicagoacappella.org.

CHICAGO GAY MEN’S CHORUS: The choir performs its holiday show, Making Spirits Bright,”four times. $20-$50. Dec. 6 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Chicago; Dec. 7 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie; Dec. 14 at University of Chicago, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel; and Dec. 15 at Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook. (773) 296-0541; cgmc.org.

DAVE KOZ AND FRIENDS CHRISTMAS TOUR: Dec. 7 with Keiko Matsui, Oleta Adams and Jonathan Butler. Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago. $43.50-$88.50. (312) 462-6300; thechicagotheatre.com.

THE 93XRT BUD LIGHT BIG HOLIDAY CONCERT: The Head and the Heart, Dawes and special guest Thao & The Get Down Stay Down Dec. 15. At the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago. $45. (312) 462-6300; thechicagotheatre.com.

THE APOLLO CHORUS PERFORMS HANDEL’S “MESSIAH”: Dec. 7 at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, and Dec. 21 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago. $18-$75. (312) 427-5620 or visit apollochorus.org.

JINGLE BALL: 103.5 Kiss-FM’s Dec. 9 concert includes Robin Thicke, Enrique Iglesias, Flo Rida, Icona Pop, Avril Lavigne, Travie McCoy and Fifth Harmony. At the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago. $32.95-$134.13. (800) 745-3000; unitedcenter.com.

MICHAEL JOHNSON’S DOWN-HOME HOLIDAY CHRISTMAS: Singer-songwriter Michael Johnson performs holiday classics Dec. 14 at Elgin Community College’s Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin. $25. (847) 697-1000; elgin.edu.

WELCOME YULE! THE CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS: Cherished carols Dec. 14-15 and 20-23 at the Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. $38-$60. (312) 294-3000; cso.org.

MARTINA MCBRIDE — THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS: Dec. 21 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. $50-$91. (847) 671-5100; rosemonttheatre.com.

KENNY ROGERS’ “CHRISTMAS & HITS THROUGH THE YEARS”: Dec. 21 at North Central College’s Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville. $70-$85. (630) 637-7469; northcentralcollege.edu/show.

MARY WILSON’S HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR: Dec. 23-Jan. 5 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago. $59.99-$119.99. (312) 334-2419; harristheaterchicago.org.

SEASON OF CAROLS CONCERT: Dec. 9 at the Mercury Theatre to kick off sales of the “Season of Carols” holiday concert CD, which benefits the charity Season of Concern. $20. 3745 N Southport Ave., Chicago, (773) 325-1700; mercurytheaterchicago.com.

POLISH CAROLS: SONG AND DANCE: The Lira Ensemble presents its holiday concert Dec. 1, with special guest pianist 14-year-old Daniel Szefer. At Dominican University Lund Auditorium, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest. $48-$58. (708) 488-5000; liraensemble.com.

CITY HALL HOLIDAY CONCERTS: Children’s choirs perform free noontime shows weekdays Dec. 2-20 at City Hall, first floor lobby, 121 N. LaSalle St., Chicago. (312) 744-3316; cityofchicago.org.

THEATER

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE MUSICAL”: Charles Dickens’ holiday classic runs Wednesdays-Sundays through Dec. 22 at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Ind. $38-$42. (219) 836-3255; tickets.com.

THEO UBIQUE’S YULETIDE CELEBRATION “A VERY MERRY MADRIGAL”: To Dec. 22. Song, food, poetry and variety acts at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago. $15-$29; dinner $15 extra. (800) 595-4849; theo-u.com.

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”: To Dec. 28 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. $39-$92. (312) 443-3800; goodmantheatre.org.

“MAKING GOD LAUGH”: Two empty-nesters welcome home their three grown children(a priest, an aspiring actress and a former star athlete) for the holidays. Performed Fridays-Sundays (along with Dec. 5 and 12) through Dec. 29 at the Fox Valley Repertory Theater at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles. $42-$51.75. (630) 584-6342; foxvalleyrep.org.

“IF SCROOGE WAS A BROTHER”: To Dec. 29. Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., Chicago. $15-$30. (773) 752-3955; etacreativearts.org.

“RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER”: To Jan. 5. At Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. $18-$40. (800) 775-2000; broadwayinchicago.com.

“RIFFTRAX LIVE: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS”: 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at many area movie theaters. Ring in the holiday season with loads of laughs from the RiffTrax crew. fathomevents.com.

“TWIST-A-CAROL IV: DR. WHOVILLE”: Vex Theatre Company of Elgin presents the original new holiday show that combines Dr. Who and Dr. Seuss. Runs Dec. 6-8 at the Elgin Art Showcase, 164 Division St., Elgin. $10. (847) 991-8081; www.vextheatre.org.

THE SECOND CITY’S NUT-CRACKING HOLIDAY REVUE: A live comedy revue that pokes fun at the foibles of the holiday season runs Thursdays-Sundays Dec. 6-22 at the Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. $35. (630) 896-6666; paramountaurora.com.

“A KLINGON CHRISTMAS CAROL”: In Klingon with English supertitles and a Vulcan narrator. Dec. 7 at Elgin Community College’s Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin. $32. (847) 697-1000; elgin.edu.

FESTIVAL OF THE GNOMES: Dec. 7. At the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet. $5. (815) 724-3760; bicentennialpark.org.

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”: Runs through Dec. 21 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. $12-$15. (630) 530-0111; drurylane.com.

“THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER”: To Dec. 29 at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. $20-$55. (773) 325-1700; mercurytheaterchicago.com.

“IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE THE RADIO BROADCAST”: Runs Thursdays-Sundays through Dec. 30 at the American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron St., Chicago. $25-$40. (773) 409-4125; atcweb.org.

“A VERY AWESOME YO GABBA GABBA! LIVE! HOLIDAY SHOW”: DJ Lance Rock will be joined by Biz Markie Dec. 14-15 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road. $31.40-$82.65. (847) 671-5100; rosemonttheatre.com.

“A CHRISTMAS MEMORY AND THE THANKSGIVING VISITOR”: The holidays spell a time of hope and new beginnings for 7-year-old Buddy. Runs Fridays-Sundays through Dec. 29 at the Provision Theater Company, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago. $10-$32. (866) 811-4111; provisiontheater.org.

MADRIGAL DINNER: Presented by the Joliet Drama Guild, the evening includes a full sit-down dinner plus madrigal music and other entertainment and characters from the Renaissance period. $33. Dec. 20-22 at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet. (877) 543-1933; jolietdramaguild.org.

A Q BROTHERS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL: Nov. 30-Dec. 22. Hip-hop reinterpretation. At the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. $20-$35. (312) 595-5600; chicagoshakes.com.

“A CHRISTMAS CAROL”: The holiday classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge comes to the Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Dec. 19. $20-$48. (815) 726-6600; rialtosquare.com.

MISCELLANEOUS

CHICAGO ICE RINKS: The skating season is open at all city ice rinks and runs through Feb. 23 at most rinks, weather-permitting. The rink at McCormick Place closes March 9. A new rink at Wentworth Park, 5625 S. Mobile Ave., opens in December. Another new rink this year is at Navy Pier. The ice rinks at Daley Bicentennial Plaza are closed, and there are no longer ice rinks at West Lawn Park or at Wrigley Field. Hours, skate rentals and admission fees vary by rink. (312) 742-7529; chicagoparkdistrict.com.

SANTA CLAUS IN DALEY PLAZA: Fridays-Sundays to Dec. 20; extra hours Dec. 21-24. Photos. Free. 50 W. Washington St., Chicago, (312) 744-3316; cityofchicago.org.

SANTA AT WATER TOWER PLACE: Santa will be waiting in a winter wonderland to talk to youngsters. He’ll have hours through Dec. 24 at Water Tower Place, which is again using QLess, a mobile queuing solution. Visitors check in via the on-site kiosk or on their smartphones. At 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. (312) 440-3166; shopwatertower.com.

CHRISTKINDLMARKET CHICAGO: Daley Plaza to Dec. 24. 50 W. Washington St., Chicago. (312) 494-2175; christkindlmarket.com.

CHRISTMAS BAZAAR: At the Irish American Heritage Center Dec. 1, the event includes Mass, a breakfast, a craft sale, a bake sale and a visit from Santa Claus. 4626 N. Knox Ave., Chicago. (773) 282-7035; irish-american.org.

CANDY CANE EXPRESS: Ride with Santa and his elves on Dec. 7. Trains leave from Aurora, Naperville and Union Station and return riders to their original stations. info@thecandycaneexpress.com; thecandycaneexpress.com.

DO-DIVISION HOLIDAY: Food, drink, shopping, trolley rides and more are part of the annual shopping event along West Division Street between Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street. Dec. 7-8. No admission fee. (312) 961-5583; do-division.com.

HOLIDAY LIGHTS GIFT & CRAFT FAIR: Lambs Farm’s shopping event benefiting people with developmental disabilities runs Dec. 6-8 at Arlington Park Racecourse, 2200 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights. $8; parking $6. (847) 385-7500; holidaylightslambsfarm.com.

MUSIC BOX CHRISTMAS SHOW: Santa leads the audiences in Christmas carols before watching a Yuletide movie. Dec. 13-15, 19-24. Music Box Theatre. 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. $10-$17. (773) 871-6604; musicboxtheatre.com.

LIGHT UP THE PARK: MB Financial Park at Rosemont kicks off its Winter Wonderland season Nov. 29 with a tree lighting, horse-drawn sleigh rides and an appearance from Santa. The ice rink also opens Nov. 29 and runs through Feb. 2. 5501 Park Place, Rosemont, (847) 349-5008; MBpark@rosemont.com.

WINTER WONDERFEST AT NAVY PIER: Dec. 6-Jan. 12. New activities include a zip line, spinning cups ride, large inflatable slide and Snowman Bouncer. Winter WonderFest Jr., for children less than 36 inches tall, has been expanded. Other Winter WonderFest activities include the Ferris wheel, a carousel and an ice skating rink. Admission is free; activity wristbands cost $16-$20. 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. (312) 595-7437; winterwonderfest.com.

BREAKFAST WITH SANTA AT SOLDIER FIELD: Dec. 7. Soldier Field will host its seventh annual Breakfast with Santa to ring in the holidays. Families can visit with Santa, decorate holiday cookies, enter a homemade ornament contest and see a train display from yesteryear. $25-$55. 1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, Chicago. (312) 235-7063; SoldierfieldCatering@Chicago-365.com; soldierfield.net.



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