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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: November 27, 2013 5:38PM

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 thevery first official city tree, it was donated. Nearly 29,000 lights and 300 decorations (including a star on top) adorn the tree, said City of Chicago spokeswoman Mary May.

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’s a compilation of some holiday events in Chicago (with even more listed at


Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic: Weekends Nov. 30 to Dec. 31. Entertainment from local groups, a laser light show, carolers, themed Zoo Chats and a holiday light and video display on the Reptiles and Birds House. 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;

Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoo Lights: Luminous displays shine Friday to Sunday to Dec. 13; then nightly to Jan. 5 (except Dec. 24 and 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. (312) 742-2000;


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, (773) 684-1414;

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, (312) 922- 7827;

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 Dr., (312) 939-2438;

Legoland Discovery Center’s Holly Jolly Holidays: Winter-themed building challenges, winter 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;

Christmas at the Clarke and Glessner House Museums. Experience a traditional 19th century at both houses. Christmas Candlelight Tours at both houses Dec. 14 and 15. Clarke House Museum, 1827 S. Indiana Ave.; Glessner House Museum


The Dance-Along Nutcracker: Join professional dancers Dec. 1 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Rehearsal before each performance. Preston Bradley Hall, 3rd Floor South, 78 E. Washington St. Free.

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

Chicago Tap Theatre, “Tidings of Tap!”: Interpretations of songs of the season Dec. 13-15 at the U.I.C. Theater. $22-$35. 1044 W. Harrison. (800) 838-3006;

Redmoon Theatre “Winter Pageant”: Dec. 13-15 and 20-22. Dance, machines, magic and masks. $10-$25. 2120 S. Jefferson St., (312) 850-5440;

Von Heidecke’s Chicago Festival Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”: Dec. 1 at the Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet. $20.50-$38. 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet, (815) 726-6600;

Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker.” Dec. 8 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. $38.20-$134.55. (847) 671-5100;


Street Carols On State: Nov. 29. The Chicago Theatre’s downstairs theater, 175 N. State St., (800) 745-3000; $46.

Caroling at Cloud Gate: Fridays to Dec. 20. Free. At Millennium Park, Chase Promenade Central, N. Michigan Ave. & E. Randolph St., (312) 744-3316;

Jim Brickman’s “The Magic of Christmas”: Nov. 30. At the Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St. $35-$100.

(815) 726-6600;

Chicago a cappella: European and American carols, Christmas spirituals, folksongs, Hanukkah delights and more. See website. (773) 281-7820;

Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus: The choir performs its holiday show, “Making Spirits Bright,” four times. $20-$50. Dec. 6 at Harris Theater, 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;

Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour: Chicago Theatre Dec. 7 with Keiko Matisui, Oleta Adams and Jonathon Butler. 175 N. State. $43.50-$88.50. (312) 462-6300;

The 93XRT Bud Light Big Holiday Concert. The concert stars The Head and The Heart, Dawes and special guest Thao & The Get Down Stay Down Dec. 15. At the Chicago Theatre. $45. 175 N. State, (312) 462-6300;

The Apollo Chorus performs Handel’s “Messiah”: Dec. 7 at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., and on Dec. 21 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. $18-$75. (312) 427-5620 or visit

Welcome Yule! The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus: Cherished carols Dec. 14-15 and 20-23 at the Symphony Center. $38-$60. 220 S. Michigan Ave., (312) 294-3000;

Martina McBride — The Joy of Christmas: Dec. 21 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. $50-$91. (847) 671-5100;

Kenny Rogers’ “Christmas & Hits Through The Years”: Dec. 21 at North Central College’s Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., in Naperville. $70-$85. (630) 637-7469;

Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular: Dec. 23 to Jan. 5 at the Harris Theater. $59.99-$119.99. 205 E. Randolph St., (312) 334-2419;

Season of Carols concert. Held 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., (773) 325-1700;

Street Carols On State. Nov. 29. The Chicago Theatre’s downstairs theater, 175 N. State St. $46. (800) 745-3000;

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;

Chicago a cappella. Anne Heider, Artistic Director Emerita of Bella Voce, will serves as Guest Music Director this holiday season, bringing her renowned musicality to traditional European and American carols, Christmas spirituals, folksongs, Hanukkah delights and more. See the group’s web site for its Chicago-area appearances this season. (773) 281-7820;

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. (312) 744-3316;


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 Café. $15-$29; dinner $15 extra. 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., (800) 595-4849;

“A Christmas Carol”: To Dec. 28 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. $39-$92. (312) 443-3800;

“If Scrooge Was a Brother”: To Dec. 29. Creative Arts Foundation. $15-$30. 7558 S. South Chicago Ave. (773) 752-3955;

“Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”: To Jan. 5. At Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. $18-$40. 175 E. Chestnut St., (800) 775-2000;

“A Klingon Christmas Carol”: Performed 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.

Festival of the Gnomes: Dec. 7. At the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park. $5. 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet. (815) 724-3760.

“The Christmas Schooner”: To Dec. 29 at The Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave. $20-$55. (773) 325-1700;

“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;

A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol: Nov. 30-Dec. 22. Hip-hop reinterpretation. At the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; 800 E. Grand Ave. $20-$35. (312) 595-5600;


Santa Claus in Daley Plaza: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday to Dec. 20; extra hours Dec. 21-24. Photos. Free. 50 W. Washington, (312) 744-3316;

Christkindlmarket Chicago: Daley Plaza to Dec. 24. 50 W. Washington. (312) 494-2175;

Candy Cane Express: Ride with Santa and his elves on Dec. 7. Trains leave from Aurora, Naperville and Union Station and returns riders to their original stations.;

Chicago Botanic Garden’s Wonderland Express. The holiday-themed miniature train exhibit runs through Jan. 5. $8-$10. Seasonal events include a 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/car, $25/van. 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440;

Morton Arboretum’s Illumination and Enchanted Railroad. New this year is the Arboretum’s first lights event: a mile-long trail filled with surprising light experiences that runs through Jan. 4. Enchanted Railroad is a garden railroad traveling through an indoor winter wonderland; through Jan. 6. $9-$12. Illumination event $10-$15; includes admission. 4100 Illinois 53, (630) 968-0074;

Do-Division Holiday. Food, drink, shopping, trolley rides and more are part of the annual shopping event along West Division between Milwaukee and Leavitt. Dec. 7-8. No admission, (312) 961-5583;

Holiday Lights Gift & Craft Fair. Lambs Farm holds its annual shopping extravaganza benefiting people with developmental disabilities Dec. 6-8 at the Arlington Park Racecourse. 2200 W. Euclid, Arlington Heights, (847) 385-7500; $8; parking $6.

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

Light Up the Park. MB Financial Park at Rosemont kicks off its Winter Wonderland season tonight with a tree lighting, horse-drawn sleigh rides and appearance from Santa. The ice rink also opens today and runs through Feb. 2. 5501 Park Place, Rosemont, (847( 349-5008;

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. Runs Dec. 6 to 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” tall, has been expanded this year. Other Winter WonderFest activities include the Ferris wheel, carousel and ice skating rink. Admission is free; activity wristbands cost $16-$20. 600 E. Grand, (312) 595-7437;

Garfield Park Conservatory’s Holiday Flower Show. Nov. 30 to Jan. 5 in Horticulture Hall. Voices of the Season free concert is Dec. 7. 300 N. Central Park, (312) 746-5100;

Lincoln Park Conservatory’s Winter Flower and Train Show. To Jan. 6. Trains wind through a miniature village surrounded by poinsettias. 2391 N. Stockton, (773) 742-7736;

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