Christmas in Chicago activities guarantee holiday fun for all ages
December 1, 2011

By Miriam Y. Cintrón

Theaters, museums, religious centers, and cultural institutions across the Chicagoland area always offer a variety of fun and interesting events to keep Chicagoans and tourists entertained, and this holiday season is no exception.

The open-air Christkindlmarket will be open in Daley Plaza downtown through Christmas Eve. Enjoy Euoropean gifts and German delicacies.


The Apollo Chorus of Chicago will perform Handel’s Messiah, featuring Baroque period music. Performances will be held at 3 p.m. Sat., Dec. 10, at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., and at 3 p.m. Sun., Dec. 18, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr. For ticket information, call (312) 427-5620 or visit

Inspired by the famous Nuremberg Christmas market dating back to 1545, Christkindl market offers handmade gifts, ornaments, European fabrics, German delicacies, and spiced wine. The open-air Christmas market operates through Saturday, Dec. 24, from11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun. through Thurs. and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fri. and Sat. at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. Admission is free. Log on to Also at Daley Plaza is the Underwriters Laboratories Santa House, where children and families can have their picture taken with Santa for free and participate in various activities through Sat., Dec. 24. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (with Santa on break from 3 to 4 p.m.), and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 24.

Guests can take a 90-minute docent-led tour highlighting Christmas customs and decorations of the 19th century at the Clarke House Museum, 1827 S. Indiana Ave., and Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave., at 5:30, 6, and 6:30 p.m. Sat., Dec. 10, and Sun., Dec. 11. Call (312) 326-1480. Tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for children ages eight to 12. Pre-paid reservations are required.

The Chicago Loop Alliance’s Winter Wonder Loop this year launched Lightscape, a year-round light and sound installation presenting outdoor displays from Lake to Van Buren Streets. During the holiday season, Lightscape will feature the holiday theme of Season of Lights, Sounds of the Season, including holiday classics. It will run daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Winter Wonder Loop also will feature about 100 holiday events and special discounts and packages at participating stores, restaurants, hotels, and cultural institutions. For more information, visit or

Macy’s, 111 N. State St., is festively decorated for the holiday season. This year’s holiday window display features characters from the CBS television special, Yes Virginia. For the 104th year, Macy’s Walnut Room will feature the 45-foot tall Great Tree, which this year has the theme of “Macy’s Star-Studded Believe Tree,” including ornaments inspired by the store’s celebrity designers.

The John Hancock Observatory’sWinterWonderland is open daily through New Year’s Eve.
Children also can enjoy Breakfast with Santa and entertainment especially for them on Sat. and Sun., Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18. Tickets are $16.95 per person and $12.95 for children younger than ten. Call (877) 556-2297 to make reservations.

The John Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan Ave., will once again host Breakfast with Santa on every Sat. and Sun.,Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18, at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. as part of its Winter Wonderland, which is open daily through Dec 31. Tickets are $39 for adults, $29 for children ages three to11, and $19 for children younger than three. Santa also will be available for pictures from noon to 4 p.m. every Sat. and Sun. Other special Winter Wonderland features include Santa’s sleigh, a free family photo with Santa, and free child tickets to the Field Museum with each Hancock Observatory child admission. Call (312) 654-5019 or visit


The Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., is set to host a variety of holiday concerts and performances throughout December in the center’s Preston Bradley Hall. On Sundays at 3 p.m., the Salon Series will feature a variety of classical music by local, national, and internationally based classical artists.

On Classical Mondays at 12:15 p.m., classical, chamber music, and opera concerts will be performed by Chicago-based instrumentalists and vocalists.

The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. will feature solo and ensemble performances of classical music.

Organized by the International Music Foundation, The Live Music Now! Young People’s Concert series is aimed at students in Chicago Public Schools and features various musical styles froma variety of cultures. For reservations, call (312) 670-6888.

The free interactive Dance-Along Nutcracker encourages audience members, young and old, to join the fun with professional dancers. Performances are at noon and 3 p.m. Sun., Dec. 4. For information on all Chicago Cultural Center events, call (312) 744-6630 or visit

CuneoMuseumand Gardens will be covered in scenic lights for itsWinter Wonderland Holiday Light Show.
The Chicago Public Library presents its annual Holiday Concerts series at noon in the Grand Lobby of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. The free performances are Thurs., Dec. 8, with the Orr Academy High School Concert Chorale; Fri., Dec. 9, with the St. Richard Parish Children’s Choir; Wed., Dec. 14, with the Jones College Prep High School Concert Choir; Thurs., Dec. 15, with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony and Chorus; and Fri., Dec. 16, with the Schurz High School Advanced Mixed Chorus. For more information, visit or call (312) 747-4850.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., will host two special holiday concerts this holiday season. A Chanticleer Christmas will feature a 12-voice male a cappella ensemble performing traditional Baroque classics, as well as songs by contemporary composers. Now in its 11th year, the show will take place at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tues., Dec. 6, and Wed., Dec. 7. The CSO’s Welcome Yule! will provide a blend of Christmas carols, new arrangements, sing-alongs, and musical surprises. Performances are at the SymphonyCenter and are scheduled for Fri., Dec. 16, at 7 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 17, at 3 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 18, at 3 and 7 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 21, at 7 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 22, at 7 p.m.; and Fri., Dec. 23, at 3 and 7 p.m. Call (312) 294-3000 or visit

The City Hall Holiday Concert Series will once again feature children’s choirs from throughout the city singing holiday classics in the west end of the City Hall lobby, 121 N. LaSalle St., weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. through Wed.,Dec. 21.

Performers include the Misericordia Heart Zingers on Fri., Dec. 2; the Robert Healy Chorus and Ensemble on Mon., Dec. 5; the Mary E. McDowell School of International Studies Choir on Thurs., Dec. 6; the St. Jerome School Choir on Wed., Dec. 7; the Douglas Taylor Elementary Children’s School Choir on Thurs., Dec. 8; the Keller Regional Gifted Center on Fri., Dec. 9; the Queen of Angels Choristers on Mon., Dec. 12; the Skinner West Primary Chorus on Tues., Dec. 13; the Musicality Ensemble from Curie Metro High School on Wed., Dec. 14; Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School Bands and Choirs on Thurs., Dec. 15; University of Chicago Lab School Choirs – Lab Middle School Eighth Grade and U-High Bel Canto on Fri., Dec. 16; Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary and Marimba Ensemble on Mon., Dec. 19; the Edgar Allan Poe Classical School Choir on Tues., Dec. 20; and the Providence St. Mel School Choir onWed.,Dec. 21.

The Chicago Children’s Choir will perform Songs of the Season at 3 p.m. Sun., Dec. 11, at the Harris Theater. Tickets are $15 to $65. Call (312) 849-8300 or visit

Chicago a capella will offer an eclectic mix of Renaissance music, Hanukkah songs, contemporary work, traditional holiday favorites, and carols fromaround the world. Performances are at 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 3, at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, IL; 4 p.m. Sun., Dec. 4, at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St. in Oak Park, IL; 8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 9, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, Michigan Avenue at Delaware Place in Chicago; and 4 p.m. Sun., Dec. 11, at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave. in Naperville, IL. Call (773) 281-7820 or visit

Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams St., will host a candlelit concert with the Old St. Patrick’s Christmas Choir and the Metropolis Symphony Orchestra. Deck the Hall! performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fri.,Dec. 2, and Sat., Dec. 3. Tickets are $55 for the concert and $75 for the concert and post reception. Call (312) 831-9355 or visit

Trinity Christian College, 6601 W. College Dr. in Palos Heights, IL, will host two Christmas concerts. One performance will be held at 3 p.m. Sun.,Dec. 4, at St. Hugh Parish, 7939 43rd St. in Lyons. The Noel Christmas Concert will be held at 3:20 p.m. Sun., Dec. 11, at Trinity Christian College, 6601 W. College Rd. Tickets are $12 in advance or $14 at the door. Call (312) 409-6661
or visit

The Lakeside Singers will perform their Christmas concert I Heard the Bells at various venues this month. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 2, at the Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, IL; 3 p.m. Sun., Dec. 4, at the Raue Center, 126 Williams in Crystal Lake, IL; 8 p.m. Mon., Dec. 5, at Metropolis, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, IL; 8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 16, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St.; and 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 17, at Wentz, 171 E. Chicago in Naperville, IL. Visit


The 97 acres at Cuneo Museum and Gardens, 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Vernon Hills, IL, will be covered in scenic lights for its 6th Annual Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show. Families can drive through the Cuneo Estate to enjoy the holiday light show from 6 to 10 p.m. through Sat., Dec. 31. It will be closed Sat. and Sun., Dec. 24 and Dec. 25. The cost is $10 per car on weekends, $5 per car on weeknights, and $25 for buses and vans less than 25 feet in length. Call (847) 362-3042.

Discover the history of chocolate at the Chocolate Around the World exhibit at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. It runs through Sun., Jan. 8. While there, visitors can take an underwater adventure with the Whales: Giants of the Deep exhibit, which runs through Mon., Jan. 16. Call (312) 922-9410 or visit

The Shedd Aquarium’s Holiday Fantasea is a holiday aquatic show.
The Museum of Science and Industry, located at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, will celebrate 70 years of its Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibits. The museum will feature holiday singers and dancers, dozens of decorated trees, falling “snow,” and special performances. The 45-foot Grand Tree will be surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated by volunteers from the city’s ethnic communities. While there, visitors can stop by the Dr. Seuss and the Art of Invention exhibit, which runs through Sunday, Jan. 8. Call (773) 684-1414 or visit

The John G. Shedd Aquarium’s Holiday Fantasea is a holiday aquatic showwhere visitors can see dolphins leap, hear beluga whales sing, and watch sea lions dance. The show runs through Mon., Jan. 2. The holiday entertainment runs throughout themuseum, including the Polar Express 4-D Experience and photos with Santa Claus. There will also be special Holiday Breakfasts the Saturdays of Dec. 10, 17, and 24. Tickets are $44.95 for adults and $34.95 for children ages three to 11. The aquariumis located at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. Call (312) 939-2438 or visit

The Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave., will host several events this holiday season. The 30th Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party will highlight art from around the world. The event is Sun., Dec. 11. Tickets are $30 for members, $35 for non-members, and $15 for children ages two and older. Reservations are required. Call (877) 307-4242.

Families also can build their own gingerbread houses at the museum, where they will be provided with gingerbread kits, frosting, and decorating candy. The event will take place 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat., Dec. 17, and Sun., Dec. 18. Tickets are $50 for families of four who are members and $60 for families of four who are not members. Reservations are required. Call (312) 553-9675 for ticket information.

Those interested in participating in holiday sing-alongs while enjoying snacks can join Caroling Tea, which runs from 2 to 4 p.m. Sat., Dec. 17, and Sun., Dec. 18. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for nonmembers, and $15 for children 12 and younger. For reservations, call (312) 553-9675.

The museum’s Thorne Miniature Rooms will once again be decorated in historic holiday decorations.

Grammy Award winning pianist Howard Levy and world-renowned tenor Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi will perform music from the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish traditions at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 610 S. Michigan Ave. The One Incredible Hanukkah Jam concert will be held at 2 p.m. Sun.,Dec. 18.Tickets are $15 to $30. Call (312) 322-1773 or visit

The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place,will host a musical celebration featuring Kwame Steve Cobb and Chavunduka performing songs as part of the Harambee Pre-Kwanzaa Festival. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 8. Call (773) 947-0600 or visit

Back by popular demand, the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave, is once again featuring Snow Much Fun. Through Sunday, Feb. 5, visitors can build a snow fort, throw snowballs, and ice skate indoors. Call (312) 527-1000 or visit

Lincoln Park Zoo’s festival ZooLights features visits with Santa Claus, animals from around the world, holiday crafts, and live ice carving.


Lincoln Park Zoo’s annual winter festival ZooLights features visits with Santa Claus, animals from around the world, holiday crafts, and live ice carving. The free, holiday event runs every Fri., Sat., and Sun. through Dec. 11, and then daily from Fri., Dec. 16 through Sun., Jan. 1.The zoo, located at 2200 N. Cannon Dr., is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with special ZooLights activities
beginning at 5 p.m. Call (312) 742-2000 or visit

Now in its 11th season, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park is free and open to the public. The ice rink is located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets and will remain open through Sun., March 11. Skate rental is available for $10. Visit

Millennium Park will also play host to Caroling at Cloud Gate, where the voices of different Chicago choral groups will perform holiday classics and guests are invited to sing along. The holiday sing-alongs are every Fri. at 6 p.m. through Dec. 16. For the sixth season, the musical evenings will be led by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago on Dec. 2; the Windy City Gay Chorus and Aria on Dec. 9; and the Wicker Park Choral Singers on Dec. 16.

Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., is inviting visitors to escape the winter blahs at its Winter Wonder Fest, an enchanted 170,000-quare-foot holiday-themed winter playground. The event features music, the Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating, inflatable slides, carnival rides, a Pepsi Create-A-Cookie Cottage, the Reindeer Express Train Ride, and much more. It will also feature Bah Humbug Court, an Extreme Ice Trail Ropes Course, and Ferris Wheel. It runs through Sun., Jan. 8. Also, the free Family New Year’s Eve Family Bash will take place on the Winter Wonder Stage in Festival Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. Sat., Dec. 31. The event will feature hip-hop dancers, a live band, a human beat box, and a special 8:15 p.m. Family Fireworks show. A New Year’s Eve Fireworks show will also take place at midnight. Call (800) 595-7437 or visit

The Spirit of Chicago will host a Lunch with Santa Cruise on Sat., Dec. 10, from1:15 to 3:15 p.m. The cruise boards at Navy Pier. It will feature a lunch buffet, live performances, and views of the city’s lakefront from warm climate-controlled decks. Reservations are required, and tickets are $39.90 for adults and $19.95 for children ages three to 12. Call (866) 273-2469 or visit

While buying gifts for your friends and loved ones in the shops along North Michigan Avenue, be sure to enjoy the holiday lights. Or take a break from shopping with an hour-long walking tour with Chicago Greeter’s Magnificent Mile Instagreeter. The free tour travels along North Michigan Avenue and surrounding areas. The walk-up service runs every Fri. and Sat. through Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours depart from the Water Works Visitor Information Center, 163 E. Pearson St. No reservations are required. Call (312) 744-8000.


The AFTRA/SAG Senior Radio Players will recreate the classic Disney version of Pinocchio featuring classic radio scripts by voice actors, sound effects artists, and music. The performance is at 7 p.m. Wed., Dec. 7, at the Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. Visit

Emerald City Theatre’s Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells is based on Barbara Park’s best-selling Junie B. Jones books. Performances run through Jan. 8. Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for children. Performances take place at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. Call (773) 935-6100 or visit

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park downtown is free and open to the public.
The Goodman Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol will once again bringmagic to the stage. The timeless holiday classic tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who will be played by Chicago’s own John Judd. Performances run through Sat., Dec. 31, in the Goodman’s Albert Theatre. Tickets are $16 to $45 and can be purchased by calling (312) 443-3800 or at the theater’s box office, 170 N. Dearborn St. Visit

For the 25th year, the Joffrey Ballet will perform The Nutcracker, which will feature dazzling costumes, entrancing storytelling, and Tchaikovsky’s famous score. Performances are at 7p.m. Fri., Dec. 9; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sat., Dec. 10; 2 p.m. Sun. Dec. 11; 7 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 15; 7 p.m. Fri., Dec. 16; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sat., Dec. 17; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sun., Dec. 18; 7 p.m. Tues., Dec. 20; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wed., Dec. 21; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 22; 2 p.m. Fri., Dec. 23; 2 p.m. Sat., Dec. 24; 2 p.m. Mon., Dec. 26; and 2 p.m. Tues., Dec. 27. All performances take place at The Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Call (312) 386-8905 or visit

A holiday movie classic is brought to the stage with the production of A Christmas Story, the Musical! at the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State St. Produced by Peter Billingsley, who played Ralph in the movie A Christmas Story, the musical will run from Wednesday, Dec. 14, to Friday, Dec. 30. Tickets range from $35 to $79. Call (312) 462-6301 or visit

Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue features comedy, music, and the theater’s trademark improvisation. Through Saturday, Dec. 16, performances are at 8 p.m.Mon., 7:30 p.m. Tues., 4 p.m. Sat., and 4:30 p.m. Sun. Additional matinee performances are at 2 p.m. onWed., Dec. 7; Fri., Dec. 9; Wed., Dec. 14; and Fri., Dec. 16. Tickets are $16 to $22. the theater is located at 1616 N. Wells St. Call (312) 337-3992 or visit

The Joffrey Ballet will perform“The Nutcracker.”
The American Blues Theater will present It’s A Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph! through Sat., Dec. 31. The production features a 1940s radio broadcast of Frank Capra’s holiday classic with live Foley sound effects and an original score. Performances are 8 p.m. every Thurs. and Fri.; at 5 and 8 p.m. Sat.; and 2:30 p.m. Sun. at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets run $25 to $50. Call (773) 871-3000 or visit

Through Fri., Dec. 23, Provision Theater presents The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, which tells the story of a young boy and his mother struggling to come to terms with a devastating loss. Provision Theatre is located at 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd., and free parking is available. Visit

The 2011 Winter Pageant at Redmoon Theater, 1463 W. Hubbard St., appeals to the young and young at heart, featuring puppetry in a tiny lounge. Performances are at 10:30 a.m. and 1 and 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and at 12:30, 2:30, and 4:30 p.m. on Sundays through Jan. 8. Special holiday shows will be held at 10:30 a.m. and 1 and 3:30 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 23. There will be no shows Sat. and Sun., Dec. 24 and 25 and Sun., Jan. 1. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children younger than 10. Call (312) 850-8440 or visit

Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie, IL, presents Alan Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings through Sun., Dec. 18. The comedy features Christmas in the Bunker household. Tickets range from $25 to $65. Call (847) 673-6300 or visit Chicago Tap Theatre presents Tidings of Tap! featuring dances and music to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and the winter season. Performances are 8 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 9, and Sat., Dec. 10, and at 3 p.m. Sun., Dec. 11 at the University of Illinois Chicago Theatre, 1044 W. Harrison St. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $20 for students and dancers. Group discounts are also available. Call (800) 838-3006.

LegoLand features a Santamade out of Lego blocks.
Polarity Ensemble Theatre presents Peer Gynt, which follows the adventures of the title character created by Henrik Ibsen. Performances run through Dec. 18 at Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students.Call (312) 742-8497 or visit


Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., will present live music a midst living plants with a concert by Gina Gibson, who will sing holiday selections. The concert will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sun., Dec. 4. Call (312) 746-5100.

Maxim’s: The Nancy Goldberg International Center, 24 E. Goethe St., will host the Rose Colella Trio’s performance of holiday jazz onWed., Dec. 7. A reception will begin at 7 p.m., followed by the show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, and reservations are required. Call (312) 742-8497 or visit The three-day Illinois Artisans Chicago Holiday Art Spree will be held in the James R. Thompson Center Atrium, 100 W. Randolph St. From Thursday, Dec. 14 to Friday, Dec. 16, visitors will be able to buy Illinois-made jewelry, paintings, ceramics, andmore.

The Lego Land Discovery Center Chicago, 601 N. Martingale Rd. in Schaumburg, IL, will host a Lego Champion Game Tournament, where visitors build a track as they race to the finish line. Visitors can also have their photo taken with a life-sized Santa made out of Lego blocks. The event takes place 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 10. Tickets are $19 for adults and $15 for children. Visit