Chicago offers holiday delights to make the season bright
December 5, 2013

By Nada Shamah and William S. Bike

The holiday season can be extremely busy with shopping and preparing to celebrate with family and friends, but it is important to take time for fun, too. The Chicago area provides attractions that help you experience the holidays in both the great outdoors and in warm indoor entertainment venues that will help you enjoy the most festive season of the year.


The 125-voice Apollo Chorus of Chicago will perform Handel’s Messiah, featuring Baroque period music complete with soloists and an orchestra. Performances will be held at 3 p.m. on the Saturdays of Dec. 7 at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., and Dec. 21 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr. Tickets are $40 to $75. Call (312) 427-5620 or visit

New this year for the Chicago Loop Alliance is the organization’s Holiday Hub, a cozy winter cottage on the pedway level of Block 37, 108 N. State St. The hub offers music; holiday stories; crafts; food; and information on Loop events, dining, and directions. The hub is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. through Sat. and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun., now through Tues., Dec. 24. For more information call (312) 782-9160 or log on to

The John Hancock Observatory is hosting Santa in the Sky for the holiday season. Photos will be taken with jolly St. Nic.
Inspired by the Nuremberg Christmas market that began in 1545, Christkindlmarket offers handmade gifts, ornaments, European fabrics, German delicacies, and spiced wine. It operates through Tues., Dec. 24, from 11 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. Visit

Daley Plaza also features Chicago’s official Christmas tree, a tradition in the city since 1913 and in the plaza since 1966. 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. Santa House is open every Fri. through Sun., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Tue., Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, see

Guests can take a docent-led tour highlighting Christmas customs and decorations of the past
at the Clarke House Museum, 1827 S. Indiana Ave., and Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave. Tickets for one house are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and students, $6 for children ages five through 12, and free for children younger than five. For both houses, ticket prices are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children ages five through 12, and free for children younger than five. Call (312) 326-1480.

The John Hancock Observatory is hosting Santa in the Sky for the holiday season. There will be no formal breakfast or reservations as in the past, but the Lavazza Espression Café will be open for hot chocolate, specialty coffees, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries. Youngsters and families can receive a 3” x 5” photo with Santa; visits with Santa will be first come, first served. Santa in the Sky will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sat. and Sun. through Dec. 22, with an extra day added for Tues, Dec. 24. Tickets range from $12 to $18, and are free for children younger than three. Visit

Every Sat. and Sun. through Sat., Dec. 21, Macy’s, 111 N. State St., will host a Santa breakfast, where families can eat and have their picture taken with Santa. Reservations required; tickets cost $19.95 per person and $13.95 for children younger than ten. There will be a special dinner with Santa on Friday, Dec. 20; tickets are $29.95 for adults and $17.95 for children younger than ten. Call (877) 556-2297. Children also are invited to visit and get their picture taken with Santa daily through Tues., Dec. 24, on the fifth floor.

Macy’s windows this year have the theme The Magic of Christmas, emphasizing the Marshall Field’s traditions of years past; one window features the Frango Factory. The windows will be decorated for Christmas through Sun., Jan. 5. Viewing is free.


The Chicago a capella classical vocal ensemble will perform holiday music including traditional European and American carols, Christmas spirituals, folk songs, and Hanukkah tunes Sat., Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. at St. Clement Church, 642 W. Deming Pl.; Sun., Dec. 8, at 4 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St., Oak Park; and Sat., Dec. 14, at 8 p.m., at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave. Visit or call (773) 281-7820.

The Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., will host free holiday concerts and performances throughout December in Preston Bradley Hall.

The Sunday Salon will feature a piano performance Dec. 8 and the Protégé Philharmonic Dec. 15, both at 3 p.m.

On Classical Mondays at 12:15 p.m., there will be a Latino Music Fest Dec. 9 and a performance by the Juliani Ensemble Dec. 16.

The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts every Wed. at 12:15 p.m. present solo and ensemble performances of classical music by young musicians.

Organized by the International Music Foundation, the Live Music Now! Latin Jazz Christmas Concert will be held Thursday, Dec. 12, at 10:30 a.m. and noon.

For information on all Chicago Cultural Center events, call (312) 744-6630 or log on to

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events will present Caroling at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park at Chase Promenade Central, Michigan Avenue at Randolph Street, on the Fridays of Dec. 6, 13, and 20 at 6 p.m. Choral groups will perform, and visitors are invited to participate in a sing-along. Following the 50-minute caroling session, audience members are encouraged to skate at the park’s ice rink.

Among the many special concerts planned for December, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, 220 S. Michigan Ave., will once again perform Welcome Yule! on Sat., Dec. 14 and 21, at 3 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 15 and 22, at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 20, at 7 p.m.; and Mon., Dec. 23, at 3 p.m. Enjoy new arrangements, cherished carols, and some musical surprises. Join the fun with sing-alongs and rollicking tunes, including one called Christmas in Chicago. For information, call (312) 294-3000 or visit

The City Hall Holiday Concert Series will showcase children’s choirs from all over the city performing in the City Hall first floor lobby, 121 N. LaSalle St., every weekday through Fri., Dec. 20, from noon to 1 p.m.

Caroling at Cloud Gate will be featured in Millennium Park.
The Hyde Park Youth Symphony, featuring the Hyde Park Neighborhood Choir, will perform a free concert at 4 p.m. on Sun., Dec. 15, at Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn Ave. Call (773) 363-6063.

The Anthony Kawalkowski Orchestra will present the Love and Peace of Christmas, a Christmas show featuring a full orchestra; vocalists; sing-alongs; and appearances by the Children’s Drum Corps, the Inspired Youth Choir, and Santa Claus, at 2 p.m., Sun., Dec.15, at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. For ticket information, call (877) 987-6487 or visit

The Lakeside Singers will perform a Christmas concert featuring Josie Falbo from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St. Call (847) 382-5085 or see

Musichorale, a Chicago area community choir, will host a Christmas concert at Trinity Christian College, 6601 W. College Dr., Palos Heights, IL, at 3:20 p.m. Sun., Dec. 8. Tickets are $12 in advance or $14 at the door. Call (312) 409-6661 or visit

The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, 2520 N. Lakeview Ave. will feature Christmas carols played by harpist Penny Currier on Tues., Dec. 24, at 4:30 p.m., preceding the 5 p.m. Mass, and on Wed., Dec. 25, at 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., also preceding Masses. Call (773) 360-5115 or log on to

Second Presbyterian Church will offer a sing-along Messiah on Sun., Dec. 8, at 3:30 p.m., featuring the Sounds of the South Loop Players. Admission is free, but offerings for the Greater Chicago Food Depository are welcome. A holiday reception will follow. The church is located at 1936 S. Michigan Ave. Call (312) 225-4951 or log on to


The Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute, 111 S. Michigan Ave., will showcase holiday decorations and traditions of the past through Wed., Jan. 8, with 11 rooms dressed in holiday finery. This year, the 1930s French library shows off art deco holiday glamour.

A new long-term loan, a miniature replica of the breakfast room of Frank Lloyd Wright’s William Martin House in Oak Park, is being shown for the first time. An English drawing room of the Victorian period features a Christmas tree. For more information visit or call (312) 443-3600.

Snow Much Fun, the Chicago Children’s Museum’s winter experience exhibit, continues through Sun., Jan. 5. This indoor snowy cityscape features a variety of indoor activities, including Pretend You’re on Ice, with an “ice” rink open all day that is the perfect place for children to skate in socks and practice spinning and sliding. Winter Snow Essentials features sleds, shovels, and more than 200 big “ice” blocks for building impassable snow forts and castles. Stylish Snowmen allows youngsters to dress an entire family of snowpeople. Snowball Fun offers more than 1,000 “snowballs” for a family-friendly snowball fight. The museum is located at Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave. For more information, visit or call (312) 527-1000.

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St., is showing stained glass, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, and paintings by Louis Comfort Tiffany through Sun., June 29. For more information, call (312) 482-8933 or log on to

The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., will host a Kwanzaa candle lighting celebration from noon to 1 p.m. every day from Thurs., Dec. 26, through Tues., Dec. 31. Call (773) 947-0600, ext. 255, or log on to

With winter now upon us, visitors to the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., can discover an even colder, icier world with Titans of the Ice Age 3-D, set thousands of years before modern civilization. The presentation runs through Tues., Dec. 31. Other exhibitions include Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence through Sun., Jan. 5; Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair, through Sun., Sept. 7; and Images of the Afterlife featuring Egyptian mummies through Mon., Jan. 20. The museum is located at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. Call (312) 922-9410 or visit

The Loyola University Cuneo Museum and Gardens grounds and interior at 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Vernon Hills, IL, sport scenic lights and decorations in the museum’s annual Winter Wonderland holiday light show. Families can drive through the 97-acre property to enjoy the show from 6 to 10 p.m. through Sat. Jan. 4 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.) The cost is $10 per car on weekends and $5 per car on weeknights. Call (847) 362-3042 or visit

Now in its 72nd year, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light exhibits feature more than 50 trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent their cultures and holiday traditions and a 45-foot Grand Tree with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments. School choral groups perform during the week, and ethnic song and dance performances take place on weekends. The exhibit runs through Sun., Jan. 5. The museum is located at located at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. Call (773) 684-1414 or visit

The annual winter camp at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., for children ages four through eight will allow youngsters to create nature-inspired art, enjoy live animal encounters, and play in the snow. The camp runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mon. and Tue., Dec. 30 and 31, and on Thurs. and Fri., Jan. 2 and 3. The cost for members is $50 per day and $150 for all four days; non-member fees are $65 per day and $200 for all four days. Visit or call (773) 755-5100.

The Lakeside Singers will perform a Christmas concert featuring Josie Falbo at Fourth Presbyterian Church.
The John G. Shedd Aquarium becomes a watery winter wonderland with the return of its Holiday Fantasea aquatic show Fri., Sat., and Sun. through Dec. 22 and daily from Mon. through Sat, Dec. 23 through 28 (except Christmas Day). See dolphins leap, hear beluga whales sing, and watch a sea lion dance. The aquarium is located at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. Call (312) 939-2438 or visit


The Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus Co. celebrates the season with the Holiday Lights Tour, which runs Fri. through Sun. evenings through Sun., Dec. 22, and then every day Thurs. through Tues., Dec. 26 through 31. Beginning and ending the tour at the John Hancock Plaza tree at 875 N. Michigan Ave., the trolley whisks passengers through the festive lights and holiday spectacles of wintertime in Chicago, including views of the Magnificent Mile, State Street and Macy’s holiday windows, Navy Pier’s Winter Wonderfest, and stops at the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza and Lincoln Park’s ZooLights. Tickets are now on sale, $29 for adults and $19 for kids. Log on to or call (773) 648-5000.

Lincoln Park Zoo is hosting the winter festival ZooLights featuring two million lights, holiday activities and crafts through Sun. Jan. 5. Activities include a new route with even more lights, photos with Santa through Mon., Dec. 23, animal encounters, new 3-D displays, live ice carving, carousel and train rides, and a musical light show. The free event runs Fri. through Sun. Dec. 6 to 8; Fri., Dec. 13, through Mon. Dec. 23; and Thurs, Dec. 26, through Sun., Jan. 5. The zoo is located at 2200 N. Cannon Dr. Call (312) 742-2000 or visit

The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, which draws more than 100,000 skaters annually, is free and open to the public. The rink is located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets and will remain open through Sun., March 9. Skate rental is available for $10. Skating lessons are offered at 11 a.m. Fri. through Sun. Visit

Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., hosts its annual Winter WonderFest, which presents a 170,000-squarefoot holiday-themed winter playground featuring music, indoor ice skating, hang gliding, a ropes obstacle course, inflatable slides, carnival rides, an indoor Ferris wheel, a create-a-cookie cottage, and a reindeer express train ride. While there, enjoy family friendly shows by jugglers, magicians, and musicians. The fest runs Fri., Dec. 6, through Sun., Jan. 12. There will be a fireworks show Tues., Dec. 31, at midnight. Call (800) 595-7437 or visit

While visiting 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 Mag Mile InstaGreeter tours. The free tour highlights not only North Michigan Avenue but Streeterville and the south end of the Gold Coast. Groups depart from the Visitor Information Center at the Chicago Water Works at 163 E. Pearson St. each Fri. and Sat. through Dec. 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Loop InstaGreeter tours are available year round, Fri. through Sun., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., departing from the Chicago Cultural Center Visitor Center at 77 E. Randolph St. Call (312) 945-4231 or visit

The Spirit of Chicago will host a lunch with Santa cruise on Sat. and Sun., Dec. 14 and 15, from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. featuring a buffet, music and dancing, and views of the city’s lakefront and skyline from warm, climate-controlled decks. Boarding begins at 12:30 p.m. at Navy Pier. Reservations are required, and tickets are $42.90 for adults and $25.95 for children. Call (866) 273-2469 or visit

The John G. Shedd Aquarium becomes a watery winter wonderland with the return of its Holiday Fantasea aquatic show.


The American Blues Theater is presenting It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago through Sun., Dec. 29. The play is set in a 1940s-style radio broadcast of Frank Capra’s holiday classic, with live sound effects and an original score. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. every Thurs. through Sat., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee every Sun. at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets prices from $19 to $49. Call (773) 404-7336 or visit

Through Broadway in Chicago, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, adapted from the famous 1964 television special, is being performed through Sun., Dec. 29, at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St. Elf the Musical, the story of Buddy, an orphan raised as an elf by Santa who travels to New York to find his father and help the city remember the true meaning of Christmas, will be performed through Sun., Dec. 15, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St. Call (312) 977-1710 or log on to

Chicago Tap Theatre presents Tidings of Tap! featuring dances and music to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fri. and Sat., Dec. 13 and 14, and at 3 p.m. Sun., Dec. 15, at the University of Illinois at Chicago Theatre, 1044 W. Harrison St. Tickets are $35 for adults, $27 for seniors, and $22 for students and dancers. Group discounts available. Call (773) 655-1175 or log on to

Emerald City Theatre’s production of Llama Llama will run through Sun., Jan. 5, and Rapunzel will be performed through Sat., Jan. 4, at the Apollo Theatre, 2450 N. Lincoln Ave. Call (773) 529-2690 or log on to

The Gift Theatre Christmas production is Merry Christmas! (Stranger Things Have Happened), a sketch comedy review written and performed by the improv team Natural Gas. The production runs Thurs. through Sat., through Dec.14, at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. Log on to or call (773) 283-7071.

For the 36th year, the Goodman Theatre brings A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to the stage with an all-Chicago cast of 28. This holiday classic tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who will be played for the sixth time by Larry Yando. Performances run through Sat., Dec. 28, in the Goodman’s Albert Theatre. Tickets can be purchased by calling (312) 443-3800 or at the theater’s box office, 170 N. Dearborn St. Visit

A Sack Full of Coal, Whisky Wry Productions’ sketch comedy about Christmas commercialization, awkward gift exchanges, and the “War on Christmas,” will be performed Sat., Dec. 7 and 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets are $15. Call (773) 598-4549 or log on to

The Joffrey Ballet will once again host The Nutcracker, which features dazzling costumes, an extravagant set, and Robert Joffrey’s original choreography. There will be 23 performances from Fri., Dec. 6, through Sat., Dec. 28. Performance times vary from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. All performances take place at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Call (312) 386-8905 or visit

Lil’ Buds Theatre Co. will present Those Silly Reindeer Thurs., Dec. 12, through Sun., Dec. 29. Shows are Fri. and Sat. at 6:30 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. With temperatures rising at the North Pole, Santa sends Jack the Bird and LeeLee the Christmas Tree to find Holli the Snow Princess to cool things down so the reindeer can fly. Performances are at the Rivendell Theater, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Call (773) 334-4543 or log onto

Christmas Dearest, a comedy about actress Joan Crawford trying to save a movie in which she is scheduled to play the Virgin Mary, is being performed Thurs. through Sun. until Sun., Dec. 29 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Call (773) 784-6969.

Lincoln Park Zoo is hosting the winter festival ZooLights featuring two million lights, activities, holiday crafts, and photos with Santa Claus.
The heartwarming tale The Christmas Schooner, about the first ship to sail to Chicago bringing Christmas trees, is being performed Wed. through Sun. until Sun., Dec. 29, at the Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport Ave. Call (773) 325-1700 or log on to

Provision Theater Co. is presenting A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote, running Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 3 p.m. through Dec. 29 at Provision Theatre, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. The stories tell the adventures of seven-year-old Buddy and his elderly cousin, Miss Sook Falk. For young audiences, Provision is offering The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Sat. and Sun. through Dec. 22, noon and 2 p.m. on Sat. and 12:30 p.m. on Sun. Call (312) 455-0065 or log on to

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose will be performed from Thurs., Dec. 12, through Sun., Dec. 29, at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Call (773) 338-2177 or log on to Redmoon brings to life a new mythical story in its 15th annual winter pageant, Fri. through Sun., Dec. 13 through 15 and 20 through 22, at its space at 2120 S. Jefferson St. A family-friendly show with a cast of 40 performers, the dialoguefree production uses silent film style title cards; hip-hop, Indian, and Southeast Asian dance; puppets; shadow play; aerial acrobatics; and live, original music. Call (312) 850-8440, ext. 123, or log on to

Remy Bumppo Theatre will present The Chimes, a little known Christmas comedy-drama by Charles Dickens in which a poor man upset with the world has his outlook changed by the spirits of church bells and their goblin attendants. The show will be performed at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Sat., Dec. 21 and 28, at 4 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22 and 29, at 7 p.m.; and Tue., Dec. 31, at 4 p.m. Call (773) 404-7336 or log on to

The Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St., is the site for the comedy Christmas Bingo: It’s a Ho-Ho Holy Night by Vicki Quade, creator of Late Nite Catechism. Performances are Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 3 p.m. through Sun., Jan. 5. Call (312) 988-9000 or log on to

The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Show will be performed Tues. through Mon., Dec. 9 through 30, featuring songs and new and classic sketches. The theater is located at 1616 N. Wells St. Call (312) 337-3992 or visit

Navy Pier hosts its annual Winter WonderFest, which presents a 170,000- square-foot holiday themed winter playground.


Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., is showing its holiday flower display in Horticulture Hall through Sun., Jan. 5. Voices of the Season, a singalong throughout the conservatory, will be performed from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7. Call (312)
746-5100 or log on to

The three-day Illinois Artisans Chicago Holiday Art Spree will be held in the Illinois Artisans Shop, Thompson Center atrium, 100 W. Randolph St., from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wed. through Fri., Dec. 18 through 20, when visitors can buy Illinois-made jewelry, paintings, ceramics, and other art. For information call (312) 814-1794 or log on to

Tree House Humane Society, 1212 W. Carmen Ave., will host its 14th annual Lights of Love open house and lighting ceremony. Purchase a tribute light in honor or memory of a loved one or beloved pet, with all proceeds supporting Tree House’s efforts to rescue stray cats. The event will be held Sat., Dec. 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. There also will be a bake sale, food, entertainment, and a candlelight procession. Suggested donation is $5 or cat or dog food. Call (773) 784-5488, ext. 231, or log on to

The Office of Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas shows more than 80 three-foot Christmas trees and religious items reflecting the Chicago area’s ethnic diversity in her annual Holiday Trees from Around the World exhibit in Room 112 of the Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark St., Chicago. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the trees will be on display through Mon., Jan. 6. Call (312) 443-5100 or log on to