By Susan Fong
The holiday season can be very busy with shopping and preparing to celebrate with family and friends, but it is important to take time to enjoy the festivities as well. The Chicago area provides attractions that help you experience the holidays in both the great outdoors and via indoor entertainment venues, offering multiple opportunities to find activities to enjoy during this busiest season of the year. The following is Gazette Chicago’s annual guide to the holidays.
The Chicago Transit Authority holiday fleet is returning. Both trains and buses will feature Santa, reindeer, and decorations. Go to www.transitchicago.com/holidayfleet/ for schedules and information.
This year Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza celebrates its 26th season through Sat., Dec. 24, and its fourth year at Wrigley Field’s Gallagher Way through Sat., Dec. 31. Visitors can explore more than 200 products from international vendors for a unique holiday shopping experience. Children and the young at heart can download games from Kinder Club activities. For more information about hours, vendors, and activities, go to www.christkindlmarket.com or www.gallagherway.com.
Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave., offers Christmas Candlelight Tours on Sat. and Sun., Dec. 10 and 11 and 17 and 18. These one-hour docent-led tours highlight late 19th century Christmas customs as observed by the Glessner family, with cider and cookies following the tour. For reservations and other information, go to www.glessnerhouse.org.
Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., will bring back the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for its 12th season. On Sat., Dec. 3, the Chamber Music Society will open with Leaping Leopold, a musical journey for young and old alike. On Thursday, Dec. 8, join soprano Patricia Racette with Patricia Sings Piaf. The Apollo Chorus continues the holiday tradition of Händel’s Messiah on Sat. and Sun., Dec. 10 and 11. The Chamber Music Society closes the holiday season at the theater on Wed., Dec. 14, with J.S. Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos. For reservations, go to harristheaterchicago.org.
Macy’s holiday traditions continue with the 115th annual Great Tree, the 54th annual Animated Holiday Windows, and 42 signature holiday trumpets that herald the holiday season above the windows along State Street through Sun, Jan. 1, 2023. This year the animated holiday windows at Macy’s State Street share the spirit of the holiday season with scenes of how we celebrate together with loved ones. Enjoy a great view of the Great Tree at the Walnut Room seventh-floor restaurant; book a time at OpenTable.com. Additional information and reservations also are available at MacysWalnutRoom.com.
Book your time to join the line for Santa at Macy’s and meet and snap a photo with Santa in person. Appointments required five days in advance of day of visit. Parties of up to six people are permitted, and all members must be listed when making reservations. Prefer to go virtual? Then visit Macy’s Santa at Home online through Sat., Dec. 24. Join Santa’s elves on a trip at the North Pole featuring fun activities along the way, plus chances to visit Santa’s Toy Shop, help the elves, and meet Santa himself. For more details or reservations, go to https://tinyurl.com/mtzj2mmt.
The City’s Christmas Tree in Millennium Park is a 55-foot Colorado blue spruce donated by the Glisovic family. Visit Millennium Park to see the tree shining brightly near the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street from now through Thursday, Jan. 5. The park is open daily, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Skate at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park through Sun., March 5 (weather permitting). Admission is free, but online tickets are required. Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events personnel will offer free skating lessons (reservations required) from 9 to 10 a.m. on most Saturdays and Sundays, teaching beginner and intermediate ice skating and hockey skills. Skate rental is available.
Join the Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along series every Fri. through Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.
Park hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. For information about where to enter and exit the park and other details, visit MillenniumPark.org.
Art on theMART projects images from the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker and Design Through the Decades onto the Merchandise Mart façade at 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza. Viewers can watch highlights from Joffrey’s Nutcracker set to music by Tchaikovsky as well as Design Through the Decades as images move through design history from the 1920s through the 2020s. Watch Art on theMART on the Riverwalk or from Wacker Drive between Wells and Franklin Streets nightly at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. through Fri., Dec. 30. Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, and nightly projections last 30 minutes. See https://artonthemart.com.
Joffrey Ballet returns with performances of the Nutcracker beginning Sat. Dec. 3, and running through Tues., Dec. 27, at Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr. Magic is on the horizon for young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince, thanks to a visit from the charming but mysterious Great Impresario. At the stroke of midnight on a snowy Christmas Eve, when the line between fantasy and reality blurs, Marie sets out on an unforgettable journey through Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair—a marvel of sights, sounds, and enchantment. This ballet in two acts is set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score. See Joffrey.org.
Auditorium Theatre will host a jazz-gospel performance of Handel’s Messiah on Sat. and Sun., Dec. 3 and 4, and Celtic Woman: A Christmas Symphony on Sun., Dec. 11. The theatre is at 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr. Call (312) 341-2300.
Chicago a cappella’s Holidays a cappella has become an annual tradition for lovers of great vocal music. Each year the ensemble chooses and arranges a new program of music—so this season you can expect something fresh, fun, and inspirational. Hanukkah a cappella is brand new this year. It features works by eight living Jewish composers, from heartfelt prayers to jazzy and playful holiday tunes. For dates, locations, and times, visit www.chicagoacappella.org.
The Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The landmark building is home to two stained-glass domes as well as free music, dance and theater events, films, lectures, art exhibitions, and family events. Every year, the Chicago Cultural Center presents hundreds of free international, national, regional and local artists, musicians, and performers, providing a showcase where the public can enjoy and learn about the arts. For a calendar of events, current exhibitions, and concerts, go to www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_culturalcenter.html.
The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts at the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, 55 E. Wacker Dr. will be held Wednesdays from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Upcoming piano concert dates are Dec. 7 with Canadian performer Ilya Poletaev and Dec. 14 with Reed Tetzloff. For more information, check the International Music Foundation website at http://imfchicago.org/calendar/dame-myra-hess-memorial-concerts-calendar.
Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., on Sat., Dec. 24, 8 to 9:30 p.m. and 10 to 11:30 p.m., will present a Service of Lessons and Carols, a traditional retelling of the Christmas story in carols and readings with congregational singing as well as music for choir, brass, and organ, culminating in singing Silent Night in the candlelit sanctuary. For more information, visit www.fourthchurch.org/advent-christmas.
Malcolm X College 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., will hold its 16th annual Kwanzaa celebration on Mon., Dec. 26, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Enjoy a procession and drum call at noon, live performances, and shopping with local artisans. Entertainment includes the Najwa Dance Corps and vocalist Joan Collasco. Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African American culture held from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. For more details, contact Veronica Resa at [email protected].
Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Ave., will host its annual Sing-Along Messiah on Sun., Dec. 11 at 3:30 p.m. Featuring soloists, organ music, and an 18-piece orchestra, the church will be filled with the sounds of Handel’s Christmas favorite. Singers and choristers are especially welcome, and admission is free. Messiah scores will be available for purchase. A festive holiday reception will follow the concert. All are welcome.
The church will hold its last 2022 Sounds of the South Loop concert on Sat., Dec. 17, at 7:30 p.m. with the Gaudete Brass Chamber Quintet. Call (312) 225-4951 or log on to www.2ndPresbyterian.org.
Join the festivities at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., both in person and online. See highlights of museum exhibitions and special events or explore the permanent collection online, featuring thousands of artworks. Begin your cultural holiday at www.artic.edu or call (312) 443-3600.
The Chicago Architecture Center, 111 E. Wacker Dr., presents City in a Snow Globe, a series of imagined worlds consisting of five individual scale models of winter scenes. Accompanying the second-floor exhibition will be a display on the first floor featuring more than two dozen snow globes from local designers and architecture firms around the theme of Embracing Chicago Winters. For more information, visit www.architecture.org. or call (312) 922-3432.
Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., is open Thurs., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Fri. through Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The new Art Studio Experience creates a space for little ones to play, explore, and have fun. Studio activities, led by the museum’s arts educators, offer opportunities for children and families to explore diverse art forms, processes, styles, approaches, and artists. Bring the kids and enjoy many educational and creative opportunities such as play labs for children. Visit new installations such as Boats and the Tinkering Lab. For a complete listing, go to www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org.
The Chicago Museum of Illusions, 25 E. Washington St., is open Mon. through Thurs., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fri. through Sun., 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Illusions challenge us to see things differently and reveal much about how our brains interpret reality. Across more than 80 visual and educational exhibits, the museum presents holograms, stereograms, optical illusions, and immersive rooms designed to tease the senses and trick the mind. For ticket information, go to www.museumofillusions.us or call (312) 722-6780.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St., on Sun., Dec. 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will offer Santa and Aunt Holly Are Coming To Town. Share your wish list with Santa, then join Aunt Holly and Elf Amy for a round of story and song. Tickets include admission for the day. Enjoy the free song outside the museum on Thurs., Dec. 22, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. or reserve a ticket for admission and be serenaded inside the museum. Follow the museum’s social media channels for highlights on current exhibitions, the museum’s collections, and new developments or go to https://driehausmuseum.org/programs.
The Field Museum, 1400 S. Du Sable Lake Shore Dr., offers Wild Colors, an exhibit exploring the amazing variety of color found in nature and the information it communicates to the surrounding world. This highly interactive program highlights the science behind nature’s colors. The museum offers many other traveling and permanent shows in the natural world, so dig into the stories behind the science at www.fieldmuseum.org. Call (312) 922-9410 for more information.
The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr. Join the museum for the 80th anniversary of Christmas Around the World. The museum’s annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of 50 trees, decorated by volunteers to represent holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. Also, families can explore Holidays of Light, which displays symbolic objects to showcase celebrations honoring light and enlightenment, including Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day, and St. Lucia Day. Holidays of Light is located among the trees throughout the museum’s main floor. Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light are open through Sun., Jan. 8. For a complete list of programs over the holidays, go to www.msichicago.org.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, connects children of all ages to nature and science. Enjoy a variety of programs and activities, such as Critter Connections, creative art lessons, and outdoor explorations. Go to https://naturemuseum.org or call (773) 755-5100.
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr., offers a new show teaching about aquatic life called Look Nature in the Eye. Advance timed ticket purchase is required. See www.sheddaquarium.org.
OUTDOOR FAMILY FUN
At Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr., ZooLights illuminates the zoo with dazzling lights and dynamic displays. Festive activities include visits with Santa, live ice carving, the return of a Ferris wheel, a light tunnel on the Main Mall, a new Chicago skyline display at Eadie Levy’s Landmark Café, a holiday pop-up bar, and a re-envisioned Candyland Light Show on the crowd-favorite Winter Wonderlawn. All guests, including children and infants, must have a ticket to enter ZooLights, and groups must consist of ten or fewer people. Tickets cost $5 per guest with funds supporting Lincoln Park Zoo’s dedication to wildlife and conservation. Returning this year for the first time since 2019 will be a Ferris wheel to allow riders to marvel at the lights from above. One $4 ticket is required per guest per attraction for most attractions; the Ferris wheel requires two tickets per guest. ZooLights runs from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 2-14, 16-23, 26-31, and Jan. 1. For information, call (312) 742-2000 or visit www.lpzoo.org.
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave. is open Wed., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (last entry at 6:30 p.m.); Thur. through Sun. ,10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 3:30 p.m.); and closed Mon. and Tues. The Winter Flower Show returns to the Garfield Park Conservatory Show House with the exhibit Snow Day! celebrating childhood joy. With a variety of textures and hues of white, silver, and pink, this wintry exhibit creates an illusion of a snow-covered garden. The show also will feature a 12-foot tree made from more than 200 white poinsettias. Winter Flower Show: Snow Day! runs through Sun., Jan. 8, and admission is included with every reservation. Reservations are free, but required to enter. Log on to https://garfieldconservatory.org/ for more information.
Navy Pier Light up the Lake, Chicago’s largest indoor lights experience, is back for the holidays. Daily through Sat., Jan. 7, you can experience the magic with interactive light displays, a whimsical skating rink, journeys through the Winter Wonderfest Forest, and visits with Santa. Go to www.navypier.org for tickets.
The Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park creates a multi-sensory activity integrated into the landscape. Tickets are required. Log on to www.millenniumpark.org or http://maggiedaleypark.com/things-to-do-see/skating-ribbon/.
THEATER AND STAGE PERFORMANCES: STREAMING
American Blues Theater at Chopin
Theater, 1543 W. Division St., will present It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago, the second longest running holiday play in Chicago. Now celebrating its 19th year, the show presents the cast recreating a 1940s radio broadcast in Bedford Falls with an original score, sound effects, and holiday carols. Performances run through Fri., Dec. 23. Run time is 90 minutes, with no intermission. Tickets range from $25 to $55 plus an additional fee. Call the box office at (773) 654-3103 or go to www.americanbluestheater.com.
Blue Man Group, 3133 N Halsted St., offers a dynamic combination of art, music, comedy, and technology. Blue Man Group encourages audiences to reconnect with their inner child to see the world through a new perspective. Join the fun and be surprised. Log on to https://www.blueman.com/chicago/buy-tickets or call (773) 348-4000.
Chicago’s Cadillac Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., presents the Lion King, a musical adaptation of the 1994 Disney animated film featuring Elton John’s music and Timothy Rice’s lyrics. The show runs through Sat., Jan. 14. For tickets, go to https://cadillacpalacetheatre.com.
At Chicago Children’s Theatre, 170 S. Racine Ave., adorable Beatrix Potter favorites come to life in an interactive trunk and puppet show, complete with original music. Storytellers interweave classic narration and guide gentle interactive moments. After the show, head to the lobby for a festive spread of holiday treats. Go to https://chicagochildrenstheatre.org for information.
Chicago Human Rhythm Project will offer Holiday Rhythms on Tues., Dec 12, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct. Jumaane Taylor directs and connects us to the Jazz Hoofing Quintet’s marriage of tap dance with live jazz music. For reservations, go to www.chicagotap.org/event-details/holiday-rhythms-2022 or call (773) 655-1175.
Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn St., presents its 45th annual production of A Christmas Carol through Sat., Dec. 31. A mix of returning and new cast members creates the magic of Charles Dickens’s classic and this Chicago holiday favorite. For tickets, go to www.goodmantheatre.com.
Lookingglass Theater, 821 N. Michigan Ave., is streaming The Steadfast Tin Soldier, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story about a little tin soldier who never gives up, through Sun., Jan 8. The show is written and directed by Mary Zimmerman. Run time is one hour. For a complete show listing, go to www.lookingglasstheatre.org.
Second City, 1660 N. Wells St., has What the Elf? as its holiday programming along with its other sketch and improv comedy offerings. What the Elf? runs Thurs. through Sun. until Sun., Jan. 1. Log on to www.secondcity.com.
Carl Sandburg Village Condominiums, 1355 N. Sandburg Ter., will host the Immersive Nutcracker in a presentation using state-of-the-art technology that puts the audience right in the middle of the action—a full 360-degree, 3D sensory experience. Visitors will find themselves in the midst of this holiday wonder surrounded by the magic of the Nutcracker as it unfolds before and around them. Log on to www.immersive-nutcracker.com.
The Magic Parlor at the Palmer House, 17 E. Monroe St., features Chicago magician and mind reader Dennis Watkins. The third-generation magician and mentalist captivates the audience with classic sleight of hand, mind reading, and wonder-filled wisdom. Tickets now available online. For more information or to make reservations, log on to www.themagicparlourchicago.com.
CIBC Theatre will host A Magical Cirque Christmas from Tues., Dec. 6 through Sun., Dec. 11 at 18 W. Monroe St. Cirque acrobats perform, accompanied by holiday music. Call (312) 977-1700.