12 Bars of Christmas (TBOX)
For the seventeenth year, Festa partygoers will hop from bar to bar throughout thirty-six participating establishments in Wrigleyville. More than 16,000 people joined last year, decked out in holiday-inspired attire and crazy-themed costumes. The event starts at 8am and ends at closing time, but going “wire-to-wire” during the nineteen-hour drinking marathon is not required. Cubby Bear hosts the opening and closing ceremonies. Bring a box of cereal, throw on a festive hat—or one relating to the TBOXOPOLY theme—and grab your friends for a fun holiday celebration. Visit festaparties.com/events/tbox-twelve-bars-of-xmas-aka-12-bars-of-xmas-chicago-pub-crawl for tickets. Saturday, Dec. 8.
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic
Let the holiday spirit overtake you as you walk through the sparkling lights, animated light figures and a laser light show. See animals in their indoor habitats and munch on a meal or a holiday treat at the campus restaurants. Watch holiday-themed musical performances, ice carving, magic shows and more. December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23 and 26-31. 300 Golf Road, Brookfield, (866)201-0784, 4pm-9pm.
Bucktown Holiday Art Show
The works of 100 artists will be on display for holiday shoppers to enjoy. Art in all forms—photography, fashion, paintings and pottery—will be sold at the fourteenth annual event. The show will feature vintage and handmade creations and a silent auction. Holstein Park Fieldhouse, 2200 North Oakley. December 8-9, noon-5pm. $2.
Caroling at Cloud Gate
Millennium Park will be buzzing with holiday cheer and festive tunes to hear. Choral groups from across the city will perform, and visitors are welcome to sing along. In its seventh season, caroling in the park has become a highly anticipated Chicago tradition. Join in the five-minute serenade and hop on the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in the park afterward. Friday evenings, November 23-December 21, 6 pm. Free.
Singalong, snacks and sweets will be provided for a festive gathering at the Art Institute of Chicago. Reservations required. 111 South Michigan, (312)553-9675. December 15-16, 2pm-4 pm. $20, $15/Children 12 and under.
Chicago Trolley Co. Holiday Lights Tour
Hop on the caroling sleigh ride and see all the sights and lights of the city. View the Magnificent Mile, State Street and the holiday windows at Macy’s, Navy Pier and Buckingham Fountain. Two highly anticipated stops include Lincoln Park’s Zoo Lights and the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza. (773)648-5000. November 23-December 23. $26/Adults, $19/Children under 12.
The traditional German-American holiday market is back for its fifteenth year in Chicago. The festival plants its Nuremberg roots and European heritage in the heart of the city at the Daley Plaza. Shop for authentic German gifts—like handcrafted ornaments, nutcrackers and beer steins—while experiencing German traditions and enjoying German delicacies. Shoppers can also find jewelry, toys, clothes, home décor and wooden creations. 50 West Washington, (312)494-2175. November 20-December 24. 11am-8pm, till 9pm Fridays and Saturdays. Free.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Gaze at the beautiful forty-five-foot Grand Tree in the rotunda and mosey around fifty more trees in the exhibit. The Grand Tree is adorned with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments, but instead of counting for yourself take a look at the other trees that were decorated by volunteers from various ethnic communities to represent their heritage and traditions. Weekday performances revolve around school children’s choirs and ethnic performers take the stage on the weekends for music and dancing shows. Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. November 15-January 6. 9:30am-4 pm. General admission for Chicago residents $13/Adults, $12/Seniors, $9/Children 3-11 years old.
City Hall Holiday Concerts
Chicago children’s choirs sing classic holiday songs, leaving a feeling of excitement and joyous jubilee buzzing in the air. The series begins December 3 and ends December 21, with concerts noon-1pm on weekdays. City Hall lobby. Free.
Daley Plaza Santa’s House
Pop into Santa’s workshop and visit the red-suited man at his interactive house. November 20-December 24. Check out the website for times. Free.
Enchanted Railroad Holiday Display
Get on track this holiday season and watch the model train loop through a scenic winter trail. This year, viewers can get right in the center of the action for a more intimate experience; the platform is lower so the stairs to see the exhibit have been removed. There are levels of trains and, as a new twist this year, one train will travel from the lower course to the upper course. While there are new changes, the water pond, enchantment tree and globe will make their annual appearance. Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, (630)968-0074. November 23-January 6. Free with admission ($12/Adults, $11/Seniors 65+, $9/Children under 17, Free/Children under 2; Discount Wednesdays).
Geneva Christmas Walk
Santa Lucia will grace Geneva with her presence on December 7 to kick-start the event at 6pm by arriving in a horse-drawn carriage and offering Swedish cookies to visitors. Santa will light the Great Tree and open his Gingerbread house at 6:30pm. Live in the Christmas carols as you enjoy roasted chestnuts, freshly made candy canes and serenades. Warm up with tea at the Congregational Church. December 7-8, 6pm. House tour of historic homes, December 7, 11am-8pm.; December 8, 11am-4pm. Geneva Chamber Office, (630)232-6060. $30.
Home for the Holidays with the Bourné Family
Watch the Bourné family take the stage as the harmonious nine sing carols and their own Christmas favorites. Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress, (312)341-2310. December 2, 8pm. $25-$35.
The Shedd Aquarium hosts a seasonal sprinkle of songs, a spin on their summer concert series. Live holiday music will play, carolers will sing in the galleries and cocktails and food will be served for fun at the museum. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 South Lake Shore, (312)939-2438. December 16-23, 5pm-9pm. $20. Admission includes admittance to the aquarium galleries, Wild Reef, Aboot Oceanarium, Polar Play Zone and the Jellies exhibit.
Take part in the Swedish festival, browse handicrafts at the fair, and enjoy traditional Swedish dishes. Swedish American Museum, 5211 North Clark. December 1-2, Saturday 10am–5 pm, Sunday 10am-5 pm. $2.
Lakeview Christmas Market
Christmas cheer is sure to be plentiful under the heated tent at this new event. Carolers from local schools will sing and bands will take the stage for live musical performances. Attendees can enjoy music, food, craft beers and warm drinks while perusing handmade arts and crafts. Keep the kids entertained with the art activities in Kids Korner or buy a Christmas tree (or wreath or garland) to spruce up your home. Proceeds benefit St. Luke Academy. St. Luke Academy, 1550 West Belmont. December 7-9. $5.
Macy’s Great Tree
Head up to the seventh floor’s Walnut Room to see or dine around the tree. Don’t forget to check out the window displays as you leave. 111 North State, (312)781-1000. November 18-March 11. Free.
McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade
Enormous helium balloons of characters we adore will dance in the sky and fantastic floats will crowd the streets. “American Idol”’s Haley Reinhart, a Wheeling native, will saunter down State in the parade this year. Other celebrity appearances include Jaslene Gonzalez of “American’s Next Top Model,” WWE Champion CM Punk and Those Funny Little People featured on “America’s Got Talent.” Parade route: State Street from Congress to Randolph. November 22. 8am-11am.
The Moscow Boys Choir—Christmas Around the World
The talent, selected from their school in Moscow, come together harmoniously for a holiday treat. James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, 19351 Washington, Grayslake, (847)543-2300. December 4.
29th Annual Music Box Christmas Show
This old-fashioned tradition lives on another season. Santa opens the night by leading the audience in Christmas carols—the words are projected on a screen so everyone can belt their favorites. Then a Christmas movie or two—”It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas”—will be shown for the remainder of the evening. Moviegoers are encouraged to sing along! Music Box Theatre, (773)871-6607. December 14-24. $10-$17.
Navidad En Mexico
This Chicago a cappella concert traces musical history from the Renaissance and Baroque eras to traditional Mexican music. Mexican composer/conductor Jorge Córdoba Valencia will act as guest music director. Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago, Evanston. December 1, 8pm.
Join 600 merchants as they share their handmade creations in the twelfth annual sale. In addition to browsing through ceramics, clothes, jewelry and works of art, visitors can meet the artists, attend demonstrations and workshops, grab a snack at the cafes, listen to live music and watch fashion shows. The Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, suite 470. (312)527-4141. December 6-9. $12/Adults, $9/Seniors, children under 12 free.
Randolph Street’s 6th Annual Holiday Market
Great finds and unique treasures await at the sixth annual market. Stylish vintage picks, adorable antiques and modern marvels are sold at very reasonable prices. Thrift pieces, classy keepsakes and custom-made goodies are available, as are free parking and free gift wrap. Plumbers Hall, 1340 West Washington. December 15-16; Saturday, 10am-6pm, Sunday, 10am-5 pm. General admission tickets $8 in advance online, $10 at the gate.
7th Annual Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market
Hundreds of talented, up-and-coming local designers will display and sell their work. Black Dog Gelato, Flying Saucer, Puffs of Doom, Jackalope Coffee and MANA Food Bar will provide delightful nibbles and treats. Event goers are invited to attend workshops, take goofy pictures in the photobooth and listen to live music from local DJs from Reckless Records, Dusty Groove and CHIRP Radio. If you feel inspired by the handcrafted gifts, head over to Yellow Owl Workshop’s DIY Gift Wrap Station and create your own paper with a stamp collection. Neuro Drinks and The Chicago Public Library will host a workshop where visitors can create their own t-shirts using their print transfers (proceeds from each shirt benefit the Chicago Public Library). Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 West Blackhawk. December 1-2, 11am-6pm.
Scrooge and Marley
Retold in film through a gay perspective, Ben Scrooge is the filthy rich protagonist who hates the holidays and mistreats the gay community. He is the owner of Screws musical cabaret in a gay neighborhood. Through time travel, Scrooge’s miserable past is exposed; the twist is that he was kicked out of his home one holiday for being gay. Music Box Theatre, 3725 North Southport, (773)617-2951. November 29-December 6.
Shedd Holiday Breakfasts
Enjoy tasty treats at the Shedd’s breakfast buffet. After you fill your stomach, sit back and watch the fifteen-minute “The Polar Express 4-D Experience” and participate in a drawing for a chance to win prizes. Santa will be in the Polar Play Zone , so take a photo with the jolly fellow and pick up your gift. The grand finale of the event is A Holiday Fantasea show. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 South Lake Shore Drive, (312)939-2438. December 8, 15, 22. $44.95/Adults, $34.95/Children.
Shop IN Chicago
Stay warm while browsing the collections of local clothing and jewelry designers at the Drake Hotel. If shopping doesn’t spread a happy blush of excitement across your face, the Dior Beauty team hosting free make-up application will. RSVP at raymiproductions.com is mandatory. Drake Hotel, 140 East Walton. December 11, 6pm-9pm.
St. Lucia Festival of Lights
Join in a parade, headed by a torch, snaking down the sidewalks of Clark Street. Be sure to keep an eye out for the selected “Lucia Girls,” who wear long white dresses with red sashes around their waists. They are easy to spot, wearing halo-like crowns infused with candles, and lead the parade while singing “The Lucia Song.” Then head into the Swedish American Museum for the Lucia celebration at 5:30pm. Hear the Lucia legend, listen to Christmas carols and enjoy special Swedish snacks like peppakakor ginger snaps. Swedish American Museum, 5211 North Clark, (773)728- 2995. December 13, 4:45pm. $1/Museum entrance fee, or one can of food to aid Edgewater’s food pantry Care for Real.
Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago
Miniature rooms depicting decades and eras from the past feature holiday décor and celebrate the rich traditions of the holidays. Several included rooms are the Pennsylvania Dutch room that celebrates German heritage, the English Great Hall of the Tudor Period and the modern-era California hallway. Check out the never-before-seen German Rococo Room. Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan. November 23-January 6. $18/Adults, $12/Students & Seniors, Free/Children under 14.
99th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Kick off the holiday season by lighting up the city. Musical performance by Gentleman’s Rule and holiday music from the Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” start at 4:30pm followed by the illumination of the city streets at 5pm when the switch is flipped. Daley Plaza, (312)744-3315. November 20. Free.
Unwrap Wicker Park Bucktown
In a united effort to promote local designers, boutiques and shops, Wicker Park, Bucktown and West Town invite everyone to check out these unique business districts for a holiday shopping spree. The first weekend of the event, free trolleys will be provided to transport people to several spots in the neighborhood as well as to Renegade Holiday Craft Fair. The city’s largest intertwined holiday shopping event will have holiday cheer, hot chocolate, festive tunes and decorations throughout the weekend. December 1-2, (773)384-2672.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra welcomes children and families to celebrate the holidays with its merry musical performance. The orchestra’s program has a lot in store: carols, choirs, sing-alongs and fun winter melodies. The festive decorations in the beautiful building will put anyone in the holiday spirit. Symphony Center, 220 South Michigan, (312)294-3329. December 14-16, 21-23.
10th Annual Winter Arts & Crafts Expo
Supporting the arts is the mission of Evanston Art Center. The holiday crafts fair hosted in Evanston will feature a selection of handmade jewelry, ceramics, fiber, metal, glass, painting, photography, mixed media and more. Proceeds from the expo will benefit Evanston Art Center’s exhibitions, scholarship and outreach programs. 2603 Sheridan Road, Evanston. Through December 19. Monday- Saturday, 10am-4pm, Sunday, noon-4pm.
Winter Holiday Craft Faire
Shop local at this gift fair and get inspired for the holiday season with holiday flower decorations. Santa will be the guest of honor, making a stop from his North Pole perch. The halls are decked with poinsettias, narcissus and evergreens. Bring on the gift lists! The conservatory is also hosting Breakfast, Lunch and Tea With Santa on December 1 and Santa Trolley Gingerbread Express. Oak Park Conservatory, 218 West Madison, (708)383-5702, Craft Fair December 2, 10am-4pm. Free.
Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
For family fun and reindeer games, look no further than Navy Pier’s holiday extravaganza. The 17,000-square-foot grounds includes a rink for skating, a hang-glider ride, an ice-ropes course, a carousel, climbing courses, a cookie-decorating station and a Ferris wheel. Board the Reindeer Express or bounce down an inflatable slide. Navy Pier, (312)595-5155. November 30-January 6. Check winterwonderfest.com for pricing and hours.
Watch miniature trains chug along tracks through villages that resemble Chicago landmarks. The miniature village is a marvel, created from all-natural materials. Other galleries house decorated trees and a gingerbread village. The entrance is lined with 750,000 lights that stretch throughout the courtyards. Carolers will perform on select days. Mrs. Claus will make an appearance December 8, with hot chocolate and cookies for all ($15-$20). Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, (847)835-5440. November 23-January 6, 10am-6pm. $8-$12. The garden will also host a Hanukkah concert. Tickets include admission to the concert and Winter Wonderland Express exhibit. December 9, 1pm and 3pm. $15-$20. The Christmas Brass Concert is December 22, 1pm and 3 pm. $15-$20. Free/Children under 2. Enjoy a breakfast buffet with Santa December 15. $22-$33, Free/Children under 2. Tickets include parking, breakfast, meeting Santa and access to Wonderland Express.
21st Annual Wreathing of the Lions
The iconic Chicago beasts that stand guard at the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue will don massive evergreen wreaths as the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band performs. Join Arte the Lion and sip on free hot chocolate as the lions are decked in festive garb. The first fifty people to attend will receive free admission to the art museum. November 23, 10am. Free.
Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Shimmering lights and sparkling decorations illuminate Lincoln Park Zoo throughout the holiday season. In addition to more than two million gleaming lights and festive flourishes, there are numerous activities to enhance the holiday experience: photos with Santa, free holiday crafts, live ice carving shows, carousel and train rides and music. Warm up with spiced wine or sip on chilled beers as you munch on snacks or enjoy dinner. The lights will shine brightly beginning November 23, then every Friday-Sunday until December 26. The lights stay on December 26 until January 6. Free.
—Compiled by Alexandra Delaney