32 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Chicago-Style - NBC Chicago
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32 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Chicago-Style

Chicago is embracing the winter season with a full list of traditions you can incorporate into your own holiday celebrations



    Chicago's Holiday Traditions Begin

    Several holiday traditions kick off in Chicago this weekend. LeeAnn Trotter reports. (Published Friday, Nov. 20, 2015)

    Though the holiday season ushers in shorter days, Chicago is not a city shrouded in darkness. Millions of lights decorate the streets, businesses, parks and zoos and illuminate the city and its myriad of holiday activities.

    Chicago's holiday traditions include everything from theatrical performances, comedy shows, and ballets, to caroling and ice skating downtown.

    Take a look at these events happening in and around Chicago that could become part of your own holiday tradition.

    The Annoyance Christmas Pageant
    When: Select days from Nov. 6 to Dec. 18
    Where: Mainstage at The Annoyance Theater, 851 W. Belmont Ave.
    Hours: Either at 8 p.m. or 3 p.m. depending on the day
    Admission: $18 for adults, $14 for children under 12
    What It's About: This comedy show retells two classic holiday stories: A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by giving them a hilarious yet still family-friendly life on stage.

    Macy’s Holiday Windows
    When: Nov. 7 to Jan. 10, 2016
    Where: Macy’s State Street, 111 North State Street
    Hours: Lit into the evening
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: This is the 48th year of the Holiday Windows and this year’s theme features “Santa’s Journey to the Stars” as it follows the adventures of a young boy named Alex. With the help of his telescope, Alex experiences the wonders of Christmas on other planets before landing back on Earth at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    The Great Tree at the Walnut Room
    When: Nov. 7 to Jan. 10, 2016
    Where: The Walnut Room on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street, 111 North State Street
    Hours: Vary depending on week, earliest opening time is 8 a.m. and latest closing time is 10 p.m.
    Admission: Price of a meal
    What It's About: The Great Tree is over 45 feet tall and features more than 2,000 ornaments and 6,600 sparkling lights. The tree has been a holiday tradition for 108 years. The Walnut Room also offers Breakfast with Santa in the Narcissus Room on select days with tickets available for purchase online.

    McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
    When: Nov. 13 to March 6, 2016
    Where: Millennium Park, on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets
    Hours: Monday to Thursday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 12 p.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday (Nov. 14 - Jan. 2) 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday (Jan. 9 - March 5) 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Check for special holiday hours and ice skating lesson times.
    Admission: Free to skate. Skate rentals cost $12, lockers are available for $1, skate sharpening is $9 and ice skating lessons are free.
    What It's About: The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink draws 100,000 ice skaters annually.

    Charlie Brown Christmas – The Musical
    When: Nov. 14 - Jan. 3
    Where: Broadway Playhouse, Water Tower Place, 175 East Chestnut Street
    Hours: Nov. 21 - 22 at 10 a.m., Nov. 27 - 29 at 10 a.m., Dec. 5 - 6 at 10 a.m., Dec. 12 - 13 at 10 a.m., Dec. 19 - 23 at 10 a.m. with a second show on Dec. 21 at 1 p.m., Dec. 26 - 31 at 10 a.m., Jan. 2 - 3 at 10 a.m.
    Admission: $37 to $368 depending on day and location in the theater
    What It's About: Charlie Brown and his friends rediscover the true meaning of Christmas by creating a special holiday pageant.

    A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theater
    When: Nov. 14 - Dec. 27
    Where: The Goodman Theater, 170 North Dearborn Street
    Hours: Shows at 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. depending on day
    Admission: $52 to $314 depending on day and location in the theater
    What It's About: Celebrate the season with Charles Dickens’ classic tale. Watch miserly Ebenezer Scrooge undergo his holiday transformation as he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

    A Christmas Carol at the Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace
    When: Nov. 18 - Dec. 23
    Where: Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace, 100 Drury Lane
    Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday matinees at 10 a.m., Wednesday matinee at 10 a.m. and evening performance at 7 p.m., Friday performances at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., Saturday performance at 12 p.m.
    Admission: $33 to $314 depending on location in theater and performance day and time
    What It's About: Celebrate the season with Charles Dickens’ classic tale. Watch miserly Ebenezer Scrooge undergo his holiday transformation as he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

    Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
    When: Nov. 19, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2016
    Where: Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
    Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas
    Admission: Adults $18, children ages 3 - 11 $11, seniors 65+ $17. There are several ticket packages and memberships available.
    What It's About: This tradition dates from 1942 and features a 45 foot Grand Tree surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent a variety of cultures and holiday traditions.

    Burning Bluebeard at the Den Theatre
    When: Nov. 19, 2015 – Jan. 10, 2016
    Where: The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
    Hours: show start times vary depending on day, show start at 3 p.m., and 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
    Admission: $28- $36 depending on the day
    What It's About: Six clown performers escape the 1903 Iroquois Theatre Fire and attempt to perform their spectacular Christmas Pantomime once and for all.

    When: Nov. 20 to Dec. 24
    Where: Daley Plaza, between Washington, Clark and Dearborn streets
    Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: Inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, the Chicago Christkindlmarket celebrates German and European tradition with food, drink and gifts.

    It’s a Wonderful Life at the Greenhouse Theater Center
    When: Nov. 20 to Dec. 27
    Where: The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
    Hours: Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
    Admission: $19 to $49 depending on location in theater
    What It's About: Presented by the American Blues Theater, It’s A Wonderful Life takes the audience back to a 1940s radio broadcast of the holiday classic. It features live sound effects, an original score and a critically acclaimed cast.

    Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
    When: Nov. 21
    Where: Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, between Wacker Drive and Oak Street
    Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the interactive holiday wonderland, a tree-lighting parade from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. and fireworks at 6:55 p.m.
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: Each year before Thanksgiving, the Magnificent Mile lights up with more than 1 million lights adorning 200 trees. A parade and a fireworks show over the Chicago River accompany the lighting event.

    The Second City’s Holidazed & Confused Revue
    When: Nov. 23, 28 and 30, Dec. 5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26 and 28
    Where: The Second City Mainstage, 1616 N. Wells St.
    Hours: 4 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the day
    Admission: $17 to $21 depending on position in theater
    What It's About: Sketches examine Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and everything in between.

    Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Millennium Park
    When: Nov. 24
    Where: Millennium Park at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Washington Street
    Hours: Program begins at 5:30 p.m. with the official lighting at 6 p.m.
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: This is the first year the tree is located in Millennium Park, and spectators can watch officials light the giant Christmas tree to kick off the holiday season. Visitors can view the lit tree through the end of December.

    McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade
    When: Nov. 26
    Where: State Street, beginning at Congress and moving northbound to Randolph
    Hours: Parade begins at 8 a.m.
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: The annual Thanksgiving Day parade through downtown Chicago kicks off the long holiday weekend with marching bands, balloons and floats from groups around the city.

    Winter Flower & Train Show at Lincoln Conservatory
    When: Nov. 27, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2016
    Where: Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Dr.
    Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: The Conservatory becomes a winter wonderland with poinsettias, sparkling lights, and model trains.

    Holiday Lights, City Lights Trolley Tour by the Chicago Architecture Foundation
    When: Nov. 27 - 28, Dec. 4 - 5, 11 - 12, 18 - 19 and 26 - 31
    Where: Begins at the CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Ave.
    Hours: 4:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.
    Admission: $30 non-members, $22 Chicago Architecture Foundation members
    What It's About: From the heated trolley see the holiday lights on Michigan Ave. There are two stops with views of the city and holiday lights. While aboard, learn more about the architects, developers and leaders who played key roles in shaping the city.

    Wonderland Express at the Chicago Botanic Garden
    When: Nov. 27, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2016
    Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe
    Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 27 - Dec. 17, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 18 - Jan. 3
    Admission: Adult members $10, non-members $12, senior members $8, non-members $10, children 3 - 12 members $8, non-members $10, children 2 and under are free and Tuesdays are half-price.
    What It's About: There are trains, as well as indoor snow, poinsettias, three greenhouses, a railroad garden, the city of Chicago in miniature and more than 750,000 LED lights.

    Caroling at Cloud Gate aka “The Bean”
    When: Nov. 27, Dec. 4, Dec. 11, Dec. 18
    Where: Millennium Park, Cloud Gate aka “The Bean,” N. Michigan Ave. and E. Randolph St.
    Hours: Santa 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., caroling 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (performance may be shortened in cases of extreme cold weather)
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: The Oakdale Youth Choir, the Lutheran Choir of Chicago, the Wicker Park Choral Singers, and the Chicago Choral Artists will perform by the Bean in events that are part concert, part sing-along. Santa Claus will also be in attendance before the performance.

    Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights

    When: Nov. 27 - 29, Dec. 4 - 6 and nightly from Dec. 11 to Jan. 3 (excluding Dec. 24 and 25)
    Where: Lincoln Park Zoo
    Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: The Lincoln Park Zoo will display more than 2 million lights as it transforms into a winter wonderland. Some days will feature Santa, holiday crafts, food and an assortment of other family-friendly activities.

    Wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute
    Nov. 27
    Where: Michigan Avenue entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago, located at 111 S. Michigan Ave.
    Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Admission: Free
    What It's About: Kick off the holiday season by watching the annual wreathing of the iconic lions at the Art Institute of Chicago and enjoying complimentary hot chocolate and music.

    Joffrey Ballet: The Nutcracker
    When: Dec. 4 to Dec. 27
    Where: Auditorium Theatre, Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Way
    Hours: Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. with a matinee show and a 7 p.m. evening performance
    Admission: $69 to $276 depending on day and location in theater
    What It's About: Since 1987, The Joffrey Ballet has brought the Nutcracker to Chicago. This ballet features Tchaikovsky’s famous score played by the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. The performance will also feature 118 dancers from the Chicago land area and vocalists from five children’s choirs who will perform a half hour before the show starts and during intermission.

    Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
    When: Opening ceremony on Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. Show continues every Saturday and Sunday in December plus Dec. 28 - 31.
    Where: Brookfield Zoo
    Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., festivities begin at 4 p.m.
    Admission: General admission is $16.95 for adults, $11.95 for seniors 65 and older and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 11. Zoo members get free admission and parking. Military personnel also get free entry with valid ID.
    What It's About: The Brookfield Zoo features over a million LED lights, new polar lights, an interactive light extravaganza, a 41-foot talking tree, interactive tic-tac toe, a train display, carolers, ice carvers and more. Santa will also make an appearance on select days.

    Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier
    When: Dec. 5 - Jan. 10
    Where: Festival Hall at Navy Pier
    Hours: Times vary, closed Dec. 25
    Admission: General admission tickets are $9 online and $10 at the door. Activity tickets are $23 online and $25 at the door. Admission is free for children 2 and under.
    What It's About: This popular indoor fest has dozens of rides, slides, ice skating and music as well as a wide assortment of entertainment, from family karaoke and dance lessons to a community cultural series.

    WickerICE Ice Skating Rink
    When: Crews will install and fill the rink on Dec. 5 and visitors can begin skating once the ice freezes. Last day is March 1, 2016
    Where: Wicker Park at 1425 N. Damen
    Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
    Admission: Free, skate rental TBD
    What It's About: WickerICE is the only community-funded and maintained outdoor rink in Chicago. It is a 120-foot long and 60-foot wide rink which will sit near Wicker Park's historic fountain court.

    Hanukkah Concert
    When: Dec. 6
    Where: Alsdorf Auditorium, Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe
    Hours: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
    Admission: Advance tickets for members are $15, non-members are $17, day-of tickets are $18 for members and $20 for non-members and children under 2 are free.
    What It's About: Rabbi Joe Black and the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band will perform two one-hour concerts at the Alsdorf Auditorium featuring clarinets and dancing.

    Home Alone – Film With Live Orchestra
    When: Dec. 11 - 13
    Where: Orchestra Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.
    Hours: 7 p.m. on Dec. 11, 3 p.m. on Dec. 12, 3 p.m. on Dec. 13
    Admission: $40 - $99 depending on position in hall
    What It's About: John Williams' score will be performed live to the film "Home Alone." Children 12 and under will receive complimentary “Kevin’s Home Alone Gelato” at the screening.

    2015 Annual Music Box Christmas Sing-A-Long & Double Feature
    When: Dec. 11 - 13, 17 - 20, 22 - 24
    Where: Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave.
    Hours: Vary depending on the day
    Admission: Advance tickets are $13 for a single feature, $20 for a double feature, children under 12 are $10 for a single feature, or $15 for the double feature. Day of tickets (if available) are $15 for a single feature, $24 for the double feature, children are $10 or $15 for a single or double feature respectively.
    What It's About: In its 32nd year, Music Box will show "It’s a Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas."

    The Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular
    Dec. 12
    Where: Rosemont Theatre, 5400 North River Rd. in Rosemont
    Hours: 7:30 p.m.
    Admission: $25 - $165 depending on location in venue
    What It's About: A visual experience that combines skill, grace, and athleticism all tied together with holiday music.

    Handel’s Messiah, Sung by the Apollo Chorus
    When: Dec. 19 and 20
    Where: Harris Theater for Music & Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr.
    Hours: 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 and 2 p.m. on Dec. 20
    Admission: $30 to $60
    What It's About: The Apollo Chorus of Chicago has been performing this holiday masterpiece since 1879. The performance lasts approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes with a brief intermission.

    Trans-Siberian Orchestra: The Ghosts of Christmas Eve
    When: Dec. 28
    Where: All State Arena, 6920 Mannheim Rd. in Rosemont
    Hours: 4:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m.
    Admission: $69 to $478 depending on location in arena
    What It's About: This performance follows a runaway girl who takes refuge in an abandoned theater on Christmas Eve and meets the Ghosts of Christmas. The rock band’s concerts feature giant video screens, pyrotechnics, string sections and dozens of musicians. The band blends classical music with heavy metal and anything that strikes their fancy.

    Chi-Town Rising
    When: Dec. 31, 2015, to Jan. 3, 2016
    Where: Along the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive
    Hours: TBD
    Admission: TBD
    What It's About: Ring in 2016 with this epic new downtown New Year's Eve celebration, televised live by NBC 5. The event will feature hours of entertainment on multiple stages and a unique star-rising countdown. Headlining musical acts include the bands Chicago and American Authors. The rest of the holiday weekend (12/31 - 1/3) will also feature an assortment of activities as well. Holiday 2015: Gifts for FoodiesHoliday 2015: Gifts for Foodies

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