12 Things You HAVE to Do in December


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Say goodbye to a November to remember — unseasonably warm weather and a World Series win (Go Cubs!) — and a happy hello to an equally fabulous December. It was a tough job, but we rounded up favorite activities in the city and ‘burbs. From hockey to ballet, read on for our Editor’s picks for filling your family calendar.

photo: Navy Pier Winter WonderFest

(1) Get Your Fill of Thrills at Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest
Jaws will drop as you walk into Chicago’s biggest and best indoor winter playground. It’s 170,000 square feet are filled with rides, giant slides, a Chicago Blackhawks themed ice rink and holiday decor that is sure to spark that holiday spirit.

When: All month long
Hours: Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (except Christmas Eve., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.); weekday schedule varies, so check calendar for details
Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Cost: $28/adults & children 42″ & above; $13/children 36″-42″; free for children under 36″; Save $1 by purchasing online
Online: navypier.org/winter-wonderfest

(2) Get to Know Santa’s Main Squeeze: Mrs. Claus! A Holiday Musical
This holiday special isn’t coming back for it’s 18th year for nothing — this short and sweet one-hour musical is a great intro into the world of theater for even the littlest of the littles. They’ll feel like they’re part of the action as they help elves find Santa’s missing list, hopefully in time for Christmas, with a little help from lovable Mrs. Claus. Colorful, musical and just plain delightful, this one will leave the whole family smiling ear to ear.

When: Thru December 23
Hours: Showtimes vary, check calendar
Where: Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Beverly
Cost: $12
Online: chicagokidscompany.com


photo: Christkindlmarket via Maria Chambers

(3) Listen, Sing and Figure 8 at Millennium Park
Bundle up in your fluffiest hat and mittens and get ready to belt out some holiday classics at a very festive concert that’s part sing-a-long, part listen-in-awe as local choral groups lead hundreds of celebrants in song. Mr. Claus will join the crowd beforehand and, after the tunes die down, head just a few steps away to take a spin on the McCormick Tribune ice rink.

When: December 1, 8 & 15
Hours: 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Cloud Gate aka “The Bean” , Near Michigan Ave. & Washington St., Millennium Park
Cost: Free
Online: cityofchicago.org

(4) Go Wild for the Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
It’s the biggest, and certainly the brightest, in Chicagoland with over one million LED lights. The indoor exhibits remain open for animal visits and guests can take part in singing to animals and listen in on special Zoo Chats.

When: December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17 & 23-31
Hours: 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Where: Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Rd., Brookfield
Cost: Free for Members; Non-member, $19.85/Adults, $14.50/ages 3-11; Save $1 online
Online: czs.org

(6) Take the Train Lovers to Chicago Botanic
Choo-choo! The Wonderland Express will transport you family into a garden paradise filled with 750,000 outdoor lights. Watch garden-scale trains wind past miniature replicas of more than 80 Chicago-area landmarks. Another model train will weave by more landmarks set around the North Pool of Krehbiel Gallery, transformed into an English country train platform. If all this chugging around has made you hungry, you can whet your whistle at the Caboose Café and Wonderland Express Shoppe.

When: All month long
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. until December 22; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. after December 23
Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe
Cost: $13/adults, $10/ages 3-12, free for ages 2 & under ($2 discount for members); Tuesdays are half-price
Online: chicagobotanic.org/wonderland

photo: ZooLights

(7) Dive Into Shedd for a Holiday Breakfast
It really is the most wonderful time of the year . . . because it’s time for Shedd’s holiday breakfast! After you meet-n-greet with Santa, fill your bellies with breakfast, sip on hot chocolate and enjoy a screening of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and THE POLAR EXPRESS™ 4-D experiences. Afterward, explore Shedd’s children’s exhibit, Polar Play Zone, and finish your special day with reserved seats to the aquatic presentation, One World.

When: December 9, 10, 16, 17 & 23
Hours: 8 a.m.-11 a.m.
Where: Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Cost: $49.95/adults; $39.95/ages 3-10; free for ages 3 & under
Online: sheddaquarium.org

(3) Let the Joffrey Ballet Take Your Breath Away
The question isn’t if you are going to see this holiday spectacular. It’s when. Last year was the world premier of Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Weeldon’s Nutcracker, and the focus is on our very own city at the turn-of-the century. Brilliantly reimagined for a new generation, this new version of the epic tale centers on the 1893 World’s Fair.

When: All month long
Hours: Showtimes vary, check calendar
Where: The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., Loop
Cost: $35+
Online: joffrey.org/nutcracker

Morton Arboretum Illuminations Lighting Display in Snowphoto: Illumination: Tree Lights

(8) Illumination: Tree Lights
Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum is back with more lights, sights and sounds that will transform a Chicago-area wintertime walk in the woods into a colorful, inspiring experience like no other. Brand new experiences this year include projections of abstract design that splash across the hemlock trees in Treemagination and Fantasy Forest, where the Arboretum’s hedge garden provides a backdrop for pencil-thin pillars of light which will extend skyward and appear to chase one another while synchronized to music.

When: All month long!
Hours: Daily, 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Where: The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Rte. 53, Lisle
Cost: $17-$20/adults; $11-$13/children
Online: mortonarb.org

(9) Take a Dazzling Holiday Lights Tour
The absolute coolest way to watch the winking and blinking of holiday lights is by trolley. Hook up with Chicago Trolley Co. for its annual Holiday Lights Tour. The lightly narrated two-and-a-half-hour adventure shows the best of Chicago’s holiday lights and stops at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Zoolights show. Sights on the tour include The Magnificent Mile, Macy’s holiday windows, Christkindlmarket, the John Hancock and Daley Plaza trees, Millennium Park and more. The tour even includes complimentary treats from Sprinkles Cupcakes for each passenger.

When: Thru December 23
Hours: Tours at 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.
Where: Trolley departs from the John Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Mag Mile
Cost: $29/adults, $18/kids
Online: https://tinybeans.com/chicago/a-dazzling-holiday-trolley-ride/

(10) Watch ZooLights Illuminate the Night Sky
One of the nation’s only free-admission zoos flips the holiday switch with ZooLights. With the light displays throughout the grounds your fam can stroll through the twinkling winter wonderland created by over 2 million lights, take photos with Santa, enjoy food and drinks, watch ice carving demos, partake in carousel rides and go-’rounds on the Lionel Train Adventure.

When: All month long!
Hours: 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m; Fri.-Sun. (Dec. 2-4); nightly after Dec. 8; closed Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park
Cost: Free
Online: lpzoo.org/zoolights

christkindphoto: Christkindlmarket

(11) Guten Tag! Christinkindlmarket is HERE!
Bundle up for this outdoor market that brings the cherished German and European tradition of the Christkindlmarket in Germany to Chicago and adds a heap of local charm. You’ll see the market’s signature wooden cabins topped with festive red-and-white-striped canopies, each packed with handmade gifts, food and drinks from around the world and many are run by native German speakers. Shop, eat, enjoy free entertainment, repeat – and be sure to say “guten tag” to Santa Claus.

When: Thru December 24
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Where: On Daley Plaza, Between Dearborn, Washington & Clark St., Loop
Cost: Free admission
Online: christkindlmarket.com

(12) Tuck 2017 Into Bed with the Blue Man Group
Bid a sweet goodbye to 2017 with a kid-friendly performance with Blue Man Group. The kiddos will be transformed into members of the band with pre-show face painting. Other festivities include a pretend midnight countdown after the show, complete with party hats, noisemakers and a special performance of “Auld Lang Syne” by the Blue Men. It’s guaranteed to be a celebration unlike any other.

When: December 31
Hours: 1 p.m. & 4 p.m.
Where: Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted
Cost: $49-$99
Online: blueman.com

What are your plans to make November a month to remember? Tell us about it in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers

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