Select events listed roughly chronologically
15th Annual Christkindlmarket Chicago
Chicago’s largest open air traditional German holiday market returns. Handmade ornaments, nutcrackers and beer steins abound; gorge yourself on sausages, sauerkraut, potato pancakes and Gluehwein. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington, (312)494-2175. Through December 24, Sundays-Thursdays, 11am-8pm, Fridays-Saturdays, 11am-9pm. November 25, 11am-4pm, December 24, 11am-4pm. Free admission.
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Join your fellow Chicagoans to welcome the start of the holiday season with the ninety-seventh annual Christmas Tree Lighting at Daley Plaza. Musical performances and holiday music begin at 4:30pm, the lighting itself will take place at 5pm. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington. November 24, 4:30pm. Free.
McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade
Marching bands, balloons, Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald himself converge on State Street Thanksgiving morning. No word as of yet on whether Grimace will be in attendance. State Street from Congress to Randolph. November 25, 8:30am-11am. Free.
Christmas Around the World
Celebrate internationally with Around the World performances and Holidays of Light. Dance, theater, and musical performances occur throughout November and December. Open to the public with Museum general admission. Museum of Science and Industry, 57th and Lake Shore, (773)684-1414. Through January 9, closed Christmas Day.
Chicago Loop Alliance presents over 100 programs and attractions in—you got it!–the Loop this holiday season. Bring a blanket to Pritzker Park for a film at 5:30pm: “It’s A Wonderful Life,” December 1; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” December 8; “A Christmas Story,” December 15. Nestle by the fire with a complimentary hot bev at Hotel Burnham for holiday story time, starting at 11am: “Harold and the Purple Crayon” with Hubbard Street Dance, November 20; “The Nutcracker” with Joffrey Ballet, December 4; “A Christmas Carol” with Goodman Theatre, December 11. Elves will also be roaming the street markets with mobile mistletoe to capture smooches for “Merry Kissmas.” Greater Chicago Food Depository will be accepting canned goods at Block 37 through November 30, and Toys for Tots will be at all Walgreens locations, December 3-20. Loop, winterwonderloop.com. Through Dec 31.
Sing-Along Sound of Music
Full screening of Julie Andrews and company in the classic musical, complete with subtitles for the audience to sing along. Participants are encouraged to come in costume for the fancy-dress competition. Vocal warmups and props included. Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, (773)871-6604. November 26, 7pm; November 27, 2pm and 7pm; November 28, 2pm. $15 adult, $9 child ($12.50, $8 advance).
Caroling at Cloud Gate
On Friday nights, local choral groups gather in Millennium Park for singing and sing-alongs: Apollo Chorus, November 26; Children’s Choir, December 3; Old Town School of Folk Music, December 10; Wicker Park Choral Singers, December 17. Skating is encouraged at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink after the show. Caribou Coffee offers complimentary hot bevs. Millennium Park, 350 E. Monroe, (312)742-1168. November 26-December 17, 6pm.
Feast for the Animals
Feed Brookfield Zoo animals on Thanksgiving Day, too. The llamas, reindeer, cows, goats, sheep and ducks relish apples, carrots, corn, oranges and bananas. Zookeepers will take care of the rowdier hawks, owls, woodchucks, and raccoons. Children’s Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, (708)688-8000. November 25, 12pm. Free.
Enchanted Railroad at Morton Aboretum
A model train runs over 430 feet of track and exhibit wilderness, along with a seven-foot-tall tree cradling a globe. Wander around the 14-foot-tall Aboretum Tree in Woodland’s Haven, decorated by professional artists and designers. Activities include the Yule Log Hunt on December 26 at 2pm and the Cat in the Hat on December 11 from 10am-2pm. Good men can find gifts for loved ones and Two Brother’s beer for themselves on December 16 from 5-8pm. Morton Aboretum, 4100 Lincoln, Lisle, (630)968-0074. November 26-January 2, 9am-4pm, closed December 24-25 and January 1. $11 adult, $8 child ($7, $5 Wednesdays).
Wonderland Express at Botanic Garden
The Garden’s holiday train exhibition returns for the fifth season, this year with a replica of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup. Handcrafted miniature replicas of Chicago’s landmarks join 5,000 plants and 750,000 twinkling LED lights, two gingerbread villages, and 20-foot tall decorated trees and greenhouses. Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook, Glencoe, (847)835-5440. November 26-January 2, 10am-6pm. $10 adult, $8 child and senior.
Lincoln Park Zoo lights up more than a million bulbs for the holidays, featuring a light show synced with seasonal tunes on the South Lawn and arctic artists carving ice sculptures near the Wild Things. Santa will be at the Kovler Lion House through December 23, and One Warm Coat will be accepting outerwear throughout the zoo. Each night, the first 100 visitors at 5pm receive 3D glasses. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark, (312)742-2000. November 26-December 13, Fri-Sun; Dec 17-January 2, nightly. Free.
Holiday Magic Lights at Brookfield Zoo
Thirteen nights of holiday enchantment include 120 animated light displays, community-decorated trees, dancing light shows around the fountains, model railroad and featured animal exhibits. A dolphin show occurs each night at 6:30pm, while dancers and choirs perform in the Holly Jolly Theater at Swan Pavilion and ice sculptors create frozen art on the Nature Stage. Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, (708)688-8000. December 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 26-31 and January 1, 4-9pm. $13.50 adult, $9.50 child.
This I Believe with Bob Edwards
WBEZ 91.5FM presents an Off-Air evening with public radio host Bob Edwards and “This I Believe” executive producer Dan Gediman. They will help the audience explore their personal beliefs with the help of excerpts from Edward Murrow’s original 1950s broadcast and live readings by local essayists and contributors. Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut, (312)787-4570. December 8, 7pm. $15 ($12 WBEZ member, $10 student and senior).
Guests and their four-legged friends can enjoy cookies and cider amidst holiday decor. The Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago will have dogs available for adoption and visitors can support the group by purchasing a photograph of their holiday-ed furry friend. A trolley will be rolling throughout the city to pick up people and pets. Hotel Allegro, 171 W. Randolph, (312)236-0123. December 11, 10am-2pm. Free.
St. Lucia Festival of Lights
Swedes and non-Swedes light torches together on North Clark Street in Andersonville, kicking off at the Swedish American Museum. Lucia Girls will lead the crowd in long white robes and candle crowns, singing “The Lucia Song.” Participants are invited to the party at the Museum at 5:30pm, featuring the tale of Lucia herself, caroling, and Swedish holiday treats. Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark, (773)728-2995. December 13, 4:45pm. $1 (free with canned food item).
White Elephant Charity Gift Exchange
Bring an unwrapped gift (priced $10-$20) to the hotel lobby, which a team inspects and wraps, then choose a new wrapped present from the collection of previously exchanged gifts. Hotel Monaco will donate $2 to Children’s Memorial Hospital for each exchanged gift and will also collect gift cards for families at the hospital. Hotel Monaco, 225 N. Wabash, (312)960-8500. December 13-19, 2-4pm.
Music Box Christmas Show
At the 27th annual show, Santa will greet holiday revelers before they sing along to carols and view “White Christmas” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Stay for one, stay for both, stay for fun. Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, (773)871-6604. December 17-19, December 22-24, 6:30pm and 9:30pm. $14 single feature, $20 double feature ($12, $17 advance).