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 Gluhwein. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington, (312)494-2175. Through December 24, Sundays-Thursdays, 11am-8pm, Fridays-Saturdays, 11am-9pm. November 24, 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-eighth 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 23, 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 24, 8am-11am. Free.
Christmas Around the World
Celebrate internationally with Around the World 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 8, closed Christmas Day.
Chicago Loop Alliance presents over 100 programs and attractions in—you got it!–the Loop this holiday season. In addition, they’re introducing Lightscape, a light and sound installation on State Street that creates patterns of color, choreographed to favorite holiday tunes and located in planters from Lake to Van Buren between 8 am and 11 pm each day. Loop, winterwonderloop.com.
Sing-a-long 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 25, 7pm; November 26, 2pm and 7pm; November 27, 2pm. $15 adult, $9 child ($12.50, $8 advance through musicboxtheatre.com).
Caroling at Cloud Gate
On Friday nights, local choral groups gather in Millennium Park for singing and sing-alongs: Chicago Chamber Choir , November 25; Apollo Chorus of Chicago, December 2; Windy City Gay Chorus and Aria, December 9; Wicker Park Choral Singers, December 16. Skating is encouraged at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink after the show. Caribou Coffee offers complimentary hot bevs. Millennium Park, Chase Promenade Central at North Michigan and East Randolph. Fridays, November 25-December 16, 6pm-6:50pm. Free.
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 24, 12pm. Free.
Enchanted Railroad at Morton Aboretum
The “Enchanted Railroad” rolls through with model trains of different colors and styles. One train even has a tiny camera on board so visitors can see what it would be like to ride along. Nine trains operate via remote-controlled interlocked signals, allowing them to cross tracks safely, and two trolleys that reverse direction automatically. Bring the kids and spend 30 minutes or more “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” at the toy trains. Morton Aboretum, 4100 Lincoln, Lisle, (630)968-0074. November 25-January 8, 9am-4pm, closed December 24-25. $11 adult, $8 child ($7, $5 Wednesdays).
Wonderland Express at Botanic Garden
The Garden’s holiday train exhibition returns with handcrafted miniature replicas of more than eighty of Chicago’s landmarks joining 5,000 plants and 750,000 twinkling LED lights. On select days from 10am-noon, the Garden hosts carolers and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be visiting for breakfast, supper and snacks on December 17-19. Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook, Glencoe, (847)835-5440. November 25-January 1, 10am-6pm, closes at 3pm on December 1 and 24. Closed December 25. $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 and they’ll be accepting outerwear donations throughout the zoo. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark, (312)742-2000. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, November 25-December 11; nightly, Dec 16-January 1. 5-9pm. Closed December 24 and 25. Free.
Holiday Magic Lights at Brookfield Zoo
Twelve nights of holiday enchantment include animated light displays, a laser light show and a full schedule of nightly music and entertainment in the Pavilions. Outside enjoy nightly ice carving and a magic show. Then step inside the Holly Jolly Theater and enjoy Those Funny Little People, local choirs and many more holiday themed performances. Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, (708)688-8000. Saturdays and Sundays, December 3-18, nightly, December 26-31. 4-9pm. $13.50 adult, $9.50 child.
Chef Laura Frankel, Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering, introduces an array of latke possibilities, as she combines her favorite ingredients into eight different, delicious crispy treats packed with produce. Pick up tips on which oils to use, how to simplify preparation, and how to store and serve the finished products. Spertus, 610 South Michigan, (312)322-1700. Tuesday, December 6, 6:30pm. $25.
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, featuring the tale of Lucia herself, caroling, and Swedish holiday treats. Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark, (773)728-8111. December 13, 4:45pm. The procession is free, $1 museum admission(free with canned food item).
Music Box Christmas Show
At the 28th 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 16-18, December 21-24. $14 single feature, $20 double feature ($12, $17 advance).