31 of the Best Things to Do in Chicago This December

31 of the Best Things to Do in Chicago This December

Holiday fun continues throughout the Chicago area with Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue, holiday concerts with Pentatonix and John Legend, Wonderland Express at Chicago Botanic Garden, and much, much more.


Dec. 1, 5, 8: “Cendrillon

Things to Do in Chicago This December: "Cendrillon" at Lyric Opera
Photo by Bill Cooper/Royal Opera House.

This Lyric premiere and new-to-Chicago production of “Cendrillon,” or “Cinderella,” is sung in French with projected English translations. Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-827-5600

Dec. 1-30: “The Nutcracker

Things to Do in Chicago This December: "The Nutcracker" at Joffrey Ballet
Photo by Cheryl Mann.

It’s not the holiday season in Chicago without Joffrey Ballet’s critically acclaimed “The Nutcracker,” now set during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, 312-386-8905

Dec. 9: “Everyday Things

Writers Theatre presents this original production by Chicago playwright Isaac Gomez in partnership with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and its exhibit “Stories of Survival.” Stay after for a Q&A with Writers Theatre Associate Artistic Director Geoff Button and the cast. Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie

Dec. 21-23: “American Girl Live!

Your child’s favorite American Girl characters come to life in this brand-new musical. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300

Dec. 29: “A Christmas Carol” Sensory-Friendly Performance

Things to Do in Chicago This December: "A Christmas Carol" at Goodman Theatre
Christopher Sheard, Andy Nagraj, Ali Burch, Paris Strickland, Barbara Robertson, Larry Yando, Jonah D. Winston, Sadieh Rifai, and Penelope Walker in the 41st annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Henry Wishcamper at Goodman Theatre (Nov. 17 to Dec. 30, 2018). GoodmanTheatre.org/Carol (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Goodman Theatre partners with Autism Speaks Chicago to present a sensory-friendly/relaxed performance of this holiday classic with lower sound levels, designated quiet areas, space in the theater for standing and moving, and more. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-443-3800


Dec. 22-31: The Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue

Celebrate all the things that make the holiday season so wonderful and wacky with this evening of songs and sketches. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121


Ongoing: Movie Mondays

Paramount Theatre shows favorite films on its two-story screen for only $1 on most Mondays. Upcoming screenings include “Scrooged” (Dec. 3), “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (Dec. 17), and “Polar Express” (Dec. 24). Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, 630-896- 6666


Dec. 1: Celebrate the Holiday Spirit!

The Northbrook Symphony presents this evening of Hanukkah and Christmas favorites, plus an audience sing-along. Our Lady of the Brook Church, 3700 Dundee Road, Northbrook, 847-272-0755

Dec. 11-12: Pentatonix—Christmas Is Here! Tour

Things to Do in Chicago This December: Pentatonix Christmas tour
Photo courtesy of RCA Records.

This popular a cappella group returns to the Chicago area to get us all in the holiday spirit. Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont, 847-671- 5100

Dec. 13: John Legend—A Legendary Christmas

Singer/songwriter (and new EGOT winner) John Legend brings his Christmas tour to Chicago. Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-827-5600


Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve Bash

Say goodbye to 2018 with this kid-friendly party featuring music, crafts, a family-sized photo booth, and a confetti drop. Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, 847-832-6600

Through Jan. 6: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

Things to Do in Chicago This December: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at Museum of Science and Industry
The Holidays of Light displays represent the celebrations that honor light or enlightenment, including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Diwali, and more. (Photo by J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.)

MSI’s holiday tradition continues with a four-story Grand Tree surrounded by more than 50 trees and displays and weekend performances. Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 773-684-1414 


Dec. 1-2: Holiday Market

Find gifts like soaps, candles, honey, and more for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, 847-835-6801

Dec. 2-3: Chanukah Wonderland

Chabad of Northbrook and Chabad Israeli Center present two days of fun including a giant dreidel moon-bounce, Menorah-making workshop, doughnut decorating, and more. Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Road, Northbrook

Dec. 2-9: Chanukah Celebrations at Westfield Old Orchard

Join Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie for kosher refreshments, crafts, music, story time, and more. Westfield Old Orchard, 4905 Old Orchard Center, Skokie

Dec. 5: Know Thyself: Using Your Uniqueness to Create Success

Karamo Brown of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” during this Family Action Network event. Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., Evanston

Dec. 6: Downtown Evanston Warm Bevvy Walk

Check off every item on your holiday shopping list as you enjoy beverages at local Evanston shops. Participants include Eve J. Alfille Gallery & Studio, Edzo’s Burger Shop, The Spice & Tea Exchange of Evanston, dragonfly-df, and Whiskey Thief Tavern. Downtown Evanston

Dec. 6-9: One of a Kind Holiday Show

Things to Do in Chicago This December: One of a Kind Holiday Show
Photo courtesy of the One of a Kind Holiday Show.

Find the perfect gift for everyone on your list at this show featuring more than 600 independent makers. The Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, 312-527-4141

Dec. 8: Gingerbread Building for Charity

Your child can enter this gingerbread building contest for a chance to win $250 to donate to the charity of their choice. A. Perry Homes Design Studio, 1220 Washington Ave., Wilmette

Dec. 12: Hope for the Holidays Centerpieces Class

Create a stunning holiday centerpiece with award-winning floral designer Andy Zimmerman. BYOB; holiday desserts and nonalcoholic drinks will be provided. Random Acts of Flowers, 2000 Greenleaf St., Evanston, 847-430-4751

Dec. 12-16: Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Things to Do in Chicago This December: Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams Holidaze.

You’ll be in awe of this festively fantastic production. The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago

Dec. 16: Gingerbread House Decorating Party

Show off your gingerbread house decorating skills while enjoying hot chocolate and listening to festive music. Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Road, Lake Forest, 847-234-6060

Through Dec. 24: Christkindlmarket

Things to Do in Chicago This December: Christkindlmarket
Photo by True Shot Studios.

A holiday tradition, visitors can shop unique goods while enjoying delicious food and drinks. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago, 312-494-2175 

Through Dec. 31: Santa Cruise

Enjoy a lake tour of magical light displays — and see Santa too! Special Adults Only Cruises take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. Gage Marina/PIER 290 Restaurant, 1 Liechty Drive, Williams Bay, Wisconsin

Dec. 31: First Night Evanston

Ring in the new year during this family-friendly festival of music, dance, spoken word performances, arts and crafts, and more throughout Evanston. Various venues

Through Jan. 1: Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

Walk a one-mile path amidst trees lit with bright colors. The Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, 630-968-0074

Through Jan. 6: Wonderland Express

Things to Do in Chicago This December: Wonderland Express at Chicago Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden.

This favorite family event returns with special events like Free Movie Days (Dec. 23, 29-30), Caroling (Dec. 22), and Ice Sculpting (Dec. 16, Jan. 5-6). Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, 847-835-6801

Through Jan. 6: ZooLights

ZooLights is back with 3D displays, live ice-sculpture carving, musical light shows, holiday snacks and drinks, and more. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-742-2000

Through Jan. 6: Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest

Celebrate the season with carnival rides, an indoor ice skating rink, activities, and more. Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, 1-800-595-7437

Ongoing: Fire On The Mile

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club opened this pop-up in November to give fans a chance to play soccer skee-ball and foosball, shop Fire merchandise, and more. The Wrigley Building, 400 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Media Sponsorships

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Dec. 1: MRW Leadership Board’s “Jammin’ in Our Genes” Benefit

Enjoy live music, drinks, dessert, and raffle games, all while raising money for a screening mammography program at North Shore Health Center for uninsured and underserved patients. 210 Restaurant, 210 Green Bay Road, Highwood

Anna Carlson writes the weekly Weekend 101 column and monthly Recommended Events. A graduate of the University of Missouri, her work has been published in Chicago Parent, Inside Columbia Magazine, and Central California Parent Magazine. She is a proud supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital