Ahh, the holidays. How can one time of year be both so magical and so stressful?
Fortunately, Chicago offers plenty of ways for residents to take a break from the season’s hustle and bustle. Whether you’re looking for an evening with friends or need a way to get your kids out of the house, these events are sure to excite.
Dec. 1: Holiday Greenery Sales
Wagner Farm, 1510 Wagner Road, Glenview
Prepare your home for the holidays with a tree or wreath from Wagner Farm. While you’re there, visit the Heritage Center and their Museum Store.
Dec. 2: A Chanticleer Christmas
Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago
Get in the holiday spirit with a performance by this Grammy Award-winning a cappella group. A second performance will take place Dec. 3.
Dec. 3: BrewLights Presented by Louis Glunz Beer
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago
While you can visit ZooLights any day through Jan. 4, why not go when you can sample a dozen draft beers? As you sip, enjoy live music, free rides on the AT&T Endangered Species Carousel and photos with Santa.
Dec. 4: Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale
Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago
This is a holiday musical unlike any other. Written by and starring Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame, this musical follows a heavy metal bar band in search of stardom who has a run-in with Christmas spirit. The show runs through Jan. 4.
Dec. 5: It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Spend an evening in Bedford Falls with George Bailey as American Blues Theater continues its tradition of performing a 1940s radio broadcast of the holiday classic.
Dec. 6: YuleTube: Holiday Favorites from Television
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is bringing beloved holiday TV classics to life. Don’t miss this reenactment of favorite holiday specials, including those from Rankin and Bass and featuring Charlie Brown and The Muppets.
Dec. 7: Nutcracker Family Dinner
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago
Radisson Blu Aqua, 221 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago
Make your trip to see Joffrey’s “The Nutcracker” extra special this year with a family dinner after the performance. Trolleys will take guests from the theater to dinner, where kids will enjoy activities and adults will find grown-up treats.
Dec. 8: PNC Bank Winter WonderFest
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Enjoy everything you love about winter, but without actually being outside. Navy Pier’s Festival Hall will be transformed into 170,000 square feet of rides, slides and the Chicago Blackhawks Indoor Ice Skating Rink. Winter WonderFest is open through Jan. 11.
Dec. 9: Christmas at the White House
Patty Turner Center, 375 Elm St., Deerfield
Join the Deerfield Women’s Club, Jenny Riddle and Elizabeth Doyle as they share stories of the White House at the holidays. Registration is required by Dec. 5.
Dec. 10: Holiday Cheers! Seasonal Tasting at Wonderland Express
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
Take a night off and enjoy local spirits, wine and winter brews as you walk around Wonderland Express, featuring miniature versions of more than 80 Chicago landmarks.
Dec. 11: The Second City’s Holidays in the Heights
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights
You know that awkward Christmas when you brought your boyfriend home for the first time? How about all of those last-minute trips to Target to buy a gift you’re pretty sure your wife will return? Laugh at all the craziness of the holidays with this hilarious Second City show, running through Dec. 31.
Dec. 12: Holidays 2014: Open Something Greater
Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Spend a (presumably) cold day inside at the world’s best museum. Visit holiday displays like Neapolitan Crèche and Holiday Thorne Rooms, all while taking part in the museum’s mini-tour and game.
Dec. 13: Holiday Breakfast
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Start your day with a breakfast buffet and photos with Santa before munching on cookies and sipping hot chocolate as you watch “The Polar Express.” The morning ends with the Holiday One World aquatic show. This event also takes place Dec. 7 and Dec. 20.
Dec. 14: Randolph Street’s 8th Annual Holiday Markets
Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago
Last-minute shoppers need not worry when this holiday market, opening Dec. 13, is around. With antique, vintage and modern goods, you’ll find something for everyone on your list.
Dec. 15: Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show
Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, 1350 Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills
Pack some snacks and hot chocolate and head out to Vernon Hills for this drive-through light show, open through Jan. 3.
Dec. 16: Hands-On Hanukkah
Westfield Old Orchard, 4905 Old Orchard Center, Skokie
Take part in candle lightings, enjoy doughnuts, cider and gelt, meet Danny the Dreidel and more. This event also takes place Dec. 14 and Dec. 18.
Dec. 17: Hanukkah Storytime and Craft
Barnes and Noble, 728 N. Waukegan Road, Deerfield
Bring your kids to Barnes and Noble for a fun morning of Hanukkah stories and crafts, and while you’re there, find your next read for cold nights.
Dec. 18: Holiday Lights Tour
John Hancock Observatory, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Join Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. for a tour of the city’s brightest attractions, including The Magnificent Mile, Macy’s holiday windows, Millennium Park, Christkindlmarket, ZooLights and more. Afterward, warm up with a coupon for hot cocoa and a cookie from the Hershey Store. The tour runs through Jan. 4.
Dec. 19: Holiday Food and Toy Drive
Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St., Evanston
‘Tis the season of giving, so give back at this drive. For more information, contact 311 at 847-448-4311.
Dec. 20: Holiday Magic
Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield
Enjoy Singing with the Animals, Zoo Chats, ice carvings, a magic show, live entertainment, a 38-foot Talking Tree and more, all in the glow of one million LED lights. Holiday Magic is open Dec. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21 and 26-31.
Dec. 21: Julmiddag
Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago
Dine on a traditional Swedish Smörgåsbord, which will include entertainment and a visit from Santa, who comes bearing julklappar (presents). Reservations are required. Purchase tickets online or by calling 773-728-8111.
Dec. 22: Hanukkah Happenings
Westfield Old Orchard, 4905 Old Orchard Center, Skokie
Your favorite North Shore shopping mall is partnering with Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie for their annual Hanukkah festivities, which will include menorah lightings, children’s crafts, complimentary doughnuts and drinks, and music.
Dec. 23: Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Visit this favorite exhibit on the weekend to see performances from local groups. On Dec. 23, stay for performances by groups celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and representing Central America and Mexico.
Dec. 24: “A Christmas Carol”
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago
The holidays are almost over (bah humbug!), but there’s still time to join Scrooge on his journey from grump to giver. The show runs through Dec. 28.
Dec. 25: McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago
It’s hard to find anything open on Christmas Day, but fortunately for anyone looking to get out of the house, Millennium Park’s ice rink will be ready for skaters. The rink will be open through March 8, 2015 (weather permitting).