Light up your life
Enjoy Chicago's holiday lights and sights by trolley. Hop on a trolley and you'll be able to visit the Magnificent Mile, State Street and Macy's holiday windows, the lights at Lincoln Park Zoo, Daley Plaza's 40-foot tree and the Christkindlmarket. The Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour also visits the John Hancock Plaza tree, Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest and Buckingham Fountain during the narrated two-hour tour. Passengers have time to hop off at Lincoln Park Zoo and Christkindlmarket.
6, 6:30 and 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 23 and daily Dec. 26-31. Tour departs from the John Hancock Building, corner of Michigan Avenue and Delaware Street. Tickets cost $26 for adults and $19 for children (3-11) and must be purchased in advance online at chicagotrolley.com.
Deck the halls of City Hall
Even old Ebenezer would lose his "bah humbug" attitude after hearing the angelic voices of children's choirs from throughout Chicago during the free City Hall Holiday Concert Series. Get into the holiday spirit listening to the classics weekdays during the lunch hour. Groups include Holy Cross/IHM Choir & Marimba Ensemble, Hubbard High School Advanced Ensemble, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School Bands & Choirs, Misericordia Heart Singers and Providence St. Mel School Choir.
Noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, Dec 10-14 and 17-21, at the west end of City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., Chicago. tinyurl.com/d8dvvtw.
Not so little drummer boys and girls
Take a load off from holiday shopping and treat the family to drumming, jazz improvisations and dance as Taiko Legacy 9 takes the stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Presented on the winter solstice (as well as the next afternoon in a family-friendly performance), Taiko Legacy 9 is a performance that combines cultures and artistic forms with roots in theater, ceremonial music and the 2,000-year-old taiko drumming tradition.
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22 (family concert) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students and free for kids 12 and younger. (312) 397-4010 or mcachicago.org.
Santa's stamping grounds
Join the throngs that travel to Santa Claus, Ind., to get one-of-a-kind picture postmark cancellation stamps on their holiday greeting cards and packages. Better yet, make the trip to coincide with the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration, which offers dinner with Santa at Santa's Lodge, a drive through Lake Rudolph's "Santa Claus Land of Lights" and the Santa Claus Arts & Crafts Show. There is also the Santa Claus Museum and treats at Santa's Candy Castle. You can even roast chestnuts on an open fire and write a letter to Santa at the workshop for Santa's Elves.
9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, in Santa Claus, Ind. (888) 444-9252 or SantaClausInd.org/Christmas.
Ring out 2012
Plan your New Year's Eve celebration at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, which will be offering a series of parties including New Year's Eve All Over Again for $10 and free for resort guests; Grand Geneva's Masquerade Party in the Grand Ballroom; a Junior Masquerade Celebration for children ages 4-12; and the Teen Ultra Lounge for the 12 and older set. There will be a variety of New Year's overnight packages for families and couples that include extras such as water park passes, dinner and lift tickets for a day of skiing or snowboarding at the Mountain Top ski hill.
7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday, Dec. 31. Parties range from free to $45; overnight package prices vary. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa: (800) 558-3417 or GrandGeneva.com or Timber Ridge Lodge: (866) 636-4502 or timberridgeresort.com.
Carols, candles and crystal
"Stories of Silent Night" or Stille Nacht as it was originally written in German in Austria almost 200 years ago, is the theme for the annual holiday exhibit at the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, Iowa. Listen to the song in many languages, see costumes of several different cultures and have the kids take part in craft projects. Then browse the Christkindlmart Holiday Market offering imported gift items from Germany including nutcrackers, steins, linens, crystal, candles, tree toppers, glass ornaments and more.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 6 at the German American Heritage Center, 712 W. 2nd St., Davenport, Iowa. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for ages 60 and older; $3 for ages 6-17. (563) 322-8844 or gahc.org.