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posted: 12/14/2012 6:00 AM

Countdown to Christmas: A day-by-day guide to holiday fun

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  • "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" returns, opening Dec. 14 at the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont.

      "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" returns, opening Dec. 14 at the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont.
    Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik for MSG Entertainmen

  • Williams Street Repertory's "It's A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play" wraps up its run Dec. 15 at Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.

      Williams Street Repertory's "It's A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play" wraps up its run Dec. 15 at Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.

  • "Christmas Bingo: It's a Ho-Ho-Holy Night" comes to Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights on Dec. 17.

      "Christmas Bingo: It's a Ho-Ho-Holy Night" comes to Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights on Dec. 17.

  • You can check out Cosley Zoo's Festival of Lights in Wheaton throughout December.

      You can check out Cosley Zoo's Festival of Lights in Wheaton throughout December.

  • The Shedd Aquarium's themed, multispecies aquatic show "A Holiday Fantasea" runs through Jan. 5 in Chicago.

      The Shedd Aquarium's themed, multispecies aquatic show "A Holiday Fantasea" runs through Jan. 5 in Chicago.

  • Video: Rockettes' Christmas show

  • Video: Martina McBride

 
Compiled by Lisa Friedman Miner, Deb Pankey and Laura Stewart

If a glance at today's date has you frantically ticking off the number of shopping days left 'til Christmas, perhaps you need a breather.

This time of year can be hectic, regardless of which holiday you celebrate or how crazy your family festivities get. But the season also offers plenty of entertaining distractions -- winter light shows, seasonal stage productions, Christmas concerts and a lot more.

Here's a day-by-day countdown to Christmas that has nothing to do with shopping, baking or dealing with cranky relatives. Enjoy!

• Dec. 14: Kick off the season with the Rockettes and "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular," opening at 8 p.m. and running through Dec. 30 at the Akoo Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. Expect lots of colorful costumes in this revamped show, which features favorites like the parade of the wooden soldiers. Tickets $30-$89. (800) 745-3000 or akootheatre.com.

• Dec. 15: Flash back to Christmas Eve 1949 for the final show of Williams Street Repertory's "It's A Wonderful Life Radio Play." It's at 8 p.m. at Raue Center For The Arts, 108 Minnie Street, Crystal Lake. Tickets $22-$28. (815) 356-9010 or rauecenter.org.

• Dec. 16: Enjoy classical and other holiday selections when the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Elgin Choral Union, Elgin Children's Chorus and Midwest Dance Collective come together for "Let it Snow!" See it at 2:30 p.m. (it also runs 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15) at Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin. Stephen Squires conducts, with Rich Ridenour on piano and vocalist Rachel DeShon. Song selections include "Do you Hear What I Hear," "Rhapsody in Blue Christmas," "Christmastime is Here" and "O Holy Night." Tickets start at $26. (847) 888-4000 or www.elginsymphony.org.

• Dec. 17: Brush up on your Yuletide trivia, grab a Bingo card and prepare to laugh at "Christmas Bingo: It's a Ho-Ho-Holy Night." The comedy, from the creators of "Late Night Catechism," is at 7:30 p.m. at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 West Campbell St., Arlington Heights. Tickets are $30. (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com.

• Dec. 18: Take in Cosley Zoo's 20,000 twinkling lights and visit the animals as well at the Festival of Lights 3 to 9 p.m. The zoo is at 1356 N. Gary Ave., Wheaton. Free. (630) 665-5534 or cosleyzoo.org.

• Dec. 19: See Santa get upstaged by magnificent sea creatures in Shedd Aquarium's "A Holiday Fantasea," a themed, multispecies aquatic show that features breaching whales, leaping dolphins and waddling penguins in the Abbott Oceanarium. The total experience pass -- $34.95 for adults, $25.95 for children -- gets you into the show as well as other Shedd attractions, including 4-D features like "Polar Express" or "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas." Other packages are available and showtimes vary, so check the website. The Shedd is at 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. "A Holiday Fantasea" runs through Jan. 5. (312) 939-2438 or sheddaquarium.org.

• Dec. 20: Join Niche restaurant for its second annual Naughty Christmas Pageant. This holiday edition of its popular concert series between courses features NC-17 rated material, so leave the kids at home while you enjoy a $60 three-course meal prepared by chef Serena Perdue that will be served 6:30-ish. Add a flight of matching wines for $25. Niche restaurant is at 14 S. Third St., Geneva. (630) 262-1000 or nichegeneva.com.

• Dec. 21: Have yourself a very country Christmas with concerts in the city and suburbs. Country superstar Martina McBride presents "The Joy of Christmas" at 8 p.m. at The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago. Tickets are $39.50-$79.50. (800) 745-3000 or thechicagotheatre.com or ticketmaster.com. And in Naperville, the Oak Ridge Boys celebrate the season with their show "Christmas Time's a Comin'" at North Central College. The performance begins at 8 p.m. in the College's Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave. Tickets are $45-$60. (630) 637-7469 or northcentralcollege.edu/showtix.

• Dec. 22: Step back to the Victorian era with the Christmas Memories house tour, Kline Creek Farm, 1N600 County Farm Road, West Chicago. Tours begin on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23. Best of all, it's free. (630) 876-5900 or dupageforest.org.

• Dec. 23: Say so long to Scrooge -- one of them, anyway. "Scrooge the Musical," one of many local adaptations of "A Christmas Carol," ends its run at a 3 p.m. performance at Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main St., St. Charles. Tickets are $23-$25. (630) 587-8521 or steelbeamtheatre.com.

• Dec. 24: Between Christmas Eve gatherings, catch some holiday classics from the comfort of your couch. TCM airs "Holiday Affair" at 2 p.m., NBC shows "It's A Wonderful Life" at 7 p.m. and, also at 7, TBS kicks off its 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story." And really, who can resist a good double-dog dare?

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