The season is winding down for area presentations of Tchaikovsky's classic ballet "The Nutcracker." Here are a few key remaining productions:
• If you want to go big, then head to the Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker." It finishes this weekend at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. (800) 982-2787 or joffrey.org. 2 and 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
• Illinois Youth Dance Theatre's "The Nutcracker" features more than 70 performers at Lake Zurich High School, 300 Church St., Lake Zurich. $10-$25. ballroomanddance.com/iydt-productions.html. 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21; 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23
• The Berkshire Ballet Theatre brings its take on "The Nutcracker" to the Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. $22. (815) 356-9212 or rauecenter.org. 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23
The Great Lakes Naval Museum hosts three ensembles of the Navy Band Great Lakes for a holiday concert. The band's woodwind group, brass quintet and saxophone ensemble perform favorite carols. Guests can have hot cocoa and cookies as they listen to the tunes. Free. Concert takes place in Building 42 at the Great Lakes Naval Museum. 610 Farragut Ave., Great Lakes. Visit facebook.com/greatlakesnavalmuseum. Noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
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Meet Jolly Old St. Nick
Youngsters can meet with Santa Claus and tell him about their holiday wishes at the Naperville Santa House, at the Naperville Riverwalk, Jackson Avenue and Webster Street. Free. There is a charge for those wanting to purchase official photos taken with Santa. (630) 548-5000. 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 22-23
Pastry Polar Express
A pastry version of the Polar Express pulled into the station at the Artisan Table in the Chicago Marriott Naperville, 1801 Naper Blvd. Pastry chef Erica Tomei created a 12-foot-by-8-foot gingerbread display of a Christmas town with buildings, carolers and the Polar Express. Stop in and grab a dessert for $6. (630) 505-4900 or chicagomarriottnaperville.com. Now through Monday, Dec. 24
'Symphony in Lights'
More than 250,000 lights, along with music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, are showcased at the Promenade Bolingbrook's annual Symphony in Lights holiday light show, The Promenade is at 631 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook. Visit thepromenadebolingbrook.com. Begins at dusk nightly and runs every hour on the hour until 9 p.m. through Monday, Dec. 31
Mark the shortest day of the year with a Winter Solstice Walk, which features a King and Queen of the Solstice, storytelling and a procession around Meadow Lake at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle. $12; $11 seniors; $9 kids ages 2-17. (630) 968-0074 or mortonarb.org. 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
Drive through 97 acres of holiday lights and holiday scenes at "A Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show" at the Cuneo Museum and Gardens, 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills. $10 per car. (847) 362-3042 or cuneomansion.org. 6 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Dec. 21-23
The drummers of Tsukasa Taiko team up again with jazz musicians for the Japanese music-fusion performance of "Taiko Legacy 9" this weekend at Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. $15; free for kids ages 12 and younger. (312) 280-2660 or mcachicago.org. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
The Oak Ridge Boys' holiday show
Enjoy classic hits and holiday favorites when The Oak Ridge Boys perform the "Christmas Time's a Comin'" concert at Pfeiffer Hall at North Central College, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville. Tickets cost $45-$60. (630) 637-7469. 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
Martina's 'joyous' Christmas
Country music superstar Martina McBride headlines "The Joy of Christmas" at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago. $39.50-$79.50. (800) 745-3000 or visit thechicagotheatre.com or ticketmaster.com. 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
Go alternative with The Killers
Need a break from all of the holiday music? Head down to Chicago for the alternative sounds of The Killers with Tegan and Sara at UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave., Chicago. Tickets run $38.50-$58.50. (312) 413-5700 or (800) 745-3000. 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
End of days?
Want to nervously laugh at the end of the Mayan calendar? Then catch the Geneva Underground Playhouse comedy revue "Scenes From the End" at The Geneva Underground Playhouse, 524 W. State St., Geneva. $10. (630) 492-0380 or guptheatre.org. 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21
Illinois high school cheerleading and dance athletes compete at the IHSA Winter Meltdown 2012 this weekend at the Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates. $10; kids 3 and younger admitted free. (888) 732-7784 or searscentre.com or recreationalcheer.com. 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
The Fox Valley Repertory Youth Ensemble presents "Cinderella," the classic tale of a poor girl who dreams of finding true love, at the Fox Valley Repertory at Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles. $10. (630) 584-6342 or foxvalleyrep.org. 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
'The Velveteen Rabbit'
The Kirk Players present a staged adaptation of "The Velveteen Rabbit," a play based on the classic book by Margery Cook, in the Great Hall at the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills. Admission is $5 for children ages 12 and younger; $7 adults. The story looks at a stuffed velveteen rabbit who dreams of becoming a real animal. Bring a Toys for Tots gift and receive a free mug of hot chocolate. For information, call (847) 362-3042 or (847) 521-6192 or visit kirkplayers.org or luc.edu/cuneo. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 22-23
Santa takes a dip
Santa Claus will take to the pool and pose for photos at the annual Swim with Santa event at the Elk Grove Pavilion Aquatic Center, 1000 Wellington Ave., Elk Grove Village. Following his time in the water, Santa, back in his famous red outfit, will be available for sit-down chats with youngsters outside of the pool. The event features games, crafts and plenty of swimming. Registration is required. Cost is $7 for Elk Grove resident children and $10 for nonresident children. Adults are $5. All adults must also register and accompany their children. (847) 593-6248 or elkgroveparks.org. 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
The art of blacksmithing
Learn how a blacksmith repairs equipment and watch as a volunteer blacksmith demonstrates the tools and techniques of the trade at Kline Creek Farm, 1N600 County Farm Road, West Chicago. All ages. Free. (630) 876-5900 or dupageforest.org. 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
'A Christmas Fantasy'
The Illinois Brass Band presents "A Christmas Fantasy" concert at the Cosman Cultural Center at 12015 Mill St., in Huntley. The program features a mix of traditional carols and holiday classics with some jazzy updates of old favorites. The audience is invited to join in during the traditional carol singalong portion of the show. Tickets are available at the door on the day of performance. No reservations are required. Adults are $10; children and students, ages 18 and younger, are $5. Visit illinoisbrassband.org. 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
See thousands of twinkling lights and holiday scenes at Brookfield Zoo's annual Holiday Magic lights festival. Event highlights include laser shows, music and dance performances, ice-carving demonstrations and other family activities. Activities are free (with the exception of rides and photo opportunities) with paid $10.50-$15 general zoo admission. Parking is $10 per car. Brookfield Zoo is at First Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield. (708) 688-8000 or CZS.org. 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 22-23, and Wednesday through Monday, Dec. 26-31
Singer-songwriter Andrew Ripp, a native of Palatine, will play a hometown show at Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St., Palatine. Ripp has released two albums of driving pop-rock, the most recent being 2010's "She Remains the Same," and he tours relentlessly. Here's a chance to see a local talent as he makes a name for himself. $7. Go to durtynellies.com or andrewripp.com. 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
Looking for an alternative to holiday entertainment? Check out the Improv Playhouse, 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, which pairs audience-inspired improvised comedy with standup sets in both G and R-rated versions. $10, $7. (847) 968-4529 or improvplayhouse.com. Family-friendly show at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22; mature show at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22
Stage adaptations of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" are rife this time of year, but Light Opera Works bucks the trend by presenting "Oliver," Lionel Bart's hit 1960s musical adaptation of the Dickens novel "Oliver Twist." Catch it starting this weekend at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston. $32-$92 regular run. (847) 920-5360 or lightoperaworks.com. 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23
'Sing-Along With Santa!'
Take part in the "Sing-Along With Santa!" program, an interactive musical presentation for children and families, at the Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main St., St. Charles. $15 adults; $10 children. (630) 587-8521 or steelbeamtheatre.com. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23
The rock group Hairbanger's Ball performs songs from the 1980s to the present in an evening of rock music at Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St., Palatine: Hairbanger's Ball. $7. (847) 358-9150 or durtynellies.com. 10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23