Let the games begin!
Build cities, play in tournaments, meet characters from Star Wars to Moshi Monsters and so much more at the 11th Annual Chicago Toy & Game Fair (ChiTAG), the only U.S. fair of its kind open to the public. There will be interactive exhibits, contests (the official Illinois state yo-yo contest, for example), live entertainment and opportunities to preview, play and purchase the hottest toys and games, relive classics and meet the inventors.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. (847) 677-8277 or chitag.com
Create holiday greeting cards and garland, and browse handmade wares by more than 60 local artists at the Holiday Art Fair and Free Holiday Workshop at Lillstreet Art Center and Gallery. During its 38th Holiday Party, Lillstreet turns into an artist's marketplace filled with one-of-a-kind gifts as visitors enjoy complimentary refreshments and music. Visit Lillstreet Loft just down the block to make your own festive greeting card or décor.
6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. Lillstreet Art Center and Gallery, 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave. Chicago. Free admission. (773) 769-4226 or http://lillstreetgallery.com/holiday2013
Trumped up holiday
If you're going to the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, make a beeline to the Riverwalk at Trump Chicago for Reindeer on the River. Get out of the crowds and take family photos with live reindeer and Santa all afternoon, while enjoying cider and hot chocolate, giveaways for children and an a cappella music performance by the award-winning Saint Luke's Choir. You'll enjoy prime views of the fireworks spectacular over the Chicago River, too. Step inside Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago to ride the Gingerbread Express, one special elevator traveling up to restaurant, Sixteen, dressed in gingerbread and candy canes. In addition, a Lamb Chop 2.0 Live Holiday Performance, with Mallory Lewis (daughter of the late Shari Lewis) and puppet Lamb Chop, takes place in the Grand Ballroom.
3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. Reindeer on the River is free at the Riverwalk at Trump Chicago, 401 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago. Tickets are required for the Lamb Chop show at 1:30 p.m. and cost $30-$50 for adults and $10-$30 for kids. trumpchicagohotel.com or (312) 878-1222
Like the old days
Festive Friday Eve's light up Cedar Creek Settlement for the 19th year with a series of five, free, family-oriented evening events during the holiday season. The Settlement offers 25 gift and specialty shops, antique stores, galleries, three restaurants, artists' studios and the Cedar Creek Winery in a restored 1864 woolen mill. Festively adorned for the holidays with natural greenery, garlands, wreaths and thousands of tiny white lights, the first event is "Christmas in Ireland" featuring live Irish music, dance and food sampling. Subsequent Fridays focus on "Home for the Holidays," "Christmas in the Country" and "Santa's Workshop."
5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, Nov. 20, 29 and Dec. 6, 13 and 20. Free (a small admission fee is required for Christmas in the Country only). Cedar Creek Settlement, N70 W 6340 Bridge Rd. Cedarburg, WI. (866) 377-4788 or cedarcreeksettlement.com
Sinterklaas is coming
We call him "Santa" here, but in Pella, Iowa it's "Sinterklaas." During the town's Sinterklaas Days, the man in the red suit arrives in a wooden ship, wears a bishop's miter, and has a Moorish servant as helper. Watch the parade of Christmas characters, decorated Dutch peddler carts and caroling bands march past downtown Pella's Dutch buildings and the Molengracht canal to the Tulip Toren. At the end of the procession, there's a large ship carrying Sinterklaas and his helper Piets. A Sinterklaas party at the Pella Opera House follows the parade when Sinterklaas reads from his book of good children (who get Dutch chocolate letters and coins) and then it's time for songs, stories and visits with Sinterklaas and his gift-bearing elves.
10 a.m. parade; 11 a.m. party at Pella House Saturday, Nov. 30; Pella Historical Village, 507 Franklin St., Pella, IA. Admission for breakfast and party is $10. pellatuliptime.com/events/sinterklaas or (641) 628-4311.
Wisconsin and the world
"Celebrating the Culture of Community" is the theme of the 70th Holiday Folk Fair International near Milwaukee, America's premiere multicultural festival. Sample exotic and familiar cuisine at the World Café; shop the wares of skilled artisans from distant lands at the International Bazaar; take in music and dance performances; browse ethnic cultural displays, educational exhibits and demonstrations.
2 to 10 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park, 8200 West Greenfield Avenue, West Allis, Wisconsin. Admission is $12 at the gate, $10 in advance for adults, children ages 6-12 and seniors 62 and older. Military personnel (with military ID) and children 5 and younger are free. A "Family Fun 4-Pack" of tickets is $36 at folkfair.org. (414) 225-6225