Sugar plums before dinner
Completely "wow" a young ballet fan with tickets to the Joffrey Ballet's 17th annual Nutcracker Family Dinner at the Radisson Blu Aqua. See the Joffrey's performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Auditorium Theatre, then board festive trolleys to the Radisson Blu Aqua for cocktails, entertainment and activity stations that the entire family can enjoy.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7. Performance at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway. Dinner and activities take place at Radisson Blu Aqua, 221 N. Columbus Drive. Ticket prices vary according to seating at the ballet. Joffrey.org/NutDinner.
Sail on Santa
Christmas is coming early to the Spirit of Chicago as families are welcome aboard for a Saturday of seasonal fun on the Santa Lunch Cruise. There will be DJ entertainment and a visit from Santa as well as cool views of Chicago's skyline from the climate-controlled ship. The cruise offers a newly redesigned lunch menu that incorporates fresh, organic ingredients.
Board at 12:30 p.m., cruise from 1:15 to 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13. The cost is $42.90 for adults and $25.95 for children (3-12). Prices do not include taxes or fees. Reservations are required at (888) 957-2634 or spiritcruises.com/chicago/cruises/specialty/santa-lunch.
Where does Santa hole up? It could be at Chicago's Swiss˘tel Christmas-themed Santa Suite. From now until Christmas Day, you can tour the 41st floor Santa Suite, complete with Christmas trees, a table set for Santa Claus and his reindeer, and a gift for the children on his nice list. Every child who visits the suite will receive their very own keepsake ornament and anyone can write Santa a letter while in the suite. Tag or tweet a photo of the Santa Suite using the hashtag #SwissSantaSuite and you'll be entered to win a surprise, including a one-night stay at Swiss˘tel Chicago. On Dec. 14, Santa himself will be there from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to take photos.
Times and dates vary at the Swiss˘tel Chicago, 323 E. Upper Wacker Drive. To experience the suite, hotel guests and visitors must check in at the concierge desk. (312) 268-8110 or swissotel.com/santa-suite for a schedule.
All dressed up and one place to go
Next Friday might be a great time to visit the Racine, Wisconsin, area as it's the monthly installment of First Friday in downtown Racine, the Racine Symphony performs an Orchestra Holiday Pops concert and it's Burlington's 33rd Annual Christmas Parade in downtown Burlington. Snag one-night-only specials at local shops and free museum admission during First Fridays.
First Friday is from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, in downtown Racine (firstfridaysracine.com). 6:30 p.m. Christmas parade in Burlington. 7 p.m. concert at Festival Hall, 5 Fifth St., Racine. Get ticket info at racinesymphony.org.
Christmas at The Lake
Celebrate the season at The Abbey Resort & AVANI Spa with Christmas at The Lake Weekend Activities, which are complimentary and include crafts, cookie making, visits with Santa, story time, Yuletide bonfires and classic holiday movie screenings. The Abbey will host Brunch with Santa every Sunday in December before Christmas and the resort offers A Christmas Remembered Cabaret Dinner Show Wednesdays through Sundays with performances of favorite Christmas carols. The Lake Geneva resort also offers New Year's Eve party options for families and couples.
>Seasonal family activities take place weekends through Dec. 20. Holiday cabaret show runs $34.95 to $39.95 for adults and New Year's Eve party prices vary. For details or to make a reservation, see TheAbbeyResort.com or call (800) 709-1323.
Party central: Ohio
Five Ohio State Park Lodges are celebrating the December holidays with fun and festive events. Some of the festivities include: all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast each Sunday in December leading up to Christmas at Punderson Manor Lodge; Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center's annual Winter Carnival the week after Christmas; Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center as home base when visiting one of the area's celebrated holiday traditions such as Dickens Victorian Village, a seasonal public art display with 200 mannequins depicting 80 scenes throughout nearby Cambridge; Mohican Lodge and Conference Center's New Year's Eve party; and Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center's lavishly decorated lodge. This year there are 13 trees and 20,000 lights with most of the ornaments constructed of natural materials.
For information about Ohio State Park Lodges, visit the individual websites, ohiostateparklodges.com or call (800) 282-7275.