Things to do Dec. 24-30: Holiday festivals, light shows, performances and more

  • Santa's Rock 'N' Lights runs through Jan. 2 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake.

    Santa's Rock 'N' Lights runs through Jan. 2 at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake. Courtesy of Santa's Rock n Lights

Updated 12/22/2021 6:53 AM

Note: Events are subject to change because of COVID-19 restrictions or because the event has sold out. Call ahead or check the website before you go.



Light Up the Lake: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. An indoor, temperature-controlled experience featuring large-scale light-sculpture displays showcasing more than 600,000 twinkling lights, a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, holiday beer garden, train rides, Santa's Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. The event will close at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve and will be closed on Christmas Day. Tickets are $26 for adults, $21 for kids 3-12, and free for kids 3 and younger.

Holiday Bricktacular: Various hours through Jan. 3 at Legoland Discovery Center Chicago, 601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg. Take a family photo with a life-size Santa's Sleigh, enjoy the attraction's holiday decorations, participate in the Lego present scavenger hunt and more. Included with price of general admission.

Winterland: Daily through Feb. 20 at Gallagher Way, 3635 N. Clark St., Chicago. Includes the Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville, ice skating on an 8,000-square-foot ice rink, curling and skating lessons, Santa's Workshop, wreath-making classes, holiday movie screenings, ice bumper cars and more.

The Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 30.
The Festival of Lights at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. - Daily Herald File Photo
Light shows

Festival of Lights and Tree Sale: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Thursday, Dec. 30, at Cosley Zoo, 1356 N. Gary Ave., Wheaton. The zoo is a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights, plus Christmas trees, wreaths, greenery, hot chocolate and holiday gifts for sale. Lights turn on at 3 p.m. Open from 9 a.m. to noon on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Free admission; donations are appreciated.

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ZooLights: 4-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. Includes a holiday lights experience on the Main Mall, a light show on the South Lawn, sensory-friendly visit times and an 18-foot holiday tree. $5; free on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Holiday Lights in Lilacia Park: 4:30-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 in Lilacia Park, 150 S. Park Ave., Lombard. Light shows, tree decorations, a gingerbread house and more.

Let It Shine Lightshow: 4:30-11 p.m. daily through Jan. 9 at Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake-Cook Road, Northbrook; Fox Valley Mall, 195 Fox Valley Center Drive, Aurora; and Wintrust Field, 1999 S. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg. A drive-through wonderland of light displays synchronized to holiday classics. Online ticket purchase required. $29.99 per vehicle weekdays, $39.99 weekends and holidays, $20 add-on for Fast Pass.

Willow Hill's Winter Magic, A Drive-Through Christmas Lights Experience: 4:30-10:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 at Willow Hill Golf Course, 1350 Willow Road, Northbrook. Features over one million lights adorning displays of characters, Christmas trees, drive-through light tunnels and more. $40. Reserve tickets at


Winter Lights: 4:30-9:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 9 at Central Park, Jorie Boulevard and Forest Gate Road, Oak Brook. A free half-mile illuminated walk along paved pathways. The path will be closed during inclement weather. Purchase cookies, candy canes, hot cocoa, hot coffee and tea in the Cocoa Cabin in the Central Park West building from 5-9 p.m. Thursdays through Jan. 6, except Thursday, Dec. 23.

Mooseheart's Holiday Lights Show: 5-9 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 at Mooseheart, off Route 31, south of Batavia. Features a 1.8-mile holiday light display through campus. Suggested donation is $20 per car to benefit Mooseheart.

Santa's Rock 'N' Lights: 5-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5-8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday through Jan. 2 at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake. The drive-through animated light show features nearly 1,000 programmable elements and more than 100,000 animated lights dancing to holiday music. $19.99-$34.99 per vehicle.

Winter Drive-Thru Light Show: 5-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5-11 p.m. Friday and Sunday through Jan. 9 at Goebbert's Farm, 42W813 Reinking Road, Pingree Grove. Watch the lights and decorations dance to the music during this drive-through show. $20 per car Mondays through Thursdays and $25 weekends. Online tickets are required for weekends at

Hanson Barn Christmas Light Show: 6-9 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 at the Hanson family farm, 5107 Thorne Road, Marengo. Farm buildings have been decked out with more than 45,000 pixel LEDs and more. The light show is synced to music, which people can tune into via 92.9 FM. Donations welcome at

A 40-foot lighted reindeer towers over the Reindeer Road holiday lights event in Naperville, which runs through Dec. 25.
A 40-foot lighted reindeer towers over the Reindeer Road holiday lights event in Naperville, which runs through Dec. 25. - Courtesy of Rich Janor

Reindeer Road: 6:30-9:30 p.m. through Saturday, Dec. 25, in the parking lot of Highpoint Church, 1805 Highpoint Drive, Naperville. A five-minute drive filled with displays and accompanying holiday music featuring a 40-foot Rudolph with a blinking red nose. Souvenir winter hats and LED light bulb necklaces will be sold to benefit The Alive Center and KidsMatter. $10 per vehicle.

Christmas Tree Lane: Through Friday, Dec. 31, at Depot Park, 90 E. Woodstock St., Crystal Lake. The gazebo and trees in Depot Park will be decked out with lights and decorations.

AMAZE Light Festival: 4-10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26, through Sunday, Jan. 2, at Impact Field, 9850 Balmoral Ave., Rosemont. The festival offers outdoor holiday activities for all ages, including an immersive display of more than one million holiday lights, Santa's Workshop, costumed characters, holiday food and beverages, toboggan rides, thrill hill tubing, train rides, holiday market, an immersive storybook experience and more. $23 for adults, $18 for kids 2-12. Tickets are limited; buy them in advance at

Holiday in the Park Lights: Holiday Lights: 4-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, Dec. 26-30. Holiday Drive-Thru: 5-9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2, and Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 6-9, at Six Flags Great America, 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee. Light shows, live entertainment, seasonal snacks and more. For tickets, visit

Big Timber Brilliance: 5-8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, Dec. 26-30, and Sunday, Jan. 2, and 5-9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, at Camp Big Timber, 37W955 Big Timber Road, Elgin. See hundreds of thousands of lights across a nearly milelong walking trail, including two signature light tunnels synced to music, and finish by the fire at the cozy lodge. Benefits Three Fires Council BSA providing programming to local youth. $14-$15 for children, $20 for adults, free for children younger than 3.

Holiday Magic: 3-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, Dec. 27-31, at Brookfield Zoo, 8400 31st St., Brookfield. More than two million twinkling LED lights, a 600-foot Tunnel of Lights, skating rink, photo ops and more. Play the Game of Gnomes and find all 27 hidden throughout the zoo. Guests and zoo members must secure admission and parking tickets in advance of arriving at the zoo. Dec. 26 is sold out.


Beatrix Potter Holiday Tea Party: 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 24, at Chicago Children's Theatre, 100 S. Racine Ave., Chicago. Puppet show starring Beatrix Potter's favorite animal friends, tea in a Victorian-style dining hall and activities. Tickets start at $42.

Kwanzaa Festival and Storytelling Event: 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26, at the Robert Crown Community Center and Library, 1801 Main St., Evanston. The free event will include local artists, a family arts and crafts area, West African Community Drum Circle led by Evanston's Tony Garrett, a contemporary West African Dance performance, and a storytelling presentation of "Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story" by Angela Shelf Medearis, adapted and narrated by nationally renowned storyteller Dr. Stephanie Davenport. Free, but RSVP required. Email (provide name and number of people attending) or visit


Bobby Lewis and Petra van Nuis Jazz Concert: 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, at the Wilmette Public Library, 1242 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette. The library welcomes back Bobby Lewis and Petra van Nuis for the annual New Year's Eve Eve concert. wilmette.libnet.

The String Cheese Incident: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 30 through Jan. 1, at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Ring in the New Year with The String Cheese Incident, the band's first New Year's Eve in Chicago in 18 years. $56.75-$150.50.

On stage

Joffrey Ballet's "The Nutcracker": 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 24, and 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26, at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago. Set to Tchaikovsky's classic score, Christopher Wheeldon's re-imagined "Nutcracker" follows young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince on a Christmas Eve journey through the 1893 World's Fair. $35-$177.

"A Christmas Carol": 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 24, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. Retelling of the Charles Dickens' classic. Recommended for grades 1-12. $15-$30. For reservations, see

"The Snow Queen": 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26, and Thursday, Dec. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 1; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2, at the Chopin Theatre Mainstage, 1543 W. Division Ave., Chicago. The House introduces a reimagination of Hans Christian Andersen's beloved fable infused with The House's hallmarks of magic, puppetry and music. $20.

"A Christmas Carol": 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26; 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28, and Friday, Dec. 31; and 2 and 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 29-30, at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Experience the story of Ebenezer Scrooge's discovery of kindness, compassion and redemption. Proof of full vaccination with an FDA-authorized vaccine is required for all guests 12 and older upon entry. Face coverings required at all times. $31-$91.

Cedric the Entertainer performs as part of the "New Year's Comedy Laugh Fest" at Chicago's United Center on Thursday, Dec. 30.
Cedric the Entertainer performs as part of the "New Year's Comedy Laugh Fest" at Chicago's United Center on Thursday, Dec. 30. - Associated Press, 2021

New Year's Comedy Laugh Fest: 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago. A night of humor with Earthquake, Eddie Griffin, Cedric The Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Nephew Tommy. $59-$250.

Ring in Arcada's 95th New Year's Eve: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, Dec. 31, at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St. in St. Charles. Featuring Chicago's Own Piano Man Band with a "Salute to Billy Joel and Elton John" and surprise guests. Includes party favors, champagne toast at midnight, and cash bar. Dance floor will be open. $49.


Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Jan. 3 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Explore holiday traditions from around the globe. $21.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids 3-11.

"Dr. Seuss Experience": Noon to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 2 at Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Immersive exhibit lets guests journey through nine different Dr. Seuss books. $23-$30; free for kids younger than 1.

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