Things to do Dec. 23-29: There's still time to catch a light show, holiday production


Festival of Lights and Tree Sale: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 30 (9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 24, and closed Sunday, Dec. 25) at Cosley Zoo, 1356 N. Gary Ave., Wheaton. Thousands of twinkling lights, plus Christmas trees, wreaths, greenery, hot chocolate and holiday gifts for sale. Lights turn on at 3 p.m. Free admission, donations are appreciated.

Light Up the Lake: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 (closed Dec. 25) at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. The interactive holiday experience incorporates light sculptures, a lighted birch tree maze, stomp light activity, ice skating, a holiday train, visits with Santa and a free ride on the Centennial Wheel. Adults: $27, kids 3-12: $17.

Winter WNDRland: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, through Jan. 2 (closed Dec. 25) at the WNDR Museum, 1130 W. Monroe, Chicago. Features a new interactive light-up Santa's Sleigh installation and photos with holiday-themed elements throughout existing installations. General admission from $32, VIP experience $50, kids 3-12 from $22, and free for kids 2 and younger.

“A Christmas Story, The Musical”: 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 1 (no shows Dec. 24-25) at The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive. Lincolnshire. This show brings the beloved 1983 movie about the Parker family to musical life on stage. $59-$64. (847) 634-0200 or

“Elf the Musical”: 1:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 6 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 8 (no shows Dec. 24-25) at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Musical stage adaptation of the holiday film.

“Dear Evan Hansen”: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Monday and Tuesdays; and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, through Dec. 31, at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. $30-$110.

Winterland: 3-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 8 (closed Dec. 25) at Gallagher Way, 3635 N. Clark St., Chicago. Market vendors, carousel, food and beverage offerings, a 12,000-square-foot ice rink, carnival rides and games, ice bumper cars, music and more. The expanded event extends inside Wrigley Field. General admission free; admission to Wrigley Field is $5.

Manual Cinema's “Christmas Carol Live”: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, Dec. 21 and 23; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22; and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. Features the combined talents of actors, puppeteers and musicians.

Amaze Light Festival: 4-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 8 (closed Dec. 25), at Odyssey Fun World, 19111 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. An immersive storybook experience with five themed worlds of light displays, activities, holiday music and dynamic live performances. Adults: $36, kids: $30; VIP adults: $86; VIP kids: $80; parking is $20.

Illumination, Tree Lights: 4:30-9:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 7 (closed Dec. 24-25) at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle. Explore six new displays of light, sound and color along the 1-mile walking path, including a special Human+Nature display and an experience featuring 150 colorful lanterns. Stop by the firepits to roast marshmallows or purchase snacks and beverages at the concession tents. Members: $11-$22; nonmembers: $16-$27.

Sparkle Light Festival: 4:30-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 6-9 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and other times/dates through Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 25) at Impact Field, 9850 Balmoral Ave., Rosemont. Immersive displays of millions of holiday lights and outdoor holiday activities, including train rides, winter tubing, themed mazes and more. The two-story Alpine Slide is an extra $22 for unlimited rides. A special menu of festive food and beverages will be available. Adults: $25; kids 2-12: $20. (847) 636-5450 or

Winter Lights: 4:30-9:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 8 at Central Park, Jorie Boulevard and Forest Gate Road, Oak Brook. A free half-mile illuminated walk along paved pathways. Purchase cookies, candy canes and hot cocoa in the Cocoa Cabin in the Central Park West building from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29. The path will be closed during inclement weather.

Aurora Festival of Lights: 5-9 p.m. daily through Sunday, Dec. 25, at Philips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive, Aurora. The outdoor one-mile drive-through holiday light display features jumping reindeer, ice skating bears, Old Man Winter, howling wolves, Santa's toy factory, fields of gigantic snowflakes and more. Free; donations will be taken at the end. Register for an entry ticket at

Magical Christmas Drive-Thru Experience: 5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5-9 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 30 (closed Dec. 24-25) at Santa's Village, 601 Dundee Ave., East Dundee. See more than 3 million lights synchronized to holiday music during this drive-through light show. New this year at the end of the show is the 300-foot tube slide, entertainment, hot chocolate, concessions and photo ops. Tickets must be reserved online as they will not be available at the gate. $35; $25 for existing season pass holders. (847) 426-6751 or

Santa's Rock 'N' Lights: 5-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 1 at the Lake County Fairgrounds & Event Center, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake. Enjoy a mile of lights dancing to music during this drive-through animated lights show. $29.99-$34.99; online ticket purchase is required.

Willow Hill Lights Show: 5-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 1 at Willow Hill Golf Course, 1350 Willow Road, Northbrook, This drive-through holiday lights show features a 1.6-mile route with more than one million lights, three drive-through tunnels and a 30-foot Christmas tree. See the abominable snowman, Rudolph and his reindeer pals, the Twelve Days of Christmas, Frosty and his friends and more. $40 per car.

Nights of Lights: Dusk to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 8 at Adams Park, Main and Wesley streets, Wheaton. See more than 55,000 lights and a new animated light display at the fountain. Free.

Shine Light Show: 6-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 1 at Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake-Cook Road, Northbrook, and Wintrust Field, 1999 S. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg, Drive-through light shows feature a wonderland of more than one million lights synchronized to holiday music. $32.99-$42.99; fast pass add-on is an extra $20. One ticket per vehicle; online purchase is required.

Home for the Holidays Lighted Christmas Trail: 7-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 at Shiloh Park, 25th Street and Emmaus Avenue, Zion. A drive-through trail showcasing more than 50 Christmas light displays with 100,000 lights.

Joffrey Ballet's “The Nutcracker”: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21; 2 and 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 22-23; 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24; and 2 and 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 26-27, at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago. Set in Chicago's World's Fair in 1893, Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's version of “The Nutcracker” highlights the rich cultural heritage of Chicago and the wonder of the season. Tickets start at $36. (312) 386-8905 or

“The Sound of Music”: 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 14 (no show Dec. 25) at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical as directed by Amber Mak. Tickets start at $28.

The Second City's “Jingle Bell Ruckus”: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, and Monday through Saturday, Dec. 26-31, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. Second City performs a fast-paced, interactive comedy holiday revue that skewers holiday film classics, family gatherings, Christmas carols and more. May contain adult language and themes. Tickets through Dec. 30 are $35; Dec. 31 tickets are $50 and include a champagne toast.

“A Christmas Carol”: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 22-23, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. This adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic is filled with warmth, humor, music and holiday cheer. Adults $35; students $20.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze”: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22; 11 a.m. and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23; and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Soaring acrobatics, gravity-defying feats and extravagant theatrical production numbers. Tickets start at $34.

The Second City's Holiday Revue “I Saw Mommy Kissing the Second City”: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, and 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at the Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. Chicago's famed improv and sketch comedy theater performs a holiday review. $38.

Blue Man Group: Various dates and times (no shows Dec. 25) at the Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted, Chicago. Masks are encouraged but are optional. Show is recommended for kids 3 and older. $49-$69.

“A Christmas Carol”: Various times and dates through Dec. 31 (no shows Dec. 25) at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. High-end production of Charles Dickens' classic. $63-$109.

“The Immersive Nutcracker”: Various dates and times through Jan. 2 (closed Dec. 25) at Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, 108 W. Germania Place, Chicago. Experience “The Nutcracker” brought to life on a majestic scale featuring Tchaikovsky's “The March of the Toys” and “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and more. Tickets start at $30.

“Irving Berlin's White Christmas”: Various times and dates through Jan. 1 (no shows Dec. 24-25) at Center Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. Presented by Music Theater Works and based on the classic film “Irving Berlin's White Christmas.” $39-$106.

“Little Women”: Various times and days through Jan. 15 (no show Dec. 25) at Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 31st St., Oak Brook. World premiere of an adaptation written by First Folio Artistic Associate Heather Chrisler. $29-$59.

Friday, Dec. 23

Chicago Fair Trade Pop-Up Shop: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, at NEWCITY Lincoln Park, 1457 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Shop from a range of fair trade items including food, socks, clothing, accessories, home goods and toys.

“Baby Shark Live! The Christmas Show”: 1 and 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. $27.50-$125.

“Merry, Merry Chicago!”: 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. $199-$399.

Santa's Village: 4:30-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake. Walk around the new Pop Up Village featuring lighted displays and Santa, ax throwing, a balloon artist, face painting, ornament making, food trucks, drinks, free hot chocolate and more. (224) 757-5425 or

It's a Motown Christmas Salute to the Magic of Motown: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at the Des Plaines Theatre, 1476 Miner St., Des Plaines. Features tributes to Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The 4 Tops and The Supremes. $39-$59.

American English, A Beatles Christmas: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles. American English will perform Beatles songs. $19.

Monday, Dec. 26

Kwanzaa Kinara Lighting: 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 26, at Fountain Square, Davis Street at Sherman and Orrington Avenues, Evanston. Dec. 26 marks the first day of Kwanzaa and the last day of Hanukkah; the event includes remarks from Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss, Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet Synagogue and Pastor Ken Cherry of Christ Temple Church, a holiday dance performance, and the lighting of the first candle of Kwanzaa and the last candle of Hanukkah at Evanston's public kinara and menorah displays.

Kwanzaa Festival: 1-4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26, at the Robert Crown Community Center and Library, 1801 Main St., Evanston. The Kwanzaa Festival and Storytelling Event will include local artists and food vendors, a family art and crafts area, a West African Community Drum Circle lead by Evanston's Tony Garrett, and a storytelling presentation of “Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story.”

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic: 3-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Dec. 26-31, at Brookfield Zoo, 8400 31st St., Brookfield. The lights festival features more than two million twinkling LED lights, illuminated animal sculptures, a tunnel of lights, a skating rink ($7 per person) and more. Reservations are required for South Gate entry; reservations are not required for North Gate entry. Adults: $24.95; kids 3-11: $17.95; seniors: $19.95; parking: $13.40.

Kohlights: 5-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Dec. 26-29, at Kohl Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview. An interactive holiday light display designed for kids. $20-$25, members receive $5 off.

Tuesday, Dec. 27

Lightscape: 4:30-11 p.m. Dec. 27 through Jan. 8 at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake-Cook Road, Glencoe. Experience nature in winter along a new walking path featuring light, fire, color and music in such displays as the re-imagined fire garden and Winter Cathedral. Timed tickets cost $30 for members, $32 for nonmembers for adults; $14/$16 for kids; free for kids 2 and younger; tickets purchased the day of the event cost $2 more. (847) 835-6801 or

“It's a Wonderful Life” A Live Radio Play: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Dec. 27-30, at the Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview. Seven actors bring the entire town of Bedford Falls to life in a 1946 radio play complete with sound effects. $35-$45.

Wednesday, Dec. 28

Holiday Pop Up at the Grayslake Heritage Center: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, through Sunday, Jan. 1, at the Grayslake Heritage Center & Museum, 164 Hawley St., Grayslake. Hands-on learning experience for kids. $5 per child.

Beatles tribute act American English will perform A Beatles Christmas Friday, Dec. 23, at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Courtesy of American English
  The Festival of Lights and Tree Sale continues through Dec. 30 at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton. Mark Welsh/, 2020
The Joffrey Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" continues through Dec. 27 at Chicago's Lyric Opera House. Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg Photography
"A Christmas Story, The Musical" runs through Jan. 1 at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Courtesy of Liz Lauren
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