Chicago traditions help make season bright
By Katie Foutz / For Sun-Times Media December 1, 2011 12:50PM
The Museum of Science and Industry has included a Dr. Seuss-themed Christmas tree in its annual Chritmas Around the World Exhibit. | Sun-Times file
Santa Claus is comin’ to town – by train. Check his schedule in the towns below, or find more at santainchicago.com/santaonthetrain/santaandtrains.htm.
Santa at the Blackberry Farm Polar Express: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11 at Blackberry Farm, 100 S. Barnes Road, Aurora. Reservations not required. Tickets, $4. Call (630) 892-1550 or visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org. Note: if there is a cancellation due to weather, the snow date is Dec. 17.
Santa Train in Naperville: 10 a.m. and noon departures Dec. 3 at the Metra station, 200 E. Fifth Ave., Naperville. Reservations required. Tickets, $15 per person, $5 for children less than 1 year old. Call (630) 961-0375 or visit naperjaycees.org.
Santa on the Will County CASA Polar Express: This event running between Joliet and Tinley Park is sold out.
Santa on the South Elgin Polar Express: This event at the Fox River Trolley Museum is sold out.
Santa at the Happy Holiday Railway: 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11 at the Illinois Railway Museum, 7000 Olson Road, Union. Tickets, $12. Call (815) 923-4391 or visit irm.org.
Macy’s department store plays such a big part of the holidays in Chicago that it has its own tourism department.
That’s where you can find insider info like how to get a table in the Walnut Room (grab a pager — they don’t take reservations from November through mid-January), how long it takes to install the animated windows on State Street (one week) and how many people it takes to deck the Great Tree (40 to 45).
Macy’s — and before that, Marshall Field’s — Great Tree has been lit in the Walnut Room for 104 years. The animated holiday windows have been produced for 44 years. Generations of Chicagoans wouldn’t miss them.
If you’ve already trekked from the suburbs to the city, try venturing beyond State Street to these other holiday festivities.
Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour: Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 23 starting at the Water Tower Pumping Station, southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Pearson Street, Chicago. Tickets, $26. Chicago Trolley Co. opened this tour to individuals for the first time this year. Sing carols and see the lights of the Magnificent Mile, State Street and Macy’s Holiday Windows, Daley Plaza’s 40-foot tree, the John Hancock Plaza tree, Navy Pier’s Winter Wonderfest, Buckingham Fountain, Christkindlmarket and more. Tickets must be purchased in advance at chicagotrolley.com.
Christkindlmarket: Through Dec. 24 at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago. Free admission. Shop this giant outdoor market for German-American treats and gifts. Special events include the children’s lantern parade at 5 p.m. Dec. 9, patterned after the German St. Martin parade, when children carry colorful lanterns and sing German and American Christmas carols. Call (312) 494-2175 or visit christkindlmarket.com/en.
Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry: Through Jan. 8 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Included with museum admission, $9 to $15. The museum’s 45-foot Grand Tree anchors the display in the rotunda, surrounded by 50 smaller trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to reflect their holiday traditions. You also can catch musical entertainment and intermittent falling “snow.” Call (773) 684-1414 or visit msichicago.org.
The Music Box Christmas Show: Dec. 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23 and 24 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Tickets, $10 to $17 in advance, $10 to $20 at the door. This holiday movie double feature of “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been going strong for 28 years. There’s also a Christmas carol sing-along at intermission. Call (773) 871-6607 or visit musicboxtheatre.com.
Outdoor ice skating in the Loop: Through March 11, weather permitting, at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago. Free admission. Skate rental, $10. Call (312) 742-1168 or visit millenniumpark.org. Through Feb. 26, another option is the ice rink at Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park, 337 E. Randolph St., Chicago. Free admission. Skate rental, $7. Call (312) 742-0064 or visit chicagoparkdistrict.com.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 2 to 4, 9 to 11, and Dec. 16 to Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 24 and 25) at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. Free admission. The zoo puts up more than two million Christmas lights and celebrates the season with ice carving demonstrations, visits with Santa, warm drinks and cool crafts — and wild animals from around the world. Call (312) 742-2000 or visit lpzoo.org.