You’ve ooh-ed and aah-ed at holiday lights, rode the rails on Santa’s train and ogled the beautifully decorated store windows. If you think your holiday bucket list is complete — think again! We traveled neighborhoods north to south, and ventured to the ‘burbs and beyond to find other holiday hits that will have you merrily ringing in 2017. Flip through to see where you should go.
Best Christmas Tree Display: Museum of Science and Industry
You'll be tempted to sing “Oh, Christmas Tree” more than 50 times as you walk through the museum’s stunning display of ethnically diverse trees that celebrate cultures and traditions from China to Denmark. The biggest and brightest tree is their four-story centerpiece that stands tall in the domed Rotunda twinkling with more than 30,000 lights and ornaments.
Held thru Jan. 7
Free with museum general admission ($18/adults, $11/children 3-11); discounts available online
5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Biggest and Best Indoor Playground: Navy Pier
Get all the thrills and chills you can handle at Navy Pier's annual Winter WonderFest, which has rides for all ages. It's Chicago's largest indoor winter playground featuring 170,000 square feet jam-packed with rides, slides, a Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating rink and holiday decor that's sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
Open thru Jan. 7
600 E. Grand Ave.
Best Place to Take a Stroll: Morton Arboretum
Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns with more lights, sights and sounds that will transform a Chicago-area wintertime walk in the woods into a colorful, inspiring experience like no other. New this year, become a part of the illumination experience by wearing programmed interactive pendants that light up in sync with the exhibit. Take warm-up breaks by grabbing a hot cocoa in heated tents or warm your piggies at fire pits arranged along the path.
On display thru Jan. 1
4100 IL Rt. 53
Best Place to Hear Carolers: Millennium Park
Sing your way into the holly-jolly spirit as Chicago choral groups croon holiday favorites at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park. Onlookers are encouraged to join in the fa-la-la'ing as the silver bean reflects the skyline and your shining, joyful faces.
Held on Fridays thru Dec. 15; 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
201 E. Randolph St., Millennium Park
Best Place to Buy Stollen: Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston
Sink your teeth into the award-winning bakery's buttery, fruit-filled, powdered sugar-coated holiday specialty: weihnachtsstollen. This German treat is working overtime to redeem fruitcake's reputation once and for all.
$12.99 for a small loaf; $18.99 for large.
1000 Davis St.
Best Show to Get You in the Holiday Spirit: It’s a Wonderful Life
From the moment you walk through the doors, you will be transported back to the “Golden Age of Radio” and experience the story of George Bailey like never before. In addition to the heart-warming story performed, the production includes 1940s-style commercials from actual local sponsors, holiday carols, telegrams from the audience read live on the stage, the “Soldier Spotlight;” when American Blues Theater honors one serviceman or servicewoman per performance; and after the show, the entire audience is invited to join the cast and crew for milk and cookies.
Showing now thru January 6
Greenhouse Theater Center
2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Best Place to See Santa: Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Presented by HGTV, Santa HQ is a thoroughly modern, extraordinarily experiential visit with Santa. The experience invites guests to customize their individual experience by using augmented reality to view Santa’s Workshop and Observatory in magical ways. Visitors can download the Elf-Ray Vision app or use a provided tablet to discover the enchanting word of Santa HQ in stunning 2D or 3D digital scenes. Kids can also step on the scale that tells them whether they made the "Nice List" and make a fun e-mailable dancing elf video while waiting in line. Families can continue their adventure with an in-person visit with Santa inside his modernized sleigh.
Thru Dec. 24
Fashion Outlets of Chicago
5220 Fashion Outlets Way
Best Dance Performance: Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker
The question isn’t if you are going to see this holiday spectacular. It’s when. Last year was the world premier of Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Weeldon’s Nutcracker, and the focus is on our very own city at the turn-of-the century. Brilliantly reimagined for a new generation, this new version of the epic tale centers on the 1893 World’s Fair.
Wowing audiences thru Dec. 30
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Pkwy
Best Free Event: Lincoln Park Zoo
One of the nation’s only free-admission zoos flips the holiday switch with ZooLights. With the light displays throughout the grounds your fam can stroll through the twinkling winter wonderland created by over 2 million lights, take photos with Santa, enjoy food and drinks, watch ice carving demos, partake in carousel rides and go-’rounds on the Lionel Train Adventure. New this year, visitors can get lost in a maze of 30,000 lightbulbs at Foreman Pavilion.
Lighting the night thru Jan. 7
Lincoln Park Zoo
Fullerton Pkw. & Cannon Dr.
What is your absolute favorite thing to do over the holidays? Shout about it in the Comments!
— Maria Chambers & Nicole Morris