Here’s an idea for the holidays . . . yes, it really is time to start thinking about them: Forget the screens and go see what’s on stage! Catching a play, ballet or choir performance is an unforgettable experience for kids — and this season’s shows are real memory creators. Start a new family tradition and check out our picks for the top kid-friendly holiday shows in and around Chicago.

photo: The Nutcracker courtesy of The House Theatre

The Nutcracker
This creative reinvention of the loved tale has an original spin: It focuses on Clara’s journey to save her family, reeling from the wartime death of her brother, from the Rat King. Both funny and heartwarming, it will remind everyone about the real reason for the season.

Through Dec. 30
Chopin Theatre
1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park

Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
You know the story, right? The date was December 24, aka the night before Christmas, and per the usual, not a creature was stirring. . . not even the teeny-tiniest mouse. But not all is good up north because Santa’s Naughty or Nice List has seemingly evaporated into the chilly thin air. It’s up to a pair of dancing mice, a spunky girl and an Elf-B-I (see what they did there?) agent to save the Christmas Day before Santa boards his sleigh. Kick off your family’s yuletide season with this comic take on the classic poem.

Through Dec. 30
Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place
175 E. Chestnut, Streeterville

Miracle on 34th Street
After Santa encounters a skeptical little girl during the season of sharing and caring, a message about the importance of believing is made clear to all.

Through Dec. 23
Theatre at the Center
1040 Ridge Rd., Munster, IN

a-christmas-carol-goodman-theatrephoto: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
There are always a few versions of Marley’s thought-provoking caper across town during the holidays. The one that’s everlasting (and truly tear-jerking) is at The Goodman Theatre, which was first staged there more than 40 years ago. There is something about this timeless story, combined with the world-class actors of The Goodman, that keeps the “bah-humbugs” away.

Through Dec. 30
Ages: 7 & up
Goodman Theatre
170 N. Dearborn St., The Loop

Mrs. Claus! A Holiday Musicalphoto: Mrs. Claus: A Holiday Musical

Mrs. Claus: A Holiday Musical
This short and sweet one-hour musical adaptation is a great intro to holiday theater for even the littlest ones. They’ll feel like part of the action as they help elves try to find Santa’s missing list just in time for Christmas — with a little help from lovable Mrs. Claus. Colorful, musical and just plain delightful, this show will put the whole fam in the happy holiday spirit.

Nov. 29-Dec. 23
Beverly Arts Center
111th St. & Western Ave., Morgan Park
Dec. 4-Dec. 22
Stahl Family Center
5900 W. Belmont, Cragin

photo: Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker courtesy of Cheryl Mann

Joffrey Ballet: The Nutcracker
The question isn’t if you are going to see this holiday spectacular. It’s when. This is the third year 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.

Dec. 1-30
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Pkwy., The Loop

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert
Cars fly, trees fight back, and monsters are on the loose in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! This concert features the film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ in high-definition, on a giant screen, while members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform John Williams’ unforgettable score. Relive every magical moment as the music brings life to a story that has enchanted the world.

Dec. 8 & 9
Symphony Center
220 S. Michigan Ave., The Loop

photo: Art Deco Nutcracker

Art Deco Nutcracker
A+A Ballet will be presenting The Art Deco Nutcracker at Chicago’s Studebaker Theater.  Set in 1920s America, Alexei Kremnev’s version of The Nutcracker is an upbeat yet traditional take on the beloved holiday favorite and guaranteed entertainment for all members of the family. The Sugar Plum Fairy, Mother Ginger and the Nutcracker Prince will all be on stage to tell the tale. The performance is scheduled to include a record-setting 175 dancers on stage at once, with ages ranging from 4 – 24.
Nov. 30-Dec. 2
Studebaker Theatre
410 S. Michigan Ave., The Loop

Merry Merry Chicago
Listen to the celebrated songs of the season performed by the best musicians in the city: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Children’s Choir and special guest vocalist Ashley Brown, best known for originating the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway. Arrangements both new and cherished will have you humming and singing along. Be ready for a visit from the man in red, too!

Dec. 14-16 & 21-13
Symphony Center
220 S. Michigan Ave., The Loop

hannukah-botanicphoto: Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden Hanukkah Concert
Get down at this Hanukkah concert that features traditional music from Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. As a bonus, each ticket includes access to Chicago Botanic Garden’s incredible winter Wonderland Express exhibition, a miniature train that winds through a recreated Chicago.

Dec. 9, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.
1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe

Chicago Tap Theatre’s Tidings of Tap!
Tap, tap, tap on down to this tap-tastic holiday spectacular. Tidings of Tap! showcases the Christmas, Chanukah and the winter season with some of the most amazing tap dancers in the world.


Dec. 18, 3 p.m.
Ages: 5 & up
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie
9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

The Snow Queen
Filament’s 2014 hit is back and better than ever! When her best friend Kai is lured to the wicked Snow Queen’s palace, Gerda embarks on an unexpected quest to the ends of the world to save him. This epic story of courage and friendship across the wintry wonders of the North Pole and beyond will warm your heart with music, puppetry, and lots of theatrical magic.

Through Dec. 23
Filament Theatre
4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., Portage Park

— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri