This coming weekend is known in Chicago as the official kickoff to the holiday season. Are you ready? Good. There’s enough fun happenings to make even the Grinch smile. Speaking of the cranky green fellow, catch him at Chicago Theatre and carry on your merry way to the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, Morton Arboretum’s “Illumination” and MSI’s “Holidays of Light.” There’s also the Chicago Toy & Game Fair and lots more. Jingle, jingle, everyone.


The Loop

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Follow the grouchy Grinch as his heart grows three sizes in this musical. Narrated by Max the Dog, this fun show is colorful, merry, bright and onstage at the beautiful Chicago Theatre. Filled with fun surprises — think snow! — it makes for a perfect family holiday date. Held Thurs.-Nov. 29. Tickets starting at $35. Ages 3 & up. Event details.

“Downtown Sounds” Family Concert
Let your imagination wander to far-off places. You’ll trot from one composer’s favorite city to the next via the musical stylings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Travel to Paris with Gershwin and Ibert, listen to the gushing water of the Trevi Fountain with Respighi, and walk with Smetana along rivers in Bohemia. Sat., 12:45 p.m. at Symphony Center. TIckets start at $16. All ages. Event details.

Mag Mile

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
The day’s festivities begin at Pioneer Court with activities for the fam, a visit with Santa and live performances. Then celebrate the illumination of more than one million lights along North Michigan Avenue with a giant parade. There will be 40 impressive floats, energetic marching bands, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Held Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Light Procession begins at 5:30 p.m. Free. All ages. Event details.

Navy Pier

Chicago Toy & Game Fair
Your little ones can meet the inventor of Operation, walk in the “Frozen” parade, take on challengers at the Settlers of Catan and Rummikub tournaments, and even rock everyone’s world at the Young Inventors Challenge. This is only the beginning — they will also be able to play with the latest and greatest toys and games just in time for Christmas. Held Sat., 10 am.m-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at Navy Pier. $10/adult; $5/child. All ages. Event details.


Family Cooking Workshop
If you have a little master chef in the family, go cook up some fun with meal prep home delivery service Madison & Rayne. Chef Josh Jones and your kiddo will whip up scrumptious samples, smell spices and take home coloring sheets to keep them inspired. Held Sat., 2-4 p.m. at The Red Balloon Co. Free. All ages. Event details.

Lincoln Park

“Rainforest Adventure” Exhibit
There is so much to explore, from climbing a kapok tree to taking a peek into a gorilla’s nest. Kiddos will even learn about how to protect the endangered species that call the rainforest home. You might even find yourself hanging out with the Blue-throated Macaw, Violet Turacos, Green Tree Pythons and many others. Thru Jan. 1 at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Included in general admission ($9/adults; $6/kids 3-12; free for children under 3). All ages. Event details.

Hyde Park

“Christmas Around the World” Exhibit
The fam is going to be enchanted by the trees and displays that are decorated to represent the rich multicultural heritage of Chicago. Of course, the crown jewel will be the The Grand Tree with 30,000 twinkling lights, sparkly ornaments and all the trimmings. Thru Jan. 4 at the Museum of Science and Industry. Free with general museum admission (non-residents: $18/adults, $11/children 3-11; residents: $15/adults, $10/children 3-11). All ages. Event details.

West Loop

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey present LEGENDS
Prepare for an evening of mythological creatures and performers from across the globe. From the magnificent Pegasus and the amazing Unicorn, to the Riders of the Wind Cossack horsemen, to the big cats and motorcycle daredevils, this is a show the kiddos will never forget. They will also be mesmerized by the majestic Asian elephants, a high-flying trapeze act and so much more. Held Wed.-Nov. 30 at United Center. Starting at $15/person. All ages. Event details.


“The Princess and The Pea” on Stage
Discover what happens when you combine a would-be princess, a pea and stack of mattresses. The little ones are going to love, and probably be pretty jealous of, the 12-foot-high bed and its 20 colorful mattresses in this production staged by Chicago Kids Company. Held Fri., 10:30 a.m. at Beverly Arts Center. $12/person. Ages 2-12. Event details.


Morton Arboretum’s “Illumination”
This interactive LED light display covers over a mile of the Morton Arboretum with lights that will respond to giggles, hugs and conversations. You can also enjoy the tunes of Symphony Woods from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and a variety of live entertainment that will change throughout the season. Held Fri.-Jan. 3. Admission fees vary. All ages. Event details.

South Holland

Settlers’ Day
Learn about French fur traders, the curious sprit of the pioneers and the struggles of the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. Your little explorers can pretend they’re part of wagon train, explore the area during guided history hikes, show off their strength with a go on the two-person buck saw, and more. Sun., 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Sand Ridge Nature Center. Free. Ages 3-7. Event details.

How are you kicking off the holiday season? Tell us in the Comments below!

— Kelly Aiglon & Natasha Davis