Millions of lights transform the Lincoln Park Zoo into a twinkling winter wonderland at ZooLights. Stroll through candy cane lane, watch a lights show programmed to holiday tunes, listen to carolers and see ice transformed into sculptures. And, of course, visit your favorite zoo animals. All animal exhibits are open except the McCormick Bird House and Farm-in-the-Zoo.
Details: 4:30-9 p.m. daily through Jan. 5 (closed Dec. 24-25) at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St. Free / MAP
A holiday classic gets fresh moves in the Hyde Park School of Dance’s production of “The Nutcracker.” The 90-minute performance fuses ballet, modern dance and hip-hop choreographed to Tchaikovsky’s score. Before the show, see some of the school’s youngest dancers in their first-ever performance in the “Pre-Ballet Holiday Show.”
Details: 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday at the University of Chicago, Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. $10-$25; $40 for reserved seats; free for kids 4 and under / MAP
3. Belt it out
Join Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in singing holiday tunes to “White Christmas” or cheer on Jimmy Stewart as he plays George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Music Box Christmas Sing-a-Long and Double Feature. Warm up your windpipes by singing Christmas carols with Santa Claus before the show. Make it a double feature for an extra dose of holiday cheer.
Details: Screenings begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. Full schedule here. Single ticket: $11.50-$15.50; double feature: $17-$24; $10-$15 for children under 13 / MAP
4. Cut a rug
Bust out your dancin’ shoes and finest (or most hideous) holiday attire for an Ugly Sweater Party Beginner Swing class. Learn to swing dance to holiday tunes during a 45-minute class before tearing it up on the dance floor. All adults 21 and up are welcome – including those with two left feet.
Details: 9-11 p.m. Friday at Duet Dance Studio, 2412 W. North Ave., #201. $25 / MAP
Get all the holiday feels at the Community Trees exhibit featuring seven trees, each decorated by a different local nonprofit. Be sure to vote for your favorite – the winning tree will get a donation from the McCormick Foundation (which has already donated $2,500 to each participating organization).
Details: 2-6 p.m. Saturday self-guided tour; 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily except Monday and Dec. 24-25 through Dec. 29 at the Robert R. McCormick House at Cantigny Park, 1 S 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. Free / MAP
More than 40 local artists showcase their work at The Chicago Art Girls Holiday Pop-Up. Decorated cookies, magnets, cards, coasters and art are among the items for sale. Tip: Arrive early – the first 25 shoppers each day receive a free tote bag.
Details: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Bell Elementary School, 3730 N. Oakley Ave. Free / MAP
Festive songs, like “Deck the Halls” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” are performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus along with choral works such as “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah at “Merry, Merry Chicago!” Learn about the annual show from conductor Emil de Cou, who appeared this week on “Chicago Tonight” to preview the show with seven CSO chorus members.
Details: 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with additional performances through Dec. 23 at the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. $38-$150 / MAP
Excited to soak up the warm glow of holiday lights while avoiding the frosty temps? Admire the sights and sounds of the season from inside your toasty car at Santa’s Rock N Lights, featuring nearly 200,000 animated lights set to Christmas music along a mile route.
Details: 5-10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 at Lake County Fairgrounds, 1060 E. Peterson Road, Grayslake. $19.99 Monday-Thursday per vehicle; $24.99 Friday-Sunday per vehicle / MAP
9. Pick up
Shop eco-friendly gifts at the Holiday BIDE Market, from soaps to spirits to handbags and jewelry. Organizers say the market is designed to showcase vegan, fully sustainable, plastic- and cruelty-free items. Talks and panels on sustainability round things out. Partial ticket proceeds benefit the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Details: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at Exchange312, 1714 W. Division St. $10 / MAP
Hot chocolate, Christmas carols, face painting and photos with Santa are a handful of holiday activities happening at Christmas on 55th Street. Free meals, coat and clothes giveaways and an arts marketplace are also on tap.
Details: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at various locations, including the Washington Park Fieldhouse, 5531 S. King Drive. Free / MAP
Events listed are subject to change. We recommend double-checking times and locations before you head out the door. Want to share your upcoming events with us for consideration in a future roundup? Send us an email.