Bright holiday ideas? Chicago has them

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

Bright holiday ideas? Chicago has them


Nov. 6, 2010

In Chicago, it’s apparently never too early to start thinking about the holidays.

No, I mean, really.

It’s apparently never too early.

For example, I was driving through the city’s Roscoe Village neighborhood one evening when I spotted on light poles a series of new banners bearing the image of a Christmas tree above the message: “Happy Holidays from Addison Street Community Church.”

This was on August 31.

August. Thirty. First.

Unless “the holidays” now begin with, well, Labor Day, I’d say those banners were a tad premature. But now that the calendar has actually flipped to November, I figure it’s OK to start thinking about plans for the actual “holidays.”

And to help, here are a few Windy City suggestions as we barrel toward Thanksgiving and beyond.

Nov. 18: Christmas Around the World

At the Museum of Science & Industry, Christmas starts early. Not Aug. 31 early, mind you, but still pretty early.

Beginning Nov. 18, MSI will be decked out in holiday décor and feature singers and dancers as part of its 69th annual Christmas Around the World celebration.

The highlight will be the towering “Grand Tree,” located in the museum’s Rotunda and surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated by members of Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent global cultures.

Christmas Around the World lasts through Jan. 9. For more information, visit

My tip: At MSI, Christmas isn’t the only show in town. Also beginning Nov. 18, is the museum’s Holidays of Light display, which celebrates holidays such as Chinese New Year, Diwaili, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah and more.

Nov. 20: Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Paris might be “The City of Lights,” but this time of the year, Chicago can hold its own in that regard.

At 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, the city will officially flip the switch on the holiday season with the Lighting Procession of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

Featuring more than 30 floats, marching bands and Mickey Mouse as Grand Marshal, more than one million lights will be illuminated on 200 trees as the parade travels the Mag Mile. At 6:55 p.m., the event will culminate with a fireworks show over the Chicago River. For more information, visit

My tip: The festival actually begins at 11 a.m. in Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave., with a live concert featuring a variety of Radio Disney performers and acts that your kids probably love.

Nov. 20-21: Chicago Toy and Game Fair

When you’re a kid, Christmas largely revolves around just one thing: Toys.

So to indulge your children – or just your inner child – you can visit the 8th annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair, held in Festival Hall B at Navy Pier.

As the nation’s only toy and game fair open to the general public, the event features live entertainment and the opportunity to sample the hottest new toys and games on the market. For more information, visit

My tip: The fair isn’t only fun (or toys) and games. It also educational, offering seminars for both parents and teachers.

Nov. 26-28: ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

If lights at MSI and along Michigan Avenue don’t, well, knock your lights out, then maybe those at Lincoln Park Zoo will.

Beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving, Chicago’s zoo will bathe itself in strings of lights and extend its hours to celebrate the holiday season. ZooLights is free and runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit

My tip: ZooLights is staged only on weekends until Dec. 17, when it begins running nightly through Jan. 2. (The zoo is closed on Dec. 24-25).