’Tis the season to enjoy the holidays in Chicago

My Wisch List newspaper column from the Saturday, Dec. 1, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)


By Dave Wischnowsky

Besides summertime, there’s really no better time in Chicago than Christmastime.

Michigan Avenue is awash in twinkling lights. The windows at Macy’s on State Street are filled with animated holiday cheer. The Cubs can’t lose any ballgames …

Ah, but I digress.

With so much holiday hoopla going on throughout the city in December, I thought I’d gift to you today some ways to enjoy it yourself. I think it’s OK if we unwrap them early.

Catch a holiday show

This winter, “A Christmas Carol” celebrates its 35th year of production at the Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn St.). Last December, I got the chance for the first time to see Goodman’s take on the Charles Dickens classic and came away feeling anything but “Bah, Humbug.”

The sets for “A Christmas Carol” are particularly amazing, taking full advantage of the theater’s spacious environs. For tickets and details, visit

If you’re not in the mood for Scrooge, I also recommend “The Christmas Schooner,” a longtime Chicago tradition at the cozy Mercury Theater (3745 N. Southport Ave.).

The musical is based on the true story of the “Rouse Simmons,” a ship that during the late 19th century battled Lake Michigan’s dangerous gales to transport Christmas trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago’s German immigrants. The schooner became known to Chicagoans as “The Christmas Tree Ship.” For tickets and details, visit

Have holiday breakfast at the Shedd

No, fish is not on the menu.

But the Shedd Aquarium is again offering its annual treat for kids and adults with Holiday Breakfasts on Saturdays, Dec. 8, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22. The events, which begin at 8 a.m., include a buffet and a private viewing of the 15-minute Polar Express 4-D Experience, followed by a drawing for special prizes.

The morning then continues with a visit to Shedd’s children’s exhibit, the Polar Play Zone, where the kids can meet Santa before finishing the day with reserved seats at the seasonal aquatic show, “A Holiday Fantasea” set to a festive soundtrack. To register for a Holiday Breakfast, visit

Go Caroling at ‘The Bean’

Now in its seventh year, “Caroling at Cloud Gate” has become a hit in Chicago. But it’s better to call it “Caroling at The Bean,” since that’s what everyone calls the shiny landmark in Millennium Park.

This musical tradition was launched by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in 2005 and takes place each Friday evening through Dec. 21 in the park at North Michigan Avenue at East Randolph Street. Caroling begins at 6 p.m. at “The Bean” and lasts for about 50 minutes. You can listen or join in the singing.

Celebrate Christmas Around the World

For seven decades, the Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S. Lakeshore Drive) has been home to one of the best yuletide exhibits in all of Chicago: “Christmas Around the World.”

Back in 1942, a tradition was born when the museum put up a solitary Christmas tree in honor of the allies of World War II. In the ensuing years, that simple act has grown into a breathtaking show of lights and concerts, highlighted by the 45-foot-tall Grand Tree that’s adorned with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments. Forty smaller trees surround the giant one inside the museum’s rotunda, all decorated by volunteers and each embodying a different culture’s holiday tradition.

The intent is to help visitors learn more about other communities and their own neighbors. School choirs often sing on weekdays, while various ethnic groups perform songs and dancing on weekends. For more information, visit