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Holiday events keeping December hot in Chicago

zlpromo_southlawn670From the Saturday, Dec. 12, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

December itself is almost half over. But, in many ways, the holiday season has still barely begun.

Up in Chicago, I’ve often said that besides summertime, there’s no better time to be in the city than Christmastime. That’s perhaps even truer this year with temperatures this week creeping up towards 60 and making it almost feel like summertime during Christmastime in the city.

No matter the weather, there’s always a sleigh full of holiday hoopla that’s taking place in Chicago throughout December. So much, in fact, that there’s still plenty left in the sack for the final two weeks of the year. And if you’re making a list – and checking it twice – for a holiday visit to the Windy City this month, here are a few things I’d suggest putting at the top.

Holiday Lights Trolley

It may not be Paris, but Chicago can hold its own as a city of lights. And you can enjoy its nighttime sights in all their seasonal glory through Jan. 3 via the Holiday Lights Trolley. For $29 ($19 children ages 3-11), the twinkling 2½ -hour excurison takes you from John Hancock Plaza (875 N. Michigan Ave.) to Lincoln Park Zoo and Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza before returning to the Mag Mile complimentary hot cocoa and cookies at Hershey’s Chocolate World.

For more information, visit chicagotrolley.com.

Winter Wonderfest

Featuring an avalanche of new activities, including a toboggan tunnel, winter mini golf and a 15-foot “snow tubing” hill along with its regular attractions for kids such as the Blackhawks ice skating rink, cookie decorating and carnival rides, the indoor Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier digs in along the lakefront through Jan. 10.

For more information, visit navypier.com.

Caroling & Ice Skating in Millennium Park

During the holidays, Millennium Park always bursts with Christmastime cheer, but especially this year as the city has made it the new home for its towering Christmas tree traditionally positioned at at Daley Plaza.

On Friday, Dec. 18, “Caroling at Cloud Gate” will be held for the final time, from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by optional skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (11 N. Michigan Ave). Skating at the rink is always free, with skate rentals costing $12. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, the rink also offers free skating lessons.

For more information, visit millenniumpark.org.

ZooLights

If you don’t pop in to see Lincoln Park Zoo’s magical ZooLights as part of the aforementioned Holiday Lights Trolley tour, consider making the free annual lights exhibition your primary destination for an evening.

You won’t regret it.

With luminous trees and structures brilliantly lit up as a winter wonderland, the zoo features nightly ice carving, 3D displays, holiday crafts, photos with Santa, ice-skating at the Farm-in-the-Zoo and, for adults, beer and warm spiced wine and for adults.
Beginning on Sunday, ZooLights runs nightly (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) through Jan. 3. Considering visiting during one of the free Family Nights on Dec. 14, 21 and 28 when all visitors enjoy unlimited free rides, and kids eat fee at Park Place Cafe.

For more information about ZooLights, visit lpzoo.org.

Chicago Polar Express

Powered by Amtrak and based on the popular holiday film “The Polar Express,” Chicago’s own Polar Express Train Ride begins at historic Union Station in the West Loop and then morphs into a “magical one-hour trip through downtown Chicago” set to the soundtrack of the motion picture. Rides begin Dec. 19 and run daily through Jan. 3.

For more information, tickets and excursion times, visit chicagothepolarexpressride.com.