FREE Things to Do This Christmas in Chicago and Northwest Indiana: TONS of Holiday event ideas!!!

Millennium Park Ice Skating
Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, Chicago
Located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets, the Millennium Park Ice Rink draws more than 100,000 skater annually. The rink is open to the public every day of the week and skating is free. Skate rentals are available.
Now through March 14 (weather permitting)
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Winter Wonderland
John Hancock Center,
875 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL
Remember the Winter Wonderland Holiday Train? The holiday lights and Lake Michigan in ice? This year we’re celebrating 40 years of festivities at JHO and everything you loved as a kid is there for you to share with your kids or grandkids – at a great price!
Winter Wonderland is open every day from now to Dec 31 and Santa will be flying in every weekend from 12-4pm.
Now through Dec. 31_____________________________________________________________________________

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light
Museum of Science & Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

The Museum halls will be decked, holiday singers and dancers will fuel the festivities, and the sparkle of dozens of decorated trees will greet you at this year’s Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light. The Museum’s grand tree takes center stage in the Rotunda, while more than 50 trees beautifully decorated by members of Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent global cultures adorn the Museum’s Main Level. Stroll through the trees, enjoy intermittent falling “snow” and savor the performances of various dance and choral groups on the Holiday Stage.
Now through January 9_______________________________________________________________________________

Daley Plaza Santa’s House
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street, Chicago
Visit Santa’s House at Daley Plaza, where you can tour Santa’s house and he will be available for pictures and taking wish lists. Visits with Santa start on Thanksgiving Eve. Here is Santa’s schedule:

Now through Dec. 19 (Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays): 11am – 3pm and 4pm – 8pm
Dec. 20, 21, 22 & 23: 11am – 8pm
Dec 24: 11am – 4pm
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Christkindlmarket Chicago
Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street, Chicago
See, taste and hear the holiday cheer. Experience a traditional holiday market, based on the century old markets in Germany, in the heart of downtown Chicago. This free event features German and International vendors who display hand crafted ornaments, toys and unique gifts as well as traditional German foods, sweets and beverages.
Now through December 24
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Caroling at Cloud Gate
Millennium Park, Chicago
Celebrate the holidays in Millennium Park, when Caroling at Cloud Gate returns on Friday evenings each week throughout the holiday season. Chicagoans and visitors alike are invited to Cloud Gate to hear the beautiful voices of different Chicago choral groups, including the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, the Chicago Children’s Choir, the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Wicker Park Choral Singers, and participate in a holiday sing-along. Free admission.
Now through December 17 (Fridays only)
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ZooLights
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 Canon Drive, Chicago

One of the brightest parts of Chicago’s winter—ZooLights—returns in late November. ZooLights is free and open to all. Watch ice carving demonstrations, visit with Santa, savor warm drinks, enjoy cool crafts and be dazzled by more than one million beautiful lights. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only through Dec. 12. Open nightly Dec. 17 – 23 and Dec. 26 – Jan. 2. Closed Dec. 24 and 25.
Now through January 2 (select dates)
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Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland Express
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL
Take a magical trip to a winter wonderland of twinkling lights and holiday beauty at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Outside, 750,000 lights sparkle and welcome you and your family to the Garden’s wonderland. Inside the Regenstein Center, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition of miniature trains winds over bridges, under trestles, past waterfalls, and through more than 80 mini-replicas of Chicago’s favorite landmarks. On select dates (see website) you can have breakfast or supper with Santa, hot chocolate with Mrs. Claus, or a Hanukkah dinner and concert. (Closed Christmas Day.)
Now through January 2
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Holiday Flower Show
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Avenue, Chicago
Come enjoy a traditional Holiday Flower Show in the Show House. You’re sure to marvel at the sheer number of poinsettias on display. The holiday scene is perfect for taking annual family photos or for just getting in the holiday spirit. Admission is free to this all-ages event.
Now through January 9
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City Hall Holiday Concert Series
City Hall Lobby, 121 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago

Get into the holiday spirit while listening to the classics sung by children’s choirs from throughout the city. The City Hall Holiday Concerts are held every weekday from noon to 1 pm. The concerts take place in the west end of the City Hall lobby near the LaSalle Street entrance. The concert series truly exhibits the talents of children from all over Chicago and warms the hearts of the audience. Admission is free.
Now through December 17
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Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
Festival Hall, Navy Pier, Chicago
Winter WonderFest returns to Navy Pier for another wonderful holiday season. This Chicago tradition delights visitors of all ages with breathtaking holiday décor that fills 170,000 square feet of indoor holiday fun. Come to experience thousands of glistening lights, hundreds of decorated holiday trees, festive candy cane decor and enchanted holiday entertainment on various stages. Visitors from around the world come to the Winter WonderFest to wander about the lavishly decorated holiday village and to enjoy an indoor adventure that includes exciting rides, huge inflatable slides, train rides, indoor ice skating, climbing walls, cookie decorating, live entertainment and so much more!
Now through – January 2
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Lincoln Square Christkindl Market
Leland & Western Avenue, Chicago
Take part in the sites, sounds and flavors of a traditional German Christmas market in the heart of the German community on Chicago’s north side. Walk down Lincoln Avenue and take in the strolling musicians, ice sculptures and beautiful Christmas decorations. When you arrive at the corner of Leland and Lincoln you will be welcomed into the big heated tent filled with traditional German food. Sip on warm Gluewhein as you listen to traditional Christmas carols or toast with a refreshing beer. At Kids Korner, the little ones can decorate cookies, wreaths and create special ornaments. Throughout the day traditional Christmas carols will be ringing in the air sung by local children’s and adult choirs, but at night the market moves from the traditional entertainment to the contemporary.
December 4 – 5
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4th Annual Holiday Breakfast with Santa
Soldier Field, 1410 S. Museum Campus Dr.

Soldier Field hosts its fourth annual Breakfast with Santa Saturday, Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. in the United Club for about 600 guests. The lavish brunch will be one of the few times during the year when the United Club’s fine dining is open to the public. Families will not only be able feast on a fantastic holiday-themed breakfast, but also visit with Santa and his elves.

At the stadium, children under age 12 can decorate holiday cookies or take part in other interactive festivities. Families are encouraged to bring their own ornament to decorate the stadium tree. The top three handmade ornaments will receive prizes.

“We invite everyone to take advantage of this unique holiday event as it’s a special opportunity to experience this historic venue,” said Timothy J. Mitchell, General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District.
TODAY! December 4
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Macy’s Breakfast with Santa
Macy’s State Street, 111 N. State Street, Chicago

Join Santa for a delicious breakfast meal and afterwards there will be fun and games for the whole family. Don’t forget your camera so you can capture every moment. Seating is limited – to make a reservation call 1-877-556-2297.
TODAY December 4
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Santa Arrives By Boat to Navy Pier
Dock Street, Navy Pier, Chicago

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in grand fashion with a winter fireworks tribute as they dock at Navy Pier. They are welcomed at the Grand Staircase by the Mayor of Winter WonderFest and a cast of holiday characters to mark the lighting of the holiday season at Navy Pier! Festivities begin at 6pm. This event is free and open to the public.
TODAY – December 19 (Saturdays & Sundays)
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Dance Along Nutcracker
Chicago Cultural Center

For a different way to experience the Nutcracker, visit the Chicago Cultural Center for the Dance Along Nutcracker. Open to adults and children and free for all, you can glide onto the dance floor with characters from the ballet and learn dance steps; be a part of the fun instead of simply watching!
December 5

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Washington Park Festival of Lights
More than five million individual bulbs light up a variety of holiday and traditional displays that are truly a sight to behold! The largest free drive-through light exhibit in the Midwest. Voted by the American Bus Association as one of the top 100 events. Don’t miss the Festival of Lights parade on December 4th – bundle up and pick the perfect spot along Parker Parkway to watch parade participants bustle along their merry way. Santa kicks off the parade at 3:30 pm.
Location: at the lakefront in Michigan City, IN
Free!
TODAY through January 7, 2011
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Journey to Bethlehem
December 4 & 5, 11 & 12: 5-8 pm

Journey to Bethlehem has been a Northwest Indiana Christmas tradition for thousands since 1997. The dates are December 4 & 5, 11 & 12 from 5-8 pm each night! Your guided tour will take you through a 33BC Bethlehem village, complete with live animals! You will visit the home of Mary as she is told by the angel that she is to be the mother of the promised Messiah, tour the Hebrew marketplace, Joseph’s carpenter shop, Herod’s palace, the inn where Mary and Joseph found no room, and a Judean hillside where the shepherds are tending their sheep. You will be caught up in wonder and in awe as you witness the events of that first Christmas night before your very eyes with the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Journey to Bethlehem is presented at Lake Hills Baptist Church (9209 W. 85th Ave., Schererville, IN 46375). As you arrive for your journey, you will be treated to some festive music of the season while groups of approximately 25 begin their half-hour journey about every 5 minutes. You can arrive any time between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. There is no charge for admission.

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A Christmas Story!

This holiday season, The Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond will feature six animated display scenes from A Christmas Story as well as weekend events and opportunities to meet the cast of the movie. The displays include; Higbee’s Department Store Window, Flick’s Tongue and the Triple Dog Dare, It’s a Major Award, Santa’s Mountain at Higbee’s, The Bumpus Hounds, and the Parker Living Room.
A Christmas Story Comes Home exhibit will be on display from Now until January 9, 2011 in the W.F. Wellman Exhibit Hall. The Welcome Center is located at the intersections of I-80/94 and Kennedy Avenue South in Hammond.
Festival Weekend, TODAY December 4th and 5th! Guests will have the opportunity to meet Flick, Randy Parker, Scut Farkus, Grover Dill and Miss. Shields from the movie, A Christmas Story. Autograph signings will be held at the Indiana Welcome Center on Saturday and Sunday (fees apply). A special Meet and Greet with the cast will take place on Saturday evening. Tickets for the Meet and Greet are $30/person and are limited to the first 50 people. Call (219) 989-7770 (219) 989-7770 for more information.
The popular “Mommy’s Little Piggy” mashed potato eating contest will also be held on during Festival Weekend on Sunday, December 5th with special guest, Randy from the movie! The event will begin at 10:30am and registration will start at 10am.
The “Oh Fuuudge!” tire changing relay will be held again, on Saturday, December 11th. Parent/child teams will run through an obstacle course and prizes will be awarded to the pair with the best time.
All events are held at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond and signups are available online at www.aChristmasStoryComesHome.com.
Letters to Santa, Live Entertainment and More!
Bring the whole family to enjoy the live entertainment on the weekends and write letters to Santa and drop them in the big mailbox in the exhibit hall! View the documentary, The Untold Christmas Story in our 100-seat theater, vote on the ugliest leg lamp or participate in the Write a Theme Contest – the exhibit is packed with fun for the whole family. More information is available online at www.aChristmasStoryComesHome.com.
Relive the “You’ll shoot your eye out” scene atop Santa’s Mountain
Have your picture taken with Santa on top of Santa’s Mountain, a replica of the one featured in the movie. In the famous scene, Ralphie Parker asks Santa for an Official Red Rider BB Gun, and Santa responds, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
Photos with Santa on Santa’s Mountain are available between Thanksgiving and Christmas, every Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm and Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 3pm at the Indiana Welcome Center. Children have the opportunity to slide down a big red slide into a pillow of snow. Photos are $5 apiece.
Visit www.aChristmasStoryComesHome.com for a complete list of special events, contests, hours of operation and directions. The Welcome Center gift shop offers an array of movie memorabilia including the infamous leg lamp.

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Christmas Eve service at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville 3pm. Hosted by Bethel Church. www.Bethelweb.org for more information.
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Bass Pro has some great FREEBIES going on now though Christmas Eve that are perfect to take the kids to.

Explore the Magic of Christmas inside every Bass Pro store. Get a free picture with Santa, make the weekly craft, play games and more! Now – December 24, 2010. Local folks: Check out the Portage store for all the fun!

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