Show Me Chicagos top 10 weekend events

1. Do you know this man?


Vikram Gandhi

He is the award winning director and producer of “Barry”–an exclusive Netflix narrative feature film that tells the story of a young Barack Obama.

The Vikram Gandhi film looks back 35 years ago to “Barry” (Obama) as he begins his junior year at Columbia University in New York City in the fall of 1981.

Gandhi follows “Barry” as he tries to find his way and himself in a crime-ridden and racially charged environment struggling between various social spheres while trying to maintain a series of increasingly strained relationships with his Kansas-born mother, his estranged Kenyan father, and his classmates.  

For those who just want to stay home—which might not be a bad idea—as you may be snowed in anyway–get some popcorn, your favorite beverage and watch Barry–available starting December 16 on Netflix.

2. All aboard The Polar Expresspolarexpresschicago_thumb_theride

The titular train in Chris Van Allsburg’s classic tale, “The Polar Express” comes to life in Chicago. A special train complete with dancing porters, a storytelling conductor, and souvenir sleigh bells and, of course, the jolly old elf, himself will be offering train rides departing from Chicago’s Union station. Click here for tickets and departure schedules.  

3. Catch the spirit

Merry, Merry Chicago at Symphony Center

Voices Rising a talented group of young singers will perform as part of the CSO’s Merry, Merry Chicago.

Celebrate a Merry, Merry Chicago with the 160 voice Chicago Children’s Choir, with special guest Ashley Brown, who played the Mary Poppins role on Broadway. Join the fun with holiday carols and songs from around the world in the magnificent Symphony Center. Friday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 17, at 3 p.m., and Wednesday & Thursday, Dec. 21 and 22, at 3 p.m., and Friday, Dec. 23, at 1 p.m and 4:30 p.m. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is located at 220 S. Michigan Ave.

4. Vintage Jazz Holiday Showvintagejazzmiss-jubilee-thaxton-speakeasy-e1422046128676

Take a step back in time with a holiday vintage extravaganza floorshow at Logan Square Auditorium with “Speechless”– a hot jazz and swing band out of St. Louis, Mo. The show features Miss Jubilee, and performances from cabaret dancers, Galaxie Girls, and vaudeville performer Sammy the Tramp.

There’s a dancing lesson at 8pm, followed by performances all the way
through from 9pm-midnightDecember 14. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

5. Breakfast with Santadrakebrunchwithsanta

Chicago’s elegant Drake Hotel is offering a very special Brunch with Santa this Saturday and Sunday (December 17th & 18th). The festive atmosphere and menu offers all the bells and whistles including an omelet and waffle bar. 12:30 pm to 4 pm. $82 for Adult; $35 for children.

6. Holidays a cappellaholidaysacappla

The Holidays a cappella concert features holiday tales from the Old World and the New, including folk tunes, Renaissance treasures, and familiar Chanukah melodies and Christmas carols.  

Wentz Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, Saturday: December 17, 8:00 pm.; Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave., Sunday: December 18, 4:00 pm.; Pilgrim Congregational Church 460 Lake Street, Oak Park and Sun., Dec. 18, Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. Tickets are adults, $35; seniors, $25; and children younger than 12, $10. 

7. At the zoos

Lincoln Park ZooLights. Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Lincoln Park ZooLights. Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Celebrate ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo nightly now through January 1 (excluding December 24 and 25) and catch a little Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo (December 17-18 and Monday, December 26 – Saturday, December 31). Both zoos are beautifully decked out for the holidays with twinkling lights, carolers, hot chocolate, ice sculptures, special activities and more.

8. The Wonderland Express

Chicago Botanic Garden is decked out in its holiday best with fabulous decor inside and out. A highlight of the garden’s celebration is the Wonderland Express–returning for its 11th year. The exhibition features trains running on 950 feet of track, zipping past more than 80 mini-replicas of Chicago landmarks including Wrigley Field—the home of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. In addition, this weekend features Breakfast with Santa (Saturday, December 17, and Sunday, December 18) and Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus (Monday, December 19). Tickets are required for all.

9. Holiday Train

Santa Claus, shown last year on the Green Line, returns for 2016. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

Santa Claus, shown last year on the Green Line, returns for 2016. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

The CTA Holiday Train, a six-car train decorated in a Christmas motif, continues its run from now through Fri., Dec. 23. Catch it Wed., Dec. 14, Purple Line. Thurs., Dec. 15, Red Line. Fri., Dec. 16, Purple Line. Sat., Dec. 17, Red and Purple Lines. Thurs., Dec. 22, Purple Line Express. Fri., Dec. 23, Yellow Line. Log on to

10. Holiday Theatersecondcityholidazed

Chicago is a hotbed of holiday theater from Second City’s HOLIDAZED AND CONFUSED at UP Comedy Club through the Goodman Theatre’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Click here for SMC’s guide to holiday theater.

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