You’ve seen Clara pirouette and the Sugar Plum Fairy passé, but have you ever seen a Mouse Queen who pops and locks? This year, the Hyde Park School of Dance gives its staging of The Nutcracker a hip-hop twist, as the midnight battle with the mouse troops showcases traditional ballet as well as the more cutting-edge genres the school also teaches. Plus, stop by the Holiday Bazaar for a chance to meet some characters from the ballet, build a cocoa masterpiece and knock out those last pesky items on your shopping list. $33, $10 kids 6-18, free kids 5 and under. 7 p.m. Dec. 9; 1 and 6 p.m. Dec. 10; 2 p.m. Dec. 11.
Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., Chicago. (773) 493-8498.
As if ZooLights, with its two million twinkling bulbs, ice sculpture artists and visits with Santa, wasn’t cool enough, the specially designed ZooLights Family Nights appeal to the kids inside all of us. These evenings include free rides on the Lionel Train Adventure, AT&T Endangered Species Carousel and Holiday Wagon, not to mention a complimentary kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult meal at Park Place Café. Mondays have never looked so merry! Free. 4:30-9 p.m. Dec. 12, 19 and 26.
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago. (312) 742-2000.
This is one holiday tree that doesn’t need lights in order to sparkle. At Create a Gem Tree, kids 9 and up and their adult companions (calling all grandparents!) learn how to create a small tree using just gemstones and wire. And fortunately for all the green thumb-deficient among us, a gem tree never needs to be watered! All materials are provided, so reservations are required. $25. 1-3 p.m. Dec. 3.
Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, 220 Cottage Hill Ave. (in Wilder Park), Elmhurst. (630) 833-1616.