Reindeer games for all

When you think about it, Christmas is pretty dependent on Dasher and Dancer and all the rest. After all, without the magical reindeer, there’d be no flying sleigh—and thus, no happy children opening presents. So in honor of these unsung heroes of the holidays, here are five places to see real [flightless] reindeer.

Santa may arrive on a firetruck, but the reindeer are there just in case of a stalled battery (we’re guessing). Holiday Lights in Homewood features a tree lighting ceremony, ice sculpting demos and a hands-on activity involving circuits and snowflakes. Afterward, visit the reindeer petting zoo. Free. 5-9 p.m. Dec. 2.

Inside, the conservatory is decked out in its holiday best, but outside, you can visit with Blitzen’s second cousin (once removed). The Holiday Open House includes music and dance performances, a hayride, and cookies and cider to warm you to the tips of your toes. Free. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 3. Friendship Park Conservatory, 395 W. Algonquin Road, Des Plaines. (847) 298-3500.

While carolers sing about “reindeer games,” you can have your own fun visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus and their cohort of caribou. At Celebrate the Season Holiday Festival, shop in the Mistletoe Market, watch ice carving and see your kids’ eyes light up as the huge tree does the same. Free, small fee for some activities; $5 parking. 4-7 p.m. Dec. 3. Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. (630) 668-5161.

At the Tree Lighting in Wilder Park, decorate cookies, then sneak them to Santa when you tell him your wishes. Plus, enjoy holiday entertainment, kids’ activities and the opportunity to see holiday trees—yes, that’s plural!—throughout the park, as well as the Big Kahuna. Free. 5:30-8 p.m. Dec. 8. Wilder Park, 175 Prospect Ave., Elmhurst. (630) 739-1071.

With the help of Santa @ the Settlement, the reindeer just might come to you! Visitors can make a magical treat in the Reindeer Food Factory, decorate cookies in Mrs. Claus’ Bakery and build ornaments in Santa’s Workshop. And be sure to leave a letter to let Santa know your holiday wishes. $15, $13 members; free kids 1 and under. 9-11 a.m. Dec. 3 and 17. Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville. (630) 420-6010.

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