The holiday season doesn’t kick off in earnest until next month, but there are a few places already getting into the spirit of things. Here are four Chicago holiday traditions early bird families can get a jump on right away.
Since 1942, the Museum of Science and Industry has featured a forest of decorated trees at Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights. The city’s ethnic communities decorate all of the trees. Plus there’s festive music, dance performances and a 45-foot Grand Tree, making for a picture-perfect holiday memory. Free with admission. 10:30 a.m. Nov. 13. Open through Jan. 5. 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. (773) 684-1414.
Santa Claus might be coming to town, but so are Mickey and Minnie Mouse! The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival features a parade of floats, balloons, marching bands and performers–and Disney’s finest illuminating more than one million lights. Don’t miss the activities and entertainment earlier in the day at Pioneer Court. Free. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. parade. Nov. 22. North Michigan Avenue, from Oak Street to Wacker Drive, Chicago. (312) 409-5560.
Once the switch gets flipped on the city’s largest tree, it becomes Chicago’s holiday headquarters. Come early to the Daley Plaza Annual Tree Lighting for music and an appearance by Chicago’s own Christkind, a traditional German fairy. All the razzle-dazzle happens at 5 p.m. Plus, keep an eye out for Santa, who makes the little house on the plaza his home for the next month or so. Free. 4:30 p.m. Nov. 25. Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago. (312) 744-3315.
It doesn’t feel like the holiday season until the Art Institute’s lion statues (named “In an Attitude of Defiance” and “On the Prowl”) don their festive evergreen wreaths. Families can attend The Wreathing of the Lions ceremony, then stay for a craft project in Ryan Education Center and get a picture with museum mascot Artie the Lion. Free; regular admission for inside activities. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 28. Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. (312) 443-3600.