By Magdalene Paniotte

With the Thanksgiving holiday already past, now is the time to really venture out and celebrate the festive season of lights. As Christmas day draws near, these recommended area attractions will bring much joy and peace to everyone in the family.


Breakfast with Santa
John Hancock Observatory
875 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2605
Chicago, IL 60611
(888) 875-8439

Price: Adults $45, Youth $35, Infants $15
Dates: Select days through December 23, 2012

For kids of all ages up for a very special holiday treat this season, Breakfast with Santa is being served high in the sky at the historic John Hancock Observatory. Currently the sixth tallest skyscraper in the United states, the 100-story landmark structure is a marvel to behold on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Guests are in for a delicious buffet extravaganza hosted by none other than Santa himself with the help of his trusted assistant, Seemore Miles (JHO mascot). The delicious buffet will consist of eggs, bacon, sausage and fresh fruit with tasty sweets, but most of all, some great quality time spent with Mr. and Mrs. Claus that will include a complimentary family photo to savor this memorable festive occasion.


Winter WonderFest
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-7437 

Price: Free admission ($15 wristband purchase to participate in rides)
Dates: Now through January 6, 2012

Navy Pier’s Winter WonderFest is a favorite family tradition during the holidays. A popular tourist attraction sponsored by the Bank of America, this festive playground of entertainment features thousands of lights decorating an abundance of trees in celebration of Christmas. With unlimited rides and shows designed to delight both the young and old at heart, there is absolutely something for everyone to enjoy. From the Reindeer Express Train Ride to the Ferris Wheel or the Winter Wonder Stage to the variety of New Year’s Eve parties along the fabulous Pier, this is a truly remarkable locale to celebrate the spirit of the season.

Related: 2012 Chicago Holiday Theater Preview


Handel’s Messiah
Apollo Chorus of Chicago
Harris Theater
205 E. Randolph Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 334-7777

Price: $45-$55
Date: December 16, 2012 in Harris Theatre at Millennium Park, Chicago IL

A premiere choral musical society founded in 1872, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago is nationally recognized for its wonderful baroque and classical performances each season. The musical ensemble membership consists of more than 100 auditioned volunteers with a passion and dedication for creating beautiful vocal harmonies in concert halls, orchestras and cathedrals through the Chicagoland area. The many varied works range from Mendelssohn to Bach and Berlioz, culminating to the cherished Handel’s “Messiah” to end the event. The highly acclaimed choral organization was formed in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire with a mission to restore and rejuvenate the city’s spirit and has achieved outstanding success over the years.


Caroling at Cloud Gate
Millennium Park
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 742-1168

Price: Free admission
Dates: December 7, 14 and 21, 2012

Now in its seventh festive season of holiday cheer at Millennium Park, Caroling at Cloud Gate extends an open invitation to all choral singers who feel inspired to join performing choir groups in a sing-along of joyous merriment. This event occurs on scheduled Friday evenings during the Christmas season and has become a great way of getting into the holiday spirit, weather permitting. After the concert, all energized participants are warmly invited to join in the fun with hundreds of skaters at the adjacent McCormick Tribune Ice Rink (there is a fee of $10 for skate rental). Cloud Gate was installed by British artist Anish Kapoor and is nicknamed “The Bean” for its unique bean-like qualities. The stainless steel sculpture weighs in at 110 tons and features a picturesque 12-foot arch.  


New Year’s Eve Gala
The Drake Hotel
140 E. Walton Place
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 787-2200

Price: $135-$195
Date: December 31, 2012

Ring in the New Year with style at the legendary Drake Hotel, located in Chicago’s historic Gold Coast area. A well-appointed and elegant destination known for impeccable hospitality and service, the festivities will be held in the Gold Coast and Grand Ballrooms with state-of-the-art sound, an indulgence of gourmet hors d’oeuvres with drinks and a champagne toast accompanied with balloon drops at midnight. A sell-out special occasion with more than 2,000 guests in attendance annually, this exquisite formal-attire New Year’s Eve Gala promises to surpass all expectations, ranking high among the most lavish of holiday celebrations.

Related: Chicago New Year’s Resolutions

Magdalene Paniotte is from Chicago and very pleased to be a CBS Contributor. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre and has studied creative writing at the graduate level. Maggie enjoys composing articles and developing her voice as a freelance writer. Her work can also be found at