On holiday in Chicago: Local museums turn it up for the winter

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Edward Kemeys. Lions (detail), 1893. Gift of Mrs. Henry Field. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Chicago’s famed museums have many stimulating events, exhibits, lectures and celebrations that are sure to make this season a bright one.

Art Institute of Chicago

Pass the evergreen-wreathed lions as you enter the museum, walk up the Grand Staircase and kiss your loved ones under the Great Mistletoe Ball. Be sure to visit the Neapolitan Crèche, an 18th-century nativity scene that features more than 200 figures; The Christmas Prayer, a drawing by Van Gogh; and the Thorne Miniature Rooms, which will be decked out for the holidays. Special events not to be missed are: The Christmas Story in Art lecture held in the Rubloff Auditorium, the Treasure Hunt and Tea Party in the Modern Wing, the High School Choirs on the Grand Stair Case and the Luminary Walk in the Lurie Garden.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarius’s family-favorite aquatic show — Holiday Fantasea — features the Pacific white-sided dolphin, beluga whales, sea lions and penguins.

“Guests can connect with their favorite animals and enjoy a special appearance from Santa,” said Nicole Minadeo, Shedd Aquarium’s manager of communications and public relations. “The presentation provides a unique opportunity for guests to see how Shedd’s trainers work with animals to build strong bonds.”

The Shedd Holiday Breakfast, followed by a private 15-minute viewing of The Polar Express 4-D Experience, will be held at 8 a.m. on Dec. 14, Dec. 21 and Dec. 22.

“You’ll have the chance to engage all your senses and even get a free gift from Santa,” Minadeo said.

Visit www.sheddaquarium.org/holiday.

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium’s Season of Wonder celebrates the winter season through a sky show and the magical World’s Largest Snow Globe.

“Our collection of winter related shows, events, programs and demonstrations offer guests a unique way to enjoy and experience the holiday season,” said Mark Webb, director of theater operations at the planetarium. “Season of Wonder sets itself apart from other holiday attractions because it highlights something often overlooked: the spectacular beauty of the winter night sky.”

In the seasonal sky show, Winter Sky Live, guests will revel in the sights of constellations, visible solar system objects and the Aurora Borealis.

“Winter Sky Live shows why the longest and coldest nights of the year are some of the best for discovering the wonders of the night sky,” Webb said.

Don’t miss the 70-foot domed virtual World’s Largest Snow Globe and experience a Chicago winter like never before.

“Our visualization technology allows us to put a new perspective on something we see everyday, like a snowflake, by placing the audience inside an immersive environment,” Webb said.

Field Museum

Take a step back into history as you visit the Field Museum’s Opening the Vaults: Wonder’s of the 1893 World’s Fair. Photographs, large-scale projections, a meteorite, ancient instruments, a Peruvian mummy and other oddities are on display to celebrate the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition that was hosted in Chicago.

“After the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago grew rapidly to become one of the largest cities in America. In 1893, just 22 years after the Great Fire, it hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition. A showcase of architecture, culture, technology and peoples from around the world, this World’s Fair is considered the greatest World’s Fair of all times,” said Paola Bucciol, exhibition project manager at the Field Museum.

Museum of Science and Industry

The 72nd annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light displays will dazzle every museum sightseer.

“This year, the Christmas Around the World Grand Tree will be themed around our Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit,” said Jeff Buonomo, manager of temporary exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry. “It will be decorated with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments in vintage Disney style. Around the Rotunda, guests will see festive banners that depict their favorite Disney characters, and we will even have snow falling every half hour inside the building.”