Chicago holiday season > go, dance, shop, be merry!

Thanksgiving is more 10 days away. Yet the forecast calls for snow, Tickle Me Elmos are rarer than rubies and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas-The Musical” just hit Broadway. Yuletide stations, everyone. Get a jump on holly-jolly Chicago happenings with this sleighful of suggestions.

“The Radio City Christmas Spectacular”
The Rockettes are back, tossing off eye-high kicks in a revamped revue featuring Santa Claus, teddy bears and golden-oldies like “The Living Nativity.” Five new numbers include “Sleighride,” I’m There” and Mrs. Claus’s big number, “Everyone’s Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag.” Expect the Leggy Ladies to hoof it up as rag dolls, toy soldiers, even 12-point reindeer. Now through Dec. 2 at the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont. Tickets are $24.50-$59.50, call Ticketmaster at (312) 559-1212 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
A cherished Windy City tradition is strolling down State Street, that great street, and admiring holiday shopfronts. The times, they are a-changing, but stops should include Macy’s (formerly Marshall Field’s) 11 animated “Mary Poppins” windows at 111 N. State St., and Carson Pirie Scott’s “Classic Christmas” gardenscapes at State and Madison streets. This is the last year for the Carson’s display; the retailer’s parent company is closing the Louis Sullivan landmark next year. Don’t forget to gawk at the Vera Wang mega-tree in Macy’s Walnut Room. Free, through Jan. 7. For more details, call the Chicago Loop Alliance, (312) 782-9160.

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
The lights! The Magic Kingdom minions! The merchandise! Oh, yeah. Retailers unveil their holiday windows Thursday, hot sales, ice sculptures and live entertainment run rampant Friday, but Saturday is Chicago’s big kickoff to the Yule season. Tots will like the LEGO mural building and American Girl vignettes at Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.) and then Mickey Mouse will lead the annual parade down North Michigan Avenue at 6 p.m. between Oak Street and the Chicago River. Hope Mickey’s limber: His Mouseness will be required to wave his magic wand and “illuminate” more than 1 million lights in 200 trees this year along the glitzy shopping strip. Rumor has it that Santa will put in an appearance. A fireworks show over the Chicago River will culminate the festivities. Free, call the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association at (312) 642-3570 or visit www.themagnificentmile.com.

“Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light”
The Museum of Science and Industry’s annual exhibit opens Friday and honors ethnic traditions from around the globe plus Hanukkah, Kwanza, the Chinese New Year and other winter holidays. Don’t miss-attractions include the forest of Christmas trees representing different nations. That goes double for the “ToyMaker 3000” exhibit, the model train set and (awwwww) the baby chicks in the hatchery. The holiday show runs through Jan. 7 at the MSI, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Admission is free with general admission, $7-$11, (773) 684-1414.

“Happy Feet: The IMAX Experience”
Tap-happy penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Woods) seeks a mate and destiny in the larger-than-life IMAX version of the much-hyped animated Warner Bros. comedy. Nothing conjures up winter in Chicago like vast snowscapes, howling winds and frigid waters … and that’s just the view from Dock Street at Navy Pier, steps from the IMAX Theatre. Daily screenings begin Friday at the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $15.50 adults, $13.50 kids, (312) 595-5639. Validate your parking stub at the IMAX box office to save $2 on parking.

Loop hoopla
While downtown, pop into the Loop to browse through the Christkindlmarket, the city’s open-air, German-style market at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m (and sometimes as late as 9 p.m.) Thanksgiving Day through through Dec. 24. There’s live entertainment, stuff to eat and drink (like brats, potato pancakes and warm spiced wine) and booths stocked with ornaments, wooden toys and imported goodies. Admission is free, (312) 644-26662. By the way, Mayor Daley will preside over the municipal tree-lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Nov. 24 in Daley Plaza. This year’s “tree” is comprised of more than 100 individual balsam firs. As for Santa, he’ll hear petitions daily in his Daley Plaza digs starting Thanksgiving Day. His hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 25-Dec. 23, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 25. Note: St. Nick takes a break each day from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“A Christmas Carol”
Ex-Scrooge William Brown directs the Goodman Theatre’s classic tale of the Dickens skinflint who finds redemption one ghost-infested Christmas Eve in Victorian London. “Carol” regular Jonathan Weir, who has appeared as Bob Cratchit and Jacob Marley in shows past, graduates to the role of the uber-humbug this year. Previews begin Friday and the show runs Nov. 26-Dec. 30 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Tickets are $20 to $68 and may be purchased at the box office, at GoodmanTheatre.org or charged by phone at (312) 443.3800. Half-price, same-day “MezzTix” are available at noon for matinees and 6 p.m. for evening shows subject to availability.

“Black Nativity: A Gospel Song Play”
“Son of Man” is billed as the first “black Jesus:” movie, but Congo Square Theatre Company broke the race barrier first with “Black Nativity,” a gorgeous retelling of the Christ child’s birth that unfolds through scripture, song, dance and the poetry of Langston Hughes. Under Mike Malone’s direction, Act I recaps the Christmas story and Act II blossoms into a gospel-powered revival. The critically acclaimed production runs Dec. 2-Dec. 31 (Thursday through Sundays) at the Duncan YMCA Chernin Center for the Arts, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago. Tickets are $37, 2-for-1 at Target Saturday matinees. Call the box office at (312) 587-2292 or visit www.congosquaretheatre.org.

The Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”
A little girl named Clara, her naughty brother, a mysterious godfather bearing gifts … When E.T.A. Hoffmann’s dark fable “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” is transposed to 1850s America, the resulting is a Victorian sugarplum delightful to behold. Robert Joffrey’s beloved production of the holiday chestnut features the full company plus a puppeteer, children’s choruses and more than 120 young dancers ages 9 through 14. The Chicago Sinfonietta performs the beloved Tchaikovsky score. Performances are Dec. 8-27 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Tickets are $25-$100, call Ticketmaster at (312) 902-1500 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

“Dance-Along Nutcracker”
Speaking of “Nutcracker,” young would-be Mouse Kings and Sugarplum Fairies are invited to strut their stuff at the fifth annual “Dance-Along Nutcracker” Dec. 3 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Professional dancers will provide instructions at workshops (at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) and the kids don tutus and tiaras and “perform” for adoring crowds (shows are at noon and at 3 p.m.). Admission is free, but space is limited so call (312) 742-8497 for reservations. The cultural center is located at 78 E. Washington St., Chicago. For information on a variety of free holiday programs, call (312) 744-6630 or visit www.chicagoculturalcenter.org.

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