Have you been naughty or nice? Santa knows.
Santa's coverage of the Chicago area this year is more widespread than ever. From suburban malls to the peaks of skyscrapers, here are some of the best spots to find you and your children in the company of the great gift-giver.
In addition to the Christkindlmarket, a German-esque shopping event pulled from Nuremberg that draws over a half-million people a year, Daley Plaza is outfitted with one of the city's biggest Christmas trees, and an equally impressive visit from Santa. He'll be at his House taking wish lists, possibly enjoying a bratwurst, humming to the choirs and brass bands riddled about the grounds. Despite his busy schedule, he's set plenty of time to meet anyone who want to see him. He's available from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (taking a break from 3-4 p.m.) from November 27-December 20.
Macy's on State Street
If you've overcome the break-up with dear Marshall Field's, the Walnut Room still presents its tree, the windows are still aglow and Santa still lends his time to the Cozy Cloud Cottage on the fifth floor, amidst the children's department of the building.
Suburbia's Mecca of urban sprawl, Woodfield Mall is home to a massive amount of consumer needs, along with one token courtyard for entertaining a 50-foot Christmas tree and Santa Claus (open November 26-December 24. If the line's too long, take a moment to catch an eagle-eye view of the decorations of 20-foot-tall replicas of state landmarks like the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and the State Capitol from the second-floor balcony.
Winter Wonderland at John Hancock Center Observatory
Billed as "a great view and Santa too," the Hancock observatory, at nearly 12,000 feet, is likely the most elevated spot to catch the bearded man. If talking to Santa isn't enough, you can eat breakfast with him December 5-6 and December 19-20. Kids get free admission throughout November and December, and families who visit on weekends get a free photo with Santa from noon-5 p.m.
900 North Michigan Shops
For you boutique shoppers, little ones can rid the effects of boredom via the third floor of the mall, where Santa will be sitting on his throne surrounded by elegant holiday decor, including a 40-foot-tall tree. And naughty or nice, kids who visit will get a complimentary stuffed toy as a memento of the joyous visit. You'll have to pay for photos, though, wtih five different packages to choose from starting at $16.99. Santa's there November 21-December 24; noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
Visit Santa, Mrs. Claus and all his friends at the Family Pavilion Stage December 5-24 (11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily, except December 24, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.). They're eager to meet everyone visiting their North Pole "Satellite Office" and hear everybody's holiday wishes.
Ford City Mall
Another mall-action Santa visit on the city's south side, Ford City Mall makes the big guy available for kids to rattle off their present wants, and catch a photo in the process. Every Saturday at 10 a.m., Santa hosts a story time where he reads to all the children.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
With ZooLights, the Lincoln Park Zoo offers the rare opportunity to mingle with Santa and see a spectacular light display – all for free. Santa will pose for photos at the Kovler Lion House, so expect some hairy excitement. Open November 27-29, December 4-6, 11-13 and December 18-January 3, 5-9 p.m.
Santa is available to hear wish lists during the annual Holiday Magic, which includes 50-plus trees illuminating to Christmas songs, ice carvers, and carolers (he'll be around weekends December 5-20). Brookfield also offers both breakfast and brunch with the big guy.
Santa is taking time to ridicule the Bears for their unsatisfactory performance this season (OK, not really) with a special breakfast at Soldier Field's upscale United Club on December 5 at 10 a.m. Reservations are required, with tickets starting at $25 for kids, $50 for adults. Call (312) 235-7162 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Santa arrives by helicopter at a free holiday festival on Saturday, November 28 from noon-3 p.m. Events include photos with the man himself, sleight rides, holiday crafts, face painting, balloon twisters, carolers, storytellers, giveaways and more. All proceeds from the Santa photos will go to Toys for Tots.
Santa stops by the Berghoff to hear wish lists and pose for photos from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on December 12 and 13.
Tavern on Rush
Have breakfast with Santa on Sunday, December 13 from 9 a.m.-noon. The big guy will pose for photos, grant Christmas wishes and hand out special goodie bags. Call for reservations.
Every Sunday through Christmas Eve, the Grotto hosts Santa from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for a special brunch. In addition to meeting Ol' Saint Nick and getting a picture taken with him ($10 for two), kids ($12) and adults ($25) can enjoy a brunch buffet including everything from omelettes and French toast to glazed ham and Caesar salad.
Families are invited to celebrate the holidays with Santa and a delectable brunch in the Old Town restaurant on from 10 a.m.-noon on December 19 and 20. Santa will mingle with guests young and old to find out their greatest wishes while they enjoy 33 Club's brunch menu or the specialty Christmas with Santa Claus brunch menu. Cost is $25 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under.
Birch River Grill
Stop by this Arlington Heights favorite for a special Brunch with Santa on December 13 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., featuring traditional and Asian breakfast buffets, plus a Kids buffet with PB & J, chicken tenders, pizza, chocolate chip pancakes and more. Afterward, head to the nearby Metropolis Performing Arts Centre for a 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. performance of "A Christmas Carol". Tickets for brunch and the play are $40 for adults, $17 for kids 5-15 and $10 for kids four and under. If you just want to eat and meet Santa, it's $21.95 for adults, $6.95 for kids 12 and under and free for kids four and under.
Santa ditches the sleigh and arrives by helicopter on Saturday, December 5 to a free holiday festival including photo ops, holiday crafts, face painting, sleigh rides and more. The fest runs noon-3 p.m. at Winston Plaza (North and 9th Avenue in Melrose Park), and Santa arrives at 12:30 p.m. Don't worry about being cold - many activities take place under a heated tent.
Ok, so it's not the real Santa, but this Lincoln Park bar's version, Santa Sevy (a staff member dressed up) should do the trick once you've had a few. The fun happens every Friday and Saturday night throughout December, with guests able to take photos with the big man at 11 p.m.
Flint Creek Wildlife
Why settle for just Santa when you can add a bird of prey into the mix? Head to the Holiday Open House at Itasca's Flint Creek Wildlife (130 S. Forest) to take photos with Santa and a hawk on December 19 and 20 from noon-5 p.m.
Santa Claus is coming to town (or the mall) daily through December 24. Kids who visit with the big man (10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday) will get a free coloring and autograph book and 20 percent off a purchase at Gymboree. Want to get your pets in on the action? On Mondays, December 14 and 21, bring your dogs and cats to the Santa Village near Neiman Marcus on the lower level from 6-9 p.m.
Hotel Allegro Chicago
Take your pet on a walk to this downtown hotel on Saturday, December 19, where from 2-4 p.m. Santa Paws (get it?) will be posing for photos with all types of furry friends (no snakes, spiders or rodents, please). Treats will be provided in the lobby (and humans get treats as well, in the form of $20 gift certificates toward an overnight stay at the Hotel Allegro). This event is free.