Breakfast with Tomten
Eat pancakes with Tomten (Swedish for Santa) at this popular annual event. Don’t forget a camera to snap a pic of your kids with the man of the hour. Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St. (773-728-8111, samac.org). 9 a.m. on Dec. 14, 15. $17. Reservations required.
Spirit of Chicago lunch cruise
Santa sails the high seas, er, Lake Michigan on a Spirit of Chicago yacht that includes a lunch buffet. A DJ will also be on board during the two-hour cruise. Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. (866-273-2469, spiritofchicago.com). Boarding 12:30 p.m., cruise 1:15 p.m. on Dec. 15. Adults $50, kids ages 12 and under free, limit one child per paying adult. Reservations required.
UL Santa House
Old St. Nick is taking requests and posing for free photos at the Santa House. The workshop shares Daley Plaza with Christkindlmarket, the annual German-American holiday market. 50 W. Washington St. (312-744-6630, cityofchicago.org). Fri–Sun. 11 a.m–8 p.m. through Dec. 24, Mon. Dec. 23; special hours on Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Free.
Santa makes his annual visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo to visit with families. Check out trees adorned with fetsive lights, free holiday crafts, live ice carvings every evening, a new ice rink ($5 to skate, rental skates available for $5), holiday train rides ($2.50 per ride) and a musical light show. 2001 N. Clark St. (312-742-2000, lpzoo.org). Photos with Santa from 5–9 p.m. on ZooLights evenings through Dec. 23. ZooLights Fri.-Sun. through Dec. 8, daily from Dec. 13–23, Dec. 26–Jan. 5. Free.
Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
Have Junior bring his wish list to Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Winter WonderFest. Take your own photos or choose a package from a professional photographer. Purchase an activity wristband ($16–$20) to enjoy some of the fest’s other features, including the Candy Cane Lighthouse, a dual-lane inflatable slide and an indoor ice skating rink. 600 E. Grand Ave. (312-595-7437, winterwonderfest.com). Mon.–Thu. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Fri., Sat. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. –8 p.m. from Dec. 6–15; Sun.–Thu. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri., Sat. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. from Dec. 16–23; Christmas Eve 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Christmas Day. Free.
Macy’s on State Street
Head to the fifth floor where you can take your own photos or have a professional snap a shot of your tot on Santa’s lap. 111 N. State St. (312-781-1000, macys.com/events). Daily during store hours through Dec. 24. Free.
Have dinner with Santa at 6 p.m. on Dec. 5th and 20th in the Walnut Room, beside the store’s 45-foot Christmas tee. (Adults $30, children under 10 $18.) Call 1-877-556-2297 for reservations.
900 North Michigan Shops
Visitors can check out the decorated 40-foot tree, sit on Santa’s lap and leave the mall with a gift from his handy helpers. A photographer will offer different photo packages available for purchase, or you can bring your own camera. 900 N. Michigan Ave., 3rd floor (312-915-3916, shop900.com). Mon.–Fri. noon–6 p.m.; Sat. 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun. noon–5 p.m. through Dec. 24. Free.
Pajama Party at Water Tower Place
Bring your pj-clad little ones to this evening event, where they can pose for pics with Santa. Sign up for a personalized email from the big guy on Christmas Eve with a $3 donation to Toys for Tots. No personal cameras allowed. 835 N. Michigan Ave., fifth floor (312-440-3166, shopwatertower.com). 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Dec. 17. Free; suggested donation of a new, unwrapped gift to Toys for Tots.
Shedd Aquarium Holiday Breakfast
Celebrate the holidays with a breakfast buffet followed by a private viewing of the 15-minute 4-D, short- film version of “The Polar Express.” Then visit the Polar Play Zone for photos with St. Nick and see the aquatic show "A Holiday Fantasea." 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive (312-939-2438, sheddaquarium.org). 8 a.m. on Dec. 14, 21, 22. Adults $45, children ages three–11 $35. Reservation required.
Peaches & Pears Restaurant
Celebrate the season during breakfast with Santa, who will be passing out presents, and see more than 2,000 ornaments hanging from the ceiling at this Garfield Ridge eatery. The menu includes snowman pancakes and French toast. 6435 W. Archer Ave. (773-229-9208). 10 a.m.–1 p.m. on Dec. 7, 14, 21, 22. Free admission. Menu prices apply. Reservations recommended.
Breakfast with Santa at Soldier Field
Tots can share their wishes and take a photos with Santa at the stadium. Don’t miss the electric train display, ornament decorating contests and cookie decorating. 1410 S. Museum Campus Drive (312-235-7063, soldierfield.net). 10 a.m. on Dec. 7. Adults $55; children four-12 $25; three and under free. Reservations required.
North and Northwest suburbs
City Limits Harley-Davidson
Why take a sleigh when Santa can ride a Harley? At the City Limits Harley-Davidson, kiddies can take free photos with Santa on his hog. There will be cookies for sweet tooths and visitors can warm up with hot chocolate and apple cider. 2015 N. Rand Road, Palatine (847-358-2112, citylimitshd.com). 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on Dec. 15. Free.
Ice House Mall
Start your visit at the mall with a story time with Mrs. Claus at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 before Santa’s big arrival at 12:30 p.m. by trolley. There will be a performance of “The Nutcracker” at 10:30 a.m. and a display of gingerbread houses created by local chefs. Bring your camera because children can take photos with Santa throughout his mall stay and receive a free holiday gift plus a “Good Deeds” certificate. Kiddos can also drop letters in his mailbox and chat with him over breakfast at Chessie's Restaurant in the mall on Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. 200 Applebee St., Barrington (847-381-6661, icehousemall.com/events). See Santa from noon–3 p.m. on Dec. 8, 14, 15–22; 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on Dec. 23, 24. Free.
Sing-Along with Santa
Santa spreads the holiday cheer when he leads a sing-along at the Steel Beam Theatre. 111 W. Main St., St. Charles (630-587-8521, steelbeamtheatre.com). 11 a.m., 1 p.m. on Sundays and 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. on Saturdays through Dec. 22. Adults $15, children 15 and under $10.
Woodland Holiday Workshop
St. Nicholas arrives at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center on a sleigh pulled by sled dogs. At the workshop, partake ornament decorating and snap a photo with the old elf. Santa arrives at 8:45 a.m. 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles (630-513-4399, stcnature.org). 8:30 a.m.–10 a.m. on Dec. 14. Residents $10, non-residents $15.
Bring your own camera and drop by Santa’s Station next to Learning Express Toys for a photo op with Santa. Take a ride on a free horse-drawn carriage from 1–5 p.m. on Dec. 1, 8, and 15. 602 Commons Drive, Geneva (630-262-0044, shopgenevacommons.com). 2–5 p.m. on Sundays through Dec. 22. Free.
South and Southwest suburbs
Fore! Family Fun
Have a pancake breakfast with one of your favorite holiday characters—Santa Claus. After the meal, kids can make Christmas crafts and play unlimited mini-golf, bowling or bounce in the jump room. 1505 Mitchell Drive, Oswego (630-554-7275, forefamilyfun.com). 8 and 10 a.m. on Dec. 14. $15.
River Oaks Center
Santa visist Macy's Court at the River Oaks Center, where there's also a holiday train (Thu.–Sun.). Personal cameras aren’t allowed, so choose from one the photo packages available for purchase. A pizza party with the big guy is scheduled for Dec. 21 in the food court, with a bounce house and reading by kid-lit author Cheryl Powe. 96 River Oaks Center Drive, Calumet City (708-868-0600, riveroakscenter.com). Hours vary through Dec. 24. Free.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun