- Nutcracker Ballet My first experience with the Nutcracker Ballet was actually at the Goodman Theater when I was six not sure who actually performed the ballet. I was taking ballet lessons at the time and was disappointed. I would never be able to stand on my toes like professional dancers. My first experience with the Joffrey Ballet was not in Chicago but in New York in the late 1970’s seeing the Nutcracker Ballet. However, The Joffrey’s modernization that premiered last year re- imagines The Nutcracker set in a modest Chicago home rather than in a wealthy family’s mansion taking place just a few months before the Columbia Exposition in 1893.
- Christmas Carol My first experience with a Christmas Carol ended up with a broken arm and an overnight stay in a hospital. That is what we did in 1966 after I tripped on a step at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook; attending The Christmas Carol for my best friends birthday. The play is the heartwarming story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s discovery of kindness, compassion and redemption. Currently, you can purchase tickets at The Goodman Theatre.
- It’s a Wonderful Life Not only a wonderful movie with Jimmy Stewart, you can also see the radio play. American Blues Ensemble treats Chicago audiences to a live 1940s radio broadcast and has been the second longest running play in Chicago. The play is about 90 minutes and the production closes on January 5th.
- Holiday Inn Based on the classic film,Irving Berlin’s tells the story of Jim, who leaves the bright lights of show business behind to settle down on his farmhouse in Connecticut. Running about two hours and 30 minutes, the plays offers some great dances and songs including Heat Wave, and Blue Skies at the new Marriott Lincolnshire and performances are scheduled until January 6th.
- Wonderland Express Always a favorite of mine during the spring and summer, I had no idea that they had an amazing display for the winter holidays; one of Chicago’s top holiday destination. Walking through the Heritage garden, there are beautifully lit trees. You will see a gingerbread village and when you enter Nichols Hall, there are an abundance of trains even Thomas the tank engine. The city of Chicago is in miniature with over 80 buildings. It is also snowing inside though certainly not with frigid temperatures. The snow is 99 percent water with just a touch of vegetable oil so you can safely catch them in your mouth.
As a child at home, it was about watching the ball drop in New York at 11 Central on TV and then turning on whatever Chicago hosted an hour later for a second New Year’s eve celebration. Sometimes I didn’t make it past 11 pm. On occasion, we would go to a friends house to spend the night. I would play with the other kids upstairs and of course, the parents would do the unspeakable…have fun…dance to the sounds of Mitch Miller in their finished basement.
Sometimes other shows were on that hosted Guy Lombardo’s Band playing Auld Lang Syne; his final New Year’s Eve appearance took place in New York, 1976. Not many may remember him. And if Guy Lombardo traveled to Chicago, many celebrated bringing in the New Year at the Aragon Ballroom to listen to his orchestra, which was a powerhouse attraction in the 1940s.
Aragon is still in existence today at West Lawrence Ave in Uptown Chicago. The Aragon was known as one of the most elegant ballrooms in the world and has a capacity of 5,000 still offering live entertainment.
If my parents went out for a New Years Eve extravaganza, it was also to the beautiful Edgewater Beach Hotel, a resort hotel complex on Lake Michigan that featured such stars as Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. Other new year celebrations included live music at the Willowbrook Ballroom, that had a history of over 80 years entertainment before it was destroyed by fire just a couple of years. A variety of big bands would take the stage for dancing events that occurred on a 6,000 square foot dance floor.
Over the decades, restaurants, ballrooms and historic tradition have come and gone but for those who celebrate at home in front of their screens, you can still watch the ball drop in New York and catch other Chicago New Year’s festivities from all media, too numerous to mention. Certainly not on only four to eight channels back in the day.
Today, popular celebrations that have created timeless tradition in Chicago is a trip to Navy Pier where you can enjoy entertainment and family attractions. Navy Pier offers exquisite cruises along the lakefront with an amazing fireworks display on New Years Eve.
Reserve a table to celebrate New Years at a fine restaurant in Chicago that offers the best six course cuisine at the new West Loop, Bellemore. In the Western suburbs, you may want to try the most popular Meson Sabika in Naperville where you can enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner at this fine Spanish tapas restaurant.
Maybe your New Years Eve is just centered around pizza delivery, lots of wine and banging pots and pans in your yard with the little ones. Regardless of how you spend the evening,hopefully, the New Year will bring to you nothing less than an abundance of health, happiness and peace.
Happy New Year!