This month's weather may be chilly, but we've always got central heat and the holidays to keep us warm. Even so, be sure to venture out on the regular. Chicago's got a long and impressive list of December events that don't care whether you've been naughty or nice. This year, there's tons of great ice skating in Chicago to be had, a wealth of holiday theater and holiday gift-giving opportunities up the wazoo.
THINGS TO DO
Dec 2: As part of BrewLights, enjoy loads of winter seasonal brews while strolling among the holiday lights brightening up Lincoln Park Zoo.
Dec 3: More than 600 artists from across the country take over an entire floor of the Merchandise Mart during One of a Kind, a four-day craft sale in its 15th year.
Dec 5: Sweat it out running in your favorite beard and hat during the annual Santa Hustle 5K, and enjoy an after-party at Navy Pier.
Dec 12: Grab your favorite designated driver and head out to Hoffman Estates to glug down a selection of more than 100 beers from 30 breweries at the Beerfest Beatdown. If that doesn't get you, there's also Lucha Libre wrestling.
Dec 15: Do some serious holiday shopping damage during Sauced Night Market, while snacking on food from local vendors and sipping a great selection of craft beer at Emporium Arcade Bar's Logan Square location.
Dec 17: This month's Adler After Dark also happens to be the official release event for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Show off your lightsaber skills, test your wits at trivia, enter a cosplay contest or take a seat and enjoy watching the series' most famous spoof, Spaceballs.
Dec 5–Jan 10: Check out Winter Wonderfest, the yearly winter carnival at Navy Pier with toboggan rides, a skating rink and even a winter-themed mini golf course.
Dec 5 & 6: Renegade Craft Fair moves indoors to the Bridgeport Arts Center and packs in loads of crafters and artists to hawk their original wares.
Dec 4–6: The Lycée French Market opens with a classy three-course French dinner and shopping preview, but continues with tons great gifts, snacks and home goods.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
Dec 3: Cold Storage, the seafood bar inside Swift & Sons, opens with a menu of fresh seafood, including a daily catch menu serving fish prepared a variety of ways.
Dec 8: The team behind Carriage House revamps the space into Buck’s, a more casual Southern concept, with cocktails, bourbon, beer and food.
Second week of Dec: Oyster on Halsted is an oyster bar and East Coast seafood restaurant by the Shaw’s Crab House team and Lettuce Entertain You.
Early Dec: Fremont Chicago, from the Four Corners Tavern Group, opens in River North with a multi-level lounge, live music and DJs, a dining room and a bar.
Dec: Whiner Beer, a brewery inside the Plant in Back of the Yards, serves barrel-aged wild and sour beers in its taproom.
Note: Restaurant and bar openings are subject to change and can be delayed; call ahead before setting out.
Dec 2 & 3: Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach revisits the retro-soul sound of the album Brothers with his new band, the Arcs.
Dec 7–10: Get cozy during violin virtuoso during Andrew Bird's annual string of Gezelligheid performances at Fourth Presbyterian Church.
Dec 12: The radio station-sponsored B96 Jingle Bash brings a stacked lineup of pop stars to Allstate Arena, including Demi Lovato, 5 Seconds of Summer, Pentatonix and more tween-approved acts.
Dec 13: Prepare for a trippy night at Thalia Hall as Deerhunter debuts new psych-rock tunes from its latest LP, Fading Frontier.
Dec 15: West Coast rapper Vince Staples explores the socially conscious themes of his debut, Summertime '06, at this Bottom Lounge gig.
Dec 16: Singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom brings the avant-garde folk of her new album, Divers, to the Chicago Theatre.
Dec 30 & 31: Deadmau5 and Skrillex headline Reaction New Year's Eve, an extended, two-day party in Rosemont that will also feature Chvrches, Run the Jewels and Chance the Rapper.
Dec 31: Ring in the new year on a soulful note as Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings dole out hip-shaking tracks at the House of Blues.
Dec 13: The Art Institute of Chicago unveils its latest permanent exhibition, "The New Contemporary," featuring 44 pieces by iconic contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
Dec 19–Mar 27: Filling the Museum of Contemporary Art with a collection of outlandish objects, "Pop Art Design" explores how the movement influenced everything from furniture to Tupperware.
Dec 19–Mar 27: See even more Pop Art pieces from the MCA's collection in "The Street, the Store, and the Silver Screen," a companion exhibition that includes artworks by Warhol and Ed Paschke.
Dec 1–Feb 21: Chicago's own Abby Mueller plays singer-songwriter Carole King in the first national tour of the hit Broadway bio-musical, Beautiful–The Carole King Musical.
Dec 3–Jan 17: The national touring company returns to Chicago for a run of The Lion King for the first time since 2010, with Chicago native Aaron Nelson in the lead role as Simba.
Dec 3–Feb 7: Steppenwolf ensemble member Bruce Norris directs the Chicago premiere of his own dark comedy, Domesticated, about a philandering politician and his good wife.
Dec 4–27: The Second City provides a fairly satisfying parody of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and pokes fun at other holiday viewing fare like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Twist Your Dickens.
Dec 11–Jan 3: Baritones Unbound is a cheeky exploration of baritone roles through the years, and it comes to Chicago following a run at ArtsEmerson in Boston.
Dec 13–Jan 10: The Broadway-aimed musical Gotta Dance is inspired by the true story of the NBA's first senior citizen hip-hop dance crew.
Nov 28–Jan 3: A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol follows up a string of successful Shakespeare "ad-rap-tations" by brothers GQ and JQ and their collaborators Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle, spinning Carol into a charming hip-hop tale that also serves as a history of rap.
Dec 4–27: Experience Tchaikovsky's classic score and the spectacle of Joffrey Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker, accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic, which has been a Chicago tradition since the 1980s.
Dec 10–13: Hubbard street’s winter series features works by dance makers Crystal Pite, Robyn Mineko Williams, Penny Saunders and Yin Yue.
Dec 11–13: Chicago Tap Theatre's annual holiday show pays rhythmic tribute to winter, Christmas and Hanukkah in Tidings of Tap!
Nov 28–Jan 2: Christmas Dearest pits drag divo David Cerda as a scroogey Joan Crawford, visited by three spirits on the set of her new MGM musical biography of the Virgin Mary in this holiday parody.
Nov 29–Dec 5: The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus gets in the groove for the holidays with Miracle on Thirty-Funk Street, a show comprised of soul and funk Christmas songs.
Dec 3–20: In Barney the Elf, The Other Theatre Company stages a new musical parody of Elf with a queer bent.
Dec 5: Windy City Gay Chorus and Windy City Treble Quire join forces for the groups' 37th annual holiday concert, Don We Now.
Dec 7: Winter Memories is a cabaret benefit for Pride Films & Plays, featuring an ensemble cast ready to warm you up with a song.
Dec 14: Songs from My Holiday Closet bills itself as a “HoliGay” musical revue that features original songs with lyrics by Larry Todd Cousineau and music by various composers.