joffrey nutcracker‘Tis the season for one of my favorite Chicago holiday traditions, the Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” This is the 25th anniversary of their American interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Russian ballet, and it’s now considered one of America’s most popular versions.

Set in a 19th century Victorian home, this updated classic has all the ingredients of the traditional holiday favorite, plus a few modern additions that make it a visual spectacle. In one scene, there’s a giant doll puppet with rambunctious children emerging from the marionette’s hooped skirt.

Children and adults will be amazed by the jaw-dropping ending. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but a balloon lifts Clara and Dr. Drosselmeyer off the stage, bringing the house down in applause.

Although this is a kid-friendly way to introduce children to the art of ballet, most of the audience is made up of adults. Adults, like me, who love the incredible dancers, dazzling costumes, world-class set design and classic score performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic.

Art of the Auditorium

As exceptional as the Joffrey’s Nutcracker is, you’ll be equally impressed by the performance venue. The Auditorium Theatre is one of the country’s grand landmark theaters. If you’re an architecture buff, you’ll be dazzled and delighted to attend a performance in this ornate historic building, designated with landmark status in 1975.

Lavish murals and mosaics fill the gilded interior of this masterpiece by the renowned architectural team of Adler and Sullivan. If you want to see more, you can take a tour of the building on Mondays at 10am and noon.

After enjoying a classic Nutcracker performance, take your kids to see the real thing— toy nutcrackers on display at the Christkindlmarket. Stop by Chicago’s Daley Plaza and have a glass of Gluhwein (hot spiced wine) at this traditional German outdoor holiday market. Cheers!

Andrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist. She spent many years as a writer and producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Her travel stories have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent, Make It Better and on-line travel sites. A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers! You can follow her on Twitter at @AndreaGuthmann.

Disclosure: The author was given complimentary tickets to the performance for this review.