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The best of what to do in and around Chicago this week

Chicago is in full winter holiday mode this week, starting with a special screening of It’s a Wonderful Life accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. You can also look forward to a winter carnival, a brand new Nutcracker, and a twist on classic holiday tunes from none other than R. Kelly. And for gingerbread galore, we’ve got just the place.

AFAR Local is our weekly insider guide to the best of what’s happening in cities around the U.S.

December 9 - 11 | Film & music
"It’s a Wonderful Life"
The only way to make this holiday classic any better is to add a live, full-bodied soundtrack. Enter the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is accompanying the movie (played on a giant screen) for a few special showings. The best part? The orchestra will play 40 minutes of music that was cut from the original movie. 
Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago | From $45 | website

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December 10 | Holiday carnival
Lincoln Park Winter Carnival
Head to Lincoln Park this Saturday for a winter carnival complete with face painting, train rides, lights, and games—even Santa will be there. This is the second year of the event, and it promises to have additional bells and whistles. Before you head home, take advantage of the location and visit the boutiques and local restaurants in the neighborhood.
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM | 1457 N. Halsted St., Chicago | Free | website

December 11 | Escape the city
Gingerbread Festival
The annual Gingerbread Festival in Auburn, Indiana, is worth the three-hour drive east: Head to the DeKalb Fairgrounds to ogle the entries in the gingerbread creation contest, enter yourself into the ugly sweater contest, and, of course, eat some killer gingerbread. There will also be an old-fashioned cakewalk, horse and wagon rides, live music, and a licorice-themed snack shack.
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM | 708 S. Union St., Auburn, IN | Free | website

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Joffrey Ballet

December 10 - 30 | Dance
"The Nutcracker"
The Nutcracker just got a makeover by Joffrey Ballet choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, and everyone’s looking forward to seeing it. With good reason, too: Wheeldon won the 2015 Tony Award for best choreography for An American in Paris, and it only follows that he’ll do an amazing job with The Nutcracker as well. Wheeldon’s version of the ballet, set during Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, reimagines the beloved holiday classic for a slightly more recent generation. The $4-million production is close to being sold out, so get your tickets STAT.
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., Chicago | From $40 | website

December 13 - 14 | Music
R. Kelly Holiday Jam
He’s back and he’s in holiday mode. Urban soul singer R. Kelly will be belting out R&B-influenced Christmas tunes like “I’m Coming Home for Christmas” while maintaining his signature style. Meaning you should expect some urban beats with your holiday lyrics. Although, we wouldn’t be surprised if he deviated from the holiday tunes just once to sing “I Believe I Can Fly.”
7:30 PM | The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago | From $61.50 | website

Danielle Braff lives in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, two cats, and her dog. When she’s not writing, she’s out photographing her city and running around frantically trying to fit as many events as she can into her day. You can check out her other articles at Daniellebraff.com.

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