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When it's Christmas here in Illinois, some time spent in the Chicago Loop is an absolute must. I've written in the past about our family tradition of visiting Santa at Macy's on State Street (in fact, this year's visit is tomorrow), and then there's the always-festive Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, which we've already visited once this season. No matter what you're into, there's something for the whole family, and the Chicago Loop Alliance has put together a definitive guide to all the Holiday Deals & Events this season. Better yet, they've even curated some daily itineraries of events, along with the full rundown on all that's family-friendly, and in some cases - free.

Living in Chicago's northern suburbs, Ravinia is a favorite concert venue for our family - a short drive from Rock Father HQ. Next summer, there's a special event taking place as TONY BENNETT returns to Ravinia for his 28th season, while LADY GAGA makes her Ravinia debut as the duo perform songs from their recently-released album, CHEEK TO CHEEK on June 26 & 27, 2015. Early details just hit my inbox a few moments ago, revealing that the pair will be accompanied by a full orchestra, along with each artist's jazz ensembles.

Halloween 2014After playing host to numerous haunted attractions during every Halloween season for the past couple of decades, the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Illinois has been given a cinematic overhaul for 2014 as the new location of Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare. After making it's debut in California last year, 2014 finds the Great American Nightmare (GAN) taking on two cities, with Scottsdale, Arizona joining Chicagoland for the newly-annual celebration of macabre entertainment with a rock and roll flair. THE ROCK FATHER was invited to check out the opening night festivities - complete with a full-blown Rob Zombie concert at the Odeum, and a trip through all three haunted houses, each based on one of Zombie's feature films: HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, THE LORDS OF SALEM and THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO. Here's some thoughts...

Over the past two years, my girls have been pretty lucky in that we've seen Disney On Ice four times. Each time the folks at Feld Entertainment bring the tour back through Chicago, it's a different show, and we've seen ROCKIN' EVER AFTER, 100 YEARS OF MAGIC, LET'S CELEBRATE! and now, PRINCESSES & HEROES. While LET'S CELEBRATE! is still holding it's ground as my favorite (the seasonality of it just hits my sweet spot), PRINCESSES & HEROES may well be the most traditional of the bunch in terms of Disney lore, really capturing the imaginations of the younger crowd by bringing to life some familiar scenes from the likes of ALADDIN, SNOW WHITE, BEAUTY & THE BEAST, THE LITTLE MERMAID, THE PRINCESS & THE FROG, SLEEPING BEAUTY, TANGLED and CINDERELLA in a big show. And it is a BIG show.

Gurnee MillsFor my local friends in Lake County, Illinois - mark your calendars, because the WTTW Readers are Leaders Tour is returning to Gurnee Mills. On Saturday, September 6, kids and grownups alike can spend the morning singing, dancing and enjoying story time with a live performance from Miss Lori's CAMPUS and a special appearance by ARTHUR. This FREE event starts at 10:30am at the Lake County Food Court in the Macy's full-priced wing. The first 200 children in attendance will receive a free children’s book.

Last year, my wife and I were invited to attend the opening night performance of THE NUTCRACKER by THE JOFFREY BALLET in Chicago. If I were to describe the show in one word, "magnificent" would be it, and for those wishing to let their children have a chance to be a part of this Chicago tradition, your chance has arrived. The folks at The Joffrey Ballet just sent over details on open auditions for this year's production...

Gurnee Mills: A Simon CenterI keep saying it, but I still can't believe we have a kindergartner here this year. Essentially, if you've been reading THE ROCK FATHER for awhile, you've seen Addie growing up, and while last year we were shopping for Pre-K, this year it's officially time for Back-to-School in preparation for "big girl" school - kindergarten. Gurnee Mills here in Lake County has always been a regular haunt for us, and this year we've teamed-up to show off some of the great fashions and supplies available at the largest value and outlet destination in Illinois (which is in the midst of a remodel and now boasts a fantastic "full-price" wing), by sharing our own Back-to-School shopping experience. This past week, my wife and I took the two girls (Little Finn is in on the action, too) to get decked out for Fall...

The Feld Entertainment productions of Disney On Ice have become quite a tradition for us (I saw my first show back in 1981, which I wrote about here), and now as a Feld Family Ambassador, I'm always happy to help spread the word when they come back through Chicago. Disney On Ice presents Princesses and Heroes skates into United Center (get tix), September 10-14, 2014, bringing to life 10 action-packed scenes that feature a whopping 52 Disney characters for one of the most exciting shows they've ever had! Check out the full details below...

Gurnee MillsIn just a few weeks, we'll have a kindergartner here at Rock Father HQ, and that means that this Back-to-School season is pretty special for us. We're getting Addie ready for some new adventures, and as such we want her to be well-dressed and ready to Rock the Halls as she moves from Pre-K to "big girl" school this year. The big stop for our Back-to-School shopping is a familiar haunt - and this year, GURNEE MILLS and THE ROCK FATHER have teamed-up to showcase some of the great fashions and accessories available at the largest outlet and value shopping destination in Illinois. While I'll have some great features rolling out in the week ahead, Gurnee Mills and I want to kick-off the season in-style with something special for my local readers - a chance to win a $50 American Express Simon Gift Card in my #GurneeBTS Giveaway!

Oh yes... the Halloween Season here in Chicagoland just got a whole lot more rockin', as ROB ZOMBIE'S GREAT AMERICAN NIGHTMARE has announced the addition of a second location for 2014, taking place on select nights from September 26-November 1 at the Odeum Expo in Villa Park, IL. Better yet? ROB ZOMBIE will perform a special, one-night-only concert on opening night, September 26.

I know I've mentioned it before here on the site, but I know next to nothing about soccer - or the game most of the world calls "football" or "futbol." But, with the World Cup now wrapped, the folks at Major League Soccer sent me an email with a reminder that the 2014 MLS season is just at it's halfway mark, and with Mike Magee of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club it's reigning MVP, they put together a very Chicago-centric parody... of FERRIS BUELLER's DAY OFF. So, it's Chicago, and they asked nicely, so I'm sharing it with all of you. This is actually the second FERRIS parody I've shared this year, with the excellent BATDAD Bueller parody running back in January.

We're big fans of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet here at Rock Father HQ, and tonight comes news of their next big performance for our local friends and readers...

The Joffrey Ballet’s 2013-14 “Masters of Dance” season comes to a close this spring with the U.S. Premiere of Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet. Pastor, Director of the Polish National Ballet and Resident Choreographer of the Dutch National Ballet, originally created this new version of Romeo & Juliet in 2008 for the Scottish Ballet. His work has never before been seen in Chicago. Romeo & Juliet runs for 10 performances only at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 East Congress Parkway, April 30 – May 11.

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