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This September, Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare will return to the Chicago area for another season of frights at The Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Illinois. I'd been wondering about this one, as I covered last years' event - having checked-out the haunt and Zombie's surreal, one-night-only performance in the confines of a very unconventional locale.  For the 2015, the frights will be even bigger, and Rob Zombie will be rocking the stage once more - with two special concerts set to take place on October 2 & 4. The Villa Park/Chicagoland show is the ONLY edition of the Great American Nightmare this year. Here's the details on what to expect...

While I don't live in the City proper, I've always identified as a "Chicagoan," and have long looked at the annual RIOT FEST as a true Chicago tradition - one that's spread to other cities, including Denver and Toronto. Having attended, and having seen it grow from small clubs to a multi-venue, week-long event (I covered and shot it back in 2011) that then morphed into the RIOT FEST & CARNIVAL, I (like many) was disheartened to see the fest being squeezed as part of a larger debate about its recent home in Humboldt Park. Today, that debate ends as far as RIOT FEST is concerned, as the 2015 RIOT FEST & CARNIVAL will stay in Chicago, moving south to Douglas Park.

On May 16, the folks from KIND and zulily will partner for Kindness Safaris to be held at 20 Zoos across the country. For friends in my home City of Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo will be the center of the action from 10am-5pm, where families can take part in the safari, and kids can discover how being kind through simple acts can be fun, and really brighten the world around us. It's all part of the ongoing Kind Parents, Kind Kids program, which uses fun family activities to teach kids the importance of kindness year-round.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND has been reimagined with a rock and roll spin, and it's happened in Chicago. Director Rachael Rockwell and Music Director Michael Mahler have brought to life Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS as a new tale starring a pair of young stars - Isabelle Roberts and Ariana Burks - who will alternate performances as Alice. Performances run through May 24 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago), with tickets available through the Chicago Children's Theatre website. Details below...

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...

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