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March 2016 events calendar for Chicago

Plan out your March in Chicago with our calendar of the best things to do, including picks from theater, art and music

Photograph: Sara Mays
March 2014 events calendar: The South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the annual highlights of the March calendar.

The arrival of March means that drug stores are filled with green junk and St. Patrick's Day celebrations are imminent. There's the South Side Irish Parade, the Northwest Side Irish Parade, the St. Patrick's Day Fest at the Irish American Heritage Center and, of course, the St. Paddy's festivities in the Loop, with the ritual dyeing of the Chicago River. But proving there's more to March than just kelly green plastic hats and Guinness, the Chiditarod shopping cart race kicks off the month, and signs of spring pop up at the Chicago Botanic Garden's Orchid Show. Start planning your month with our March 2016 events calendar for Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2016

Featured events in March 2016

Chicago Polar Plunge

Critics' pick

If they did it just for kicks, we'd agree these plungers were a little crazy for wearing next to nothing and jumping into icy Lake Michigan during March's freezing temps. But they're taking a dip to raise money for the Special Olympics Chicago, too. Last year, Vince Vaughn and Lady Gaga showed up for the chilly festivities—perhaps this year Arnold Schwarzenegger will reprise his role as Mr. Freeze?

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North Avenue Beach , Lincoln Park Sunday March 6 2016

Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade

Critics' pick

After the Chicago river is dyed a murky shade of green, the city's big, noisy, fun-filled homage to the Irish makes its way through Grant Park on Columbus Drive, with plenty of bagpipes, drum corps, Irish dancers and other merrymakers in tow. Because St. Patrick's Day falls on a Thursday this year, the parade will take place the Saturday before. Find the viewing stand filled with local dignitaries in front of Buckingham Fountain.

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Columbus Dr , Chicago Saturday March 12 2016

South Side Irish Parade

Critics' pick

The city's southernmost Irish celebration returns with another liquor-less procession along Western Avenue between 103rd and 115th street. In recent years, the event has attempted to shed its boisterous reputation, increasing the fine for open container violations so that families can safelt enjoy the floats, bagpipes and marching bands.

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Macy's Flower Show

Find bouquets, finely manicured gardens and more at this annual spring event at Macy's.

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Macy's , Loop Sunday March 20 2016 - Sunday April 3 2016

Chiditarod X

Critics' pick

The mobile food drive–meets–bash and shopping cart race goes down in Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village where teams of five people (four pullers and one musher) decked out in clever and wacky costumes race carts of food between neighborhood bars. The starting line is Wolcott Avenue and Hubbard Street, and spectators are welcome to follow as the race progresses. All food donations go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository while monetary contributions are given to a local charitable entity.

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Wolcott Ave and Hubbard St Saturday March 5 2016

Morton Arboretum Easter Brunch

The best part of Easter, besides the candy of course, is brunch. To enjoy the holiday amid nature, check out the Morton Arboretum's Easter Brunch. Hosted in the arboretum's Ginkgo Restaurant, the meal will feature prime rib, omelets, pasta and, naturally, a visit from the Easter Bunny. There will be three seatings throughout the day. Tickets go on sale February 9.

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Morton Arboretum , Lisle Sunday March 27 2016

Leprechaun Leap

Burn some calories before heading downtown for the parade at the Leprechaun Leap, formerly known as the St. Paddy's Day 5K and 8K Run, which benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Winding through Lincoln Park, the race features plenty of green attire as well as a seasonal costume contest.

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Lincoln Park , Lincoln Park Saturday March 12 2016

Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show

Critics' pick

Stave off the winter blues inside the Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Center, where the greenhouses and gallery will be packed with more than 10,000 in-bloom orchids, featuring an array of hybrids. On Saturday and Sundays, the Orchid Marketplace allows you an opportunity to purchase the plants.

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Chicago Botanic Garden , Glencoe Saturday February 13 2016 - Sunday March 13 2016

Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Critics' pick

Spring's imminent arrival takes the form of displays of flora at Navy Pier. Visitors can sit in on instructional seminars, walk through manicured gardens, purchase plant-related souvenirs at the market and obtain culinary tips from chefs at cooking demonstrations. The Kid's Activity Garden offers hands-on projects for kids, like learning how to plant seeds and grow vegetables.

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Navy Pier, Festival Hall , Chicago Saturday March 12 2016 - Sunday March 20 2016

WhiskyFest Chicago

Take a trip around the world with more that 300 whiskies, bourbons and scotches—including Welsh, Canadian and Japanese varieties—at this 17th annual brown-spirits blowout. Should you want to know how the sausage is made, WhiskyFest also includes three free seminars conducted by master distillers and blenders.

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Hyatt Regency Chicago , Loop Friday March 18 2016

Neighborhoods of the World

Critics' pick

Every Sunday at Navy Pier, Neighborhoods of the World showcases Chicago's most vibrant cultural communities with live music, authentic cuisine, dance performances and art. This year's nine-week series kicks off with Chinese New Year, then explores the traditions of Africa, Mexico, Greece and more. Sunday, February 21: Celebrate Chinese New Year Sunday, February 28: Celebrate Africa Sunday, March 6: Celebrate Italy Sunday, March 13: Celebrate Lithuania Sunday, March 20: Philippines Celebration Sunday, March 27: Greek Celebration Sunday, April 3: Celebrate Mexico Sunday, April 10: Celebrate Poland Sunday, April 17: Celebrate Amazing India

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Navy Pier , Streeterville Sunday February 21 2016 - Sunday April 17 2016

Maple Sugaring Spring Fever

The best salve for cabin fever is syrup, and plenty of it, which is exactly what attendees of this annual Naperville tradition will get. Learn how to collect sap, the cultural history behind syrup, and witness a maple tree-tapping demonstration. The best part? You get to appreciate the fruits of the demonstration afterward.

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Naper Settlement , Naperville Saturday March 12 2016 - Sunday March 13 2016

St. Patrick's Festival

Critics' pick

Celebrate the St. Patrick's Day weekend the traditional way with Irish food, dances and live music. The event follows Chicago's downtown celebrations, so make a day out of it at this family-friendly event featuring Irish gift vendors, an arts and crafts fair and children's activities.

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Irish American Heritage Center , Mayfair Saturday March 12 2016

Chicago Quarter Marathon

Critics' pick

If an entire marathon seems a little too daunting, try going one-fourth of the distance at the Chicago Quarter Marathon. The 6.55-mile race kicks off outside Soldier Field and takes participants south along the Lake Michigan shoreline before looping back to the stadium's shadow for a post-race party with snacks, awards and live music. Proceeds from the event benefit Prevent Child Abuse America.

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Soldier Field , South Loop Saturday March 26 2016

C2E2: Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo

Critics' pick

Celebrating its sixth year in Chicago, C2E2 brings a ton of comic book creators and some notable TV and movie stars to McCormick Place. If you hit the floor, you'll find costumed attendees mingling in a sea of comics, toys and assorted memorabilia. The event also offers a slate of panels, including (probably) another appearance by Stan Lee. If you want to nerd out for a weekend, this is the con you’re looking for. There is also a family headquarters complete with various shows, improv and more geared toward the younger set.

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McCormick Place , South Loop Friday March 18 2016 - Sunday March 20 2016

Bunny Rock 5K

Parents can put on their (free!) bunny ears, bunny shirt and neon sunglasses and run for a good cause while the little ones chase through Grant Park looking for over 3,000 candy-filled eggs. Each kid is guaranteed to receive 10 eggs and hundreds have prizes inside. Don't miss the petting zoo and a photo op with the Easter bunny. Please note that the listed start time is when the race begins, not the event.

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Montrose Harbor , Lakeview Saturday March 26 2016

Randolph Street Market Festival

Critics' pick

More than 200 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this indoor-outdoor festival. Stop in for vintage clothes and jewelry, a vinyl swap meet, a fancy food market and global goods bazaar or bring your own items for appraisal. This event typically occurs on the last weekend of each month. During the warm-weather months of May–September, the market adds an outdoor area, offering even more vintage shopping and a beer garden.

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Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building , Near West Side Saturday February 27 2016 - Sunday December 11 2016

Chicago Beer Festival

The brew fest changes up things this year with a move to the Field Museum. The tasting lasts from 8-11pm and attendees receive 40 taste vouchers to sample spring seasonal beers from dozens of local and domestic brewers. Tickets won't be sold at the door, so be sure to buy one in advance.

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The Field Museum , South Loop Saturday March 26 2016

Chicagoland Family Pet Expo

We know. Your pets are your children. But if they aren't registered for a booth or the baseball-themed pet parade, you'll have to leave them home. You can, however, shower them in gifts and treats made by local and national vendors. There's also plenty of pet shopping to be had with many, many breeding clubs, rescues and advocacy groups on-hand. Don't miss the the Smooch-A-Pooch kissing booth!

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Arlington Park Racetrack , Arlington Heights Friday March 18 2016 - Sunday March 20 2016
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