May 2014 events calendar for things to do in Chicago

Plan your May in Chicago with our events calendar of the best activities, including free things to do, and picks from theater, art and music

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Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day Parade


For months this past winter, friends and loved ones asked us, "So why do you stay in Chicago?" Why do we put up with the weather? There are many reasons we love Chicago, and the arrival of May is near the top. May in Chicago is glorious. We can finally eat outside in patios and gardens. Plenty of spring events still beckon, but this is our unofficial start of summer. Music festival season kicks off with Do Division and Summer Camp. Street festivals get started with Maifest and Mayfest (yes, they are different!). Plus, there's everyone's favorite reason to drink margaritas (besides National Margarita Day, Feb 22), Cinco de Mayo. Lana Del Rey and Avicii lead the pack of the best concerts in Chicago this month.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2014

"Christopher Wool"

  • Critics choice

Born in Chicago in 1955, Wool is probably best know for his bold stencil works, with large block letters spelling vowel-less words like "TRBL." They were made years before the fine, dumb art of Twitter and texting shorthand, but feel like now, like Radiohead album art.

  1. Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, at Adams St
  2. Sun May 11
More info

Chicago International Movies and Music Festival

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

In its sixth year, CIMMfest is a sprawling affair spread across the city focusing on music-centric films and cool bands.

  1. City Winery 1200 W Randolph St, at Racine Ave
  2. Until Sun May 4
Buy tickets

"Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo"

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The MCA honors Frida Kahlo's memory by displaying several works inspired by her style of rebellion and cultural reflection.

  1. Museum of Contemporary Art 220 E Chicago Ave, at Mies van der Rohe Way
  2. Tue Aug 19 - Sun Oct 5
More info

Yo La Tengo

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The indie icons headline the sixth CIMMfest (Chicago International Movies & Music Festival), running May 1–4.

  1. Concord Music Hall 2047 N Milwaukee Ave
  2. Until Thu May 1
Buy tickets

Cinco De Mayo Festival

Yes, it takes place on the Dos, Tres and Cuatro of Mayo, but no Cinco celebration is more authentic than the fete in Little Village.

  1. 2600 S Kostner Ave at 26th St
  2. Sun May 4
More info

Stars on Ice

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

If your kids were as rapt with attention watching figure skating during the Sochi Winter Olympics as we were, they'll love this year's Stars on Ice, a touring show that will include gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Jeremy Abbott.

  1. Allstate Arena 6920 N Mannheim Rd
  2. Until Sat May 3
More info

Long Grove Chocolate Fest

  • Price band: 1/4

Vendors and local restaurants feature chocolate-themed items and inspirations, like the Apple Haus' famous Johnny Pop, an apple cider donut smothered in chocolate. Also: pony rides!

Chromeo

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The two fun-loving Canadians have turned themselves into a kind of ZZ Top of retro funk.

  1. Lincoln Hall 2424 N Lincoln Ave, between Fullerton Ave and Montana St
  2. Fri Oct 17
Buy tickets

American Beer Classic at Soldier Field

  • Price band: 3/4

Enjoy the best of American beer and sample brews from the more than 30 participating breweries. You get to vote on the best with an app.

  1. Soldier Field 1410 S Museum Campus Dr, at McFetridge Dr
  2. Until Sat May 10
Buy tickets

Avicii

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The superstar DJ returns to Chicago for his #TRUETOUR.

  1. Allstate Arena 6920 N Mannheim Rd
  2. Until Thu May 15
More info

Art Institute After Dark

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Explore the Modern Wing at this late night event at the Art Institute, featuring tours of "Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness." DJs will be on hand spinning tunes, theatrical ensemble Collaboraction will perform while you sip on a drink from the cash bar.

  1. Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, at Adams St
  2. Until Fri May 16
Buy tickets

Lana Del Rey

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The pop starlet returns, hopefully promoting the promised sequel of David Lynchian torch-pop, Ultraviolence, recorded with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

  1. Aragon 1106 W Lawrence Ave, at Winthrop Ave
  2. Until Fri May 16
Buy tickets

Mayfest

  • Price band: 1/4

Kick off festival season at this Lakeview neighborhood tradition as you munch on pretzels and grab a brew from the outdoor beer garden. Dog lovers (fine, and cat people), show up on Sunday at 11am for the Chicago Pet Pageant.

  1. 3100 N Ashland Ave 3100 N Ashland Ave
  2. Until Sun May 18
More info

Zoo-ologie

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The Lincoln Park Zoo's annual fundraiser features cocktails on the Nature Boardwalk, bites from local restaurants and live music for dancing. Proceeds help keep the zoo's admission free for visitors year round.

  1. Lincoln Park Zoo 2001 N Clark St, between Lake Shore Dr and Fullerton Pkwy
  2. Sat May 17
Buy tickets

Lagunitas Beer Circus

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Now that Lagunitas' hoppy concoctions are officially being brewed in Chicago, it's time to celebrate. The California craft brewery (founded by a Chicago native) is bringing one its time-honored traditions to its new digs in Pilsen: the Beer Circus.

  1. Lagunitas Brewing Company 1843 S Washtenaw Ave, W 18th Dr
  2. Until Sun May 18
Buy tickets

Haim

  • Price band: 2/4

The band of sisters revives the slick '80s guitar pop of the Pretenders and Jefferson Starship.

  1. Riviera Theatre 4746 N Racine Ave, at Broadway
  2. Sat May 17
More info

Skokie Festival of Cultures

This fest features ethnic music and dance, food, arts and crafts, an international beer tasting competiton, and plenty of family activites.

  1. Oakton Park 4800 W Oakton St, at Skokie Blvd
  2. Until Sun May 18
More info

Cirque Shanghai WARRIORS

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Impressive acrobatics paired with kung fu make an exciting and daring show. Vibrant costumes and traditional martial-arts moves make this show perfect for your inner Jackie Chan.

  1. Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, at Streeter Dr
  2. Wed Aug 20 - Sun Aug 31
Buy tickets

Summer Camp Music Festival

  • Price band: 3/4

Bassnectar, Moe, Primus, Trey Anastasio and Umphrey's McGee top the bill at this crunchiest of regional fests.

  1. Three Sisters Park, Chillicothe 17189 N Rte 29
  2. Until Sun May 25
Buy tickets

Gaelic Park Irish Fest

  • Price band: 2/4

It's St. Paddy's Day in May!

  1. Gaelic Park, Oak Forest 6119 W 147th St, between Ridgeland Ave and Menard Ave
  2. Until Mon May 26
More info

International Mr. Leather Weekend

  • Price band: 3/4

Rooted in a 1979 bar contest, this four-day event features parties, a fetish and leather market, a physique competition, a sexy shoe-polishing competition and, of course, the annual crowning of International Mr. Leather.

  1. The Castle 632 N Dearborn St, between Erie and Ontario Sts
  2. Until Tue May 27
Buy tickets

Memorial Day Parade

After a wreath is laid at the eternal flame in Daley Plaza, the parade heads down State Street, from Lake to Van Buren, as onlookers wave the stars and stripes. It's been a Chicago tradition since 1870.

  1. Daley Plaza Washington and Dearborn Sts
  2. Until Sat May 24
More info

Ask Aunt Susan

  • Price band: 2/4

Aunt Susan is the nom de net of a twentysomething man who pens a popular online advice column. But keeping his identity secret becomes ever more difficult as his audience grows. Henry Wishcamper directs the world premiere of Seth Bockley's satire, developed during his time in the Goodman's Playwrights Unit.

  1. Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St, between Randolph and Lake Sts
  2. Until Sun Jun 22
Buy tickets

Barry Gibb

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The sole surviving Gibb brother and Bee Gee has been quiet for ages. It's been three decades since his last solo record. Stayin' alive, indeed.

  1. United Center 1901 W Madison St, between Wood St and Damen Ave
  2. Until Tue May 27
Buy tickets

Maifest

It's Oktoberfest in May, as the traditionally German neighborhood of Lincoln Square throws down with all the beers, cheers, oompah, Lederhosen and pretzels you'd expect.

  1. Lincoln Square 4700 N Lincoln Ave at Leland Ave
  2. Sun Jun 1
More info

"CHGO DSGN: Recent Object and Graphic Design"

  • Critics choice
  • Free

A new exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center showcases recent work from more than 100 of the city's top designers. The collection was curated by Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award winner Rick Valicenti, who presents 200 works that exemplify Chicago's creative spirit. From DIVVY design documents to delicate utensils designed for Alinea, "CHGO DSGN" places an emphasis on objects that are a part of the city's rich cultural identity.

  1. Chicago Cultural Center 78 E Washington St, at Michigan Ave
  2. Tue Aug 19 - Sun Nov 2
More info

Do Division Street Fest

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

In its eighth year, Do Division, the street shindig booked by Empty Bottle and House Call Entertainment, holds down the last weekend in May, really kicking off the summer festival season.

  1. Division St between Damen Ave and Leavitt St Division St, between Damen Ave and Leavitt St
  2. Sun Jun 1
More info

Festival Del Taco

Hey, tacos. Who doesn't love 'em? Crunchy, soft—as long as they're not made out of Doritos, we are down. This inaugural event in Little Village salutes the fine art of packing tortillas with local taquerias serving up the ultimate street food.

  1. 2600 S Kostner Ave at 26th St
  2. Until Sun Jun 1
More info

Vintage Garage

  • Critics choice

Shop 100 vintage vendors selling everything from furniture to clothes to vinyl in an Uptown parking garage on Sundays once a month. The kick-off sale on April 27 includes the Vintage Style Ride, a bike ride around Uptown. Vintage dress is encouraged; meet at the garage at 9am.

  1. 5051 N Broadway 5051 N Broadway, between Foster and Argyle
  2. Sun Sep 21
More info


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