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The best winter events

If you get off the couch for anything this winter, make it these top winter events, from concerts to comedy shows

Photograph: Max Herman
Chicago Polar Plunge 2014

Chicago doesn't slow down during the winter, and thankfully so, because winter in the Midwest seems to go on forever. These are the winter events that will keep you entertained all season. It's the perfect time to catch a few of the best concerts in Chicago, visit some just-opened Chicago restaurants or try out the new ice skating rink in Grant Park. Get out and make this winter one for the Instagram.

RECOMMENDED: Find more things to do in Chicago this winter

Best winter events


Enjoy dozens of seasonal beers while walking beneath the menagerie of bright lights on display at the Lincoln Park Zoo. While you're sipping, snap photos with Santa at the Helen Brach Primate House and take a complimentary spin on the Endangered Species Carousel. Unlike ZooLights itself, this beer tasting isn't free, but proceeds from the event help keep the zoo open to the public year-round.

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Lincoln Park Zoo , Lincoln Park Wednesday December 2 2015

The Lion King

Julie Taymor's extraordinary, spectacle-filled Disney adaptation has been running on Broadway for 18 years. The national touring company returns to Chicago for the first time since 2010.

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Cadillac Palace Theatre , Loop Wednesday December 2 2015 - Sunday January 17 2016

The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival

Critics' pick

January can be a rough month in Chicago, so it's a good thing we've got something to laugh about. In its fifteenth year, the largest sketch comedy festival in the country will present a packed line-up of hilarious performers that will make you forget about those frigid temperatures outside.

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Stage 773 , Lakeview Thursday January 7 2016 - Sunday January 17 2016

Winter WonderFest

Critics' pick

Navy Pier's annual indoor winter carnival returns with a selection of new activities, including a toboggan tunnel, winter mini golf and a 15-foot "snow tubing" hill. Returning attractions include the Blackhawks ice skating rink and various carnival rides. Kids can also snap a picture with Santa or decorate a cookie.

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Navy Pier Family Pavilion Stage , Chicago Saturday December 5 2015 - Sunday January 10 2016

Official Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Critics' pick

In its 102nd year, a favorite holiday tradition in Chicago gets uprooted. Since 1966, the city’s official tree lighting ceremony has taken place at Daley Plaza (all but once) but this year, the City of Chicago shakes things up by moving the event and tree itself to Millennium Park to create a winter campus that will include Cloud Gate, Maggie Daley Park, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink and a hunt for Santa Claus.

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Until Tue Nov 24


Critics' pick

Slowcore legends Low return to town, touring behind their 11th album One and Sixes, recorded in Justin Vernon's April Base studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Using sparse instrumentation, the group’s latest batch of melancholy tunes leave plenty of room for the soaring harmonies of vocalists Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker.

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SPACE , Evanston Saturday January 30 2016

John Oliver

Critics' pick

The host of HBO's indispensable Last Week Tonight and former Daily Show correspondent returns to stand-up mode for three shows at the Chicago Theatre.

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Chicago Theatre , Loop Wednesday December 30 2015 - Thursday December 31 2015

Donut Fest

After a successful first year Donut Fest returns to Chop Shop for year three. Vendors include Glazed and Infused, West Town Bakery and many others.

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Chop Shop , Bucktown Sunday January 31 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

Cupid's Undie Run

Dash through Wrigleyville in your unmentionables to raise dough for the Children's Tumor Foundation. Participants can raise funds to earn prizes, including shirts, undies and engraved flasks. There's also an afterparty at John Barleycorn where you can rub shoulders with people who have already seen you half-naked.

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John Barleycorn , Wrigleyville Saturday February 13 2016


Jess L
Jess L

Check out ChicagoChristmasCrawl.com this weekend. 

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there's a feeling of Christmas. Christmas in Chicago that is…. and we are so excited to share this event with the Wicker Park neighborhood.

Chicago Christmas Crawl, #CCC2014 is a walking themed event in which over 22 local venues showcase their food tasting and cocktail holiday specials. The event focuses on the spirit of the season in celebration of the holidays with food, family, friends, costumes and fun.

Each venue will provide a $3-$5 tasting option in which attendees can go on a “food crawl” throughout the Wicker Park neighborhood. Participants will be given a “holiday plate” in which to collect stickers from venues for purchasing the specials and will be entered into a raffle for a variety of amazing prizes.

From Frames, Santa Hats, & Funny Holiday Photo Props, we have you covered for some classy Chicago tundra/vortex fun. It's a day you will remember for the rest of your life and truly an experience you can not miss. We wouldn't want you to have FOMO. Happy Holidays!

Purchase Tickets & More info: ChicagoChristmasCrawl.com

Eventbrite Direct Link