Things to do in Chicago today

The day's best things to do in Chicago—including free and cheap activities, concerts, screenings, shows, parties and more. It's your social emergency savior.

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Looking for something to do this evening? Have a friend coming into town who wants to see the sights? You're in luck, because Chicago is a city filled with attractions and things to do (including some that cost absolutely nothing). Seize the moment with our list of today's best concerts, shows, activities and more.

Bristol Renaissance Faire

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Have a jolly olde time and butcher your favorite European accent as you engage in live-action fantasy play, enjoy interactive riddles, cheer on your favorite jousting knight or revel in period performances from 1574. The festival takes place Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day in July, August and early September.

  1. Bristol Renaissance Faire 12550 120th Ave
  2. Mon Sep 1
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"Destination Solar System"

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Review by Zach Long If all goes as planned, Virgin Galactic will begin offering commercial flights into space later this year. For those unable to wait (or without $250,000 to spare) the Adler Planetarium’s latest space visualization may be the closest you’ll come to breaking away from these Earthly bounds. Transporting viewers to the year 2096,

  1. Adler Planetarium 1300 S Lake Shore Dr
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Tue Sep 30
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"Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938"

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

When I walk through an exhibit devoted to one artist, I wonder, would that artist have enjoyed the presentation? As I ambled through the Art Institute’s somber and dark Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938, with its paintings set on charcoal walls beneath pools of yellow light, I guessed that Rembrandt would have gotten off on it, but not

  1. Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, at Adams St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Mon Oct 13
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Salonathon

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Jane Beachy and friends invite the city's most genre-defying performers and provocateurs to take over West Town on the weekly.

  1. Beauty Bar 1444 W Chicago Ave, between Greenview Ave and Bishop St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Mon Dec 29
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"National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers"

  • Critics choice

Explore the planet with this new interactive exhibit showcasing Earth's polar regions, oceans, rain forests, mountains, caves and savannas. Experience the globe's different ecosystems and test your ability to survive in various environments, from the Amazon to the Himalayas and the North Pole.

  1. Museum of Science and Industry 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, at 57th St
  2. Mon Sep 1
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Noir City: Chicago

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

In its sixth installment, this festival continues to celebrate the best of film noir including Rififi, Caged and M.

  1. Music Box 3733 N Southport Ave, between Grace St and Waveland Ave
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Thu Sep 4
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Impress These Apes

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The comedy competition series, in which comics perform weekly challenges to be judged by a panel of superintelligent simians from the future, returns for its eighth season.

  1. The ComedySportz Theatre 929 W Belmont Ave, at Wilton St
  2. Mon Jul 7 - Mon Sep 1
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"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

  1. Chicago Cultural Center 78 E Washington St, at Michigan Ave
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Sun Nov 2
More info

"THINK"

  • Critics choice

Presented by IBM, this traveling exhibit explores the history of human innovation, from space exploration to medical advancements. Attendees can watch a short film, interact with a 40-foot gesture wall or one of several giant touch screens. Adults may have a better appreciation of the information presented in the exhibt, but kids can amuse themselves with

  1. Museum of Science and Industry 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, at 57th St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Fri Oct 31
Buy tickets

"Chicagoisms"

  • Critics choice

The Art Institute's latest exhibit explores Chicago's rich architectural history, enlisting contemporary architects and designers to create installations that demonstrate modern interpretations of the city's distinctive urban qualities. Each of the nine models is accompanied by a manifesto by its creators as well as archival photos from the museum's

  1. Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, at Adams St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Sun Jan 4
More info

The Armando Diaz Experiment

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

For more 10 years and counting this, Chicago's longest-running comedy show, has been making bellies ache with laughter. It's a simple concept: one performer takes a suggestion from the audience and from that, delivers a monologue based on something they've experienced. Then, the rest of the improv ensemble engages in a series of scenes inspired by their

  1. iO Del Close Theater 1501 N Kingsbury St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Mon Jan 5
More info

"Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows"

  • Critics choice

This free public exhibition of Vivian Maier's photography displays images that she captured during the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition to her candid street photography, the collection includes pictures from Maier's travels in France. The exhibit is located on the library's 9th floor.

  1. Harold Washington Library Center 400 S State St, at Van Buren St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Sun Sep 28
More info

"Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen's World War I and Condé Nast Years"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The latest exhibition of Edward Steichen's work combines two disparate types of photography: The aerial photos he helped develop while on military duty during World War I and the glamour portraits he took as Condé Nast's lead photographer from 1923 to 1937. "Sharp, Clear Pictures" demonstrates the shifting role of art and photography in Steichen's life,

  1. Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, at Adams St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Mon Oct 13
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"The Chicago Effect: Redefining the Middle"

  • Critics choice

The Art Institute turns 75 this year and plans to reflect on its original purpose since opening doors in 1939. Later, the Art Center was created to connect art with people, and now the Art Center recreates a bond between art and modern day Chicagoans through reinventing cultural representation.  

  1. Hyde Park Art Center 5020 S Cornell Ave, at 51st St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Sun Nov 23
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"Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful"

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Czech-born, French photographer Josef Koudelka documented the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, capturing iconic images of a largely undocumented moment in history. The retrospective exhibition "Nationality Doubtful" gathers original vintage prints, period publications and unpublished study materials, presenting one of the most complete

  1. Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, at Adams St
  2. Mon Sep 1 - Sun Sep 14
More info
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