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News / City Life

16 things to do in Chicago on Black Friday other than shop

Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon
Courtesy Maggie Daley Park Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon

The day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday shopping season. From bargains on back massagers to some of the cheapest dinette sets you've ever seen, Black Friday shows off pure, old-fashioned American consumerism. If you aren't interested in chasing the year's best deals the day after the year's biggest meal, then take a look at our list of the best things to do on Black Friday outside of shopping.

Around Town

See the circus at the United Center: The Blackhawks and Bulls are making their annual road trips to give way for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to put on "The Greatest Show on Earth." This year's show runs through November 29, so Black Friday is one of your last chances to catch the spectacle of trapeze artists and tiger tamers before they cut town.

Celebrate the wreathing of the Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago: The Art Institute’s iconic lions have been around since the museum opened in 1893, and we've been putting wreathes around the necks of the statues every holiday season since 1991. Attendees will get to check out the annual adornments and enjoy hot chocolate and live music.

Be dazzled by Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo: Black Friday gets a bit more colorful at this event. Watch a live ice carving, go ice skating, stand beneath a glorious Christmas light display and forget about how sad the animals are to be in captivity.  

Hit up the ChristkindlmarketThe German market at Daley Plaza is one of the best holiday traditions in the city. Sip on some Gluhwein-filled boots, munch on some Leberkaese with sauerkraut and find a cute Christmas gift that isn't a Playstation 4. 

Skate your winter blues away at Maggie Daley ParkThe skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park opened last December, and it's one of the coolest winter attractions in the city. You can rent skates there, but if you want to beat the crowds you should pick up a pair secondhand and hop right onto the ice.

Wander through Garfield Park Conservatory's stunning new art exhibition: The new art installation at Chicago's most iconic greenhouse is downright stunning. Inspired by the conservatory's founder Jens Jensen, the exhibit plays off of the concept "landscape art under glass." Using colored and prismatic glass to play with the light, it's one of the best things in the city right now, and it's a great escape from the commercialism that's associated with Black Friday. 


Enrich your musical tastes at the Symphony Center: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will feature George Gershwin's jazz-influenced masterpiece "Rhapsody in Blue" over Thanksgiving weekend. It's sure to draw a more sophisticated crowd than the line of angry shoppers at Water Tower Place

Twinkle your toes at BerlinDJ Greg Haus's weekly Cosmix residency at Berlin (one of the freakiest nightclubs in the city) is a throwback to the parties of Chicago's past. Just like the legendary Medusa's, he works pop, industrial and house into an upbeat mix of floor-fillers.

Food & Drink

Gnaw on some chicken at Honey Butter Fried ChickenOne of Chicago's best fried chicken joints is hosting its second annual "Black Fryday," which will feature a one-day-only special of crinkle-cut fries. It's sure to be way more tasty than the fare you'll get at the mall food court.

Sip on one of Chicago's best beers at WhirlyBall: WhirlyBall might get a bit of a bad rap, but Goose Island's Bourbon County Barrel Stout certainly does not. The Bucktown spot will host a release party for the beer on Black Friday, which should leave you way too sauced to ride around in a bumper car while playing the strangest game in the city. 


Laugh your way into the Christmas season at Annoyance Theatre: The Annoyance is presenting its annual kid-friendly holiday show, which humorously retells the classic TV specials of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It ought to be a good way to teach the kids about the value of Christmas and not the value of the gifts that come with it.  

Check out the city's longest running alt comedy show: Lincoln Lodge at Subterranean is a staple in the world of Chicago comedy. You'll find some fresh humor and probably some good shots at the crock that is Black Friday.

Sing some Christmas carols at Stage 773: The appropriately named It's a Wonderful Santaland Miracle, Nut Cracking Christmas Story... Jews Welcome! should be the most humorous way to ring in the holiday season in Chicago this year. It'll be a family-friendly, all-inclusive, interactive show that includes free cookies and eggnog.  


Get all "meta" at Raven Theatre: Boo Killebrew's The Play About My Dad is a tale of rescues and reconciliation, and it's one of the best plays in town right now. It's closing the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so rather than spending your day purchasing crappy gifts, snag a ticket to the 8pm show and give yourself a great dose of meta-theater.  

Turn Christmas on its head: Paula Vogel's 2003 play The Long Christmas Ride Home at Strawdog Theatre is, on the surface, a pretty straightforward story about a emotionally stressed family at Christmastime. But it breathes new life into holiday dramas with, you know, Japanese puppets. 

Kick it back to ancient Greece with Agamemnon: The Court Theatre in Hyde Park is holding part two of a new adaptation that combines Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides, Agamemnon by Aeschylus and Electra by Sophocles into a single, tragic trilogy. The play will probably blow your hair back, but it certainly won't make you feel bad for missing out on the day's deals.