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Where to watch the first presidential debate in Chicago

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Election Day is just around the corner, which means that it's time for the candidates to verbally duke it out on television throughout a series of four presidential debates. The first of these debates takes place on Monday, September 26 at 8pm, allowing viewers all over the country to tune in and watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lay our their positions on a variety of issues in a discussion moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. 

Nearly every major network and cable news channel will be broadcasting the debates, so you could easily curl up on your couch and watch the debate by yourself. But it's usually much more fun to take in the war of words among a crowd, which is why several locations in Chicago are hosting public viewing parties, where you'll be able to take in the debate while enjoying snacks, drinks, pre-show entertainment and more. We've gathered some of the best places to watch the first presidential debate in Chicago.

Chicago History Museum

Teaming up with WBEZ Chicago, the Chicago History Museum is hosting the most formal and informative debate event, inviting Chicago columnist and political analyst Laura Washington to moderate a panel discussion called "Battle Stations: How to Prep for a Debate" at 7pm. Guests can show up at 6pm to grab a bite at North & Clark Café, view the Lincoln’s Undying Words exhibition or register to vote. At 8pm, the museum will screen the debate live. Admission is $10 or $5 for CHM members, WBEZ members and students.

Zanies Comedy Club

If you need to laugh, watch the debates at Zanies Comedy Club, where host Tim Slagle will lead a panel of comedians (including Dobie Maxwell and Amanda Cohen) as they riff on the candidates' statements, promises and mistakes as they happen. Tickets are $10.


Hillary supporters will find themselves in good company at this Boystown institution, where the LGBT community will gather to watch the debate on the bar's many TVs. The free event starts at 7pm.

Heartland Café

This Roger's Park institution will allow you to watch the debate while you eat dinner—arrive early so you can dig into your tuna melt before the tough questions start flying.


Head to this Bucktown event space to watch the debates and then talk about what you just saw. The Felix Podcast, hosted by Chicagoan Felix Piñeiro, will be taping a live episode after the debate, welcoming people of all political persuasions to weigh in on the debate. Admission is free and doors open at 7:30pm.

Racine Plumbing Bar & Grill

Turn the debate into a drinking game at Racine Plumbing, where the first 50 people to show up for this debate viewing party will enjoy a free drink on the house.

The Boundary

Specialty sangria ("The Pant Suit" or "The Hair Piece") are the main attraction at this Wicker Park viewing party, where guests can also enjoy $5 Fireball shots, "game sound" (politics are just as exciting as sports, after all) and more surprises.

Museum of Broadcast Communications

The museum's young professionals board hosts this viewing party, which will begin at 7pm with a screenings of the classic 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon. Admission is $10 and attendees will enjoy complimentary drinks.

Bull & Bear

Young Democrats of Illinois will be drumming up support for their candidate at this River North sports bar during this free screening of the debate.

Adler University Chicago

MCs Lucy Stoole and Toyota Corona will be joined by comedians Tucker Millett and Audrey Jonas at LMAO: A Debate Watch/Stand Up Comedy Throwdown, which features snacks, drinks and debate bingo. Admission is free with RSVP.

@North Bar

Political satire website Wonkette hosts this Wicker Park debate viewing, where writer Robyn Pennacchia and comedians Bill Bullock and Stephanie Hasz will joke their way through the first debate. Admission is free and the event begins at 7pm.

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