February may be the month of Valentine's Day events and freezing temperatures, but there's far more to look forward to than romance and wearing your winter coat. Begin the month by marking the arrival of 2020 for a second time at Chinese New Year celebrations, where you'll find drummers and dancers parading through the streets of Uptown and Chinatown. Get a great deal at some of Chicago's best restaurants during Chicago Restaurant Week or splurge on tickets to an exhibition game when the NBA All-Star Game takes over the city for a weekend. February is also the time for admiring orchids at the Chicago Botanic Garden, sampling crisp beverages at the Chicago Cider Summit and showing off your cosplay prowess at C2E2. Prepare for shortest month of the year with our February 2020 events calendar.
RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2020
Featured February 2020 events
Open wide! Chicago Restaurant Week is back with nearly 400 eateries offering dining deals from January 24 through February 9. For 17 belt-busting days, Chicagoans can cash in on special prix-fixe menus for brunch and lunch ($24) and dinner ($36 and/or $48). Use the culinary event as an excuse to revisit an old favorite or explore a splashy new opening. With two weeks to chow down, there's plenty of time to make a few reservations and check out some of the best restaurants in Chicago.
Best known for devising the characters of Flyboy and Lil Mama that grace walls throughout Chicago, local artist Hebru Brantley latest project is an immersive origin story for his most famous creations. Named after a fictional Chicago neighborhood, Nevermore Park takes visitors through 6,000 square feet of installation that begin in a traditional art gallery before quickly transitioning to fantastical environments that feature a crashed rocket ship, a Pullman train car and thick clouds of fog. Much of the pop-up serves as a celebration of the African-American culture that Brantley grew up with, featuring old issues of Jet and Ebony magazines as well as vintage stereo equipment playing some of his favorite songs. The experience lasts about an hour and ends with a chance to purchase some exclusive Flyboy and Lil Mama merch that will only be available during the pop-up's run.
Skate under the Chicago skyline at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Admission to the rink is free, and you can rent skates for $13–$15. The most popular time to hit the rink is in the evening, so show up earlier if you don't feel like waiting in line for your chance to slide around. Take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sundays at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 8, weather permitting.
Situated in the heart of downtown Chicago, with the city's sweeping skyline as a backdrop, the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park is a winter attraction unlike any other. Skaters can lace up and wind around a winding ice-covered path that's twice the length of a lap around a traditional rink. Admission to the Skating Ribbon is always free, and skate rentals are available for $13–$15. The Ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and even offers limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
A day before Chinatown celebrates the Lunar New Year, the party kicks off in Uptown at the annual Argyle Street parade. Alderman Harry Osterman and Argyle Street business help organize the event, which marks the arrival of the Year of the Rat. Floats, bands and lion dancers will begin the procession at Argyle Street and Winthrop Avenue, heading east along on Argyle Street, south along Sheridan Road, west along Ainslie Street and north along Broadway. Before and after the parade, families can stop by the Latin School of Chicago, the Bezazian Branch of the Chicago Public Library or Axis Lab to take part in activities.
Celebrate the Year of the Rat in Chinatown at the neighborhood's official Lunar New Year parade, which falls on the Sunday after the arrival of Chinese New Year (February 2). Attendees line Wentworth Avenue to see marching bands, decorated floats and traditional lion dancers. The colorful procession begins at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue, traveling north to Cermak Road.
After the parade in Chinatown, head to Marz Community Brewing to celebrate the release of the new Triple Crown rice lager, named for one of Chicago's best dim sum spots. Stick around to enjoy a special food menu (including dumplings from Japanese comfort food purveyors Mom's), learn about your future by getting your fortune read or watch a lion dance performed by the Ng Family Chinese Martial Arts Association.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! The annual Chicago Auto Show roars back to McCormick Place to showcase the latest and greatest developments in the world of cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles and concept cars. Manufacturers trot out their newest models in elaborate exhibitions, often accompanied by interactive installations that allow you to get behind the wheel—either physically or virtually. You'll also find lots of automotive accessories on display, in addition to lovingly-restored antique vehicles. It's heaven on Earth for gearheads.
Hosted the weekend before Valentine's Day, this annual tradition challenges participants to jog a chilly mile through Wrigleyville in their skivvies, all in the name of raising money for neurofibromatosis research. After the run, you'll return to Slugger's for a scantily clad dance party with your fellow racers, so make sure to wear some comfortable undies.
Ring in the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rat at Time Out Market Chicago! Join us for an afternoon of art, music and culture for the whole family. Kids and their parents will be able to paint handmade fans and have their names written by a Chinese calligrapher, and everyone will be able to watch vibrant lion dancers shimmy their way through the Market. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the first floor for special bites from Bill Kim and Mini Mott or a curated cocktail at the bar.
Need a break from the monotonous sights of winter in Chicago? Head to the North Shore for the Chicago Botanic Garden's annual orchid show, where there are more than 10,000 blooms on display to brighten your day. The Regenstein Center is filled with towering orchid installations, including a canopy of color, a floating carpet and a dramatic chandelier. Swing by on Saturdays and Sundays to shop for orchids of your own in a pop-up marketplace, or stay late on Thursday nights to have a cocktail during Orchids After Hours.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the spotlight in an exhibition that her life through a variety of interactive displays and a treasure trove of memorabilia. Each section of the exhibit is named after a Notorious B.I.G. lyric, beginning with her childhood in Brooklyn and continuing with an examination of her career as a lawyer fighting for equality. Guests will be able to view a recreation of Ginsburg's childhood apartment, put on a robe and sit on a replica Supreme Court bench or view a model of the desk houses in Ginsburg's Supreme Court chambers. "Notorious RBG" also features one of Ginsburg's Supreme Court robes and the National Portrait Gallery's official portraits of Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court.
Designed to recognize African-American–owned eateries in the Chicagoland area, Chicago Black Restaurant Week is back again this year from February 9 through 16. Coinciding with the end of Chicago Restaurant Week, diners can take advantage of discounts and special menus at more than 35 participating restaurants.
Taking place in tandem with the NBA All-Star Game festivities throughout Chicago, NBA Crossover tranforms a portion of Navy Pier into a destination for basketball fans. Once inside, you'll be able to explore an exhibition of memorabilia, shop a selection of exclusive NBA merchendise, attend discussions with NBA players, catch live music performances and take part in interactive basketball activites. Plus, a ticket to NBA Crossover is far more affordable than trying to snag a seat at Sunday night's All-Star Game.
Kicking off NBA All-Star Game weekend in Chicago, the annual celebrity game puts actors, musicians, former NBA players and current WNBA stars on the court at Wintrust Arena for an exhibition match. Keep your eyes peeled for the team lineups.
Search out bathing beauties, buff men, provocative paintings and more au naturel art at this annual Valentine’s Day weekend scavenger hunt inside the Art Institute. Participants break up into teams and explore the museum’s best nudes, using clues to find answers to tricky questions that can only be answered via some of the sexiest works on display. Your ticket includes admission to the museum, so feel free to continue your visit after the hunt has ended.
The last time that the NBA All-Star Game was hosted in Chicago, Michael Jordan led the Eastern Conference squad to victory—and won the slam dunk contest while he was at it. More than 30 years later, the league's marquee exhibition game is returning to the home of the Chicago Bulls. Serving at the culmination of a weekend of festivities, the NBA All-Star Game will pit some of the leagues biggest stars against one another on the court at the United Center, with Chance the Rapper performing during halftime. If you're hoping to attend the NBA All-Star Game, we wish you the best of luck—tickets are hard to come by, and if you do find a pair, be prepared to pay out the nose for them. Even if you can't be inside the United Center, you'll be able to watch the game at viewing parties throughout the city.
In a city that hosts countless beer festivals, the annual Cider Summit caters to fans of the crisp, apple-y alternative. Over the course of two sessions in Navy Pier's Aon Grand Ballroom, attendees will be able to sample more than 200 ciders, meads, cider cocktails and apple spirits from a variety of artisanal producers. Admission includes 16 tasting tickets, with more available for purchase during the event.
Want to give back to your community but don't know how to get started? This expo features more than 75 nonprofits that are looking for help, from social-justice groups to environmental organizations. Attendees can also participate in "speed volunteering" at the expoby helping construct sleeping mats for the homeless, creating cards for kids in hospitals and bringing donations for a canned food drive.
TIME Studios presents this immersive exhibition that explores the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought more than 250,000 people to the National Mall in the name of civil rights. The centerpiece of "The March" is a 10-minute virtual reality experience that allows guests to witness Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered by "the most realistic digital rendering of a human ever created."
Concerts in February 2020
A winter tradition that's just as enjoyable as ice skating in Maggie Daley Park or standing under the heat lamps on CTA platforms, the annual Chicago Psych Fest brings a lineup of trippy bands to the Hideout. This year, the event takes place over the course of a single evening, welcoming ambient Michigan duo lovesliescrushing, acoustic-meet-electronics project Exoplanet, art-punk outfit Les Strychnine, local psych-rockers Dead Feathers and eclectic krautrock collective Spiral Galaxy. Throw on a tie-dye shirt, grab your jacket and spend an evening floating in the musical cosmos.
Mouse-eared EDM mascot Joel Zimmerman (a.k.a. Deadmau5) is still one of the genre's most well-known figures, bringing his high-tech live show to some of the world's biggest venues and clubs. His Cube V3 Tour brings a brand new version of the producer's souped-up, rotating, 21-foot-tall DJ booth to Navy Pier, armed with a fresh batch of bass drop-ridden tracks and retina-searing visuals. Los Angeles producers Getter and BlackgGummy open the show.
Philadelphia outfit Dr. Dog spent much of the aughts churning out records inspired by the heady late-’60s pop of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Kinks. The second decade of the group's career has dialed back the twinkling keyboards and studio wizardry, embracing the slightly more subdued psychedelia of ’70s and ’80s rock. Along the way, Dr. Dog has become a formidable live act, thanks to the band's dual vocalists and an extensive catalog of songs (its tenth album, Critical Equation, was released in 2018) to draw from. Headlining two night at Thalia Hall, Dr. Dog is joined by psychedelic folk-rocker Michael Nau. BlackGummy open the show.
Giacomo Puccini's classic Italian opera returns to the Lyric Opera for the 16th time, with sopranos Ana María Martínez and Lianna Haroutounian portraying the title role. The heartbreaking tale of Japanese geisha Cio-Cio-San and her marriage to an American naval lieutenant is set to a series of beautiful compositions that interpolate traditional Japanese instrumentation and folk music.
If you experienced the stampede to see Post Malone's mid-day performance at Lollapalooza in 2018, then you understand just how big of a deal the facial tattoo-covered rapper really is. Boasting his own Bud Light can and a line of signature Crocs, the unlikely hip-hop star who launched his career on the back of the hazy SoundCloud single "White Iverson" has transformed into an undeniable pop juggernaut. You can rest assured that you'll be hearing the barrage of hooks and Auto-Tuned vocals that populate Malone's latest album, Hollywood's Bleeding, in rideshares for months to come. After headlining the United Center in 2019, Post Malone brings his Runaway tour to Allstate Arena, with support from "Sunflower" collaborator Swae Lee and rising rapper Tyla Yaweh.
The Hideout's Cosmic Country Showcase celebrates twangy tunes delivered with psychedelic trappings, dressing up the venue's stage to present a wonderfully strange variety show. The Valentine's Day edition showcases duets and songs about heartbreak (a category that's brimming with options), leading up to a headlining set from a pair of performers who are very much in love with one another.
Timed to coincide with NBA All-Star Game weekend, former basketball star, current NBA analyst and part-time DJ Shaquille O'Neal (who goes by the name Diesel when he's behind the decks) presents an evening of music at the Concord. You'll witness a headlining set from Shaq himself, who packs his sets with bass-heavy EDM tracks and is a mosh pit enthusiast. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame, Los Angeles DJ SAYMYNAME and local DJ Dee Mash round out the bill. Don't be surprised if a few of Shaq's famous NBA friends line the stage during his set.
Celebrating its 15th year of presenting original love songs and arrangements of romantic film soundtracks, the Make-Out Party graduates from the cramped confines of the Hideout to the more spacious Irish American Heritage Center Ballroom. As usual, an all-star group of Chicago musicians will be presiding over "an evening of aural intercourse," performing songs that celebrate the beauty, fragility and tragedy of love.
You're probably familiar with Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky thanks to the memorable score he created for The Nutcracker ballet, but his talents were also showcased in a series of operas. The Lyric Opera presents one of his final operas, The Queen of Spades, which tells the romantic tale of a soldier whose obsession with playing cards begins to take a toll on his relationship with the woman he loves. Clocking in at three hours and 45 minutes, it's a lengthy opera, but the Lyric's production includes two intermissions if you need to stretch your legs.
The songs of Swedish pop star Tove Lo has frequently been portrayed as a darker and more explicit take on the buoyant output of fellow Swedes Robyn and Lykke Li, but that comparison seems less and less apt. On Sunshine Kitty, Tove Lo leaves behind the brooding synths of her breakout single "Habits (Stay High)" and embraces pulsating, club-ready beats throughout a collection of tracks that address jealousy, empowerment and the singer's romantic struggles as an openly bisexual woman. Finnish singer-songwriter Alma, who has written tracks for Miley Cyrus and appears on Tove Lo's song "Bad as the Boys," opens the show.
A veteran of Sheila E.'s backing band (which he joined as a teenager) and a part of beloved early-’90s neosoul trio Tony! Toni! Toné!, Raphael Saadiq is practically R&B royalty. Over the past few decades he's become an in-demand producer, working with artists like Mary J. Blige and Miguel and helping to shape the musical direction of Solange's breakout album, A Seat at the Table. Saadiq comes to the Vic in support of his 2019 album Jimmy Lee, a soul-bearing collection of songs named after his late brother, who died of a heroin overdose.
Quickly graduating from the Denver open-mic circuit to cavernous theaters and arenas around the world—thanks to the success of inescapable folk-rock ballad "Ho Hey"—the Lumineers could have easily followed in the footsteps of Mumford & Sons and started aping U2. Instead, the group has kept its acoustic instrumentation and foot-stomping rhythms intact, penning an album (2019's III) that examines a fictional family's struggle with addiction. Joined by L.A. folk-rocker Mt. Joy and Kenyan singer-songwriter J.S. Ondara, the Lumineers headline two nights at Allstate Arena on the band's latest world tour.
Frigid temperatures and the possibility of snow aren't enough to stop the Empty Bottle from throwing an outdoor concert in the middle of February. The annual Music Frozen Dancing block party sets up a stage outside the Ukranian Village rock club, fires up some heat lamps, stocks the coolers with Goose Island brews and presents an afternoon of performances that you can take in while bundled up in your coziest parka. Reunited post-hardcore act Hot Snakes and punk outfit Pissed Jeans headline the chilly afternoon, joined by post-punk legends Crash Course in Science, industrial duo HIDE, heavy metalheads Hitter and motorik new wavers the Hecks. As usual, it's free to attend, with donations to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless accepted at the door.
Prolific Australian multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi and Canadian sound artist Crys Cole team up for an evening of avant-garde drones and noise, presented as part of Constellation's annual celebration of experimental music, the Frequency Festival. Ambarchi is best known for processing his electric guitars with an array of daisy-chained effect pedals, while Cole manipulates samples and improvisations to explore a variety of sonic textures.
Born in Chicago's mid-’90s indie-rock heyday, the Sea and Cake has evolved over the course of its quarter-century as a band, but the change has been gradual and has often happened around the edges of the group's well-established sound. Listen to the Sea and Cake's self-titled 1994 debut and you'll hear the same jazz-inflected guitar chords and breathy vocals (courtesy of frontman Sam Prekop) that remain foundations of the outfit's contemporary output. Building on the long-running musical partnership of the group's core members, 2018's Any Day confidently refined the basic elements of its sound, resulting in some of the group's warmest compositions to-date. During this headlining set at the Empty Bottle, we're looking forward to hearing classic tracks and, perhaps, a taste of what's next for the Sea and Cake.
Theater in February 2020
This 11-day celebration of Chicago's vast theater scene returns for its eighth year with more than 100 productions at institutions throughout the city—from Goodman and Steppenwolf to iO and the Second City. With dozens of dramas, comedies, ballets and musicals to see, there's something for everyone. Patrons can catch productions at the deeply discounted rate of $15 or $30 (or less, in some cases). Tickets for the 2020 season go on sale January 14.
Haven’t had your fill of politics for the decade? This one-woman show chronicles the life and times of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she builds her career and shifts from achieving consensus to fighting the good partisan fight. Broadway actress Orlagh Cassidy stars as Pelosi in a script from Bill McMahon in a world premiere production at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theatre.
Kendra and Betty are spending most of their fishing trip on the Alabama Delta arguing about their relationship and their regrets. And that’s before their boat breaks down, stranding them on open water. Megan Carney directs Kelli Simpkins and Deanna Meyer in this drama from writer Audrey Cefaly.
Two Cleveland police officers are falling deeply in love until the search for truth following an officer-involved shooting threatens to tear them apart. Leslie Ann Sheppard and Drew Schad star in this two-hander from playwright Kevin Artigue directed by Wardell Julius Clark for Shattered Globe Theatre.
Caryl Churchill’s 1982 masterwork Top Girls is never more daring than in the first of its three acts. Urbane career woman Marlene (Linda Gillum) is hosting a fantastical dinner with a guest list of women from ages past: Pope Joan (Rebecca Spence), Victorian explorer Isabella Bird (Annabel Armour), Dutch folklore figure Dull Gret (Aurora Real De Asua), the dutiful Griselda from Canterbury Tales (Amber Sallis) and the 13th-century Japanese diarist and courtesan Lady Nijo (Karissa Murrell Myers).
In Meghan Brown’s satirical thriller—directed here in its world premiere by Devon de Mayo—a rash of high-profile poisonings leads all top-tier government officials to employ “tasters.” When resistance leader Elyse is captured and forced to work as a taster, her captors have no idea what she’s got in store for them.
In this thrilling, moving new play from beloved local playwright Isaac Gomez, a young man reckons with a violent history when he returns to his home along the border between the U.S. and Mexico to solve the mystery of his uncle’s disappearance. Laura Alcalá Baker directs this world premiere production for Steep Theatre.