February can be a rough month in Chicago. The magic of the holidays is long worn off, you’ve been buried in your winter coat for months, and to top it all of, you’ve got to deal with Valentine’s Day. Seems cruel, no? But as always, we’re looking out for you, Chicago! Whether you’re in the mood for ice skating under the skyline, or jonesing to cozy up with a hot cocktail at a bar with a fireplace, we’ve got dozens of ways make the shortest month of the year the sweetest.
RECOMMENDED: The best events in Chicago
Featured February 2017 events
Check out the Groundhog Day celebration featured in the classic 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray. Attendees gather to see area groundhog Woodstock Willie leave his tree trunk home and predict if winter will stay or go. Should he see his shadow, winter will last for six more weeks, and if not, spring will arrive early. Or at least that's what the legend says. Though February 2 is the official Groundhog Day Prognostication, Woodstock is holding a whole week's-worth of events leading up to Mardi Gras.
Most guided tours take a break for the winter, but not the adventurous pedway-ers in Chicago Elevated. They've got three themed tours for the snow-covered months. Beginning in December, the Holiday Pedway Tour Extravaganza shows off the city's wondrous winter decorations; the Winter Tour, which sees attractions like Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park; and the original Pedway tour, which never takes a break. Milwaukee Tool Company provides battery-operated heated coats, so Chicago Elevated literally has you covered.
Get all gussied up in your best retro ski digs and trek through Gold Coast on this winter bar crawl. Ski goggles, fuzzy ear muffs and leg warmers and spandex are all recommended. Participating bars and restaurants include Butch McGuire's, Coconutz, Hopsmith Tavern, The Original Mother's, McFadden's and The Hangge Uppe.
Lace up your ice skates and become part of a favorite winter tradition at the rink at Lincoln Park Zoo's Farm-in-the-Zoo on select dates from November 25–February 26. (Check the website for a calendar.) The Main Barn is open for concessions and warming up. Skate rental is available for an additional $5. Bring your family or friends and save time to wander through ZooLights while you're at it.
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.
Search out bathing beauties, sultry sirens, a woman enjoying a golden shower from Zeus and more provocative art at this Valentine's Day scavenger hunt in the Art Institute. You'll view some of the museum's best nudes, while learning about art history and enjoying the company of your fellow peeping Toms.
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is open to the public for skating with one of the best views of the downtown skyline. Experience one of the city's finest winter traditions from November 18 (the same day as the city's 103rd annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration) to March 5. Check the website for daily hours of operation. Admission is free with free skating lessons Friday through Sunday one hour before the rink opens.
The Adler Planetarium's monthly 21 and up night time event invites adults to explore the Museum Campus attraction while enjoying drinks and entertainment. This month's theme is "First Contact." It details the efforts to find life on other planets in our solar system and beyond, and what might happen should we find alien life in space.
Every Sunday at Navy Pier, Neighborhoods of the World showcases Chicago's most vibrant cultural communities with live music, authentic cuisine, dance performances and art. This year's nine-week series kicks off with Chinese New Year, then explores the traditions of Africa, Mexico, Greece and more. Sunday, February 21: Celebrate Chinese New Year Sunday, February 28: Celebrate Africa Sunday, March 6: Celebrate Italy Sunday, March 13: Celebrate Lithuania Sunday, March 20: Philippines Celebration Sunday, March 27: Greek Celebration Sunday, April 3: Celebrate Mexico Sunday, April 10: Celebrate Poland Sunday, April 17: Celebrate Amazing India
The eleventh annual Polar Adventure Days features all sorts of winter activities for the family. Check out birds of prey from the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, tour the new Northerly Island Natural Area, and see Siberian huskies and wolves. Cocoa, snowshoes, and winter crafts all help to make the experience more authentically winter.
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.
The folks behind TBOX present another seasonally-themed excuse to drink in Wrigleyville with their annual Mardi Gras pub crawl. BeadQuest participants bounce between over 20 bars, while collecting beads, getting photos taken in event-specific "frames" and partaking in a number of drink and food specials. If you're the kind of person who like to knock back hurricanes while listening to brass bands, you'll feel like you've died and gone to Bourbon Street.
Embrace the bitter weather at the second annual Frost Fest. Stoic attendees will be able to sample more than 40 craft beers from local breweries in a gigantic, outdoor heated tent during two separate three-hour tasting sessions. Live music and food trucks contrast and compliment the cold suds.
Music in February 2017
The acclaimed Budapest Festival Orchestra comes to Symphony Center, under the direction of Hungarian conductor and composer Iván Fischer. The orchestra will present an all-Beethoven program, including his famous Fifth Symphony and his Second Piano Concerto, as part of Symphony Center’s complete cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos in its 2016/17 season.
Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi channels some quarter-life angst on the group's new LP, Life Without Sound, but he seems more concerned about the world at large than his own inner turmoil. Lead single "Internal World" he admits "I’m not the one who’s always right," amid a fuzzy pop punk arrangement—a fairly shrewd assessment, considering the current political climate. It's a far cry from the lo-fi basement recordings that launched Baldi into indie rock stardom, but desperate times call for more powerful songs.
Take in a new-to-Chicago production of French composer Georges Bizet's classic opera, centered around a gypsy who seduces a soldier and a bullfighter. Carmen is filled with iconic music (some of which you've probably become familiar through various corners of popular culture), including the recognizable melodies of Habanera and the Toreador Song.
No, not that Hamilton. With the Walkmen on indefinite hiatus, frontman Leithauser teams up with former Vampire Weekend instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, exploring doo-wop, soul and country music on the duo’s new album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. While there's a bit of Leithauser's familiar garage-soul howling and bespoke crooning on the record, it seems like a calculated attempt to branch out—thankfully, it hits the mark. Wise beyond her years singer songwriter Lucy Dacus opens the show.
Based out of the Experimental Sound Studio in Edgewater, the Morton Feldman Chamber Players is an ensemble of musicians dedicated to the work of experimental composer Morton Feldman. Here, the players perform Feldman’s subdued and slowly changing melodies as part of the Frequency Festival.
One of city's most beloved bands comes home to the Chicago Theatre, staging a four-night stand that marks the group's first appearance at the historic venue. Wilco's tenth studio album, cheekily titled Schmilco, acts as a companion to 2015's Star Wars—a more subdued collection of succinct pop songs that is remincent of frontman Jeff Tweedy's 2014 solo release, Sukierae. If these shows are anything like past hometown appearances, you can expect the band to dig deep into its back catalog (and avoid repeating songs night-to-night), in an effort to placate diehards screaming "Cars Can't Escape" from the balcony.
Art events in February 2017
The MCA's latest exhibition in its ongoing DNA series confronts the gender inequality that still haunts the art world. Named after the ‘90s feminist punk movement, "Riot Grrrls" showcases paintings by notable female artists like Mary Heilmann, Charline von Heyl and Judy Ledgerwood. The exhibition also features work by younger artists, including Molly Zuckerman-Hartung and Amy Feldman.
The latest exhibition in the MCA's "Chicago Works" series focuses on local sculptor Chris Bradley, who replicates everyday objects and places them in new contexts. An ordinary bag of ice is a creative challenge for the artist, achieved by casting cubes out of glass (so that it will never melt). The objects he creates are approached with a sense of humor—why else would a flower pot and a ladder be found affixed to the blades of a ceiling fan?
A painter may insist on hanging their canvases on a gallery wall, but some artists prefer to blur the line between their work and the environment in which it is presented. In "Above, Before & After," the MCA assembles a collection of two- and three-dimensional works that exploit the relationship between art and the viewer, including intricate mobiles by Alexander Calder and lightbox sculptures by Alfredo Jaar.
Examining the relationship between photographers and their subjects, "Witness" probes the various ways in which the circumstances surrounding the capturing of an image can define its message. Beginning with Walker Evans' vernacular photos from the 1940s and ending in a large-scale installation by Alfredo Jaar, the exhibit explores photography's changing role throughout the history of the medium.
Egyptian artist Basim Magdy is a painter, photographer and filmmaker who creates surreal imagery that is based on his observations of reality. "The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings" is his first US museum survey, collecting works from throughout his career, including pieces which demonstrate his "pickling" process, in which he applies household chemicals to analog film.
Though it only published three issues, Tokyo's Provoke magazine produced photography and cultural criticism that was ahead of its time in the late 1960s. This exhibition of postwar photos showcases images from political protests, performances and art exhibitions in Japan.
Growing up between the Algeria and the suburbs of Paris, Kader Attia always felt culturally out of place. His collages, sculptures and installation confront his search for identity, exploring the differences between Western and non-Western approaches to history and tradition. His latest exhibition at the Block Museum is centered around newly commissioned work informed by Attia's research in the collections of Northwestern University’s Herskovits Library of Africana Studies.
Ahead of the Fall 2017 opening of the Art Institute's permanent display of architecture and design works, the museum exhibits examples of postmodern design in the 1970s and ’80s, including colorful pieces by Italian group Memphis and architectural firm Coop Himmelblau.
Best known for encasing a Cadillac in concrete, German artist Wolf Vostell adopted the material as a motif, using it to demonstrate permanence, urban renewal and unrest. "Vostell Concrete" collects 45 of the artist's sculptures, films, collages and prints, examining the motivation behind his use of materials and what they signified.
Named after a 1920s opera by Virgil Thomson, this group exhibition features works that appropriate religious iconography in an effort to explore each artist’s respective relationship to faith and spirituality. "Four Saints in Three Acts" contains works by Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, Jeni Spota C., Kehinde Wiley, Nate Young and Andrea Büttner.
Theater in February 2017
Let’s not mince words, since we’ve already spilled so many of them: Hamilton, writer-composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biography of Alexander Hamilton as refracted through a hip-hop, pop and R&B lens, is a sprawling, stunning, singular achievement. By filtering the story of the American Experiment’s beginning into modern, meticulously rhymed vernacular and populating the stage with performers of color to play the likes of Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson and Madison, Miranda and his regular collaborators (director Thomas Kail, music supervisor Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler) make the founding fathers feel fresh and, miraculously, human. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Hamilton Chicago Weeks out from the country’s naming its 45th president, Hamilton’s new Chicago company arrives to remind us our democracy has always been messy, political, personal, and worth fighting for. Kail and Blankenbuehler fill designer David Korins’s spare set—which suggests that, like the country, it’s still under construction—with movement as thrilling and dense as Miranda’s lyrics. (The few moments of stillness are also used to great counter effect.) The nearly all-new Chicago cast (ensemble member Emmy Raver-Lampman is the sole transfer) easily lives up to the originals while finding their own new moments and shades. Miguel Cervantes is a rather more grounded Hamilton than the more frenetic Miranda, who originated the role, but Cervantes conveys the man’s vital, fatal
This new fairy-tale meta narrative, about a pair of traveling storytellers scrambling to save their mysteriously dying subjects, is written and directed by Lookingglass ensemble member Doug Hara. The production features shadow puppetry by Manual Cinema and 3-D puppetry by Blair Thomas.