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 (one of our favorite February 2020 events) 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
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.
Sizable installations—such as 500,000 cigarettes arranged to resemble a tiger skin rug and a houselike structure formed by braids of dyed human hair—are the centerpiece of this exhibit, which celebrates the unconventional materials favored by contemporary Chinese artists. The exhibit is so massive that it has been divided between two institutions, with a portion of the works being displayed at the Smart Museum of Art in Hyde Park and another collection being shown at Wrightwood 659 in Lincoln Park.
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.
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."
You won't just see the multicultural fashion of Nigerian-born British womenswear designer Duro Olowu on display in this unconvential exhibition, debuting at the MCA. In preparing "Seeing Chicago," Olowu spent time learning about the Chicago and it's connection to the arts, curating a collection of works derived from the MCA's holdings and other collections throughout the city. The result is an show that pairs Olowu sleek designs with paintings, photographs, sculptures and films, including works by the likes of Kerry James Marshall, Barbara Kruger and Henri Matisse.
Enjoy a free journey through Chicago's natural winter wonderland during one of three Polar Adventure Days on Northerly Island. Visitors will be able to check out birds of prey from the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, make nature-inspired winter crafts and see Siberian huskies and wolves. If there's snow on the ground, you can also strap on a pair of snowshoes and trudge around the island.
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2 for short) turns McCormick Place into a pop-culture mecca, stocked with mountains of books and merchandise as well as chances to meet your favorite creators, actors and artists. Head to the convention floor and you'll find cosplayers and attendees mingling in a sea of vendors hawking all manner of comics, toys and memorabilia. Guests like Matt Smith (Doctor Who), William Shatner (Star Trek) and Ivy Doomkitty (Heroes of Cosplay) will be signing autographs and participating in panels throughout the weekend. And if you want to see some amazing costumes, make sure to stick around for the C2E2 Crown Championships of Cosplay on Saturday, February 29.
Concerts in February 2020
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.
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.
Pitchfork Music Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary with a free show headlined by Chicago-based hip-hop duo the Cool Kids, which formed when Antoine Reed (a.k.a. Sir Michael Rocks) and Evan Ingersoll (a.k.a. Chuck Inglish) connected on MySpace (remember that?) and decided to collaborate. Since reuniting in 2017, the pair has continued to channel the sound of classic hip-hop acts like LL Cool J and Run DMC, collaborating with the likes of Jeremih, A-Trak and Travis Barker on its recent album, Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe. At Chicago Athletic Association, the Cool Kids are joined by local footwork producer DJ Spinn and R&B singer-songwriter Kaina.
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.
Local experimental rock duo Ohmme headlines the second of two free (with RSVP) shows celebrating the 15th anniversary of Pitchfork Music Festival at the Chicago Atheletic Association. Drawing on years of friendship and collaboration, multi-instrumentalists Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart layer taut vocal harmonies atop noisy, percussive arrangements on the pair's recent album, Parts. Lo-fi rockers Dehd and percussionist Spencer Tweedy open 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.
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 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.