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Photograph: Grace DuVal

January 2023 events calendar for Chicago

Begin the new year with events, festivals, concerts, theater and more great things to do in Chicago in January

Emma Krupp
Edited by
Emma Krupp
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We’ll be honest: January is not exactly Chicago’s finest month. But before you start to dwell on the prospect of snow, cold and seemingly endless winter, allow us to point out some of the best ways to kick off the first few weeks of 2023. Start by catching the final days of Christmas lights in Chicago (they offer a nice excuse to take a walk outside, even when the holidays have passed) and get some fresh winter air when you take a spin around the best ice skating rinks the city has to offer. Prefer to stay inside? Tour new exhibits at Chicago museums—many of which offer free days over the next few months—or check out some of the best things to do indoors, including rock climbing, bowling and soul-warming spa days. Make a resolution to start 2023 on the right foot with the help of our guide to the best things to do in Chicago this January. 

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2023

Featured events in January 2023

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Millennium Park

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. Reservations for the popular ice rink should be made in advance, as they tend to fill up quickly.

Admission to the Skating Ribbon is free Monday through Thursday and for 11am sessions Friday through Sunday (and $5 for other time slots Friday through Sunday, as well as holidays) if you bring your own skates. No skates? Entry is $16–$22 if you need to rent a pair. 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.

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • Millennium Park

Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Plus, take advantage of free skating lessons on most Saturdays and Sundays from 9–10am, where you can learn both beginner- and intermediate-level skills. Note that you'll need to make a free online reservation for both regular skating and lessons this year, and if it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 5, weather permitting.

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  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Streeterville

British theatermaker Emma Rice brings her acclaimed adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights to Chicago Shakespeare Theater for this UK co-production, which employs music, dance and puppetry for an unconventional take on the gothic tale.  

  • Comedy
  • Uptown

This weekly “live magazine” is a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day. Head to Uptown’s iconic Green Mill for drinks, hot takes and laughs; the longstanding Saturday afternoon edition tends to run about two and a half hours.

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  • Restaurants
  • Loop

Open wide! Chicago Restaurant Week is back for its 16th year. More than 330 Chicagoland eateries will offer specially curated prix fixe menus for brunch ($25), lunch ($25) or dinner ($42/$59) between January 20 and February 5. With more than 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. Look through our top recommendations here.

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Streeterville

What does “Caribbean art” look like? This new group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art takes a diasporic approach to answering that question, using weather—and all its changeability and unpredictability—as a metaphor for exploring artistic practices and identity-making within Caribbean art communities across the world. With the tumultuous geopolitical climate of the 1990s as its backdrop, the exhibit highlights work from 37 international artists; it’s also the first major MCA exhibitiobn to presented in both Spanish and English. 

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Hyde Park

Tap into feelings of childhood nostalgia at the Museum of Science and Industry’s newest exhibit, a colorful glimpse into the world of Mold-A-Rama™ machines. Explore a collection of popular, rare and experimental souvenirs, learn about the history of the machines’ production and breathe in the iconic scent of their plastic toymaking—you can even take home a few new Mold-A-Rama™ souvenirs if you’re looking to expand your collection. 

  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Loop

The classic fairytale of Hansel and Gretel comes to life for six performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Engelbert Humperdinck’s whimsical masterpiece transports audiences to a strange and twisted world of discovery, where they’ll be moved by musical gems like “Dream Ballet,” “Evening Prayer” and “Witch’s Ride.” The production is sung in German, with English subtitles projected above the stage.

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  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Suburbs

See eight towering sculptures by South African artist Daniel Popper at the Morton Arboretum's new outdoor exhibition, which spreads the 15- to 26-foot-tall works throughout the natural area. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, the one-of-a-kind pieces in "Human+Nature" depict human figures that evoke the natural landscape they're set amid, including a pair of 36-foot-long hands reaching out from a grove of oak trees and a maternal figure that springs up amid magnolia trees.

Access to "Human+Nature" is included as part of timed-entry admission to the Morton Arboretum, and there's a map that will allow you to easily plan your visit and spot all eight  sculptures along the way.

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Humboldt Park

Working in partnership with the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture is bringing a stunning selection of paintings to Chicago—some of which have never been shown outside of Puerto Rico—for an exhibition highlighting several of the island's most important artists. Centered around three curatorial themes (“My Home,” “My People” and “My Island”), the works span from the 18th century to the first half of the 20th century, showcasing artists like José Campeche, Francisco Oller, Miguel Pou and Myrna Báez, among others. Tickets to the exhibition are free, but you might consider a small online donation to the Museo de Arte de Ponce, which is still recovering from damage sustained in a 2020 earthquake.  

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Streeterville

Yer a wizard, Harry! Or at least, you can pretend to be one at this immersive Harry Potter experience that’s popping up at Water Tower Place through May 2023. Visitors are invited to step into Harry’s life at Hogwarts with interactive features like Quidditch lessons, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, sipping sweet drinks at the Butterbeer Bar, Patronus-seeking in the Forbidden Forest and learning their Hogwarts house via the Sorting Hat, among other magical experiences. FYI: In addition to regular operating hours, the exhibition is open on “select” Tuesdays and Wednesdays and may offer different hours around holidays. 

  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Uptown

For more than 30-years, the Neo-Futurists have been delighting late-night crowds with performances that pack 30 miniature plays into a 60-minute show. Returning to in-person programming (attendees must be vaccinated and masked) after more than a year spent in the virtual realm, the company's signature show is more unpredictable than ever, with a handful of compact new plays premiering every week. Within the span of 10 minutes, you may be treated to a poignant monologue about everyday life or an irreverent diatribe delivered by a pantsless member of the cast—all inspired by the experiences of the performers on stage. Always changing and evolving, it's the rare show that truly offers something different everytime you show up to see it.

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  • Theater
  • Lake View

Jasmine Sharma’s introspective and empowering play Radial Gradient makes its world premiere at Theater Wit and will run through March 11. The story revolves around three women who enter a research study hoping to create positive change after a hate crime takes place at a liberal university in America. Timelines in 2017 and 2020 intertwine as the participants unravel their complicated shared friendships and histories.

Radial Gradient will be featured as part of Chicago Theatre Week, an annual celebration of the rich tradition of theatre-going in Chicago during which visitors and residents can purchase $15 or $30 value-priced tickets.

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