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March 2017 events calendar for Chicago

Plan out your March in Chicago with our calendar of the best things to do, including picks from theater, art and music

Photograph: Max Herman

March in Chicago conjures one color: green. From the river to the drunk people to the junk at drug stores, Chicago does not skimp on the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. But March also marks the creaky beginnings of spring—little blades of grass peeking out here and there. But don’t get your hopes up; it’s not quite outdoor bar weather yet. Because as they say, Chicago comes in like a lion, and goes out like…well, like a drunk lion. Start planning your month with our March 2017 events calendar for Chicago.


RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2017

Featured events in March 2017

Chicago Polar Plunge

Recommended

If they did it just for kicks, we'd agree these plungers were a little crazy for wearing next to nothing and jumping into icy Lake Michigan during March's freezing temps. But they're taking a dip to raise money for the Special Olympics Chicago, too. Last year, Vince Vaughn and Lady Gaga showed up for the chilly festivities—perhaps this year Arnold Schwarzenegger will reprise his role as Mr. Freeze?

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North Avenue Beach , Lincoln Park Sunday March 5 2017

Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade

Recommended

After the Chicago river is dyed a murky shade of green, the city's big, noisy, fun-filled homage to the Irish makes its way through Grant Park on Columbus Drive, with plenty of bagpipes, drum corps, Irish dancers and other merrymakers in tow. Because St. Patrick's Day falls on a Thursday this year, the parade will take place the Saturday before. Find the viewing stand filled with local dignitaries in front of Buckingham Fountain.

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Columbus Dr , East Garfield Park Saturday March 11 2017

South Side Irish Parade

Recommended

The city's southernmost Irish celebration returns with another liquor-less procession along Western Avenue between 103rd and 115th street. In recent years, the event has attempted to shed its boisterous reputation, increasing the fine for open container violations so that families can safelt enjoy the floats, bagpipes and marching bands.

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Western Ave from 103rd St to 115th St , Beverly Sunday March 12 2017

Chiditarod X

Recommended

The mobile food drive–meets–bash and shopping cart race goes down in Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village where teams of five people (four pullers and one musher) decked out in clever and wacky costumes race carts of food between neighborhood bars. The starting line is Wolcott Avenue and Hubbard Street, and spectators are welcome to follow as the race progresses. All food donations go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository while monetary contributions are given to a local charitable entity.

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Wolcott Ave and Hubbard St , River West/West Town Saturday March 4 2017

Leprechaun Leap

Burn some calories before heading downtown for the parade at the Leprechaun Leap, formerly known as the St. Paddy's Day 5K and 8K Run, which benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Winding through Lincoln Park, the race features plenty of green attire as well as a seasonal costume contest.

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Lincoln Park , Lincoln Park Saturday March 11 2017

Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show

Recommended

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.

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Chicago Botanic Garden , Suburbs Until Sunday March 26 2017

Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Recommended

Spring's imminent arrival takes the form of displays of flora at Navy Pier. Visitors can sit in on instructional seminars, walk through manicured gardens, purchase plant-related souvenirs at the market and obtain culinary tips from chefs at cooking demonstrations. The Kid's Activity Garden offers hands-on projects for kids, like learning how to plant seeds and grow vegetables.

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Navy Pier , Streeterville Saturday March 18 2017 - Sunday March 26 2017

Neighborhoods of the World

Recommended

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

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Navy Pier, Crystal Gardens , Streeterville Sunday February 26 2017 - Sunday March 19 2017

Maple Sugaring Spring Fever

The best salve for cabin fever is syrup, and plenty of it, which is exactly what attendees of this annual Naperville tradition will get. Learn how to collect sap, the cultural history behind syrup, and witness a maple tree-tapping demonstration. The best part? You get to appreciate the fruits of the demonstration afterward.

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Naper Settlement , Suburbs Saturday March 11 2017 - Sunday March 12 2017

Randolph Street Market Festival

Recommended

More than 200 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this indoor-outdoor festival. Stop in for vintage clothes and jewelry, a vinyl swap meet, a fancy food market and global goods bazaar or bring your own items for appraisal. This event typically occurs on the last weekend of each month. During the warm-weather months of May–September, the market adds an outdoor area, offering even more vintage shopping and a beer garden.

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Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building , West Loop Saturday February 25 2017 - Sunday December 17 2017

Chicago Beer Festival

The brew fest changes up things this year with a move to the Field Museum. The tasting lasts from 8-11pm and attendees receive 40 taste vouchers to sample spring seasonal beers from dozens of local and domestic brewers. Tickets won't be sold at the door, so be sure to buy one in advance.

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The Field Museum , Museum Campus Saturday March 4 2017

Chicagoland Family Pet Expo

We know. Your pets are your children. But if they aren't registered for a booth or the baseball-themed pet parade, you'll have to leave them home. You can, however, shower them in gifts and treats made by local and national vendors. There's also plenty of pet shopping to be had with many, many breeding clubs, rescues and advocacy groups on-hand. Don't miss the the Smooch-A-Pooch kissing booth!

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Arlington Park Racetrack , Suburbs Friday March 17 2017 - Sunday March 19 2017

Good Food Festival & Conference

Local chefs and industry experts come together at the annual local and sustainable food conference. Saturday's event includes cooking demos from chefs, plus there's more than 150 exhibitors, including farmers, food company execs, and beer and wine purveyors, who will conduct lectures, presentations and workshops over the course of three days. Thursday focuses on finance and innovation in the health food industry, Friday focuses on food trading and policy and Saturday is dedicated entirely to the Good Food Festival.

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UIC Forum , Little Italy, UIC Thursday March 16 2017 - Saturday March 18 2017

Baconfest

Bacon lovers rejoice! Baconfest is coming back to Chicago with more bacon than ever. Current attendees include Black Dog Gelato, Piece, Glazed and Infused, Bang Bang Pie Shop, Taco in a Bag and a whole lot more. Each participating restaurant and brewery is offering a bacon dish or drink, so loosen your belt and you'll be in bacon heaven.

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UIC Forum , Little Italy, UIC Friday March 31 2017 - Saturday April 1 2017

Concerts in March 2017

Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi slips on his signature leather vest for another tour with his namesake arena rock act, armed with a catalog of beloved hair metal anthems. If you've ever witnessed a rendition of "Livin' on a Prayer" at a karaoke bar, you know how much people love singing along to the group's cheesy working-class odes—prepare for a particularly cacophonous rendition at the United Center.

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United Center , United Center Sunday March 26 2017

Carmen

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.  

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Civic Opera House , Loop Wednesday February 22 2017 - Saturday March 25 2017

Boston Pops with Bernadette Peters

Broadway legend Bernadette Peters makes her Auditorium Theatre debut performing with the Boston Pops Orchestra. In the first half of the concert, conductor Keith Lockhart leads the Pops through renditions of the Gershwins’ An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue; Peters takes the stage in the second half for a variety of Broadway standards and American songbook classics.

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Auditorium Theatre , Loop Friday March 31 2017

Art in March 2017

“Basim Magdy: The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings”

Screening inside one of the theaters in Egyptian artist Basim Magdy’s debut MCA exhibition is a short film he made in 2011, entitled 13 Essential Rules for Understanding the World. The short parodies classic educational films, using footage of tulips with faces drawn on their petals accompanied by subtitles laying out 13 sarcastic platitudes. 

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday March 19 2017

"MCA DNA: Riot Grrrls"

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.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday June 4 2017

"Design Episodes: Form, Style, Language"

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.

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Art Institute of Chicago , Grant Park Until Sunday June 25 2017

"Above, Before & After"

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.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday June 18 2017

"Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium"

Though his career was relatively brief, Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica made huge contributions to the development of contemporary art, especially in Latin America. "To Organize Delirium" presents a retrospective of his output, filled with the elegant prints that dominated his early work and the ambitious, maze-like installations that were designed to encourage interactions between artworks and viewers.

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Art Institute of Chicago , Grant Park Until Sunday May 7 2017

“Chicago Works: Chris Bradley”

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?

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday July 2 2017

"If You Remember, I’ll Remember"

Reflect on the past at this group exhibition, which gathers works by contemporary artists such as Kristine Aono, Shan Goshorn, Samantha Hill, McCallum & Tarry, Dario Robleto and Marie Watt. The work on display invites visitors to reconcile with the persistence of war, racism and xenophobia throughout history, through pieces that depict humanity's worst impulses.

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Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art , Evanston Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday June 18 2017

"Kader Attia"

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.

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Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art , Evanston Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday April 16 2017

“Vostell Concrete, 1969–1973”

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.

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Smart Museum of Art , Hyde Park Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday June 11 2017
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Theater in March 2017

Hamilton

Recommended

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. 

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The PrivateBank Theatre , Loop Tuesday February 21 2017 - Sunday September 17 2017

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