May 2018 events calendar for Chicago

The arrival of May 2018 events in Chicago means summer's just around the corner. Find things to do, festivals and more.

Photograph: Tessa Marshall

It’s time to spring into action, Chicago. After months indoors, May is one of the most glorious months to get outside in the city. You can finally hit up Chicago’s best outdoor restaurants and rooftop bars—don’t forget to bring your dog! Plus, this month boasts the first street festivals in the city, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and more. Plan your month of happenings with our guide to the best Chicago events in May 2018. 


RECOMMENDED: Our complete events calendar for Chicago in 2018

Featured events in May 2018

Chicago Critics Film Festival

Now in its sixth year, the Chicago Critics Film Association throws an annual film fest for the public’s shot at seeing some of the hottest unreleased films. Catch this year's buzziest movies before they're out on wide release.

Until Thu May 10

Chicago Beer Classic

Enjoy the best beer Chicago and the Midwest have to offer while sampling brews from more than 80 participating breweries, including local standbys and national favorites such as Half Acre, Dovetail, Whiner and more. Attendees receive 48 two-ounce samples, as well as access to exclusive beers, activities and interactive learning opportunities to get better educated about the beer-making process. Beer drinkers are also able to cast their votes for the best beer of the day. The winner receives the Most Valuable Brew award.

Until Sat May 5
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Kids and Kites Festival

Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park, where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.

Until Sat May 5

Mother's Day

Your mother brought you into the world; the least you can do is show her a good time on Mother's Day. From brunch to gifts to shopping and spa treatments, start planning out your day with the help of our guide to things to do on Mother's Day.

By: Time Out Chicago editors
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“The Science Behind Pixar”

Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, Nemo and WALL-E are all heading to Hyde Park. "The Science Behind Pixar" explores the science and technology that go into making some of your favorite animated films, closely examining the techniques used by artists and computer scientists to bring movies like Toy Story and The Incredibles to the big screen.

Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL , Hyde Park Until Sunday January 6 2019

Beer Under Glass

Illinois Craft Beer Week kicks off with this annual event in Garfield Park Conservatory, where you can sample some of the finest ales and lagers from local and national breweries amid a sea of foliage. If you're trying to narrow down your list of Craft Beer Week events, this is a good place to separate the worthwhile breweries from the ones you'll save for your next trip to Binny's. Tickets include samples from each of the brewers in attendance and access to grub from local good trucks.

Until Fri May 18
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Chicago Zine Fest

If you don't see the magazines and comics you want to read in the world, why not make ‘em yourself? At Chicago Zine Fest, makers of DIY publications gather for two days of sharing knowledge, stories and enthusiasm for handmade art. On Friday, zinesters gather for an evening of panels and talks, then on Saturday participants show off their wares in a giant marketplace, allowing members of the public to purchase self-published material.

Until Sat May 19

Anime Central

For fans of Japanese pop-culture (namely anime, video games, musicians and strange snack foods), there's no largest Midwest celebration of the island nation than Anime Central. The annual convention allows like-minded otaku to mingle, admire the gravity-defying hairstyles sported by cosplayers and meet voice-over talent from imported cartoons. When the convention floor closes, the party continues at the popular Soap Bubble dance and late-night anime screenings.

Until Sun May 20
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Mayfest

This Lakeview neighborhood tradition typically kicks off street festival season, setting up food and music in a giant big-top tent. Get in the spirit of the German-inspired celebration by munching on pretzels, grabbing a brew from the outdoor beer garden and taking in sets from cover acts like Sixteen Candles, Too White Crew and 7th Heaven.

Until Sun May 20

Food Truck Social at Lincoln Park Zoo

Dig into tacos, grilled cheese, doughnuts, pierogis and more at this annual feast in the Lincoln Park Zoo. Guests will enjoy access to dozens of Chicago's best food trucks as well as admission to the zoo, DJs and drinks available for purchase.

Until Sat May 19
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Night Nation Run Chicago

An EDM concert meets a 5K road race during the Night Nation Run, which begins and ends with live DJ performances (complete with lights, fog and confetti guns). Once they take off from the starting line, runners will encounter multiple DJ stages, selfie stations, laser light shows and something called "bubble world." Don't expect to set a personal record at this race, but do expect to get a complimentary glow necklace. 

Until Sat May 19

Lincoln Park Wine Fest

Sample more than 100 wines from all over the world while listening to classical music at the second annual Lincoln Park Wine Fest. Yes, it doesn't get much more sophisticated than this. Our advice? Cozy up to the most nicely dressed person in attendance and ask them to take you for a post-fest ride on their yacht.

Until Sun May 20
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Soldier Field 10-Mile

You may never get to take enter the gridiron with the Chicago Bears, but you can take off on a 10-mile run from the team's home turf. The Soldier Field 10-Mile begins and ends in the stadium, sending participants on a scenic jaunt down the Lakefront Trail. Everyone who registers receives a tech shirt with the race's logo and finishers get a medal memorializing their achievement.

Until Sat May 26

Memorial Day

Each summer, Chicago honors the men and women who died protecting our country with one of the nation's largest Memorial Day parades in the Loop. Prepare for the long weekend with our guide to downtown attractions, weekend getaways and more.

By: Zach Long
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Memorial Day Parade

After a wreath is laid at the eternal flame in Daley Plaza, Chicago's annual Memorial Day Parade heads down State Street, from Lake to Van Buren, as onlookers wave the stars and stripes. The procession has been a city tradition since 1870, honoring the men, women and families who have fought for our country.

Until Sat May 26

Bike the Drive

Have you ever dreamed of cruising down Lake Shore Drive on your bicycle? Bike the Drive makes that dream a reality for one day this year, closing down the popular lakefront thoroughfare to cars early on a Sunday morning. Participants can bike from Bryn Mawr Avenue to the Museum of Science industry (and back) during the five hours of car-free riding.

27 May 2018
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Good Libations Beer Fest

Mark the end of Illinois Craft Beer Week at this new festival, which brings a tropical celebration to the Theater on the Lake. More than 60 local and out-of-state breweries will bring island-inspired beer to the gathering for attendees to sample, alongside food from Chicago chef Cleetus Friedman.

Until Fri May 25

Festivals in May 2018

Kids and Kites Festival

Recommended

Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park, where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.

Until Sat May 5

Lincoln Park Wine Fest

Sample more than 100 wines from all over the world while listening to classical music at the second annual Lincoln Park Wine Fest. Yes, it doesn't get much more sophisticated than this. Our advice? Cozy up to the most nicely dressed person in attendance and ask them to take you for a post-fest ride on their yacht.

Until Sun May 20
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Skokie Festival of Cultures

Take a tour of the world at this popular festival in Skokie, which features ethnic music, dance, food and arts. Attendees won't have trouble finding ways to celebrate cultural diversity at this free event, with activities like an international beer tasting competition and plenty of games for kids and families.

Until Sun May 20

Randolph Street Market Festival

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.

Plumbers Hall Saturday July 28 2018 - Sunday December 16 2018
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International Mr. Leather Weekend

Rooted in a 1979 bar contest, this four-day event features parties, a fetish and leather market, a physique competition, a sexy shoe-polishing competition and, of course, the annual crowning of International Mr. Leather. In additional to the daily Leather Market, there are the big evening events: the Opening Ceremonies, Physique Competition, International Mr. Leather Contest, IML Victory Celebration Party, and the Black and Blue Ball. 

Until Mon May 28

Bike the Drive

Have you ever dreamed of cruising down Lake Shore Drive on your bicycle? Bike the Drive makes that dream a reality for one day this year, closing down the popular lakefront thoroughfare to cars early on a Sunday morning. Participants can bike from Bryn Mawr Avenue to the Museum of Science industry (and back) during the five hours of car-free riding.

27 May 2018
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Concerts in May 2018

Unknown Mortal Orchestra + Makeness

Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always been an R&B act in psych-rock clothing, weaving woozy melodies around taut drum and bass arrangements. On the band's latest album, Sex & Food, frontman Ruban Nielson continues to explore his relationship to his base desires, overseeing a collection of tracks that catapult from tender, stripped-down ballads to Hendrix-style guitar solo freakouts. UK electronic producer Makeness opens the show.

Until Thu May 3

Eleanor Friedberger + Sarah Louise

While Chicago über-indie darlings the Fiery Furnaces sustain their not-necessarily-broken-up hiatus, Eleanor Friedberger carries on with her latest solo album. Rebound!, her fourth record, was inspired by an ‘80s goth disco that Friedberger visited while spending time in Greece, where much of her extended family lives. The resulting album maintains the jaunty feel of her previous output, augmented by drum machines and synthesizer melodies—it's the sunniest interpretation of goth electronica that we've ever heard.

Until Sat May 5
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Frankie Cosmos + Florist + Lala Lala

Young singer-songwriter Greta Simone Kline has released dozens of self-recorded albums and EPs under a variety of pseudonyms, but her work as Frankie Cosmos stands out amid her various projects. Her latest album, Vessel, is a concise meditation on the inner-life of a 24-year-old learning to navigate a love, life and death that deftly harnesses the inherent innocence and introspection of its twee folk arrangements. Indie pop act Florist and Chicago duo Lala Lala open the show.

Until Mon May 7

The Breeders + Melkbelly

While she's still best known as the former bassist of the Pixies, Kim Deal found her own voice in the early ‘90s when she founded the Breeders and recorded an album with Chicago producer Steve Albini. The group went on to tour with Nirvana, broke up several times and reunited—most recently in 2008. The Breeders' latest album, All Nerve, offers another batch of the punchy alt-rock anthems, aided by vocals from Deal's sister Kelley. Local rockers Melkbelly support.

Until Tue May 8
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No Age + Behavior + Bruised

Noise rock duo No Age have joined local record label Drag City's roster and unleash Snares Like a Haircut, a new batch of blistering punk tunes that defies the band's paltry headcount. The pair harnesses tidal waves of distortion and mercilessly upbeat tempos, mustering the kind of energy and endurance that must be seen (and heard!) to be believed. LA rockers Behavior and local punk outfit Bruised support.

Until Thu May 10

Bing & Ruth + Tüth

Pianist David Moore creates minimalist, ambient piano compositions that turn delicate melodies into towering, droning pieces that draw on classical music and the work of contemporary experimental artists. His latest album, No Home of the Mind, was written on pianos all over the world and recorded in a church in as few takes as possible, capturing the cavernous sound of the space and the deft interplay of Moore and his accompanying ensemble of players. Damon Carruesco's project Tüth opens the show.

Until Fri May 11
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Haim + Lizzo

Four years after the release of their debut album, Days Are Gone, the Haim sisters are still the same leather jacket-wearing, ‘80s-worshipping, stage-quipping badasses that we've come to adore. So what if their latest album, Something to Tell You, is essentially more of the same? The bass faces, hereditary harmonies and hopelessly romantic pop songs that landed the trio on tour with Taylor Swift are still intact, and if you're lucky, you'll get to hear them turn a Shania Twain song into a soft-rock jam.

Until Sat May 12

Yonatan Gat + The Eternals + Health&Beauty

Guitarist Yonatan Gat is one of the most visceral performers out there, and it's not just because of his versatile six-string chops—which lend themselves to everything from psychedelic rock to avant-garde jazz. At the head of his three-piece band, Gat typically eschews the stage in favor of playing in the middle of the audience, allowing his winding compositions to feed off the energy of tightly-packed bodies. Eclectic genre-blenders the Eternals and experimental rockers Health&Beauty open the show.

14 May 2018
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Hinds

Madrid garage-pop quartet Hinds treads well-worn ground but does it with panache, piling on loads of Velvets-esque unpolished charm and summery vibes. The jangling odes that populate the group's latest album I Don't Run, find the group reckoning with disappointing lovers and trying to come to terms with the many downfalls of modern romance.

Until Tue May 15

Rival Consoles

London producer Ryan Lee West work under the name Rival Consoles has always attempted to portray a space in-between acoustic and electronic instrumentation, manipulating and molding sounds through the use of various effects pedals. On his new album Persona, West transitions between skittering dance floor-friendly arrangements and ominous ambient compositions, exploring the opposing extremes of his musical inclinations. The live Rival Consoles show builds off of a performance at the V&A Museum, blending West's surreal soundscapes with an array of trippy, projected visuals.

Until Wed May 16
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Art in May 2018

"Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural"

Recommended

In 1989, acclaimed artist Keith Haring came to Chicago to create a gigantic 488-foot-long mural in collaboration with 500 Chicago Public School students. After remaining on display at Midway Airport for several years, 36 panels of the mural will return to the Loop, going on display alongside a selection of Haring's photographs, correspondence, designs and his now-iconic drawings.

Chicago Cultural Center, Yates Gallery , Loop Until Sunday September 23 2018

“Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography”

Chicago-based photographer Kenneth Josephson’s conceptual images push the boundaries of the medium, using carefully-planned collages and pictures of pictures to create surreal works that toy with the viewer’s perception of space and time. The MCA will exhibit a selection of Josephson’s largely drawn from its permanent collection, including images of Chicago that juxtapose images from different eras of the city's history.

Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Until Sunday December 30 2018
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"Max Lamb: Exercises in Seating"

English designer Max Lamb has created designs for more than 400 seats during his relatively young career, using a variety of materials to fabricate chairs, stools and benches that balance form and function. "Exercises in Seating" collects some of his most ambitious and understated designs, presented alongside photographs, maquettes, tools and videos that illustrate how they were made. If you want to see even more chairs on display, make sure you check out "The Art of Seating" at the Driehaus Museum.

Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL , Grant Park Until Sunday August 26 2018

“The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design”

For the most part, we think of chairs as a place to sit back and relax, but there's no denying that there's an art to the perfect seat. "The Art of Seating" surveys the evolution of the objects we sit down on, presenting a collection of 37 chairs, some of which date back to 1810. The changes in form mirror the technological advancements of the time, moving from the simple handcrafted rocking chair to a modern seat made from undulating strips of bright blue plastic. Each piece is placed in a room of the 1883 mansion that houses the Driehaus Museum—hopefully the juxtaposition of sculptural Italian chairs and late 19th-century decor won't be too jarring.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum , River North Until Sunday August 12 2018
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“Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole That Collapses Again”

In her first U.S. exhibition, Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga uses drawings and tapestries to explore the mining industry in Africa and the ways in which the harvested raw materials are used throughout the world. Adorned with shimmering embellishments that mimic the qualities of minerals like mica, Nkanga's work unpacks the often violent manner in which resources are obtained from Africa and follows them to the West, where they are repackaged and sold to consumers in the form of beauty products, electronics and more.

Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Until Sunday September 9 2018

"Endless Summer"

The Museum of Contemporary Art explores the West Coast minimalism movement of the ‘60s, featuring art that was influenced by surfing, car culture and the region's relentlessly pleasant weather. "Endless Summer" embraces simple forms and glossy designs, featuring work by artists such as John McCracken, Larry Bell and Ed Ruscha.

Museum of Contemporary Art , Streeterville Until Sunday August 5 2018
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“Arte Diseño Xicágo”

The National Museum of Mexican Art explores nearly a century of cultural exchange between Chicago and Mexico in “Arte Diseño Xicágo.” Examining works made between the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Civil Rights Era of the 1970s, the exhibit displays work made by Mexican artists who came to Chicago and Chicago artists who visited Mexico. The resulting collection showcases how traditions were fused by artists like Robert Natkin and Errol Ortiz, arguing that creativity knows no borders.

National Museum of Mexican Art , Lower West Side Until Sunday August 19 2018

“Helen Frankenthaler Prints: The Romance of a New Medium”

Abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler is best known for her bold canvases, on which she employed her "soak stain" technique to create translucent splashes of color. However, "The Romance of a New Medium" focuses on her lesser-known work as a print artist, which shrinks her abstract process down in size through the use of lithography, wood cutting and etching. The Art Institute displays a nearly complete collection of more than 50 of her prints, which—true to its name—exhibits Frankenthaler's enthusiasm for a new set of artistic tools. 

Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL , Grant Park Until Sunday September 30 2018
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"Hank Willis Thomas: Unbranded"

Whether subtle or overt, most advertisements contain messages that go beyond the desire to sell a product. Hank Willis Thomas has spent the majority of his career sifting through archives of vintage ads and digitally stripping away the text, uncovering imagery that was targeted at African Americans and women that sought to influence the ways in which consumers view race and gender. Devoid of context, brands and slogans, Thomas uses the illustrations and photographs contained within these advertisements to examine the impact of mass communication.

Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art , Evanston Until Sunday August 12 2018

“Out of Easy Reach”

Allison Glenn curates this multi-venue show, which displays overlooked works by women of color at the DePaul Art Museum, Gallery 400 at UIC and the Stony Island Arts Bank. Work at each institution is based around a theme—the DePaul Art Museum includes pieces that feature landscape and the body; Gallery 400 features works inspired by mapping and migration; and the Stony Island Arts Bank includes art that deals with time and material culture.

Gallery 400 , West Loop Until Sunday August 5 2018
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Theater and dance in May 2018

Hamilton

5 out of 5 stars
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.

CIBC Theatre , Loop Until Sunday September 2 2018

Free events in May 2018

'Go Run timed run series

The Chicago Park District and Chicago Area Runners Association presents this free series of timed 5K and one-mile runs, which take place every Saturday at 9am in Humboldt Park, Warren Park and Washington Park. If you want to participate, simply sign up online and show up ready to run the course.

09 Jun 2018

"Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural"

In 1989, acclaimed artist Keith Haring came to Chicago to create a gigantic 488-foot-long mural in collaboration with 500 Chicago Public School students. After remaining on display at Midway Airport for several years, 36 panels of the mural will return to the Loop, on display alongside a selection of Haring's photographs, correspondence, designs and his now-iconic drawings.

Chicago Cultural Center, Yates Gallery , Loop Until Sunday September 23 2018
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Soul Summit

While it's been ousted from its longtime home at the Double Door, this killer monthly party lives on at East Room with dusty grooves and rare soul that will keep the dance floor packed until 5am. Resident DJs Scott "Sloppy White" Williams, Dave Mata and Duke Grip invite crate-digging experts to show off their collections of vintage vinyl.

East Room , Logan Square Saturday July 21 2018 - Saturday August 18 2018

Flick Lit

Storytellers share the nonfiction tales about movies that changed their lives at this monthly event.

Until Wed Jun 14
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“Arte Diseño Xicágo”

The National Museum of Mexican Art explores nearly a century of cultural exchange between Chicago and Mexico in “Arte Diseño Xicágo.” Examining works made between the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Civil Rights Era of the 1970s, the exhibit displays work made by Mexican artists who came to Chicago and Chicago artists who visited Mexico. The resulting collection showcases how traditions were fused by artists like Robert Natkin and Errol Ortiz, arguing that creativity knows no borders.

National Museum of Mexican Art , Lower West Side Until Sunday August 19 2018

Skokie Festival of Cultures

Skokie's annual global culture festival has attendees snacking on ethnic food and sipping beer from around the world. Enjoy music, dance, art and a host of games at this family-friendly fest in one of Chicago's nearest suburbs.

Until Sun May 20
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“Out of Easy Reach”

Allison Glenn curates this multi-venue show, which displays overlooked works by women of color at the DePaul Art Museum, Gallery 400 at UIC and the Stony Island Arts Bank. Work at each institution is based around a theme—the DePaul Art Museum includes pieces that feature landscape and the body; Gallery 400 features works inspired by mapping and migration; and the Stony Island Arts Bank includes art that deals with time and material culture.

Gallery 400 , West Loop Until Sunday August 5 2018

Comments

2 comments
Kaith B

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morgan H

May is also prime concert month -- tons of shows are coming up including Madeon on 5/1, Hiatus Kaiyote on 5/11, and Passion Pit on 5/14!