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Pitchfork Music Festival 2017, neal o'bryan
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

September 2021 events calendar for Chicago

Summer is almost over, but September in Chicago is packed with things to do, including festivals, exhibits and virtual events.

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Written by
Zach Long
&
Emma Krupp
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September sends off months of summer festivals in Chicago with a bang, closing out the season with some of the city's most beloved street fests, concerts and parties. This year, watch for the return of annual standbys like the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Printers Row Lit Fest, North Coast and Riot Fest, plus a retooled, month-long version of Chicago Gourmet. There's also no shortage of things to do outside in Chicago this month—be sure to catch the end of the Park District's Night Out in the Parks programming and a lineup of Chicago In Tune concerts. Make the most of the city's last summery month of the year with the best things to do in Chicago this September. 

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2021

Featured events in September 2021

  • Music
  • Jazz
  • price 0 of 4

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival adapted to the times last September and hosted a series of outdoor shows. The beloved neighborhood jazz festival typically takes place at venues throughout Hyde Park, but most performance will once again take place outdoors this year—with the possible exception of a couple of shows inside the Logan Center. Local drummer and bandleader Makaya McCraven will debut a new piece commissioned by the festival on Saturday, September 25. Other highlights of this year's programming includes sets from saxophonist Isaiah Collier, violinist Tomeka Reid, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and vocalist Dee Alexander accompanied by the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. As ususal, all performances are free to attend.

  • Art
  • Film and video
  • price 0 of 4

Projecting a 25-story-tall video installation on the side of the Merchandise Mart, Art on theMart's latest program showcases the work of conceptual artist Barbara Kruger. Throughout the fall, you'll be able to see Kruger's video piece "Untitled (Questions), 1990/2021," which projects a series of questions across the face of the building in a bold font. The presentation conicides with Kruger's new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, "Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You." Art on theMART's array of 34 digital projectors display the 30-minute program at 7:30 and 8pm every evening. The show is best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 2 of 4
  • River West/West Town

Returning to a two-acre plot of land just west of Goose Island, Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up saves you a trip to the suburbs by bringing a huge corn maze, thousands of pumpkins, ax throwing, carnival games, food trucks, twinkling orange light displays and more fall fun to the city. A general admission ticket nets you access to the pop-up, but you can also opt for add-ons that let you take home a pumpkin, grab a drink at one of three bars or go axe-throwing. 

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • price 0 of 4
  • Lower West Side

Nonprofit gallery and community space Pilsen Art House hosts this weekly indoor and outdoor market, featuring local vendors and artists selling jewelry, candles, paintings and other handmade goods. You can stop by every Sunday afternoon throughout the summer—just don't forget to bring (and wear) a mask.

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  • Art
  • price 2 of 4
  • Old Town

Step inside of Starry Night and The Bedroom in Arles with the help of more than 50 digital projectors in this high-tech exhibition that explores the work of Vincent Van Gogh. Designed by the Italian creative team that worked on the "Atelier des Lumières" exhibitions in Paris, "Immersive Van Gogh" covers 35-foot walls with animated versions of the Dutch painters work, accompanied by a score that blends electronic and classical compositions. The show takes up residence in the Germania Club Building in Old Town, which will go by the name Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago and host additional interactive art exhibitions in the coming years. Occupying four rooms in the space, the "Immersive Van Gogh" presentation is around 35-minutes in length, with mostly-identical projections displayed in each of the rooms throughout the show. Visitors to "Immersive Van Gogh" will find a variety of saftey measures in place, including social distancing circles within the exhibit, reduced capacity, a touchless ticketing system and face covering requirements for all guests. "Immersive Van Gogh" is currently scheduled to run through September 6.

  • Movies
  • price 0 of 4
  • Suburbs

The Rock Island Public House hosts a themed drive-in movie series every weekend, screening classic genre flicks accompanied by beer and food that you can enjoy in your car. Upcoming weekends will feature German films, Brendan Fraser movies and more. Screenings are free to attend and first come, first served, so check out the calendar and show up early to secure your spot in front of the makeshift screen!

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 0 of 4

Want to get a free, behind-the-scenes look at the Bahá'í House of Worship, Herman Miller Showroom, Chinese American Museum of Chicago and more than 100 other architectural gems throughout the Chicago area? You'll soon have a chance to do so: After offering a virtual version of its programming in 2020, the annual architecture festival Open House Chicago returns this October with in-person tours, online lectures and an expanded version of its app for independent exploration throughout the city, featuring self-guided tours of thematic architecture "trails" in different neighborhoods of Chicago.  The program kicks off on September 28 with Chicago Architecture Center members-only previews before launching on-app programming on October 1 (available for download on Apple or Android devices). Using the app, folks can navigate a series of self-guided, multi-site tours—called "trails—which include topics like the Obamas in Hyde Park and the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. The app will also include a guide to sites available for in-person visits, plus info on other city attractions, and will be available through October 31. In-person tours will take place during the weekend of October 16–17, with tours spread throughout more than 30 neighborhoods and a handful of suburbs. New sites this year range from the newly-opened Pullman National Monument Visitor Information Center to the Sable Hotel at Navy Pier; in addition, catch returning favorites such as the Alfred Caldwell Lily

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 1 of 4
  • Lake View

Taking place in and around Lakeview’s St. Alphonsus church, this autumn fête features the requisite selection of suds, brats, pretzels and two stages of Bavarian music (and a bunch of cover bands). Stick around for a separately-ticketed craft beer festival on Friday and Saturday night or bring the kids to the family-friend KinderFest.

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  • Art
  • Installation
  • price 2 of 4
  • West Loop

The home of Chicago's only Infinity Mirror Room (created by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama) is open to the public once again, presenting a new collection of one-of-a-kind art installations alongside some old favorites. New additions to WNDR Museum include a multi-sensory experience from S̶A̶N̶T̶IA̶G̶O̶X that uses artificial intelligence, sounds, visuals and scents, as well as an installation called I Heard There Was a Secret Chord that allows guests to become part of an evolving virtual choir.

  • Restaurants
  • price 2 of 4
  • West Loop

The folks behind the Publican know a thing or two about great pork and beer, so an Oktoberfest dinner at the popular Fulton Market restauarant is a no-brainer. This year, the celebration will take place across two weeks, giving even more diners an opportunity to take part in the festivities. Hardcore Oktoberfest revelers will want to snag tickets to parties on September 19 and October 3, which will feature eight family-style courses of German-inspired dishes like pork schnitzel, Publican Quality Meats sausages and pretzels (plus, plenty of beer!). From September 17 through October 3, guests will also be able to order from a menu featuring six family style courses of traditional German fare.

Concerts in September 2021

  • Music
  • Rock and indie
  • Lower West Side

Released on the heels of her New York Times bestselling book Crying in H Mart: A Memoir, Michelle Zauner's latest record under the Japanese Breakfast moniker is a triumphant celebration of just how far she's come. With string-and-horn-ridden chamber-pop arrangements, ’80s-influenced pop songs and some straight-ahead indie rock tunes, Jubilee isn't too far removed from Zauner's 2016 debut Psychopomp. This iteration of Jbrekkie just seems as if it has a bigger budget and, subsequently, a more fully-realized sound. You have four(!) chances to catch Zauner and her band in Chicago before the end of 2021—she's playing a pair of two-night stands at Thalia Hall, with support from Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Luna Li.

  • Music
  • Classical and opera

While there's no shortage of events packed with rock, hip-hop and jazz acts, the Ear Taxi Festival highlights performers that don't usually hit the festival circuit, including contemporary classical, experimental, improvisational and electronic musicians. The theme of this year's lineup is “HEAR CHICAGO,” bringing together more than 600 individual artists to for approximately 100 events over the course of the festival, ranging from string ensembles and operas to grant writing workshops and dance.

The festival is divided into two series: The Spotlight Series Concerts (artist-presented shows) and the Mainstage Series Concerts (performances showcasing Chicago-made music). Highlights of the various programs include a new commission from cellist Tomeka Reid, new works from bassist Matt Ullery and his jazz orchestra, a world premiere from classical vocal quartet Fourth Coast Ensemble and a collaboration between singer and clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid and saxophonist Isaiah Collier.

Find a complete schedule of performances (along with a list of venues) at the Ear Taxi Festival website.

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  • Music
  • Jazz

The Hyde Park Jazz Festival adapted to the times last September and hosted a series of outdoor shows. The beloved neighborhood jazz festival typically takes place at venues throughout Hyde Park, but most performance will once again take place outdoors this year—with the possible exception of a couple of shows inside the Logan Center. Local drummer and bandleader Makaya McCraven will debut a new piece commissioned by the festival on Saturday, September 25. Other highlights of this year's programming includes sets from saxophonist Isaiah Collier, violinist Tomeka Reid, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and vocalist Dee Alexander accompanied by the Metropolitan Jazz Octet. As ususal, all performances are free to attend.

GYG Chicago TTD

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