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September 2016 events calendar for Chicago

Plan your September in Chicago with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, theater openings and art exhibits

Photograph: Jason Little
Chicago Gourmet, September 29, 2012

Summer is wrapping up, which means only a few more precious days to enjoy the best rooftop bars in Chicago. But don't worry, fall is pretty exciting too—from celebrating Oktoberfest in the best Chicago beer gardens to wandering through Christkindlmarket. You'll completely forget about summer while you're cozied up at bars with fireplaces and fire pits. Be fully prepared for all the best events with our September calendar for Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2016

Featured events in September 2016

Expo Chicago

Critics' pick

Expo Chicago brings more than 100 galleries representing 16 countries to Navy Pier for a gigantic international art fair. Visitors will be able to take in a breathtaking selection of contemporary art, all in a space specially designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. This year EXPOSURE features younger galleries giving them the chance to participate in an international fair and IN/SITU and IN/SITU Outside will feature site-specific projects presented both on the main floor of the exposition, and throughout the city of Chicago.

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Navy Pier , Streeterville Thursday September 22 2016 - Sunday September 25 2016

Midnight Circus in the Parks

Critics' pick

Get under the big top at parks all over the city, as an eclectic ensemble of acrobats, aerialists and eccentrics perform in an intimate setting. This year is extra special: The circus will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. Proceeds from these family-friendly events benefit the Chicago Park District.

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Ogden Park , Englewood Saturday August 27 2016 - Sunday October 16 2016

Chicago Fringe Festival

The annual Chicago Fringe Festival returns in September, bringing about 200 performances to venues throughout Jefferson Park over 11 days. While some of the performances have participated in more prominent fringe festivals, the fest’s lottery-based selection process means you could see something daring, unique and memorable or something that evokes a different set of adjectives. That’s both the fun and the risk. The festival will include KIDS FRINGE for kids 12 and younger.

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Jefferson Park , Jefferson Park Wednesday August 31 2016 - Saturday September 10 2016

German-American Fest

Critics' pick

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Park celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party features plenty of German food, music and danding as well as the Von Steuben Parade.

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Western and Leland Aves , Lincoln Square Friday September 9 2016 - Sunday September 11 2016

Reeling Film Festival

Critics' pick

The festival will screen nearly 40 features and over 60 short films from home and abroad and is proud to include many Chicago premieres. Features and a full lineup of screenings will be available mid-August.

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Various venues , Chicago Thursday September 22 2016 - Thursday September 29 2016

Riot Fest

Critics' pick

Relocated to the sprawling Douglas Park on the city's West Side, replete with circus attractions, Riot Fest prides itself on being punk. It's bookings are as diverse as "punk" is difficult to define. There's mall-punk, hardcore, emo, goth, metal, thrash, new-wave, rap and gray-haired indie. This year, the original lineup of the Misfits, Morrissey, Ween, Death Cab For Cutie, Rob Zombie and Nas top the bill. RECOMMENDED: Check out our complete coverage of Riot Fest.

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Douglas Park , North Lawndale Friday September 16 2016 - Sunday September 18 2016

Chicago Gourmet

Critics' pick

The annual three-day fest kicks off Friday with its Hamburger Hop throwdown. Walk in to Millennium Park and waddle out once you've stuffed your face at cooking demos, tasting pavilions and a wine sampling.

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Millennium Park , Loop Friday September 23 2016 - Sunday September 25 2016

Oktoberfest Chicago

Greet autumn with a stein full of beer in one hand and a giant pretzel in the other. The annual festival takes place outside of the St. Alphonsus Church and features plenty of brews (including craft beer tasting sessions) as well as activities and entertainment for kids and families.

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St. Alphonsus Church , North Side Friday September 23 2016 - Sunday September 25 2016

Festivals in September 2016

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago is known for its blues musicians, but these days it's more of a jazz city. The annual Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates contemporary improvisers and legendary players with four days of concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. Highlights of the 2016 lineup include the avant-garde leaning Liberation Music Orchestra and modern jazz combo the Bad Plus, playing Ornette Coleman's Science Fiction.

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Chicago Cultural Center , Loop Thursday September 1 2016 - Sunday September 4 2016

Taste of Polonia

Feast on potato pancakes, kielbasa, pierogi and more at this Polish celebration during Labor Day weekend. After you've stuffed yourself, dance to some polka music, watch a cover band or play a few rounds of bingo.

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Copernicus Center , Jefferson Park Friday September 2 2016 - Monday September 5 2016

North Coast Music Festival

Critics' pick

The other big festival in Union Park (the one that doesn't rhyme with Itchpork) leans heavy on EDM, jam and rap. Booked by some of the same folks behind Spring Awakening and Mamby on the Beach, North Coast is an eclectic affair with a focus on headlining DJs such as Bassnectar and Zedd. Of course, there are interesting acts on bill for those who don't go in for lasers and bass drops, including Action Bronson and Sleigh Bells.

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Union Park , Near West Side Friday September 2 2016 - Sunday September 4 2016

Official Star Trek Convention

Creation Entertainment sets its phasers to stun and brings its Official Star Trek Convention comes to Chicago, welcoming actors from every generation of the long-running franchise. Guests at this year's event include William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden and LeVar Burton, in addition several other actors who have appeared on series like Deep Space 9 and The Next Generation. Attendees can also look forward to additional programing and more merch than you can shake a Tribble at.

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Westin O'Hare , Rosemont Friday September 9 2016 - Sunday September 11 2016

Windy City Wine Festival

Sample more than 300 wines from around the world at this annual sommelier extravaganza at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Area restaurants and caterers will be serving up their signature dishes while bands provide musical accompaniment to your wine tasting journey.

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Buckingham Fountain , Loop Friday September 9 2016 - Saturday September 10 2016

Festival de la Villita

Celebrate Mexico's independence from Spain with Mexican food, music and dancing in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. Vendors and carnival rides fill the streets on all three days and on Sunday, the 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade ends here.

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2600 S Kostner Ave , Chicago Friday September 9 2016 - Sunday September 11 2016

Riot Fest

Critics' pick

Relocated to the sprawling Douglas Park on the city's West Side, replete with circus attractions, Riot Fest prides itself on being punk. It's bookings are as diverse as "punk" is difficult to define. There's mall-punk, hardcore, emo, goth, metal, thrash, new-wave, rap and gray-haired indie. This year, the original lineup of the Misfits, Morrissey, Ween, Death Cab For Cutie, Rob Zombie and Nas top the bill. RECOMMENDED: Check out our complete coverage of Riot Fest.

Read more
Douglas Park , North Lawndale Friday September 16 2016 - Sunday September 18 2016

German-American Fest

Critics' pick

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Park celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party features plenty of German food, music and danding as well as the Von Steuben Parade.

Read more
Western and Leland Aves , Lincoln Square Friday September 9 2016 - Sunday September 11 2016

Lakeview Taco Fest

The Lakeview Taco Fest returns for another year, inviting area restaurants to put their own twist on the popular Mexican dish. This year, organizers are offering beer pairings for each taco creation as well as entertainment including Lucha Libre wrestling and live music.

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Southport Ave and Addison St , Southport Corridor Saturday September 17 2016 - Sunday September 18 2016
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Art in September 2016

"50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards"

Recently, the Chicago Architecture Foundation tasked 50 designers and architects with proposing projects that would address the needs of residents in each of the city's 50 wards. The results of this undertaking are on display in a new exhibition at the Foundation's Atrium Gallery, showcasing ideas like a continuous park promenade beneath the Brown Line and a kayak park that restores wetlands and provides a new mode of transportation.

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Chicago Architecture Foundation , Loop Until Thursday December 1 2016

"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 , Gold Coast Tuesday July 26 2016 - Sunday June 18 2017

"Chicago Works: Andrew Yang"

The MCA's Chicago Works series presents the debut solo exhibition of Andrew Yang, a biologist-turned-artist who currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute. Yang's work explores the expansive nature of the universe through a scale model the Milky Way and geological artifacts that examine the impact of mankind.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Gold Coast Tuesday July 26 2016 - Sunday January 1 2017

"Design Episodes: The Modern Chair"

In anticipation of the Art Institute's permanent design exhibition (opening in 2017) this display explores the many variations of the modern chair. From shiny tubular steel chairs to sleek plywood seats, you'll want to sit down after taking in this survey of 20th century perches.

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Art Institute of Chicago , Loop Until Sunday September 11 2016

"Kerry James Marshall: Mastry"

As an African American man who was born in Alabama before the passage of the Civil Rights Act and witnessed the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Kerry James Marshall is acutely aware of what it means to be black in America. His paintings confront race head-on, incorporating black figures into scenes that would historically exclude subjects who are not white. The Museum of Contemporary Art's survey of Marshall looks back at 35 years of his work, including his iconic 1980 piece, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Gold Coast Tuesday July 26 2016 - Sunday September 25 2016

"The Propeller Group"

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the team of artists that make up the Propeller Group specialize in video projects that explore subjects ranging from Vietnamese history to the tools of international war. The MCA's exhibition includes several multi-part videos made within the past five years, including films that examine Vietnam's fake antique trade and global funerary traditions.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Gold Coast Tuesday July 26 2016 - Sunday November 13 2016

"Witness"

Examining the relationship between photographers and their subjects, "Witness" probes the various ways in which the circumstances surrounding the capturing of an image can define its message. Beginning with Walker Evans' vernacular photos from the 1940s and ending in a large-scale installation by Alfredo Jaar, the exhibit explores photography's changing role throughout the history of the medium.

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Gold Coast Tuesday July 26 2016 - Sunday February 19 2017

Free events in September 2016

OUTspoken!

This monthly storytelling show focuses on LGBTQ-identified performers, though their stories aren't necessarily gay-themed. The evening is hosted by Sidetrack co-owner and Equality Illinois co-founder Art Johnston and Kim Hunt of Affinity Community Services.

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SideDoor , River North Tuesday August 2 2016 - Tuesday December 6 2016

Tuesdays on the Terrace

Critics' pick

Each Tuesday, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a free concert in its Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden. The lineup features performers from the Chicago jazz community, including Mike Reed and Joshua Abrams. Attendees can order food à la carte from the outdoor grill or pig out at the buffet (it's $27 per person). If it's raining outside, the event moves indoors to the MCA Café.

Sep 6: Corey Wilkes
Sep 13: Juli Wood’s Chicago Calling
Sep 20: The Miyumi Project
Sep 27: Joshua Abrams and Jeff Parker

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Museum of Contemporary Art , Gold Coast Tuesday July 26 2016 - Tuesday September 20 2016

ACTIVATE

Critics' pick

Each month, Chicago Loop Alliance throws a party in a nondescript downtown alley with the help of local artists and DJs. The roving event takes on a new theme—this summer, ACTIVATE will celebrate each of the five senses. Guests can RSVP to receive a free drink when they arrive.

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Various venues , Chicago Friday August 5 2016 - Thursday October 13 2016

PBR Bingo

On the first Monday of every month, Boiler Room turns into a hip, Logan Square nursing home for its monthly PBR Bingo night. Guests can grab a few slices, sip a beer and wait for their numbers to be called while competing for various Pabst Blue Ribbon-themed prizes.

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Boiler Room , Logan Square Monday August 1 2016 - Monday December 5 2016

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