September 2018 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
Tricked-out rides cruise into Pilsen for the Slow and Low Community Lowrider Festival, August 10, 2014.
Photograph: Kaitlin Hetterscheidt
By Time Out Chicago staff, compiled by Zach Long |
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Summer in Chicago may be winding down, but you've still got time to enjoy outdoor festivals, beer gardens and patios. Plus, the arrival of September is an exciting time in the city, with Oktoberfest celebrations, a deluge of new theater shows and events like Riot Fest on the horizon. You'll find famous chefs serving delicious dishes at Chicago Gourmet, amazing contemporary artworks on display at EXPO Chicago and 70mm films displayed on a gigantic screen at the Music Box Theatre. Find something (or many things) to look forward to with our guide to the best events in September in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018

Featured events in September

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

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Childish Gambino
Photograph: Courtesy RCA Records
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Childish Gambino + Rae Sremmurd

There was a time when Donald Glover was just a sitcom star who released clever, embarrassingly confessional rap tracks under a moniker devised by a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. These days, he's the creator of genre-defying FX show Atlanta, a part of the Star Wars universe (as young Lando Calrissian) and the creative voice behind the striking music video for his latest track, “This is America.” On tour behind his not-yet-titled “final” album, Glover will be joined by Mississippi hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Renegade Craft Fair

icon-location-pin Bridgeport Art Center, Bridgeport
icon-calendar

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares,. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far, while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

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Riot Fest 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

Riot Fest

It's the social event of the season for anyone with a denim jacket covered in patches hanging in their closet. Riot Fest brings acts like Beck, Blink-182, Alkaline Trio, Blondie, Elvis Costello and rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis to Douglas Park for a three-day carnival of music (there's even a Ferris wheel). You'll find punks, metalheads, indie fans and hip-hop aficionados eating corn dogs and crowding the fields at this eclectic end-of-the-summer fest. 

Movies, Action and adventure

The Music Box 70mm Film Festival

The Music Box Theatre isn't just one of our favorite places to see a movie in Chicago, it's also one of the only theaters left in the world with the equipment needed to project 70mm film. For two weeks, the Music Box will be screening movies on the enlarge, hyper-detailed format, including classic flicks like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lawrence of Arabia (presented on a brand new 70mm print). The rest of the lineup features Jim Henson's puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal, New York City musical West Side Story, John Carpenter's sci-fi horror movie The Thing and Stephen Speilberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Fulton Market Harvest Festival
Photograph: Eugene Galdones
Things to do, Festivals

Fulton Market Harvest Fest

One of the city's hottest dining districts welcomes autumn with the Fulton Market Harvest Fest, curated by Chefs Stephanie Izard (Girl and the Goat) and Paul Kahan (The Publican). These Chicago food bigwigs round up dishes from some of the best West Loop restaurants, accompanied by beer, cocktails and cooking demos from some the area's most talented chefs. Want even more reasons to indulge? Check out a lineup of dinners, bread-making lessons, butcher demos and even more way to take part in the seasonal food fun.

The Happy Prince
Courtesy Sundance
Movies

Reeling Film Festival

Founded in 1981 and organized by Chicago Filmmakers, Reeling is the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in the U.S.—this year's edition will take place at the Davis Theatre, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema and the Chicago Filmmakers HQ. The program is filled with movies that feature LGBTQ talent (both in front of and behind the camera), including Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince, the Chicago premiere of Mapplethorpe starring Matt Smith as the controversial BDSM photographer and the documentary Studio 54, which explores the story behind the popular ‘70s nightclub.

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Goose Island
Photograph: Max Herman
Music, Music festivals

312 Block Party

Didn't get the invite to your neighborhood block party this summer? No worries—Goose Island is inviting everyone to its annual 312 Block Party, which takes place right in front of its Fulton Street brewery. A $10 donation to a local charity at the gate gets you access to live music, food truck fare and more than 20 different beers, which are only $3 each. On Friday, September 21 experimental rockers TV on the Radio headline the music stage, joined by psych outfit Sunflower Bean and local rapper Mick Jenkins. Americana act the Drive-By Truckers top the bill on Saturday, September 22, with support from indie-rockers the Hold Steady and country singer Lillie Mae. With so much great music and cheap beer on tap, the 312 Block Party usually fills up quickly, so your best option is to arrive early (the fest's entrance is at Fulton St and Wolcott Ave) and have a few drinks while you wait for your favorite act to play.

Beer Hoptacular
Photograph: Courtesy Beer Hoptacular
Things to do, Festivals

BeerHoptacular

One of the Chicago's most expansive craft beer festivals sets up in a helicopter hanger this year, offering more than 150 different brews to taste over the course of an afternoon. The BeerHoptacular also features a homebrew competition, DJs spinning vinyl, a live insult booth where you can take out your frustration and many more attractions.

Festivals in September

Maceo Parker
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago may be best 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 free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year, the festivities expand to local music venues, where performers will play free shows from August 24 through 29. Headliners include composer, pianist and radio personality Ramsey Lewis; noted jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves; and funk legend Maceo Parker.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

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Smoke Sausage Sliders
Photograph: Elizabeth Atkinson
Things to do, Festivals

Cider and Sliders Festival

Taste more than 30 ciders and enjoy some miniature burgers at the latest edition of this Lakeview Festival. The ciders and sliders are just two of the many attractions at the Labor Day weekend event, which also features two stages of music (provided by local cover bands) and a kids area. You'll need purchase a $35 ticket to attend the cider tastings, which take place during three sessions throughout the weekend.

Things to do, Festivals

Slow and Low Chicago Lowrider Festival

Hundreds of tricked-out cars and motorcycles line Loomis Street in Pilsen during this annual community festival, where you can take a look under the hood and watch classic rides bouncing around (with some hydraulic assistance). If you can tear yourself away from the automotive display, you can chow down on tasty tacos, shop for goods made by local vendors and listen to live DJs.

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TasteofPoloniax600.jpg
Ryan Bourque
Things to do, Festivals

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.

German-American Oktoberfest
Photograph: Courtesy German-American Oktoberfest
Things to do, Festivals

German-American Oktoberfest

Grab a plastic stein and munch on a pretzel at this annual Lincoln Square celebration of Deutschland heritage. The street party takes place under two gigantic tents and features plenty of German food, music and dancing. Make sure to stop by to see the annual Von Steuben Parade march up Lincoln Avenue on Saturday at 2pm.

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Things to do, Festivals

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.

Windy City Wine Festival
Photograph courtesy of Windy City Wine Festival
Things to do, Festivals

Windy City Wine Festival

Quaff a glass of vino near Buckingham Fountain and admire the Chicago skyline at this yearly shindig, which features more than 300 wines from around the world and discussions with sommeliers and chefs. Attendees can choose from one of two evening sessions, with food from Taco in a Bag, Wally’s Waffles and others.

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Claude VonStroke
Photograph: Tim Jones
Music, Dance and electronic

The Birdhouse Festival

Independent electronic music label Dirtybird brings a carnival to the parking lot of the Journeymen Plumbers Hall, soundtracked by a stacked lineup of the label's DJs. Dirtybird head honcho Claude VonStroke headlines the miniature festival, joined by labelmates J. Phlip, Will Clarke, Ardalan, Christian Martin and more.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Renegade Craft Fair

icon-location-pin Bridgeport Art Center, Bridgeport
icon-calendar

That slight chill means it’s time to head to Wicker Park’s gigantic craft fair, where serious crafters from around the country to sell their handmade arts and wares,. Browse and buy prints, pottery, jewelry and other handmade goods from makers near and far, while enjoying food and drinks being peddled by local businesses and vendors.

Show more

Concerts in September

Maceo Parker
Photograph: Courtesy the artist
Music, Jazz

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago may be best 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 free concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year, the festivities expand to local music venues, where performers will play free shows from August 24 through 29. Headliners include composer, pianist and radio personality Ramsey Lewis; noted jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves; and funk legend Maceo Parker.

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Music festivals

North Coast Music Festival

Celebrate Labor Day weekend in Union Park at North Coast Music Festival, where EDM once again dominates the lineup. Headlining acts include Swedish DJ duo Axwell Λ Ingrosso, French producer DJ Snake, electro-funk act Jamiroquai and sultry R&B singer-songwriter Miguel. You'll also be treated to DJ sets from local musicians (such as the Cool Kids and Sen Morimoto) and get to take in all of the attendees wearing rave-ready costumes.

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Luke Bryan
Photograph: Courtesy Universal Music Group
Music, Folk, country and blues

Luke Bryan + Sam Hunt + Jon Pardi

Bro-country poster boy Luke Bryan may object to the label being applied to his music, but there's really no easier way to describe twangy songs with titles like "She's a Hot One" and "Drinking Again." On the heels of his new gig as an American Idol judge, Bryan brings his What Makes You Country Tour to Wrigley Field, with fellow Nashville singers Sam Hunt, Jon Pardi and Carly Pearce in tow.

Billy Joel
Photograph: Jeff Schock
Music, Rock and indie

Billy Joel

Can we start calling this an annual residency yet? For the fifth summer in a row, the "Piano Man" returns to Wrigley Field. The 68-year-old singer-songwriter hasn't released a new album in more than a decade, but he's still playing the hits on a monthly basis at his always sold out Madison Square Garden residency. As long as there are people who want to sing along to "Uptown Girl," we expect Joel will continue packing the ballpark every summer.

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H.A.T.
Photograph: Courtesy DCASE
Music, Latin and world

World Music Festival

Expand your musical tastes at the annual World Music Festival, a series of free concerts at venues throughout the city that feature artists from all corners of the globe, including France, China, Gambia and more. The festival kicks off with the annual Ragamala concert, an overnight concert at the Chicago Cultural Center which features more than 12 hours of classical Indian music. Other highlights of this year's lineup include an El Grito celebration in Millennium Park featuring mariachi bands, an appearance by Morrocan experimental audio-visual artist H.A.T. and a concert held in tandem with World Dumpling Fest in Polk Bros Park.    

Fall Out Boy
Photograph: Pamela Littky
Music, Pop

Fall Out Boy + Machine Gun Kelly + Rise Against

While there’s always been a theatrical flair to Fall Out Boy’s music, the band’s latest record, MANIA, takes those overwrought inclinations to their logical conclusion. There’s nothing subtle about the bells and choir that grace a track called “Church” or highlight-reel worthy lyricism of “Champion.” A hometown show in Wrigley Field seems like the perfect opportunity for Patrick Stump and company to dig into their catalog, in front of a crowd of older fans that should know all the words to “Dead on Arrival.”

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Childish Gambino
Photograph: Courtesy RCA Records
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Childish Gambino + Rae Sremmurd

There was a time when Donald Glover was just a sitcom star who released clever, embarrassingly confessional rap tracks under a moniker devised by a Wu-Tang Clan name generator. These days, he's the creator of genre-defying FX show Atlanta, a part of the Star Wars universe (as young Lando Calrissian) and the creative voice behind the striking music video for his latest track, “This is America.” On tour behind his not-yet-titled “final” album, Glover will be joined by Mississippi hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd.

Comfort Station
Photograph: Martha Williams
Things to do, Festivals

Bands & Beers for Comfort Station

Logan Square community arts center Comfort Station holds its annual summer benefit, which helps fund its year-round slate of exhibitions, film screenings, lectures, concerts and workshops. Setting up a stage at the foot of the Centennial Monument, the free event will feature sets from psychedelic jazz outfit Dos Santos, local hip-hop producer Phoelix, twangy indie rockers Campdogzz and quai-industrial act Dim. Donations are welcome, and if you want to have a few beverages at the event, you can purchase a $25 wristband for access to beer, cider and more.

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lollapalooza 2017, vic mensa
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Music, Music festivals

The Breaks Vol. II Music Festival

While the first edition of the hip-hop-focused The Breaks Music Festival took place near Soldier Field, this year's iteration is moving to Toyota Park. Legendary New York rap collective the Wu-Tang Clan headlines the fest, celebrating the 25th anniversary of its debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs and Talib Kweli are also on the lineup, in addition to hometown hip-hop heroes and Twista and Vic Mensa.

Jon Hopkins
Photograph: Steve Gullick
Music, Dance and electronic

Jon Hopkins + Daniel Avery

While much of Jon Hopkins' early career was spent collaborating with Brian Eno and Coldplay, in recent year's the English producer has come into his own as an electronic musician with a distinctive sound. Hopkins' latest album, Signularity, is a suite of expansive compositions, littered with ambient synths and glitchy beats that coalese into some of his most epic, room-eveloping tracks to date. There's a transcendent power to Hopkins' arrangements, lending a decidedly intimate feel to his larger-than-life production. Ambient musician Daniel Avery opens the show.

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Free events in September

Photograph: Elias Garcia
Kids

Fiesta Familiar

Celebrate Hispanic culture outside at the zoo with hands-on art, health, gardening, science and music projects. Plus, the whole family can enjoy cultural dance and music performances.

Art on theMart
Photograph: Courtesy Art on theMart
Art, Film and video

Art on theMart Launch Event

icon-location-pin Merchandise Mart,
icon-calendar

It's opening night for the new 25-story-tall video installation that will be taking over the side of the Merchandise Mart. Art on theMart harnesses 34 digital projectors to create expansive moving images that will light up the side of the historic building. Art on theMart's first screening will kick off at 7:15pm, showcasing a 35-minute video program followed by a one-minute pyrotechnics show.

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Keith Haring Chicago Mural
Photograph: Marcelino Y. Fahd
Art, Contemporary art

"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, going on display alongside a selection of Haring's photographs, correspondence, designs and his now-iconic drawings.

Camp a Comedy Show
Photograph: Courtesy Camp
Comedy, Stand-up

Camp: A Comedy Show

Audiences at comedy shows don't get much more supportive than the ones that fill Camp every week in the Village Tap's beer garden. The summer camp-themed showcase gives comedians a place to test out new material and take risks, whether they're developing a new set of jokes or working out the kinks of a wacky character. Hosts Tessa Orzech and Samantha Berkman act as counselors, keeping the evening lively with sketches and unexpected hijinks.

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Tuesdays on the Terrace at the MCA
Photograph: Ashlee Benes
Music, Jazz

Tuesdays on the Terrace

Each Tuesday, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a free concert in its Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden—admission to the museum is also free for Illinois residents. The lineup is stacked with notable performers from the Chicago jazz community, including Katie Ernst, Greg Ward and Tomeka Reid. Attendees can order food à la carte from the outdoor grill, which features tacos, beef tenderloin, lobster rolls and BBQ chicken. 

The Park at Wrigley
Courtesy Chicago Cubs
Movies

Music Box Theatre Movies at Gallagher Way

Gallagher Way (the plaza formerly known as the Park at Wrigley) tapped their neighbors at the Music Box to program free outdoor screenings on Wednesday evenings when the Cubs are on the road. The theater selected a series of mostly family-friendly films (all PG-13 or less)—this month, you can see Top Gun and Back to the Future.

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Logan Arcade
Photograph: Martha Williams
Nightlife, Alternative nightlife

Night Names

icon-location-pin Logan Arcade, Logan Square
icon-calendar

Set a new high score at this arcade bar’s quarterly queer night. Guests can take advantage of free pinball (make sure you take a turn on the classic Star Wars and PIN·BOT tables), enjoy bar specials or bust a move in the back room with resident DJ Essential Logic.

GreenMill.venue01.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams
Comedy

The Paper Machete

icon-location-pin The Green Mill, Uptown
icon-calendar

This twice-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, while the new “Cocktail Hour” Wednesday show is a tight 90 minutes with no intermission.

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