Ready or not, the holiday season begins in earnest this week in Chicago. Use your lunch break to visit Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza or to take a spin around the ice rink at Millennium Park—both of which open to the public on Friday. If you want to get a head start on indulging before the holidays officially arrive, snag tickets to LuxeHome CHILL, an annual event that allows attendees to roam Merchandise Mart showrooms with a wine and decadent bites in hand. Dance it off a few days later when Red Bull Music Festival celebrates one of the best record stores in Chicago with Gramaphone's 50th anniversary. Plus, FKA Twigs and Angel Olsen will be in town for shows at Riviera. Here's a look at the best things to do in Chicago this week.
Best things to do in Chicago this week
You haven't experienced the holidays in Chicago until you've stepped into this giant open-air market inspired by a similar seasonal tradition in Nuremberg, Germany. At Christkindlmarket, guests can shop handcrafted items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins and glass ornaments. When hunger strikes, nibble on potato pancakes, hot pretzels, schnitzel, döner and chocolate-covered treats. And no trip to Christkindlmarket is complete without a steaming mug of Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine (there's also hot cocoa for the kids). The holiday market boasts three locations in Daley Plaza, Gallagher Way and Milwaukee, but the outpost in the Loop is its most popular iteration.
Want to sip wine while roaming the stunning showrooms at Merchandise Mart? LuxeHome CHILL, in cooperation with Wine Spectator Magazine, allows you to do just that at their annual celebration, which raises money for local charities the Lynn Sage Foundation, Saturday Place and Respiratory Health Association. Throughout the evening, guests can sample bites from more than 60 of the city's best restaurants (think HaiSous, Pacific Standard Time and Osteria Langhe) and sip vino from top winemakers amidst the ambiance of LuxeHome, the world’s largest collection of premier boutiques for home building and renovation.
Opened in 1969 as a shop specializing in folk, blues and jazz albums, Gramaphone Records became an integral part of the house music scene in the ’80s, stocking music from genre pioneers like Larry Heard, Farley "Jackmaster" Funks and Frankie Knuckles. Red Bull Music Festival Chicago is celebrating Gramaphone's 50th anniversary with an all-star dance party at Metro and Smart Bar, featuring sets from Steve "Silk" Hurley, Derrick Carter, Ron Trent, Gramaphone's current owner Michael Serafini and a long list of Smart Bar residents. Show up to dance the night away to records that were probably purchased at the iconic shop with a checkered floor.
Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Admission to the rink is free, and you can rent skates for $13–$15. The most popular time to hit the rink is in the evening, so show up earlier if you don't feel like waiting in line for your chance to slide around. Take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sundays at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 8, weather permitting.
Graced with an acrobatic voice and an introspective demeanor, singer-songwriter (and former Chicagoan) Angel Olsen brings an understated intensity to upbeat rock songs and slow-burning ballads. On her latest release, All Mirrors, Olsen offers her most lush and gut-wrenching work to date, written in the wake of a break-up and augmented by a 12-piece string section. Emboldened by the promise of new beginnings that accompany a life-altering event, Olsen looks inward, analyzing her desires and fears amid whining synths and crescendoing string arrangements. In Olsen's world, just like in ours, everything is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Singer-songwriter Vagabon supports.
Chicago Shakes artistic director Barbara Gaines sets her new take on Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers in the hot Chicago summer of 2020. Presumably, that means that Edgar Miguel Sanchez and Brittany Bellizeare’s titular teens will spend most of their time browsing TikTok and stressing about the election.
Are you ready for an evening of breakup ballads, pole dancing, martial arts and eleaborate costumes? Avant-garde R&B singer FKA Twigs brings her sophomore album MAGDALENE—written in the wake of her split with Twilight star Robert Pattinson—to life with an intricate new stage show, which transforms the artist's catalog into a theatrical experience that showcases both her vocal and dancing skills. Chicagoans got a taste of FKA Twigs's artistic vision when she headlined Pitchfork Music Festival in 2016, but her latest production (which has already been staged in New York, Los Angeles and Berlin) seems to take her ethereal melodies to the next level.
The Goodman Theatre’s annual holiday production of the Charles Dickens classic keeps its seasonal charm intact in its latest iteration. No bah humbugs here. Larry Yando returns for yet another outing as Ebenezer Scrooge, while director Henry Wishcamper guides the classic story of three spirits who confront Scrooge with the consequences of his miserly actions.
Arriving in the Midwest after drawing hordes in San Francisco and New York, this retrospective (the first to be organized by a U.S. institution since 1989) of Andy Warhol's career features more than 350 works for guests to explore. Instead of focusing on a specific era of his life, “From A to B and Back Again” accounts for the entire breadth of the Pop Art legend's output, from early illustrations that were commissioned for magazines to recolored portraits of celebrities that graced the cover of Interview magazine. While there are plenty of familiar pieces on display (a print of Marilyn Monroe, several Campbell's soup cans), there are also sections of the exhibit devoted to lesser-known aspects of Warhol's practice, including performance art, television and publishing. Filled with self-portraits, homages to vaunted brands and celebrations of fame, “From A to B and Back Again” accentuates the echoes of Warhol’s art in the contemporary world—and seeing so much of it one place only makes its prophetic themes that much clearer.
Actors Harmony France and Christina Hall are swapping roles every night for this show at Firebrand Theatre, which chronicles the real-life friendship between the iconic Cline and regular gal Louise Seger. Pulling off this theatrical gambit is no easy task, but both France and Hall have the chops to pull it off.
Best known for devising the characters of Flyboy and Lil Mama that grace walls throughout Chicago, local artist Hebru Brantley latest project is an immersive origin story for his most famous creations. Named after a fictional Chicago neighborhood, Nevermore Park takes visitors through 6,000 square feet of installation that begin in a traditional art gallery before quickly transitioning to fantastical environments that feature a crashed rocket ship, a Pullman train car and thick clouds of fog. Much of the pop-up serves as a celebration of the African-American culture that Brantley grew up with, featuring old issues of Jet and Ebony magazines as well as vintage stereo equipment playing some of his favorite songs. The experience lasts about an hour and ends with a chance to purchase some exclusive Flyboy and Lil Mama merch that will only be available during the pop-up's run.
Every two years, Chicago becomes the center of the world of architecture and design during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Taking place over the course of nearly four months, the programming encompasses exhibitions, installations, forums and more events that explore the state of modern architecture and urbanism. The Chicago Cultural Center serves as the event's hub, where visitors can explore a large model of a traditional Chicago worker’s cottage, experience a multi-channel video installation and learn about the architecture present in cities such as São Paulo, Vancouver and Johannesburg. Venues like the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and the National Public Housing Museum also host Biennial programming, in addition to partner programs at a variety of local institutions.
A man gets out of prison and returns home to mark the sixth anniversary of his sister’s death—a death that his family pins on him. Part of Victory Gardens’s 2018 Ignition Festival of New Plays, playwright Lee Edward Colston II’s searing family drama has lots of skeleton-filled closets. It’s an old formula, sure, but that’s because it works.
Best known as a musician responsible for bizzare songs like "I Wupped Batman's Ass" and "Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's," South Side-native Wesley Willis was also an avid self-taught artist and could often be found roaming the city selling ink drawings of Chicago landmarks for $10 to $20. Matthew Rachman Gallery's exhibition of Willis' drawings are culled from the collection of architect Paul Young, who met Willis on the streets of Chinatown. "City of Many Dreams" also features sculptures created of Ricky Willis (Wesley's brother), an architectural historian who works with local nonprofit Project Onward.
In Memphis, Tennessee, in the throes of the Great Depression, an aspiring blues singer named Toulou puts a hex the man of her dreams—and the results are disastrous. Wardell Julius Clark directs this 2007 play from The Mountaintop author Katori Hall for Raven Theatre.
Theater review by Alex Huntsberger In George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, the puffed-up linguist Henry Higgins holds all the cards as he tries to mold cockney flower-seller Eliza Doolittle into a respectable lady. Terreance Arvelle Chisolm’s riotous update, P.Y.G. or The Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle, shuffles the deck. Instead of the hard-luck Eliza, there is a Justin Beiber–esque Canadian pop idol, Dorian (Garrett Young), who wants to add hip-hop edge to his lily-white sound. And in Higgins’s shoes are two rising indie rappers, Alexan Da Great (Tevion Devin Lanier) and Blacky Blackerson (Eric Gerard), who have been hired to help Dorian and to have their efforts filmed for a reality show. In the age of wokeness and cultural appropriation, nothing is as simple as it used to seem. P.Y.G. revels in the contradictions of the situation it imagines: It’s a verbose comedy and a searching social drama in one restlessly theatrical package. After an explosive first meeting in the highrise penthouse/reality-TV set that the three men now share, the play proceeds as a series of negotiations. (The eggheaded Alexan, for example, convinces the brash Blacky to stop using the n-word.) Though initially wary of the set-up, Blacky comes around to its potential and develops a starry bromance with Dorian—but Alexan is unable to shake the feeling that the whole endeavor is setting them back. If P.Y.G. sometimes gets bogged down in the minutiae of modern wokeness, that’s because it’s taking the su
Tony Award-winning Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls directs the Lyric Opera's latest staging of Don Giovanni, Mozart's classic opera that follows the seductive and arrogant Count Giovanni in his quest for revenge. Russan bass Ildar Abdrazakov makes his Lyric debut in the title role (Nov 14–30) and Italian baritone Davide Luciano steps in to lead the December performances.
In Leah Nanako Winkler’s Kentucky, Hiro (Emjoy Gavino), a New Yorker in her late 20s, returns to her family’s southern homestead to stop her little sister’s wedding. She reckons that Sophie (Hannah Toriumi), who is 22, is too young to be getting married, especially to a guy she met six months ago, and she’s convinced that the girl has been brainwashed into her fiancé’s born-again-Christian faith. Despite her wariness at reuniting with her volcano-tempered and abusive father (Paul D’Addario), she’s dead set on her mission—and she’s got her therapist, Larry (Ana Silva), on speed dial just in case. But when Hiro’s journey sparks disaster after disaster, she has to face a difficult truth: Despite her name, she might just be the villain of the story.
Step inside one of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's famous Infinity Mirror Rooms at this pop-up exhibition, which features installations that blend art and science. The latest "chapter" of wndr museum features a lineup of new installations (giving previous visitors a reason to come back), focusing on works that utilize technology. Among the new experiences are a room lined with LED walls that guests can "draw" on with water, a series of abstract shapes that guests can project images onto and an interactive dance station that replicates and manipulates your moves on a screen. You'll also find a two-story rainbow slide and murals by local artists Mac Blackout and Lauren Asta. The latest iteration of wndr museum will stick around for "limited, yet undetermined amount of time," so squeeze in a visit while the current batch of installations is on display.
Based on the acclaimed non-fiction book that inspired the 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking is a contemporary opera that explores the relationship between a death row inmate and the nun who becomes his spiritual advisor. Making its Chicago premiere at the Lyric Opera, this production is different than what you usually see onstage at the Civic Opera House: the lyrics are all in English, the show opens with a scene depicting sexual violence and the script is rife with explicit language. Think of it as an decidedly R-rated version of a night at the opera.
Originally established in the late 1800s, the Maxwell Street Market brought vendors, musicians and cooks to an open-air flea market where shoppers could find just about anything they wanted. The market introduced the Maxwell Street Polish sausage, provided a venue for rising Chicago blues musicians and was immortalized in a scene in The Blues Brothers. These days, the market sets up on nearby Desplaines Street (between Roosevelt and Howard) every Sunday, where visitors will find vendors hawking their wares, an abundance of delicious Mexican food and ocassional performances by local bands and dance troupes. Don't let the cold or wet weather scare you away—the Maxwell Street Market takes place outdoors year-round.
Add some shopping to your Saturday morning brunch routine by visiting Handmade Market at the Empty Bottle before (or after) you feast at Bite Cafe. You can sip a mimosa, a Bloody Mary or a beer while checking out the wares of 30 vendors, selling funky jewelry, clothing, handbags and paper crafts. You probably need a gift for someone—or yourself—right? Handmade Market takes over the Bottle on the second Saturday of the month from October through April.
“I’ve seen this horror movie before,” declares Henry (Travis A. Knight) as he and his girlfriend, Max (Sadieh Rifai), stumble into a remote cabin in the woods after crashing their car on a snowy mountain pass. Little good that knowledge does him. Levi Holloway’s Grey House takes a classic fright-flick set-up and suffuses it with a singular sense of eeriness. The play sometimes stumbles when it tries to turn mood into action, but its indelible weirdness, aided by director Shade Murray’s creeptastic world-premiere production, glows through. Children’s games with brutal consequences, the sound of scratching from within the house’s walls, sudden blackouts with mysterious whispers: The titular grey house is a well and truly haunted place.
Andy Warhol was a famously private person who rarely let anyone inside his townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side, but photographer David Gamble was given permission by the artist's estate to capture images of the interior of the home shortly after Warhol's death. The original photos were published in London's Observer Magazine to spark interest in the Warhol foundation's auction, but Gamble revisited the images in 1997, adding colorful silk-screen depictions of Warhol to some of the pictures. You'll see the modified versions of the photos on display at “Andy Warhol's House,” which coincides with the Art Institute of Chicago's “Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again” exhibition.
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.
In the city that served as the birthplace of house music, the weekly Queen! party carries on the genre's inclusive and subversive spirit. Tucked away in Smart Bar's subterranean confines, residents Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini and Garrett David spin deep grooves while drag performers strut across the foggy dance floor. For serious dance music fans, the trek across town to spend a night at Queen! is a pilgrimage worth making.
Haunted Hyde Park explores the real life stories of Magic, Murder and Mayhem unique to the Hyde Park-Chicago area. This two hour twilight walking tour is led by local guides whom are familiar with the grisly tales and Urban Legends of the past 125 years or more.
Best known as a musician responsible for bizarre songs like "I Wupped Batman's Ass" and "Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's," South Side-native Wesley Willis was also an avid self-taught artist and could often be found roaming the city selling ink drawings of Chicago landmarks for $10 to $20. Matthew Rachman Gallery's exhibition of Willis' drawings are culled from the collection of architect Paul Young, who met Willis on the streets of Chinatown. "City of Many Dreams" also features sculptures created of Ricky Willis (Wesley's brother), an architectural historian who works with local nonprofit Project Onward.
The Shanghai-based FarEastFarWest collection curates a selection of images taken by artists from China, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea and Indonesia between 2007 and 2013— a particularly fertile period for Asian photography. The exhibition takes its name from the artists' practice of using photos to investigate the spaces in-between various concepts, whether its the past and the present or a local perspective and a global view.
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.
Try on the next generation of wearable technology at this exhibition devoted to clothing and augmentations that improve upon the capabilities of the human body. You'll see more than 100 inventions on display, including a flying Jet Suit made by Gravity Industries, Nike’s self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future Part II and Dainese’s D-Air Racing Suit, which monitors the speed and position to determine if embedded airbags need to be deployed. Guests can also try on the SpiderSense Vest (which uses vibrations to allow you to feel your surroundings) or the Electric Dreams headset (which reads brainwaves and translates them into colored fiber optics lighting).
Every night, a 25-story-tall video installation takes over the side of the Merchandise Mart, filling the building's historic facade with vibrant colors and moving images. Harnessing 34 digital projectors, the show features work by a rotating lineup of artists and is best viewed from Wacker Drive or the Riverwalk, between Wells and Orleans Streets. Art on theMART lights up the night Wednesday through Sunday, with projections beginning approximately 30 minutes after sunset.
Local artist and former University of Illinois at Chicago professor Julia Fish displays a collection of paintings inspired by the colors, lighting and form of the nearly century-old Chicago storefront she’s called home for the past three decades.
There are far more bugs than humans on the planet, and the Field Museum's latest exhibition gives you an opportunity to learn more about the tiny, multi-legged creatures that largely go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives. “Fantastic Bug Encounters!” features larger-than-life models created by Weta Workshops (the folks behind the Lord of the Rings movies) that allow guests to see insects like bees and praying mantises in extreme detail. Interactive stations let you test your reflexes against those of a mantis, send origami butterflies into a wind tunnel and perform bug brain surgery. There's even a bug zoo where you'll be able to get your hands on a dozen live bug species.