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Arts in the Dark
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

The best things to do in Chicago this week

Find the very best things to do in Chicago this week including cultural events, festivals and art.

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Written by
Emma Krupp
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In case you haven't noticed, Halloween in Chicago is just around the corner, which is why you'll find casket races, costume galas and a socially-distanced "reverse parade" among the best things to do in Chicago this week. If you've had your fill of pumpkin patches and haunted houses, why not walk through "The Office Experience" pop-up or snag tickets to see local DJ Derrick Carter turn in an all-disco set this weekend. Plus, the Chicago International Film Festival continues with screenings galore, Meet Me on the Mile hosts a final event on Michigan Avenue this weekend and Northwest Side breweries gather for in-person tastings. Don't get frightened by the variety—there's something for everyone among the best things to do in Chicago this week.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

Best things to do in Chicago this week

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Magnificent Mile

Calling all The Office fanatics: The same team that created "The Friends Experience" is back with another nostalgic pop-culture experience that will make you feel like a Dunder Mifflin employee. Spread across two floors, the pop-up features 17 rooms that recreate sets from the show, including the Scranton Business Park workplace (which features Michael's office, Pam's reception desk and Ryan's closet) and Schrute Farms. Guests will be able to ecreate moments like Kevin's chili spill and the Dundie Awards—and you'll also find a few original props and costumes on display.

Don't forget to stop by a gift shop that's dressed up like the Warehouse, featuring merch like "World's Best Boss" mugs, sweatshirts that say "Nard Dog" and staplers (Jello not included). The gift shop will be open to both ticketed and non-ticketed guests, so even those who don't spring for the photo-friendly experience have a chance to buy some branded shirts and tchotchkes.

  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Washington Park

In addition to the regular Arts in the Dark parade on State Street, the arts organization LUMA8 is hosting a "reverse" parade—in which attendees pass through a stretch of around 20 costumed performance groups lining Russell Drive in Washington Park—similar to the socially-distanced parade they hosted in 2020. Bonus: At the end of the route, attendees will get a goody bag to take home.  

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  • Music
  • Rock and indie
  • North Center

Fellow six-string explorers Marisa Anderson and William Tyler come together for an evening of finger-picked melodies that transcend genre. Performing behind their recent collaborative LP, Lost Futures, Anderson and Tyler put their guitars to work throughout compositions that channel folk, psych-rock and ambient influences. The partnership is one that pushes two already-formidable musicians in new directions, egging each other on with rollicking riffs and twisting solos.

  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Suburbs

Outfit a "casket" (or a casket-shaped cart with wheels) in your favorite decor for this spooky annual race through the streets of downtown Forest Park. The rules are simple: A helmet-clad "ghost" rides inside the casket, while runners push the contraption as fast as they can along a 585-foot course. Prizes will be awarded for casket decorations as well as for the winners of the race, but try not to worry too much if you're not particularly athletic—there's also a prize for the "dead last" final finisher. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Irving Park

Celebrating breweries on the Northwest Side of Chicago, Twisted Hippo hosts three sessions of tastings that allow guests to sample local beer, cider, mead and coffee. Breweries like Alarmist, Old Irving, Lake Effect, Spiteful and Ravinia will be in attendance, alongside Bru Coffeeworks, Eris Cider House and Second City Meadery. Tickets include access to classic arcade games and tasting glass that you can take home with you. Sessions begin at noon, 1:30 and 3pm.

  • Things to do
  • Little Italy, UIC

The annual Illumination Halloween gala is just as bright as it sounds, featuring brilliant installations from the likes of Brandin Hurley and Liviu Pasare as well as a laser light show and multiple musical performances. Taking place inside of the 30,000-square-foot Vertiport Chicago hanger, guests can enjoy seven cocktail bars offering beer, wine and spirits and a "pizza parade" presented by Happy Camper Pizza. More importantly, the event raises money for research of a rare genetic condition called retinal vasculopathy with cerebral leukodystrophy (RVCL).

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Streeterville

Get lost in a world of Wockets and Truffula Tree contained within this immersive experience, inspired by the literary works of Dr. Seuss. Bringing to life the characters and landscapes of books like The Cat in the Hat and The Lorax, "The Dr. Seuss Experience" is filled with a series of rooms where guests can interact with characters and snap photos. At the center of the pop-up, there's a maze inspired by Oh, the Places You’ll Go! made up of thousands of suspended balloons. Taking over 25,000 square feet on the street level of Water Tower Place, this experience is great for kids—or for embracing your inner-child.

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  • Music
  • Dance and electronic
  • Wrigleyville

House music luminary Derrick Carter has been producing and spinning tracks in Chicago since the late ’80s, working behind the counter at DJ destination Gramaphone Records and becoming a Smart Bar resident along the way. Cater returns to the dance floor beneath Metro for a set entitled, Derrick Does A Fair Amount of Disco. Expect a mix of ’70s and ’80s dance hits and rarities on the speakers all night long.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

If you really want to scream, head to Six Flags Great America where you can ride roller coasters in the dark and visit six haunted houses. Escape evil clowns, delve into the gates of hell, and explore a cursed manor. As you wander the park you’ll encounter demons, zombie lumberjacks, nightmarish fairy tales, and creepy circus performers. You can add to the frightful fun by snacking on Halloween-themed treats, watching a nightly parade and catching shows featuring live music, dancing and illusions.

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  • Things to do
  • Logan Square

Celebrate the release of Halloween Kills—the latest installment of the Michael Myers/Halloween saga—at this all-you-can eat pizza party hosted by Bric-a-Brac Records and Paulie Gee's. Thirty dollars nets you all the pizza you can eat, a beer and a shot, plus the chance to enter a raffle to win a copy of the 2018 Halloween soundtrack autographed by John Carpenter (all the proceeds from the raffle will be donated to the Chicago Torture Justice Center). Later on, feel free to migrate from Paulie Gee's and join the party at a screening of Halloween Kills at the Logan Theatre. FYI: You'll need proof of vaccination to attend. 

  • Time Out Market
  • West Loop

Want to watch the Bears play on a big, big screen? Time Out Market Chicago's screen is 32 feet wide by 6 feet tall, and you'll be able to watch every single game on it. And in addition to chicken wings, stacked burgers and saucy barbecue platters, you'll also be able to take advantage of select half-price draft beers and $20 beer buckets during every matchup. Plus, if a game falls on a Sunday, $10 Bloody Marys will also be available. There's no need for a reservation—just show up ready to feat while you cheer on the Bears!

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  • Music
  • Dance and electronic
  • Logan Square

Mashing up energetic synth-pop, speaker-rattling hip-hop, hyper-abbrasive industrial noise and myriad of niche electronic genres, 100 gecs makes music for a generation with at least 50 browser tabs open and a short attention span. The ten tracks the make up Dylan Brady and Laura Les's 23-minute debut album, 1000 gecs, are constantly shifting compositions that demonstrate a reverence for contemporary pop and a total disregard for veering into sonic territory that is the antithesis of mainstream. At once bouyant, enthusiastic, satirical and uncomfortable, 100 gecs stuffs a ton of flavors in a hyperspeed blender and spits out something that you can flail your body to. Stopping through Chicago on the 10,000 gecs tour, the duo plays an early and late show—fingers crossed for some fresh gecs tracks.

  • Movies

Some of the latest and greatest movies to hit the festival circuit arrive in the midwest during the Chicago International Film Festival, which present a lineup of more than 80 dramas, documentaries, comedies and foreign films, plus 10 short film programs. In addition to CIFF's home base at AMC River East 21, this year's festival expands across the city, with screenings at the Music Box Theatre and the Gene Siskel Film Center—plus drive-in screenings at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen.

Highlights of this year's lineup include an opening night screening of Wes Anderson's tribute to journalism The French Dispatch, a drive-in presentation of Todd Haynes' rock doc The Velvet Underground, Mike Mills' moving tale of a radio documentary producer (played by Joaquin Phoenix) C'mon C'mon and Denis Villeneuve's latest sci-fi epic Dune. The festival will also host the world premiere of two documentaries: Jesse Moss' inside look at Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, Mayor Pete, and the story of Chicago’s first Black mayor, Punch 9 for Harold Washington.

Other notable films being show include Andrea Arnold's eye-opening documentary Cow, the vengeful Western The Harder They Fall starring Idris Elba, Ridley Scott's latest period piece The Last Duel and the time-bending Colombian film Memoria, which features a haunting performance from Tilda Swinton.

You can find a complete list of films (including drive-in screenings), purchase tickets and learn about other programming on the Chicago International Film Festival website.

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  • Things to do
  • Talks and lectures
  • Loop

In her new book Hooked, Broadway star Sutton Foster, who's starred onstage in Thoroughly Modern Millie and onscreen in the TV show Younger, shares how her love of crafting saved her life—plus tips on how it can improve her readers lives, too. She'll be joined by Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Alison Cuddy to discuss the book in this Chicago Humanities Festival Talk at Columbia College Chicago. Tickets for the event include a copy of Hooked. 

  • Kids
  • Wicker Park

Watch Wicker Park transform into a Halloween haven with tons of activities for the whole family. From seasonally-themed games to face painting, pumpkin patches to a pumpkin show, this isn't your ordinary day at the park. Don't miss a double whammy of cuteness with the kids' costume parade and the dogs' costume parade. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals

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? 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 and 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 Pool, Glessner House, International Museum of Surgical Sciences and more. 

Throughout October, you can also check out a series of free virtual lectures on different architectural and historical topics, including "Revisiting Learning from North Lawndale" and "How the Great Fire Changed Chicago." Plus, the CAC continues to host "Helmut Jahn: Life + Architecture"—a look at the work of the iconic Chicago-based architect, who died earlier this year. 

The festival will run throughout the entire month of October—you can read through an up-to-date list of sites here. FYI: While no advance registration is required for on-site visits, some sites may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to enter, so check CAC's website before planning your visit. 

  • Music
  • Rap, hip-hop and R&B
  • Lincoln Park

Evanston rapper, producer and songwriter Kweku Collins takes the stage at Golden Dagger four times in September and October as part of a fall residency at the Lincoln Park venue. Joined by a different special guest for each performance (Ajani Jones, Creaturefight, Orisun and OddCouple), Collins will debut tracks from his unreleased new album. Hopefully he'll find some time to delve into his past work, including his emphatic cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' ballad “Maps” that graced his 2017 EP, grey.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Lower West Side

Celebrate the season at this inaugural fall festival at Dvorak Park in Pilsen featuring a pumpkin patch, face painting, s'mores making stations, fitness classes, live music and more, with peformances from acts like Strictly '90s and Ralphi Rosario.  

  • Things to do
  • River North

Dinner comes with a side of frights at this haunted—and totally dark—dining experience headed to Chicago for Halloween season. Here's how it works: Diners enter a pitch-black room, meant to heighten the senses while eating, at Masq inside the Hubbard Inn for a 90-minute, three-course meal with wine pairings, available in meat, fish and vegan options. Each course is dished out by a masked (and spooky) server clad in night vision goggles. You'll be asked to guess what's in each meal, but don't be surprised if the scary environs lead to some degree of distraction. Don't forget to dress up in your Halloween costume! 

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  • Music
  • Rock and indie
  • Wrigleyville

After more than 20 years, Dr. Dog is playing some of their final concerts—the Philly band recently annnounced that "We don’t know what Dr. Dog will do, we just know it won’t include going on tour." To send off the band's time on the road in style, the group is embarking on one final tour, which includes three shows in Chicago: one at Metro and two at Thalia Hall. Expect a career-spanning set, includng early tunes influenced by heady late-’60s pop music and more recent forays into the psychedelic sounds of the ’70s and ’80s. Rubblebucket co-founder Alex Toth opens each of the shows.

  • Things to do

Hang out along Michigan Avenue during this new biweekly outdoor activation series, which brings live music, classic car shows, fitness classes, lawn games and other family-friendly activities to a series of plazas along the Magnificent Mile on Thursdays and Sundays through October. 

The Thursday evening festivities kick off on July 22 with music from The Brian Patti Dixieland Dudes and Mariachi Ameca, which will play at 875 N Michigan Avenue's Garden Plaza and Pioneer Court, respectively. From there, Sunday Spectacles launches on August 15 with a car-themed lineup of events near the Water Tower and Jane Byrne Park between Pearson Street and Chicago Avenue. Check out classic cars on display (like a 1973 Batmobile) along with performances from the Chicago Bears Drumline, Mariachi Ameca and the Gray Era Brass Band. Plus, catch story time sessions, tai chi classes, silent discos and games fit for kids and families. 

Locations and themes change biweekly. Check out a schedule of upcoming events below, and stay tuned for more updates about events happening later in the season. 

Meet Me on The Mile series dates and locations:

  • Thursday, July 22 from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m.
    • Brian Patti Dixieland Dudes at 875 N. Michigan Ave. Garden Plaza: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
    • Mariachi Ameca at Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.): 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 5 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
    • Concert at 875 N. Michigan Ave. Garden Plaza: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
    • Concert at Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.): 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 15 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    • Historic Water Tower Activation at North Michigan Ave. between Pearson St. and Chicago Ave.
  • Thursday, August 19 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
    • Banjo Buddies at 875 N. Michigan Ave. Garden Plaza: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
    • Chicago Bears Drumline at Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.): 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 2 from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
    • Concert at TBD: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
    • Concert at TBD: 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 16 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
    • Concert at TBD: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
    • Concert at TBD: 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 26 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    • Chicago River Activation at North Michigan Ave. between Illinois St. and Wacker Dr.
  • Thursday, September 30 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
    • Concert at TBD: 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
    • Concert at TBD: 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, October 24 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    • Historic Water Tower Activation at North Michigan Ave. between Pearson St. and Chicago Ave.

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  • Things to do
  • Lincoln Park

The Chicago History Museum commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, exploring how the tragic event transpired and how it changed the city for decades to come. The family-friendly exhibition examines the details of the three-day blaze, exploring how the Irish immigrant O’Leary family was blamed for the fire and tracing the path of destruction (and 100,000 homeless residents) that the incident left in its wake. Featuring more than 100 artifacts from the museum's collection—including items that were damaged in the fire—"City on Fire: Chicago 1871" also showcases a reproduction of a cyclorama painting depicting the fire's path that was originally displayed at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

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  • Movies
  • Horror
  • Lower West Side

The Music Box of Horrors 24-hour movie marathon is back on the big screen at the Southport theater this year (on October 23 and 24), but organizers are also reviving the month-long drive-in screening series that took its place last year. Once again, you'll be able to pile your friends into a car and catch single and double features at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-In throughout October. Of course, the lineup of films is terrifyingly good.

This year's themes include Nü-Metal Mondays (films with a late ’90s soundtrack), Thirsty Thursdays (vampire movies), Friday Night Double Features (two movies!), Rip-Off Saturdays (an original movie followed by its imitator), and Serial Killer Sundays (real-life monsters).

Highlights of the lineup include psychedelic ’70s flick The Velvet Vampire, a Japanese horror double feature of Ringu and Dark Water, Hellraiser and its shot-for-shot Indonesian remake Roh, and Wes Craven's underappreciated social satire The People Under the Stairs.

Just like last year's Music Box of Horrors drive-in screenings, you can expect specialized movie intros, hilarious pre-show content, filmmaker Q&As and vendors selling their spooky wares. If you don't think that you can stay up for 24 hours of horror movies at the Music Box's marathon, this is a pretty great alternative. Admittance for each screening begins 30 minutes before showtime.

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  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • River North

Snag a treat and some decorative gourds at the month-long, 5,000-square-foot JoJo's Pumpkin Patch pop-up, a festive patio adjacent to JoJo's Shake Bar in River North where you'll find hay bales, festive lights and "pumpkin domes" outfitted with tables for dining and hanging out. 

Guests can enjoy a menu of special seasonal dishes, including caramel apples, pumpkin pie, apple pie, spiked ciders and hot chocolate. There's also a decadent Pumpkin Patch Shake— topped with a slice of pumpkin pie, a taffy apple, roasted marshmallow and a Reese's pretzel—plus cocktails like the Caramel Apple Mule and Pumpkin Spiked Latte. And if you need a big orange gourd to bring home, you can purchase one here. Cheers to fall! 

  • Movies
  • Wrigleyville

Wrigley Field-adjacent plaza Gallagher Way teams up with the Music Box Theatre to program free outdoor movie screenings leading up to Halloween. Admission is free and attendees are welcome to bring their own food, enjoy on-site concessions or snag a meal from nearby restaurants like Big Star and Smoke Daddy. VIP seating is also available for $25—check out the Gallagher Way website for more details. Gates open at 6pm for each screening and the movie starts at 7pm.

October 6: Casper
October 13: The Addams Family
October 20: Ghostbusters
October 27: The Nightmare Before Christmas

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  • Art
  • Photography
  • Loop

There are more guns than people in America, making it the most heavily-armed country in the world. “American Epidemic: Guns in the United States” collects photos from 10 different photographers that contemplate the violence, trauma, racism and other issues that arrise in a society where shootings are commonplace. You'll find images by Carolyn Drake, Nancy Floyd, Stephen Foster, Andres Gonzalez, Félix González-Torres, Deborah Luster, Zora J Murff, Renée Stout, and Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi in the exhibit. If you're going to visit, make sure to secure a timed reservation via the Museum of Contemporary Photography's website. 

  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Wrigleyville

If you're reading this, you're probably too old for trick-or-treating—but that doesn't mean you can't treat yourself this Halloween season. For a few weeks this fall, Deuce's Major League Bar in Wrigleyville will transform into Nightmare on Clark Street, a spooky pop-up complete with themed cocktails, festive snacks and plenty of ghoulish decor perfect for those among the 21+ crowd looking to celebrate the holiday.

Hosted by the same team that puts on well-loved holiday pop-ups like Santa Baby and Rudolph's, Nightmare on Clark Street will feature drinks like Cookies-N-Scream (RumChata, creme de cacao and vanilla vodka with an oreo rim and eyeball candies) and Michael Meyer's Michelada (basically a standard michelada outfitted with a "bloody" syringe). Hungry? You can pair your beverage with bites like apple pie waffles, s'mores brownies or a worms-and-dirt milkshake. And of course, the pop-up's autumn-themed decor offer bountiful opportunities for photo ops—get dressed up and feel free to snap a few pics.

Reservations for Nightmare on Clark Street are free and can be made on the Deuce's website. Keep in mind that reservations are for up to 90 minutes, can be for no more than six people, and that you'll need to adhere to the City of Chicago's masking guidelines. 

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  • Art
  • Photography
  • Grant Park

Explore the small-but-mighty works of photographer André Kertész, who arrived in Paris in the fall of 1925 with a camera and what was left of his savings. Over the next three years, the majority of the photos he produced were printed on postcard paper, making them easy to share with friends and benefactors. Exhibiting a collection of these small-scale works, the Art Institute's latest exhibit explores Kertész's output in the years before he graduated to international exhibitions and magazine spreads.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Skokie

Tracing the contemporary gay rights movement back to the June 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City, the Illinois Holocaust Museum's hosts an exhibtion that documents a continuing struggle for equality. On loan from the Newseum, “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement,” collects more than 85 artifacts, such as posters from Harvey Milk’s campaign for public office in San Francisco and the gavel Nancy Pelosi used to announce the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Visitors will learn about the history of the LGBTQ community through pivitol moments in history and in popular culture.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • 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. 

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  • Art
  • Photography
  • Loop

There are more guns than people in America, making it the most heavily-armed country in the world. “American Epidemic: Guns in the United States” collects photos from 10 different photographers that contemplate the violence, trauma, racism and other issues that arrise in a society where shootings are commonplace. You'll find images by Carolyn Drake, Nancy Floyd, Stephen Foster, Andres Gonzalez, Félix González-Torres, Deborah Luster, Zora J Murff, Renée Stout, and Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi in the exhibit. If you're going to visit, make sure to secure a timed reservation via the Museum of Contemporary Photography's website. 

  • Theater

The fourth annual Destinos – Chicago Latino Theater Festival returns to Chicago with a four-week lineup of live theater performances at venues throughout the city. As usual, this year's shows feature Latino-driven storylines, including the midwestern premiere of American Mariachi (a play about an all-women mariachi band at the Goodman Theatre) and La Gran Tirana: Descarga dramática at Aguijón Theater (which features music inspired by La Lupe), plus four other productions. The festival opens with a party at the National Museum of Mexican Art’s new Ray Castro Plaza on September 20 at 5:30pm—you can view a full lineup of plays on the fest's website

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  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Grant Park

Don't call this one a retrospective. Yes, the Art Institute's exhibition of Barbara Kruger's work encompasses four decades of her career, but "THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU." isn't stuck in the past. Instead, the display takes Kruger's vintage works and presents it alongside new pieces that build upon them, unlocking new context and meaning. Spread throughout the museum, guests will find rooms wrapped in Kruger's imagery, installations in the Regenstein galleries and pieces that inhabit the exterior walls of the museum (as well as billboards, bus stops and storefronts around Chicago). Expect to see Kruger's biting sense of humor on display—often spelled out in big, bold letters.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Every two years, Chicago becomes a global hub of architecture and design during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. This year's edition takes place across three months, filling vacant lots with site-specific architectural projects and presenting a pair of exhibitions at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts and the Graham Foundation. The theme of this year's Biennial is "The Available City," presenting projects and conversations that respond to and expand upon the question of "who gets to participate in the design of a city?"

Highlights of this year's programming include a circular outdoor meeting space designed by Matri-Archi(tecture) in a lot on 63rd Street in Woodlawn and a pair of exhibitions at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts and the Graham Foundation that feature projects by a global group of architects and designers, hailing from New York, Porto, Paris and Beijing. Plus, a series of Activation Weekends will activate the various Biennial installations throughout the city, welcoming performers, experts and cultural programming.

Stay up-to-date on the latest programming and activations by visiting the Chicago Architecture Biennial website.

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  • Art
  • Film and video

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.

  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Uptown

For more than 30-years, the Neo-Futurists have been delighting late-night crowds with performances that pack 30 miniature plays into a 60-minute show. Returning to in-person programming (attendees must be vaccinated and masked) after more than a year spent in the virtual realm, the company's signature show is more unpredictable than ever, with a handful of compact new plays premiering every week. Within the span of 10 minutes, you may be treated to a poignant monologue about everyday life or an irreverent diatribe delivered by a pantsless member of the cast—all inspired by the experiences of the performers on stage. Always changing and evolving, it's the rare show that truly offers something different everytime you show up to see it.

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  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Streeterville

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents a survey that encapsulates two decades of work by Pakistani artist Bani Abidi, a former student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Known for her video, photography and sound works, Abidi satirizes displays of power and nationalism as she explores the geopolitical relationship between India and Pakistan as well as the historical power struggles of South Asia. The exhibit takes its name from Abidi's watercolor series "The Man Who Talked Until He Disappeared," which depicts writers, political leaders and bloggers from Pakistan that have disappeared over the past decade.

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

One of the Field Museum's most popular traveling exhibitions (which debuted in Chicago in 2014) returns home, using interactive displays to showcase how the bodies of animals operate much like machines. Visitors can use a pump to see how a giraffe's heart is able to send blood all the way up its neck or take in footage of a cheetah running to see how it's able achieve incredible speeds.

  • Art
  • Design
  • Loop

Comic artist and author Chris Ware and historian Tim Samuelson curate an exhibition devoted to the early days of the comic strip. Showcasing work from the period of 1880 to 1960, the exhibit includes early strips that ran in newspapers as well as work by African-American cartoonists and publishers. The exhibit also pays tribute to Frank King, who penned "Gasoline Alley," creating one of the very first autobiographical comics based on real Chicagoans and the neighborhoods they lived in. If you've already seen the Museum of Contemporary Art's “Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now” exhition, this show will give you an even deeper understanding of the artforms ties to the Second City.

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  • Art
  • Architecture
  • Loop

Best known locally for designing the James R. Thompson Center and Terminal 1 (including its popular neon-lit walkway) at O'Hare International Airport, German-born architect Helmut Jahn spent his career pursuing distinctive visions. In light of his recent passing after being struck while riding a bicycle in suburban Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Center presents a career retrospective, exploring his work and the enduring legacy of the structures he designed.

Showcasing a collection of personal and professional items loaned by Jahn’s family and firm, the exhibit traces his path, beginning with his days as a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Guests can take in photography, models and sketches of Jahn's most famous designs, including the Sony Center in Berlin and the Michigan City Public Library. You'll also get a peek at more recent projects like Chicago's 1000M and the Pritzker Military Archives, which is currently under construction in Somers, Wisconsin.

  • Time Out Market
  • West Loop

Every Sunday from 11am to 3pm, Time Out Market Chicago's chefs offer a variety of delicious brunch dishes, from Hangover Ramen with shrimp and smoked pork to a stack of Buttermilk Pancakes layered with whipped mascarpone. Order as much as you want, grab a mimosa pitcher from the bar and stick around from 1 to 3pm for a set of tunes from the Chicago Soul Jazz Collective. 

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  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • Loop

Enjoy dinner and show on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel at Teatro ZinZanni, a 2.5-hour experience that combines circus acts, comedy, cabaret and a meal curated by Debbie Sharpe—the Goddess of The Goddess and Grocer. The show takes place in an ornate, circular theater (designed to resemble a Belgian mirror tent) where the audience surrounds the stage. Guests dig into a four course meal while watching as comedians, aerialists, acrobats, singers and dancers perform amazing feats and catchy tunes. It's somewhere between Cirque du Soleil and a traditional cabaret show, with restaurant-quality refreshments.

Performances take place every evening, Wednesday through Saturday, with a special brunch matinee at noon on Sundays. You can find menus, wine and cocktail lists on the Teatro ZinZanni website.

  • Art
  • Street art
  • River North

It's been more than a decade since a genuine Banksy work was spotted in Chicago, but you can see 80 of the street artist's creation in this exhibition. "The Art of Banksy" is an unauthorized show collecting canvasses, screen prints, sculptures and other pieces that the enigmatic artist made between 1997 and 2008, including the now-famous images "Flower Thrower" and "Girl with Balloon."

Presented by the same folks behind the "Immersive Van Gogh" experience, the opening ot the "The Art of Banksy" has been stymied by a recent venue change—the show was originally scheduled to open at the Epiphany Center of the Arts, but organizers and the owners of the West Loop venue parted ways. Now, the exhibition will be housed on the fourth floor of 360 N State Street, in the same building that hosts the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Loop

Looking for a less conventional kind of escape room to check out in Chicago? Visitors are tasked with deciding the fate of a man accused of murder in this new, multi-room immersive experience in the South Loop, which uses projections, live actors and other tools to challenge the internal biases involved in our day-to-day decisions as well as the criminal justice system.

Located inside the Roosevelt Collection Shops, the 90-minute experience takes visitors through a weaving set of storylines and sets in a Clue-like pursuit of figuring out who's responsible for a crime; in the process, the exhibit explores elements racism, ageism, classism and other social issues that affect the criminal justice system. Visitors will have an hour to examine the case and come to a decision and then an additional 30 minutes for photo opportunities. 

  • Art
  • 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 exhibition will take 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.

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  • Art
  • Installation
  • 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.

  • Comedy
  • Uptown

This 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.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • 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.

  • Comedy
  • Open mic nights
  • Logan Square

Since 2009, funny folks have tried new material (or tried stand-up for the first time) at Cole’s, where a typically friendly crowd makes it a welcoming place to take risks. Beginning at 8:15pm every Wednesday, anyone can show up and sign up for a slot, before the jokes start flying at 9pm. All sets are four minutes long (maybe a little bit longer if you're really killing) and it's always free to attend.

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  • Art
  • Drawing
  • Grant Park

A self-taught landscape artist who began creating surreal drawings in his South Side apartment in the late ’60s, Joseph E. Yoakum would often create one piece of artwork every day. Made with ballpoint pen, colored pencil, pastel and watercolor, his work drew the attention of School of the Art Institute graduates like Karl Wirsum and Ray Yoshida, who began collecting his creations. "What I Saw" pays tribute to Yoakum's imaginitive imagery, showcasing his colorful landscapes alongside his portraits of African American icons.

  • Comedy
  • Stand-up
  • Logan Square

Now housed in the space on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, the country's longest countinuously running independent comedy showcase continues every Friday and Saturday night. Boasting alumni like Cameron Esposito, Kumail Nanjiani and Hanibal Buress, this stand-up show will introduce you to fresh new faces that may end up starring in Marvel movies or becoming podcast mainstays. Snag an affordable ticket, avoid the two-drink minimum and prepare to laugh your ass off.

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  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Suburbs

See five towering sculptures by South African artist Daniel Popper at the Morton Arboretum's new outdoor exhibition, which spreads the 15- to 26-foot-tall works throughout the natural area. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, the one-of-a-kind pieces in "Human+Nature" depict human figures that evoke the natural landscape they're set amid, including a pair of 36-foot-long hands reaching out from a grove of oak trees and a maternal figure that springs up amid magnolia trees.

Access to "Human+Nature" is included as part of timed-entry admission to the Morton Arboretum, and there's a map that will allow you to easily plan your visit and spot all five of the sculptures along the way.

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