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Replay Office pop-up
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The best things to do in Chicago this week

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

By Emma Krupp

We still have a few weeks to go until Chicago's full reopening and the return of the city's festivals and cultural events. In the meantime, there's plenty to keep you occupied, including amazing museum exhibitions, a weekly fireworks show and Art on theMart's riverside projections. If you'd rather stick around the house, the Chicago Humanities Festival is hosting a pair of streaming conversations this week (with actress Casey Wilson and writer Alison Bechdel) while Constellation is presenting an evening of improvised music, featuring locals like Angel Bat Dawid and Marvin Tate. Plus, Replay's The Office pop-up and the Friends Experience at the Shops at Northbridge are still welcoming pop-culture devotees. Check out even more of the best things to do in Chicago this week below.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

Best things to do in Chicago this week

fireworks on navy pier
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

1. Navy Pier Fireworks

Things to do Fireworks Navy Pier | Chicago, IL, Streeterville

To celebrate the reopening of the lakefront attraction on April 30, Navy Pier will host a 10-minute fireworks show every Saturday night during May—and there's a chance the the usual slate of bi-weekly shows could return this summer. The fireworks will begin at 9pm each Saturday and you're welcome to enjoy them from Navy Pier's various public spaces. Of course, you can also take in the show from nearby beaches or while cruising along the Lakefront Trail.

Immersive Van Gogh yoga
Photograph: Courtesy Immersive Van Gogh

2. Gogh with Lifeway Immersive Yoga

Sports and fitness Yoga & Pilates Lighthouse ArtSpace, Old Town

Grab a mat and take a 35-minute yoga class inside of the "Immersive Van Gogh" experience, moving your body in sync with the music, lights and moving images within the high-tech show. The classes are presented by CorePower Yoga and take place early in the morning on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays—before the exhibit opens to the general public.

Participants must remain six feet apart from one another and wear a face mask while in the space (each class is limited to just 19 people). After you complete the class, you'll receive a Lifeway Kefir to enjoy and may stay in the venue to take in the "Immersive Van Gogh" show without having to strike a warrior pose.

Pop Up Grocer
Photograph: Heidi's Bridge

3. Pop Up Grocer

Shopping Grocery stores 1555 N Milwaukee Ave, Wicker Park

After hosting locations in Los Angeles, Austin and New York, the traveling Pop Up Grocer concept is coming to Chicago for the month of May. Setting up inside a Wicker Park storefront (1555 N Milwaukee Ave), the shop will stock more than 400 products, with a focus on innovative brands that offer plant-based and sugar-conscious food and beverages, in addition to home, pet and body products.

The bright and colorful space will likely attract plenty of folks stopping by to snap a photo, but shoppers will find a selection of items that they likely haven't seen on the shelves of their usual grocery store. Pop Up Grocer stocks everything from baked chickpea thins from 34 Degrees to paleo-friendly cookie mixes from Chicago-based brand Lee's Grain-Free. Plus, the pop-up also features an in-store cafe serving baked goods from Elske, including a daily selection of cookies, Kringles and Danish rugbrød.

If your shelves are looking a little bare and you're hoping to stock up on some interesting new snacks, Pop Up Grocer will be in Wicker Park through May 30.

Rock Island Public House drive-in
Photograph: Courtesy Rock Island Public House

4. Drive-in, Dinner and Drinks

Movies Rock Island Public House, Suburbs

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

the office
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

5. Back to The Office Pop-Up

Nightlife Pop-ups and food events Multiple venues

If you've spent some of the past year watching your favorite episodes of The Office, you're probably going to appreciate Replay Lincoln Park's latest pop-culture pop-up. Throughout April, the arcade bar is once again transforming its premises into locations featured on the hit workplace comedy, including a recreation of the iconic Dunder Mifflin office. You'll also find areas that pay tribute to Schrute Farms, the Michael Scott Paper Company, Chili’s and the Warehouse.

When you're not snapping photos and rattling off Michael Scott quotes, you'll be able to enjoy a menu of themed cocktails and food. That includes a Schrute Farm’s Beet Delight made with vodka and spice infused beet syrup; Michael Scott's signature Scotch and Splenda; as well as hot, soft pretzels that would make Stanley smile. 

You'll need to make a reservation to secure your spot at the pop-up—each ticket includes $20 in credit to spend on beverages. Just try not to get as tipsy as Pam at the Dundies!

Behold, Be Held
Photograph: Sean Su | @PurplePhotoCo

6. "Behold, Be Held"

Art Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston

How can art offer us fortitude in times of hardship? Visitors are invited to explore that question and other pandemic-era musings at "Behold, Be Held," The Block Museum of Art's first-ever outdoor exhibition. Curated by PhD candidate and Block Museum graduate fellow Rikki Byrd, the exhibit showcases 16 large-scale reproductions of work that celebrate the miracle of human intimacy—from touch and self-care to dancing—and how art can serve as inspiration for new ways of engaging with the world. You can view the works on the exterior windows of The Block Museum and adjacent buildings; two additional works, curated by local high school students, appear on the window of the Y.O.U. building at Church Street and Dodge Avenue. 

art on themart
Photograph: Courtesy Art on theMart

7. Art on theMART

Art Film and video Merchandise Mart,

After taking most of the winter off, Art on theMart is back with another 25-story-tall video installation that takes over the side of the Merchandise Mart. The new program is based around a collaboration with the Adler Planetarium, transporting viewers into the cosmos with scientific visualizations that demonstrate just how gigantic the universe really is. 

Entitled Astrographics, the 16-minute video was created using imagery from telescopes around the world. You'll be able to see images of black holes, other planets, stars and more amazing images that offer a peek at what lies beyond our solar system. The program is accompanied by an appropirately trippy soundtrack assembled from Experimental Sound Studio's Sun Ra Arkestra archives.

Art on theMART's array of 34 digital projectors will fire back up on April 1, displaying the 30-minute program at 8:30 and 9pm every evening through April 30. Showtimes will shift to 9 and 9:30pm from May 1 through July 4. The show is best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street, though there is a 100-person capacity limit and face coverings are required.

Photograph: Courtesy OTV

8. OTVLIVE Premieres

Things to do TV, radio and podcast recordings Various locations throughout Chicago,

On every Saturday in May, OTV is releasing a live-to-tape pilot that highlights everyone from artists to activists. Each program takes on a different style, including a talkshow that discusses trans issues, a variety show that explores sexuality and an experimental show that revolves around fashion and art. Take a look at the complete schedule below and tune in via the OTV app.

May 1: Queers Got Talent (Performance)
May 8: Know We Can (News)
May 15: Beyond the Bias (Experimental)
May 22: Sexuality Out Loud (Education)
May 29: That Shit's Trans (Talkshow)

humboldt park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

9. El Jolgorio de Salsa y Más

Things to do Festivals Puerto Rico Food & Liquors, Ukrainian Village

Every Saturday through August, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center is teaming up with businesses on Paseo Boricua (a section of Division Street) in Humboldt Park to host a series of events. Visitors will be able to shop the wares of local street vendors, take in cultural performances such as DJs and salsa dancers and support the businesses that make up Chicago's Puerto Rican community. Check out the El Jolgorio de Salsa y Más Facebook page for the latest updates from organizers.

Christina Quarles, Tha Color of Tha Sky (Magic Hour), 2017.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Pilar Corrias Gallery, London

10. “Christina Quarles”

Art Painting Museum of Contemporary Art, Streeterville

Los Angeles–based artist Christina Quarles paints bodies, but not in the way you'd expect. Instead of straightforward studies of the human form, her canvases demonstrate a disregard for gravity and anatomy that finds torsos, limbs and faces arranged in surreal ways. This Museum of Contemporary Art show is her largest exhibition yet, focusing on her output over the past three years, including a large-scale installation that incorporates illusions.

Luisa Miller, Lyric Opera
Photograph: Todd Rosenberg Photography

11. Lyric Opera Streaming On Demand

Music Classical and opera Various locations throughout Chicago,

You may not be able to see a show at the Civic Opera House right now, but the Lyric Opera has made recording of some of its most famous shows available through various streaming platforms. Lyric Opera Streaming On Demand presents archival audio recordings of complete shows, featuring some of opera's biggest stars backed by a full orchestra and chorus. New shows are being release each week, including a 2019 staging of Luisa Miller, a 2014 performance of Don Giovanni and a 2019 recording of Elektra.

Check out the Lyrics Opera's website for a complete list of available recordings and where you can listen to them.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit
Photograph: Vladimir Kevorkov

12. “Immersive Van Gogh”

Art Lighthouse ArtSpace, 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.

Central Perk
Photograph: Marc Berry

13. The ‘Friends’ Experience Chicago

Things to do The Shops at Northbridge, River North

Longing for a time when you could curl up on the couch and binge-watch Friends for hours on Netflix? This experiential pop-up—originally conceived as a tribute to the sitcom's 25th anniversary—might be an even better way to indulge your nostalgia for the show. Visitors will have a chance to roam around the pop-up's 12 rooms, take photos and check out iconic show memorabilia like Rachel and Monica's purple door, a reconstruction of Central Perk (orange couch and all) and tons of other nostalgic highlights—there's even a glass case dedicated to the evolution of Rachel's haircuts. Once you've had your fill of photo ops and Friends-related trivia, you can visit the pop-up's gift shop full of exclusive show-themed swag. And as for COVID-era safety precautions, expect social distancing and mask requirements in addition to temperature checks; the exhibit will also be routinely cleaned and sanitized. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to My Block, My Hood, My City, the youth-based Chicago community organization. 

wndr museum
Photograph: Courtesy wndr museum

14. WNDR museum

Art Installation 1130 W Monroe St, West Loop

The home of Chicago's only Infinity Mirror Room (created by Japanese 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.

Nelson Mandela
Photograph: Graeme Williams / Illinois Holocaust Museum

15. “Mandela: Struggle for Freedom”

Museums History Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Skokie

Learn about the life of Nelson Mandela and his long fight against apartheid in South Africa and racial injustice around the world through this exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The exhibit celebrates the life of Mandela and seeks to empower visitors to fight the racism, antisemitism and injustice that still exists in the modern world. “Mandela: Struggle for Freedom” collects original letters and documents that Mandela penned, displayed alongside a recreation of the tiny prison cell where Mandela spent 18 years of his life and the small apartment that served as the backdrop for his first televised interview.

Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Virtual Stingo at Bernice’s Tavern

Things to do Various locations throughout Chicago,

Miss playing bingo (excuse us, stingo) at Bernice's Tavern in Bridgeport? The bar hosts a free weekly virtual game every Wednesday night, with Stingo Steve calling the numbers. There are no cash or drink prizes offered, though if you'd like to support the bar, you can alway order carry out cocktails. RSVP via Facebook to reserve you card, then tune into the stream to play along.

Cecil McDonald, Jr.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

17. “Cecil McDonald, Jr.: Cuts and Beats”

Art Contemporary art Hyde Park Art Center, Kenwood

Local artist Cecil McDonald, Jr. presents a collection of recent work, much of it developed during a 2018 residency at the Hyde Park Art Center. Known for his photomontages that comment on the various racist representations of Black individuals and artists throughout history, "Cuts and Beats" explores how Black artists were promoted during the Vaudeville and Minstrel eras. Juxtaposing vintage advertisements with contemporary photos, McDonald's work acknowledges the deeply problematic imagery and attitudes of the past and turns them on their head.

Chicago Cultural Center
Photograph: Martha Williams

18. Historic Chicago Cultural Center Virtual Tours

Things to do Various locations throughout Chicago,

The stunning halls of the Chicago Cultural Center might be closed for now, but you can still explore its expanses via these free, 40-minute virtual tours from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Virtual visitors will receive an overarching view of the building's architecture and history, including views of its famous Tiffany dome. To book a tour, head to DCASE's website to reserve a slot—tours are available on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 11am. 

Awol Erizku: New Visions for Iris
Photograph: David C. Sampson, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

19. “Awol Erizku: New Visions for Iris”

Art Photography Various locations throughout Chicago,

The next time you're standing by a bus shelter, you might want to check to see if it's displaying the work of photographer Awol Erizku. His latest exhibition, "New Visions for Iris," is being displayed at more than 350 bus shelters in Chicago and New York, making it possible for anyone to safely enjoy his colorful still life and portrait photography. Named for his daughter, the collection of photos on display explore Erizku's identity as a Ethiopian American, the ways in which the world has been upended over the past year and the United States' reckoning with police violence. You can find a complete map of the bus shelters displaying Erizku's work at the Public Art Fund website.

Monet Poppy Fields
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection.

20. “Monet and Chicago”

Art Painting Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The Art Institute of Chicago hosted Claude Monet’s debut U.S. solo show in 1895 and was the first American museum to buy one of his paintings. "Monet and Chicago" acts as an homage to the city's special connection to the “father of Impressionism,” showcasing a mixture of major works as well as rarely seen sketches and landscapes sourced from local collections.

Chicago Gamespace
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Gamespace

21. “Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History”

Art Digital & interactive Chicago Gamespace, Logan Square

You've probably played Pac-Man before, but did you know that the iconic video game character was introduced to American audiences by Chicago-based Midway Games? Chicago Gamespace's latest exhibition explores the history of one of the most popular digital characters on the planet, considering how a yellow group of pixels became a beloved part of pop-culture that has jumped from arcade cabinets to home consoles and movie screens. Collecting games and Pac-Man ephemrea (including soap, lunch boxes and clothing), “Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History” is an interactive tribute to a the hungriest video game icon.

 Jo Ractliffe
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

22. “Jo Ractliffe: DRIVES”

Art Photography Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The stark, black and white imagery of South African photographer Jo Ractliffe takes the spotlight in this new Art Institute of Chicago survey of her work. Ractliffe's images confront the aftermath of apartheid, the legalized form of racial discrimination that exisited in South Africa until the early ‘90s. Depicting barren landscapes and literal debris, her photos and video installations document places and people that are reckoning with the consequences of forces beyond their control.

Cobra Lounge pop-up
Photograph: Courtesy Cobra Lounge

23. Chicago Craft: A Collective Grip Pop Up Shop

Shopping Pop-up shops

Cobra Lounge and Jeppson’s Malört have teamed up to present an ongoing pop-up, bringing together goods from local creators as well as fresh beer from area breweries. Hosted inside the Cobra Lounge, you'll find vednors selling everything from soap to hand-knitted goods, alongside beer from All Rise Brewing, Half Acre and On Tour. You can also grab a drink (including the sought-after Barrel Aged Malört) and enjoy it beside an outdoor bonfire. Capacity is limited and face masks must be worn when inside Cobra Lounge.

Krista Franklin, Self-Portrait in the Aftermath , 2020.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

24. “Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency”

Art Photography Museum of Contemporary Photography, Loop

Eight different artists consider the psychological, physical and emotional tolls of reproduction, displaying photographs that explore unconventional representations of the female body. Tackling topics like birth, miscarriage and abortion, “Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency” draws attention to the rights of females at a time when they are once again being threatened throughout the world.

Guests wishing to view this exhibition must secure a reservation in advance of their visit.

Bisa Butler
Photograph: Margaret Fox

25. “Bisa Butler: Portraits”

Art Textiles Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

Enter the colorful world of Bisa Butler in this exhibition devoted to the textile artist's portrait quilts, which depict Black subjects that have historically been marginalized. Originally trained as a painter, Butler shifted to making works with fabrics, layering textiles and building on the sewing techniques that she learned from her mother and grandmother. The Art Institute is presenting the first solo exhibition of Butler's work, collecting more than 20 of her vibrant portrait quilts.

Steppenwolf What is Left, Burns
Photograph: Lowell Thomas

26. Steppenwolf NOW

Theater Drama Various locations throughout Chicago,

With its stages closed to the public for the time-being, the Steppenwolf NOW programming stream is a way to see groundbreaking new theater without leaving the house. A $75 membership gives you access to six works, which will premiere between November 2020 and June 2021. Playwright James Ijames kicks things off in November with the concise 20-minute play What is Left, Burns, which follows a video call between ex-lovers at very different points in their lives. Other works to look forward to include Isaac Gómez's department store drama Wally World, Carrie Coon in a new short called Red Folder and Sam Shepard's two-hander Ages of the Moon.

Hideout Chicago, Cosmic Country Showcase
Photograph: Sarah Larson

27. Hideout Online

Music Folk, country and blues Various locations throughout Chicago,

Like most Chicago music venues, the Hideout is closed for the foreseeable future, but the beloved local institution is keeping its music, comedy and other programming alive online. Check out the venue's website for a complete schedule of upcoming events.

magic parlour dennis watkins
Photograph: Rich Hein

28. The Magic Parlour at Home

Theater Circuses & magic Various locations throughout Chicago,

Illusionist and actor Dennis Watkins dips into his ample trunk of wondrous effects, taking his long-running Palmer House magic show into your living room with streaming performances. Up to 10 guests can gather around a computer (cocktail attire is recommended) with a deck of cards and settle in for an evening of interactive magic and mind-reading, delivered via the internet. Only 30 tickets are sold for each performance, so lock down a date and prepare to have your mind blown.

The Neo-Futurists
Photograph: Ricky Kluge

29. The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral

Theater Experimental Various locations throughout Chicago,

The Neo-Futurists’ flagship show adapts to a world where social gatherings are restricted, launching new works with the funding of subscribers. Pledge a monthly donation to the The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral Patreon campaign and you'll have weekly access to recordings of 30 plays performed in 60 minutes (larger donations give you access to even more content from the Neo-Futurists). It's a creative way of keeping the longrunning show alive—and now you can watch it on demand!

Photograph: Courtesy Womanish

30. WOMANISH Experience

Things to do Exhibitions 114 S State St, Loop

Showcasing the work of female and gender non-confirming artists, the WOMANISH pop-up is a five-story exhibit made up of multiple rooms and installations that explore womanhood from various perspectives. Visitors will be able to visit a recreation of a 1950’s-era diner, view a collage of vintage advertisements with women of color added to them and snap photos of a floral display. The pop-up has been modified with a new set of safety procedures, including capacity restrictions and plenty of hand sanitizer stations.


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