Best things to do in Chicago this week
Andersonville embraces the Swedish tradition of St. Lucia, beginning with a procession down Clark Street at 4:45pm featuring a group of white-robed Lucia Girls who wear crowns topped with candles. The celebration continues at the Swedish American Museum, where guests will learn about the legend of St. Lucia while enjoying traditional Swedish snacks, including pepparkakor ginger cookies.
More than 100 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this West Loop market. It's the perfect places to find a one-of-a-kind gift for that special someone—especially if that special someone loves vintage jewelry and vinyl records. The market won't be back again until February, so be sure to stop by for all your holiday shopping needs.
Having retired cofounder Robert Joffrey's production of The Nutcracker after nearly 30 years, the Joffrey Ballet debuted a brand-new version in 2016, set in Chicago against the backdrop of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Featuring stunning new choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, the latest iteration of the classic Christmas will still have you humming “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” for days after you leave the theater.
Trust us: Holiday shopping is a lot less stressful when you can do it with a beer in your hand. The beloved Logan Square brewpub hosts a handful of local artisans selling everything from vintage clothing to sweet treats to darling paper goods. The event is free and open to holiday shoppers who are over 21.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra decks the halls of Symphony Center and teams up with guest conductor Michael Krajewski, the Young Naperville Singers choir and vocalist Storm Large for an evening of holiday standards, including familiar carols that you can sing along to. Expect a visit from Santa Claus, enjoy some amazing classical music and leave with plenty of Christmas cheer.
On the second Friday of each month, The Chicago Arts District hosts 2nd Fridays Gallery Night, a series of receptions at the galleries and artists' studios centered around South Halsted Street, beginning at 1711 and ending at 2005 South Halsted Street. Pick up a map at the information center at 1945 South Halsted Street and visit the creative spaces free of charge as they open their doors to showcase an exciting display of art and artists from Chicago and beyond.
Chicago-based playwright Isaac Gomez makes his Steppenwolf debut with this tale of the women who live, work and too often disappear from the American-owned factories in Juarez, Mexico, along the U.S. border. Sandra Marquez directs an all-female, primarily Latinx cast featuring newly minted Steppenwolf ensemble member Karen Rodriguez.
Radio station KISS FM assembles an impressive sampling of pop music's biggest stars for its annual Jingle Ball concert, including EDM DJ Calvin Harris, "New Rules" singer Dua Lipa and Canadian star Shawn Mendes. Alessia Cara, Bebe Rexha, Bazzi and Sabrina Carpenter round out the stacked bill.
Ever since 1976, Chicagoans have gathered to belt out Handel’s classic oratorio (the one with the famous “Hallelujah!” chorus) backed by a volunteer orchestra and professional soloists. You'll need to show up to the event familiar with the score and ready to sing your heart out all evening long, and you might also want to figure out if you're a soprano, alto, tenor or bass.
Looking back, it’s not surprising that composer David Yazbeck was able to make Tootsie into a great stage musical. After all, he’d already done it before with The Full Monty. This intimate production from the storefront musical maestros at Theo Ubique is the first in their new cabaret-style space on the Evanston side of Howard Avenue.
Stuff your face while scoping out the city’s most beloved seasonal traditions on the three-hour Chicago Holiday Stroll and Food Tour. Guest will be treated to quintessential winter treats, like deep dish pizza, German bratwurst, hot apple cider and a warm chocolate brownie.
From the creators of EDM festival Electric Forest comes this immersive Christmas pop-up bar in Wrigleyville. Beyond boasting wall-to-wall holiday decor, the space houses severals bars and experiences like Brat Haus Beer Hall, Santa's Workshop and Rudolph's Elf Dive Bar. Nosh on lumps of coal (puffed rice, marshmallow and chocolate cookie dust) and sip Jingle juice, which is infused with spiced rum, Grand Marnier, amaretto, orange juice, pineapple juice, Sprite and citrus. Though the event is ticketed, Santa Baby will offer free admission on November 21, November 26–28 and December 3–5.
Have you ever watched the movie Showgirls and thought it could use some holiday cheer? Good news, folks: Hell in a Handbag Productions has you covered. With a book by Derek Van Barham and music from Scott Lamberty, Jeff Thomson and David Cerda, Snowgirls is a Christmas-themed musical parody that exposes what really goes on at the North Pole.
Ring in the holiday cheer with some classic, beloved Christmas films. Follow Jimmy Stewart’s path to redemption in It’s A Wonderful Life or sing along with Bing Crosby in White Christmas during the Music Box’s annual tribute to classic holiday cinema. Arrive early to meet Santa and belt out Christmas carols during the intermission, accompanied by the theater’s organist. You can snag tickets to one movie or both, depending on how much pure holiday cheer you can handle in the span of an afternoon.
Step inside one of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's famous Infinity Mirror Rooms at this new pop-up exhibition, which features installations that blend art and science. Other attractions include a “zero-gravity ball pit” that uses helium balloons and fans to simulate a weightless version of the childhood attraction, a floor that reacts to your footsteps and a gigantic screen that replicates your image with black and white discs. According to a press release, the exhibit will remain on display for a “limited, but undetermined, amount of time,” so you might want to book tickets sooner rather than later. Oh, and if you happen to use the restroom during your visit, definitely go ahead and press the red button.
Three stories—one from 1951, another from 1981 and a third from the distant future—intersect in this new play from writer J. Nicole Brooks. The result is a mashup of afrofuturism, astronaut Carl Sagan and the true story of Henrietta Lacks.
The animating principle behind The Play That Goes Wrong, the scrappy British meta-comedy turned transatlantic hit, is that bad drama—if bad enough—can function as good comedy. Presented as a performance of the fictional whodunit The Murder at Haversham Manor by the amateur Cornley University Drama Society, the play takes Murphy’s Law to an exponential degree. Everything goes wrong, then wronger, then wrongest.
Too cold outside? Navy Pier brings all of the winter fun indoors, filling its gigantic 170,000-square-foot Festival Hall with an ice skating rink, carnival rides, a tubing hill, seasonal activities and piles of holiday decorations. Bring the kids and avoid the slush for an afternoon or show up on New Year's Eve (when the attraction is open until 8pm) to slide around the fake ice during the final hours of 2018. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Does Die Hard count as a Christmas movie? No matter which side of the argument you fall on, you’ll laugh your ass off at Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas: A Die Hard Musical Parody. After four years at the now-defunct MCL Chicago, the adventures of Bruce McClane and his nemesis Hans Olo are returning in a new, expanded form at Wicker Park’s the Den Theatre.
You haven't experienced the holidays in Chicago until you've stepped inside 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 and chocolate-covered treats. No trip to Christkindlmarket is complete without a steaming mug of Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.
Strawdog Theatre premieres a new adaptation of Eric Kimmel’s classic holiday children’s book. With a script by Mike Daily and original music and lyrics by composer Jacob Combs, the delightful Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins promises something special this season: a fun, family-oriented show that doesn’t involve Christmas.
Why watch your favorite holiday movies on your couch when you could see them on a gigantic screen in the shadow of Wrigley Field? As part of Gallagher Way's Winterland celebration, the ballpark-adjacent public square will screen yuletide classics, including flicks like Elf, A Christmas Story and Love Actually. The screenings take place every Friday evening at 6pm, from November 23 through January 4. This week, watch eight different couples navigate the holidays in the rom-com classic Love Actually.
In this original holiday fantasy from Otherworld Theatre, a young girl named Cora battles to save her grandfather from the Time’s immensely powerful hunter, the Winter Wolf. Written by Joseph Zettelmaier and directed by Lauren N. Fields at Otherworld’s Alchemist’s Lab in Lakeview, The Winter Wolf gives fantasy and sci-fi fans a holiday show of their own.
Five nights a week, 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, from 7 to 9pm.
Leave the kiddos at home and enjoy the bite of this burlesque variety show inspired by the classic holiday tale. Choreographed by Darling Shear, this rendition of The Nutcracker is a much more sexy affair than the Joffrey Ballet's, complete with magic, sword balancing and fire spinning. If you're looking for risqué seasonal entertainment, the Buttcracker should do the trick.
Situated on the ground floor of the Chicago Athletic Association, Happy's transforms the hotel's Tank space into a holly, jolly pop-up with cocktails from bar master Paul McGee. Adding to the merriment is a lineup of evening programming that includes karaoke, bingo, holiday music and more. Psst: This is a great pitstop after checking out Christkindlmarket or the Millennium Park ice-skating rink.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a spectacle that draws heavily from the British tradition of Christmas pantomimes. There is practically no spoken dialogue; instead, the action is set to a score composed by Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert for piano, violin, cello and woodwinds. As its story unfolds in a brisk 60 minutes, the show reveals a knack for inventive variations within its basic pattern: Execute charmingly whimsical contrivance, rinse, repeat.
Show up in front of Cloud Gate (otherwise known at “The Bean”) to belt out holiday classics at this series of winter concerts and sing-alongs. It's free to attend and it's just a short walk to the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink if you want to go for a quick skate after you sing.
A cycle of seven plays sounds like something epic in scope: a grand and sweeping project that might span generations or continents. But Ike Holter’s Chicago cycle does the opposite of that. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and Holter’s series tells the story of one (fictional) neighborhood in particular: Rightlynd, a big-hearted, hardscrabble stretch of blocks where locals don’t take too kindly to the notion of brunch. Rightlynd is also the name of Holter’s triumphant new play, in which he adds a bold, profane and electrifying chapter to his saga.
The Cubs may be hibernating for the winter, but Gallagher Way provides some excellent reasons to hang out in Wrigleyville during baseball's off season. The public square's Winterland event series offers an array of seasonal activities, including an ice-skating rink, curling, visits from Santa Claus and free screenings of holiday movies. Guests under the age of 12 can skate on Gallagher Way's rink for free, while older skaters will have to pay $5 to slide around the ice (skate rentals are available for $10).
Every year, Chicago's front lawn (er, Millennium Park) is adorned with an epic Christmas tree that remains on display until the beginning of the new year. The city's 105th tree is a 48-year-old, 60-foot-tall, 8,200-pound Norway spruce from Elmhurst, Illinois.
What’s the best way for a playwright to deal with a sensitive social issue—to engage while remaining engaging, to preach without being preachy? It’s a tricky line to walk, and the way to failure is paved with agitprop, dinner-party philosophizing and well-meaning dramatic inertia. In his thrilling new play, Plainclothes, set in the cramped loss-prevention office of a Macy’s-esque Miracle Mile department store, playwright Spenser Davis makes the case for a kind of a washroom-sink realism. Energetic, funny and packed with emotion, the play features millennial characters who self-consciously wrestle with institutional racism in ways that feel genuine.
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 Sunday at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 10, weather permitting.
When the weather gets cold and most of the animals head indoors, Lincoln Park Zoo tranforms into a a field of twinkling bulbs. ZooLights decorates the beloved zoo with themed displays, perfect for a seasonal Instagram. Throughout the month, you'll also find ice-sculpture carvers and carolers joining the fun, as well as hot beverages available for purchase. This year, ZooLights adds several ticketed events, including a Holiday Market (Nov 27), an adults-only night (Nov 29), a live performance of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec 9) and a Zoo Year's Eve celebration (Dec 31).
Shakespeare’s classic rom-com centers around Viola, a shipwrecked twin who disguises herself as a dude and ends up in a complicated love triangle. Gender is bent, curmudgeons get their comeuppance and the food of love will surely play on in this production from Writers Theatre Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.
Every year, the Museum of Science and Industry puts up its 45-foot-tall Grand Tree and surrounds the towering pine with more than 50 trees that represent Chicago's various communities and their respective holiday celebrations. Visitors can admire the 30,000 lights that cover the trees and stick around for the "snow" that falls from the rotunda every 30 minutes. During the weekend, live performances of holiday music fill the room, lending some additional seasonal cheer to your day at the museum.