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The best things to do in Chicago this week

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

Photograph: Leah Sems

It's the end of January, which means that it's the beginning of the Year of the Rat! The Chinese New Year technically kicked off on Saturday, but the parades and parties take place this weekend in neighborhoods like Chinatown and Uptown. You can also mark the occasion with a special dinner or lunch during Chicago Restaurant Week, which brings specially priced prix-fixe menus to some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Plus, jazz drummer Makaya McCraven headlines Symphony Center, some of the city's best bartenders show off their cocktail skills at Speed Rack and a Pajama Fun Run streaks through Andersonville during Hygge Fest. Put on your coat, brave the winter slush and find some of the best things to do in Chicago this week.

Best things to do in Chicago this week

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do, Festivals

Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade

Wentworth Ave and Cermak Rd, Armour Square

Celebrate the Year of the Rat in Chinatown at the neighborhood's official Lunar New Year parade, which falls on the Sunday after the arrival of Chinese New Year (February 2). Attendees line Wentworth Avenue to see marching bands, decorated floats and traditional lion dancers. The colorful procession begins at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue, traveling north to Cermak Road.

Dragon dancers make their way down the block.
Photograph: Wally Rozak
Things to do, Festivals

Argyle Street Lunar New Year Celebration

Argyle St and Sheridan Rd, Uptown

A day before Chinatown celebrates the Lunar New Year, the party kicks off in Uptown at the annual Argyle Street parade. Alderman Harry Osterman and Argyle Street business help organize the event, which marks the arrival of the Year of the Rat. Floats, bands and lion dancers will begin the procession at Argyle Street and Winthrop Avenue, heading east along on Argyle Street, south along Sheridan Road, west along Ainslie Street and north along Broadway. Before and after the parade, families can stop by the Latin School of Chicago, the Bezazian Branch of the Chicago Public Library or Axis Lab to take part in activities.

Photograph: Jay Wennington

Chicago Restaurant Week

Various venues, Loop

Open wide! Chicago Restaurant Week is back with nearly 400 eateries offering dining deals from January 24 through February 9. For 17 belt-busting days, Chicagoans can cash in on special prix-fixe menus for brunch and lunch ($24) and dinner ($36 and/or $48). Use the culinary event as an excuse to revisit an old favorite or explore a splashy new opening. With two weeks to chow down, there's plenty of time to make a few reservations and check out some of the best restaurants in Chicago.

Makaya McCraven
Photograph: David Marques
Music, Jazz

Makaya McCraven

Symphony Center, Loop

Drummer and composer Makaya McCraven is the J Dilla of Chicago's jazz scene, but instead of chopping up his record collection and molding the samples into new beats, he uses tapes of improvised performances to craft taut grooves in the studio. On the heels of his 2018 album, Universal Beings, which found McCraven collaborating with a global cast of players, the bandleader makes his Symphony Center debut with the premiere of a new composition. Entitled "In These Times," the multimedia creation draws inspiration from black activists and musicians, performed with the support of an ensemble that includes Marquis Hill on trumpet, Junius Paul on bass and Greg Ward on saxophone.

Photograph: Michael Courier

Top Girls

Theater Wit, Lake View
4 out of 5 stars

Caryl Churchill’s 1982 masterwork Top Girls is never more daring than in the first of its three acts. Urbane career woman Marlene (Linda Gillum) is hosting a fantastical dinner with a guest list of women from ages past: Pope Joan (Rebecca Spence), Victorian explorer Isabella Bird (Annabel Armour), Dutch folklore figure Dull Gret (Aurora Real De Asua), the dutiful Griselda from Canterbury Tales (Amber Sallis) and the 13th-century Japanese diarist and courtesan Lady Nijo (Karissa Murrell Myers). Churchill infuses this scene with such acrid vivacity that you’d think she had written it on a dare. As the ladies eat and drink—and drink some more—solidarity and celebration over Marlene’s recent promotion at work curdle into bitterness, rage and regret. Whatever inspiration Marlene hopes to take from their life stories is dulled by the suffering they all endured.

Photograph: Leah Sems
Music, Dance and electronic

Deadmau5 + Getter + BlackGummy

Navy Pier | Chicago, IL, Streeterville

Mouse-eared EDM mascot Joel Zimmerman (a.k.a. Deadmau5) is still one of the genre's most well-known figures, bringing his high-tech live show to some of the world's biggest venues and clubs. His Cube V3 Tour brings a brand new version of the producer's souped-up, rotating, 21-foot-tall DJ booth to Navy Pier, armed with a fresh batch of bass drop-ridden tracks and retina-searing visuals. Los Angeles producers Getter and BlackGummy open the show.

Nevermore Park
Photograph: Amy Lombard
Art, Installation

Nevermore Park

949 W 16th St, Lower West Side

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. 

Photograph: Martha Williams
Things to do

Soup & Bread

Hideout, River West/West Town

This pay-what-you-can, family-friendly weekly event raises money for local food pantries, enlisting local chefs (professionals and amateurs) to cook a variety of soups that are accompanied by bread donated by Publican Quality Bread. Each gathering is accompanied by music from a local DJ—just make sure you arrive early if you're hoping to sample some of the soups, because the crockpots aren't bottomless.

Smart Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Smart Bar
Music, Dance and electronic

Derrick Carter

Smart Bar, 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. Taking a break from his busy touring schedule in Europe (where house music is still a bona fide cultural phenomenon), Carter gets behind the decks for the entire evening on the final evening of January.

Parson's Pop-up
Photograph: Courtesy Land and Sea Dept.
Restaurants, Soul and southern American

Parson’s Chicken and Fish Pop-up

Chicago Athletic Association, Loop

One of the biggest bummers about a cold Chicago winter is not being able to have a meal (and a couple of Negroni Slushies) on either of the Parson’s Chicken and Fish patios. To tide you over until the warmer months arrive, Chicago Athletic Association is hosting a three-week pop-up that replicates the experience of a summer afternoon spent eating fried chicken under a red and white-striped umbrella. The hotel's Tank will be transformed into an indoor version of a Parson's patio, complete with ping pong tables, strings of twinkling lights and menu of chicken sandwiches, hush puppies and fried fish. And yes, you'll also be able to order the aforementioned Negroni Slushie, as well as highballs, picklebacks and a housemade pickle soda. It's no replacement for real patio weather, but we'll take what we can get.

C2E2 2019
Photograph: Grace DuVal
Things to do, Quirky events

C2E2 Cosplay Party

Revolution Brewing Tap Room, Avondale

Can't wait until C2E2 to show off your cosplay skills? Head to Revolution Brewing on Kedzie Avenue to wear your latest costume and mingle with other enthusiasts. You'll be able to drink a beer, read some comics, shop a selection of art vendors and participate in a cosplay contest. Naturally, the top prizes are three-day passes to C2E2, which takes over McCormick Place at the end of February.

Marz Brewing Taproom
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do

Lunar New Year on Marz

Marz Community Brewing, Mckinley Park

After the parade in Chinatown, head to Marz Community Brewing to celebrate the release of the new Triple Crown rice lager, named for one of Chicago's best dim sum spots. Stick around to enjoy a special food menu (include dumplings from Japanese comfort food purveyors Mom's), learn about your future by getting your fortune read or watch a lion dance performed by the Ng Family Chinese Martial Arts Association.

Photograph: Audrey Palumbo
Theater, Musicals


Chopin Theatre, River West/West Town

Based on the true story of a group of Evanston teenagers who formed a punk rock band in the early ’80s, Verböten examines how the simple act of picking up an instrument can become an escape from a difficult home life and a crucial means of self-expression. Local musician Jason Narucy—who played in the original incarnation of Verböten when he was just 11 years old—penned the songs for this musical, writing fiery punk anthems for its young protagonists and ’60s- and ’70s-rock numbers for the adult characters. Filled with relatable teenage angst and energetic live performances, Verböten might just inspire you to make some music of your own.

Photograph: Jenny Jiao Hsia
Art, Digital & interactive

“System Link: Video Game as Memoir”

VGA Gallery, Logan Square

While many video games put the player in the role of a heroic character tasked with saving the world, some recent games have explored how an interactive medium can be used as a vehicle for memoir and personal storytelling. Showcasing titles like Consume Me, which unpacks the creator's relationship with food, "System Link: Video Game as Memoir" is interested in how picking up a controller can allow you to go inside the mind of the person responsible for the game you're playing.

Andersonville Pajama Fun Run
Photograph: Courtesy Andersonville Chamber of Commerce
Things to do, Festivals

Andersonville Hygge Fest

Various locations throughout Chicago,

Andersonville loves to celebrate the neighborhood's roots as a community of Swedish immigrants (have you seen the water tower with the Swedish flag emblazoned on it?), and the annual Hygge Fest is another event that embraces the Scandinavian aesthetic. Named after a Danish term that means "cozy," the two-day event sends attendees to local businesses, where they'll find sales, tastings and special events. The weekend kicks off with a Pajama Fun Run ($15), which takes off from Elixir Andersonville at 8:30am on Saturday, February 1. A Coffee & Hot Cocoa Crawl ($20) allows visitors to enjoy warm beverages at a variety of local destinations. You can also stop by businesses like Early to Bed, Foursided and Uncharted Books to take advantage of sales throughout the weekend.

Photograph: Lorenzo Tassone
Things to do

Chicago Restaurant Week at Time Out Market Chicago

Time Out Market Chicago, West Loop

For 17 belt-busting days, Time Out Market is tackling Chicago Restaurant Week with a menu that allows diners to choose their own culinary adventure. Join us for lunch or dinner, where you’ll be able to build your ultimate three-course menu with dishes from some of the best chefs in Chicago. Stick around for curated cocktails at the bar, and be sure to save room for dessert!

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room
Photograph: Courtesy wndr museum
Art, Installation

wndr museum

1130 W Monroe St, West Loop

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.

Reginald Malcolmson. Hall of Sport and Culture, Collage, 1971/74.
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Reginald Malcolmson and Margaret Malcolmson.
Art, Design

“Bauhaus Chicago: Design in the City”

Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

After the Nazis forced the closure of the German Bauhaus art school, prominent figures like László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe moved to Chicago to continue the school’s legacy as heads of new institutions. This exhibit examines the work of their students and faculty, including jewelry, photography, furniture and architecture that channeled the creative spirit of the Bauhaus.

Hideout Picnic on the Porch
Photograph: Tim Brown
Music, Rock and indie

Chicago Psych Fest

Hideout, River West/West Town

A winter tradition that's just as enjoyable as ice skating in Maggie Daley Park or standing under the heat lamps on CTA platforms, the annual Chicago Psych Fest brings a lineup of trippy bands to the Hideout. This year, the event takes place over the course of a single evening, welcoming ambient Michigan duo lovesliescrushing, acoustic-meet-electronics project Exoplanet, art-punk outfit Les Strychnine, local psych-rockers Dead Feathers and eclectic krautrock collective Spiral Galaxy. Throw on a tie-dye shirt, grab your jacket and spend an evening floating in the musical cosmos.

Photograph: Michael Brosilow

Dance Nation

Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lincoln Park
5 out of 5 stars

The competitive preteen dancers in Clare Barron’s Dance Nation have more on their minds than just making the Nationals in Tampa: They are interested in sex, power, friendship, their bodies and their place in the world. Barron has taken a premise from the Bring it On playbook and used it to create a work that is far more complicated and beguiling. A 2019 Pulitzer finalist, Dance Nation is a thrilling, theatrically daring, utterly singular night of theater that has more in common with Our Town than with issue plays, small-town mockumentaries or realist stories of any sort. Its biggest stylistic swing is a matter of casting: The troupe members, six girls and one boy, are played by adults from across the age spectrum. Adolescence is tumultuous but fleeting, and there’s no better reminder of that than watching grown men and women—burdened with the knowledge of what comes after—try to wrestle it to a draw.

Iron and Wine
Photograph: Piper Ferguson
Music, Folk, country and blues

Iron & Wine + Calexico

Thalia Hall | Chicago, IL, Lower West Side

When Florida folk singer Sam Beam and Latin rock band Calexico teamed up the In The Reins EP in 2005, the two acts struck gold by marrying Beam's gentle lyrics with grandiose pedal-steel-dappled arrangements. It's no surprise that Beam and Calexico got back together nearly a decade-and-a-half later to records a follow, Years to Burn, which showcases the evolution of both groups of artists. The collection of dusty folk ballads and slow burning rock numbers is another successful collaboration, playing to the strengths of both parties even if it doesn't exactly blaze any new territory. Local singer-songwriter Gia Margaret opens on January 29 and Los Angeles guitar virtuoso Madison Cunningham supports on Janurary 30.

Maija Tammi, One of Them is Human
Photograph: Courtesy Maija Tammi
Art, Photography

“In Real Life”

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Loop

Take a peek at how artificial intelligence “sees” the world around it through this high-tech exhibition, which features images that were captured with the help of machines or generated through the use of complex algorithms. Photos by seven artists explore the repercussions of surveillance, the questionable ethics of data collection and the ways in which the biases of the humans who develop technology can seep into the underlying code.

Evil Dead The Musical
Photograph: Courtesy Evil Dead The Musical
Theater, Musicals

Evil Dead The Musical

Greenhouse Theater Center, Lincoln Park

The gory musical based on cult classic horror films The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, returns to Chicago for a string of shows at the Greenhouse Theatre. Running with the basic premise of five college students spending a night in a haunted cabin in the middle of nowhere, Evil Dead The Musical follows the chainsaw wielding Ash as he mows down demons while belting out tunes like “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons” and “What the F**k Was That?” Plus, it's one of the only musicals we've ever heard of with a "splatter zone," where viewers will get sprayed with fake blood during the show.

Winterland at Gallagher Way
Photograph: Heidi Zeiger Photography
Things to do, Ice skating

Winterland at Gallagher Way

Gallagher Way, Wrigleyville

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, family-friendly activities, including an 8,000-square-foot ice rink, curling and skating lessons, holiday movie screenings and visits from Santa Claus.

Wired to Wear, Museum of Science and Industry
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Museums, Science and technology

“Wired to Wear”

Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL, Hyde Park

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).

Photograph: Courtesy Maggie Daley Park
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park

Situated in the heart of downtown Chicago, with the city's sweeping skyline as a backdrop, the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park is a winter attraction unlike any other. Skaters can lace up and wind around a winding ice-covered path that's twice the length of a lap around a traditional rink. Admission to the Skating Ribbon is always free, and skate rentals are available for $13–$15. The Ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and even offers limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Photograph: Max Kilibarda + Waypost Creative
Things to do

Pasta Making With Tortello

Time Out Market Chicago, West Loop

Go ahead and play with your food! Tortello’s pasta experts teach the art of handcrafted noodles at this interactive class in the Event Kitchen. Pasta aficionados are invited to create volcanoes of dough, hand-roll the pasta and learn the artform behind intricate shapes. After all that hard work, attendees are invited to enjoy a family-style dinner at the Chef’s Table, featuring fan-favorite plates from Tortello, like tortelli di burrata, stuzzichini, seasonal veggies and desert. Ready to experience the true spirit of Italian hospitality? Mangia!

Giuseppe Porta. Bearded Man with his Right Arm Raised, 1562/64.
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray
Art, Drawing

“Pure Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection”

Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

Assembled from the collection of art dealer Richard Gray and his wife, the art historian Mary L. Gray, this exhibition of drawings spans 700 years of Western art. Visitors will be able to see work by artists like Vincent van Gogh, François Boucher and Giuseppe Porta, ranging from rough sketches of landscapes to intricate renderings of the human form.

Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

Millennium Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park

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.

Julia Fish, Threshold, SouthEast –Two [ spectrum : orange with grey ], 2010–14.
Photograph: Tom Van Eynde
Art, Painting

“Julia Fish: bound by spectrum”

DePaul Art Museum, Sheffield & DePaul

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.

Maxwell Street Market
Photograph: CC/Wikimedia Commons/Edsel Little
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Maxwell Street Market

Maxwell Street Market, West Loop

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.

Fantastic Bug Encounters!
Photograph: © Te Papa 2016
Museums, Natural history

“Fantastic Bug Encounters!”

The Field Museum | Chicago, IL, Museum Campus

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.

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