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Turkey Day kicked off on State Street at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, November 26, 2015.
Photograph: Stacey Rupolo

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.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp
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It's the week of Thanksgiving in Chicago, but that doesn't mean things are slowing down around here on account of the holiday—in fact, the next few days are jam-packed with stuff to do throughout the city. Don't overextend yourself while hopping around the best Chicago bars on Black Wednesday, because Turkey Day celebrations kick off early in the morning on Thursday with the return of the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade's huge balloon processions on State Street. Once you've finished digesting your Thanksgiving feast, turn your attention to the many displays of Christmas lights that debut on Friday (including the array of indoor light sculptures at Light Up the Lake, Navy Pier's new winter attraction) and holiday pop-up bars where you can cozy up with festive tipples. Finally, don't miss the closing weekend of Lyric Opera's production of The Magic Flute, an eye-popping affair inspired by the visual style of silent film. Have a very happy Thanksgiving, and check out all 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
  • Festivals
  • Streeterville

Too cold outside? Navy Pier brings all of the winter fun indoors, filling its gigantic 170,000-square-foot Festival Hall with a regulation-size Alpine ice skating rink, a holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and a gift market. The centerpiece of Light Up the Lake (which replaces Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest) is a collection of oversized light sculptures, including a giant Teddy Bear, 25-foot-tall deer, a 60-foot light tunnel and 40-foot tree. Boasting more than 600,000 lights, Navy Pier claims that it's "the area's largest indoor lights show." Plus, each Light Up the Lake ticket includes a ride on Navy Pier's 200-foot Centennial Wheel—don't worry, all of the gondolas are fully enclosed and heated!

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Loop

After going virtual in 2020, the iconic German-inspired holiday market at Daley Plaza returns to Chicago this year for just over a month of Christmassy celebrations. Details about specific vendors are still relatively light at the moment, but you can expect stalls stocked with handmade gifts, German food and plenty of hot beverages (including spiced glühwein, though jury's out on whether we'll get to sip from one of the market's famous boot mugs). Similarly, you can expect to see more information about COVID-19 safety protocols in the coming weeks, though organizers have announced that they'll bring back a virtual component to the market. We'll keep you posted about updates, but in the meantime, we're counting down the days until this holiday tradition returns. 

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Loop

Disney's latest Broadway adaptation comes to Chicago, bringing the smash-hit animated movie Frozen to life in front of your eyes. Adapting the contemporary fairy tale about a princess with frigid magical powers, the stage version comes complete with all the songs you (and any kids you know) are already familiar with, including the inescapable earworm, "Let It Go." Settle in for powerful anthems, spectacular special effects and strange human-manipulated versions of Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer.

  • Things to do
  • Late openings
  • Lincoln Park

To see one of the largest displays of holiday lights within city limits, you need to head to Lincoln Park Zoo, where the annual ZooLights display strings up millions of LED blubs. While most of the animals will be keeping warm inside, visitors are free to wander through the park, snapping photos of the various displays and taking part in a variety of activities throughout the holiday season.

There a some new features to look forward to this season, including a new light show on the South Lawn and a 18-foot holiday tree outside the newly-renovated Pepper Family Wildlife Center, where red pandas and snow leopards can be found. Guests will also be able to enjoy hot beverages and snacks at stands throughout the park.

Just like last year, a $5 admission fee will be charged throughout most of the week—free admission tickets will be offered on Mondays and Tuesdays. Check out the Lincoln Park Zoo website for information on special ticketed events during ZooLights, including the BrewLights beer festival and a musical tribute to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

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  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • Loop

The crazy-athletic whimsy merchants at Cirque du Soleil bring the troupe's Christmas-themed show to the Chicago Theatre, accompanied by an international cast of dancers, acrobats and clowns. The storyline follows a jaded young girl named Isabella who finds herself in a topsy-turvy wonderland filled with characters straight out of the classic "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem—except they can do crazy flips and death-defying aerial stunts, too.

  • Bars
  • Avondale

Sick of the cold? Pretend you're celebrating the season somewhere tropical at Lost Lake's annual holiday party, which fills the bar with colorful tinsel, string lights and some of the city's most delightful winter cocktails. Choose from returning favorites like the Little Saint Nog (Fiji rum, spiced demerara, cream, whole egg and three types of sherry) or sample new creations like Down Through the Chimney (mezcal, sweet vermouth, amaro, cold brew, oat milk and mole bitters). Walk-ins and reservations are accepted. 

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  • Things to do
  • Millennium Park

Every year, Millennium Park is adorned with an epic Christmas tree that remains on display until the beginning of the new year. The larger-than-life attraction is festooned with twinkling lights and crowned with an illuminated star. Spectators can check out the festive tree near Washington Street and Michigan Avenue through Sunday, January 9th.

  • Theater
  • Sheffield & DePaul

The American Blues Theater has brought the humble story of George Bailey to life in various Chicago venues for the past 20 years, transforming Frank Capra's classic film into an interactive, 1940s-style radio broadcast production. After going virtual in 2020, the show returns to the live stage at the Victory Gardens Theater this year with original music, holiday carols and plenty of Christmas cheer. 

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  • Theater
  • Puppet shows

When stay-at-home orders kept folks from seeing theater in-person last year, the interdisciplinary performance collective Manual Cinema crafted this fantastical (and very of-the-moment) virtual adaptation of A Christmas Carol using paper puppets, live performance and video animation set to an original score, garnering acclaim from critics at The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. You can watch the visually arresting story—which centers around a curmudgeonly woman who stages a holiday puppet show through Zoom, to magical effect—when it returns to small screens for on-demand streaming this holiday season.

  • Nightlife
  • Pop-ups and food events
  • Loop

Situated on the ground floor of the Chicago Athletic Association, Happy's transforms the hotel's Tank space into a holly, jolly wood-paneled dive bar serving cocktails and bar bites created by Land and Sea Dept. Admission is free and the pop-up is just a short walk from the Millennium Park ice skating rink.

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  • Bars
  • North Center

Indulge in a little childhood nostalgia at this pop-up bar that pays homage to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys. Hosted by The Rambler in North Center, Misfit Christmas opens with an outdoor scene decorated by 10-foot, custom-painted wood characters from the Island of Misfit Toys; inside, every room of the bar corresponds with a different scene from the movie (like the snowy forest where Rudolph and Hermey meet and sing "We're a Couple of Misfits"), and the bar's heated and covered beer garden will turn into "Santa's workshop." Top off the experience with a festive cocktail and bites from a themed food menu. 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

If you're looking for a holiday destination, Amaze Light Festival brings a twinking display, a holiday market and a tubing hill to Rosemont. Situated in Impact Field (the home of the Chicago Dogs), this seasonal attraction features light shows and seven illuminated worlds to explore, plus a variety of separately-ticketed experiences, including visits ot Santa's Workshop and Polar Peak tubing rides. Guests can also fill up on food and hot beverages before visiting a candy shop stocked with festive treats.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

More than one million lights cover the trees, fences and structures in the Brookfield Zoo at this annual holiday event, which is open for its 40th year this season. Guests can walk through a 600-foot-long tunnel featuring colored lights synchronized to music, spot larger-than-life illuminated animal sculptures and warm up with concessions such as funnel cakes, pizza, spiced wine and hot cocoa. Plus, catch new features this year like an illuminated gingerbread house and "Sea of Lights," a mile-long display of colored lights along the zoo's West Mall. 

  • Theater
  • Lincoln Park

Previewing November 24 and opening December 5 for a limited engagement, When Harry Met Rehab is based loosely on the real-life experiences of Chicago sports radio personality, Harry Teinowitz. When Harry Met Rehab is an evening in the theater that will leave a mark that is flat-out funny, moving, and unforgettable. It is a story of redemption, perseverance, and hope. It is estimated that over 22 million Americans are in recovery. This show is for them, their families, and their friends.

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  • Things to do
  • Performances
  • Millennium Park

There's nothing stopping you from showing up in front of Cloud Gate (a.k.a. "The Bean") at any point during the year and belting out your favorite holiday songs, but you can do it with a crowd of like-minded exhibitionists at this annual series of winter concerts and sing-alongs. Previously know as "Caroling at Cloud Gate," this series will be more inclusive of Chicago’s many faith backgrounds, cultures and holiday music traditions, taking place every Friday at 6pm from November 26 through December 17. Song books will be distributed at each event.

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • 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. Plus, take advantage of free skating lessons on most Saturdays and Sundays from 8am–9am, where you can learn both beginner- and intermediate-level skills. Note that you'll need to make a free online reservation for both regular skating and lessons this year, and if it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 6, weather permitting.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • 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 Wrigley Field-adjacent space hosts a variety of seasonal activities, including the Wrigleyville outpost of Christkindlmarket, an ice skating rink, photos with Santa and holiday movie screenings on every Wednesday in December. Opening on November 19, you'll be able to shop for gifts, sip glühwein and enjoy delicious treats through the end of the year. Once the holidays are over, the skating rink at Winterland will stick around through February 20. Visit the Winterland website for reservations, hours and additional information about programming.

  • Time Out Market

Over the summer, The DJ Firm Mobile DJ Van provided the soundtrack for weekly Saturday-night dance parties on Time Out Market Chicago's patio. Now that the weather is a bit too chilly for outdoor dancing, the party moves indoors to the Market's second floor, where there's plenty of room for dancing and a DJ spinning in the Beat Kitchen every Saturday evening. Don't let the frigid temperatures stop you from joining the celebration—come inside and warm up with great music, delicious refreshments and hot tunes.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

A city named after nature's most stunning light show deserves an equally spectacular man-made display. The Rotary Club of Aurora organizes this holiday wonderland in Phillips Park—now in its 15th year—allowing visitors to drive through and take in a series of twinkling scenes. Last year, amid the new demand for drive-through light shows, more than 50,000 cars drove through the premises. 

Hop in the car, drive through the illuminated gate and keep an eye out for shimmering representations of Santa's toy factory, a holiday train and some giant snowflakes. You'll need to make an timed reservation ahead of your visit, but the experience is totally free—though if you're able to make a donation online, the proceeds will go to a selection of local charities.  

  • Nightlife
  • Pop-ups and food events
  • River North

Frosty's Christmas Bar in Goose Island brings three levels of festive fun, four bars, two dance floors, life-size toy soldiers and a themed soundtrack that keeps the crowd bumping until 4am every night of the week. Don your favorite holiday attire and enjoy a glass of something boozy and marshmallow-topped while eating Christmas cookies amid the twinkling lights, tinsel and over-the-top decorations; plus, keep an eye out for a singing Santa and dancing elves. 

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  • Things to do
  • Suburbs

Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and a cozy blanket to accompany your ride through Willow Hill's Winter Magic, a new drive-through holiday light experience in suburban Northbrook. Located at Willow Hill Golf Course, the display stretches over a mile of glittering lights with a bevy of cheerful themes, including "Snowflake Valley," "Reindeer Flight School" and a 250-foot animated video tunnel, among other attractions. Proceeds from the show benefit Erika's Lighthouse, a not-for-profit dedicated to fighting teenage depression. 

  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • 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. Plus, take advantage of free skating lessons on most Saturdays and Sundays from 8am–9am, where you can learn both beginner- and intermediate-level skills. Note that you'll need to make a free online reservation for both regular skating and lessons this year, and if it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 6, weather permitting.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Suburbs

Ready to get into the holiday spirit? After switching to a drive-through format for 2020, the Morton Arboretum's annual holiday light show is returning this year as a mile-long, walk-through spectacle of LED lights and music, featuring a blend of new and returning light displays set amid 50 acres of trees. 

New for 2021 is a special light-up display of "Hallow," one of artist Daniel Popper's large-scale statues featured in the Arboretum's popular "Human+Nature" exhibition, plus a collection of 150 colorful lanterns, an "enchanted gateway" of glowing lights leading to Meadow Lake and a lit-up pasture near the top of the conifer trail, among other first-time features. You'll also find returning favorites like Ornament Hill, Enchanted Hill and the music-filled Symphony Woods. While you make your way through the show, stop to warm up and roast marshmallows at bonfires set along the path, or grab snacks from concessions vendors. 

Timed entry tickets for Illumination, which will run from November 20 through January 22, go on sale October 1—keep an eye out for 20 percent off deals on select Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from event sponsor ComEd.  

  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • Wrigleyville

Returning to the Venus Cabaret Theater at the Mercury Theater, playwright and actor Ronnie Marmo steps into the shoes (and disheveled suit) of boundary-breaking comedian Lenny Bruce. Produced in partnership with Bruce’s daughter Kitty Bruce, the one-man show finds Marmo replicating sections of Bruce's act while weaving the narrative of the stand-up's life. You'll learn about Bruce's arrests on charges of obscenity and his fight for freedom a speech during an era when profane observations were taboo. Throughout “I’m Not A Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce,” Marmo channels Bruce's rebelious spirit, celebrating the freedoms that the comedian fought for through a show that reckons with his struggles.

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Hyde Park

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. This year's exhibit celebrates the golden age of travel, with themed décor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and the 727 in the "Take Flight" exhibit.

Visitors will be able to take in even more seasonal cheer at the accompanying "Holidays of Light" exhibit, whic recognizes the traditions of Chinese New Year, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Visakha Puja Day and St. Lucia Day. Admission to "Christmas Around the World" and "Holidays of Light" is included with a regular Museum of Science and Industry ticket.

  • Theater
  • Drama
  • Loop

The Goodman Theatre’s annual holiday production of the Charles Dickens classic returns to the stage, with Larry Yando taking on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. The play has been a staple of the Goodman's calendar for more than 40 years, allowing returning attendees and new generations to see the quintessential Christmas story unfold before their eyes. Prepare to be visited by three spirits—and don't be suprised if A Christmas Carol's touching tale of redemption makes you shed a few tears.

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  • Theater
  • Edgewater

In a sea of Christmas plays, a lone Hannukah production emerges: Hershel of Ostropol, the folkloric Jewish trickster, must defend the old town synagogue from goblins as Hanukkah approaches in this stage adaptation of Eric Kimmel's 1989 children's book. The show's musical touches and silliness make it perfect for kids—and best of all, both the in-person and streaming versions of the production are free to watch. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Suburbs

The Chicago Botanic Garden hosts this annual (and quick to sell out) display of festive lights, giving guests a host of shimmering reasons to visit the forest preserve during the holiday season. Set along a 1.25-mile path, the after-dark experience features a series of installations to explore, including a 110-foot tunnel made up of 100,000 lights and a group of trees festooned in bulbs that "sing" holiday songs.  

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Wrigleyville

Don't feel like going to the Loop for your glühwein fix? The smaller-scale Wrigleyville outpost of Christkindlmarket returns to Gallagher Way this year with just as much holiday cheer as its downtown counterpart. Plus, Christkindlmarket Wrigleyville remains open through the end of the year, so you can extend the spirit of the season to the week after Christmas. More details about specific vendors and activities are forthcoming, so be on the lookout so you can start planning your holiday expeditions. 

  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Sheffield & DePaul

This musical parody of Christmassy British rom-com Love Actually had its Off-Broadway premiere in 2019, with a cast of six actors playing more than 50 of the movie's star-crossed characters; this year, it arrives in Chicago just in time for the holiday season. Catch rollicking songs like "Keira Knightley Actually" and "The Lament of Laura Linney" and ponder once and for all whether love actually is all around. 

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  • Things to do
  • Lake View

Chicago's only Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar takes over The Graystone Tavern in Wrigleyville for a third year, filling a weatherproof patio with more than 14,000 blue-and-white lights, dreidel ornaments, lighted menorah and a Hanukkah sweater wall (among other festive bits of decor). Dine on Hanukkah classics like latkes and matzo ball soup alongside not-so-classic options like a brisket egg rolls and a boozy, vodka-infused jelly donut. Pair your meal with a novelty cocktail—we're going with the strawberry puree-flavored Mensch Mule. Chag Sameach! 

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • River North

Love truffles? You're gonna flip for the latest pop-up restaurant at Eataly, which is serving a menu that's swimming with fresh Italian truffles and Barolo wine. Serving lunch and dinner, Il Tartufo & Barolo Bar specializes in dishes made with fresh white truffles (an Italian delicacy) and Barolo, a complex red wine made with Nebbiolo grapes from Piemonte.

Guests can enjoy a housemade egg yolk pasta made with white truffle butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; pizzas topped with truffle oils; or a fried chicken breast that's accompanied by a black truffle cheese sauce. It's decadent stuff, but if you're dining at Eataly, you know what you're in for.

If you're ready to go all-in, Eatly's pop-up is also offering a "Truffle Experience" tasting menu that includes black truffles atop antipasto, white turffles atop pasta and a housemade chocolate gelato in a chocolate shell, starting at $95. You can add a couple of wine pairings to the mix for $35.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Suburbs

In the 1942 film Holiday Inn, retired performer Jim (Bing Crosby) launches an inn that stages rollicking musical numbers every holiday, with music written by iconic composer Irving Berlin. This family-friendly adaption, performed by Drury Lane Theatre in suburban Oakbrook Terrace, takes the story and Berlin's music to the stage, including the movie's Academy Award-winning holiday classic "White Christmas" (which later went on to inspire a different holiday movie, White Christmas). 

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  • Museums
  • Music
  • Near South Side

A musician who introduced traditional Indian styles of music and instruments to Western audiences, Ravi Shankar earned the title of "the Godfather of world music" from George Harrison of the Beatles. This exhibition at the South Asia Institute examines his career and the impact he had on popular culture, assembling more than 100 items, including rare concert posters, photographs, videos, record covers and personal ephemera. Guests can explore the collection, listen to the sitarist's music and gain a deeper appretiation for Shankar's creative output as well as his influence on the likes of Phillip Glass and John Coltrane.

  • Bars
  • West Loop

The sprawling outdoor space at Lou's Backyard in the West Loop gets dressed up for the holidays with string lights, Christmas trees, inflatable snowmen and more whimsical touches. Pose for photo ops, order from the seasonal food menu (including options like chef's s'mores pie topped with melted chocolate raspberry coulis) or warm up with a themed cocktail or two—the Verte Chaud, which pairs housemade hot chocolate with Green Chartreuse and a blend of winter spices, is an especially cozy choice. 

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

Explore the colors of the natural world in the Field Museum's latest exhibition, which examines the meaning and function of some of the brightest hues in the world. “Wild Color” explores how plants and animals use color to ward off predators or attract maters, and how the color of gems and minerals can offer clues about their formation. The 7,000-square-foot exhibition is filled with specimens from the Field Museum's extensive collection, including a platypus that fluoresces under UV light and birds in every color (including "super black").

  • Bars
  • Lake View

The 2003 holiday movie Elf takes center stage at this Wrigleyville pop-up located inside of Stretch Bar & Grill, which gets dressed up with more than 1,000 decorative elves, Christmas trees and plenty of festive Christmas lights. Take a seat at tables stocked with the four main food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup) and treat yourself to a plate of Buddy's breakfast cereal (spaghetti loaded with maple syrup, chocolate fudge and syrup, mini marshmallows and strawberry frosted pop tarts) or a mug of build-your-own boozy hot chocolate. Want to catch a glimpse of Buddy the elf himself? Visit the pop-up between Thursday and Sunday, when he's known to make appearances from time to time. 

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  • Time Out Market
  • West Loop

Want to learn how to make the perfect Old Fashioned? Time Out Market Chicago is teaming up with FEW Spirits for a series of cocktail-making classes, where a master mixologist will show you exactly how to make a tasty Old Fashioned (plus a couple of riffs on the classic cocktail) that you can replicate at your home bar.

After the one-hour hands-on glass, attendees will recieve a $25 to spend on food and drinks in Time Out Market Chicago. Plus, you'll take home a 200ml bottle of FEW Bourbon, recipe cards for the drinks you made, an 18oz crystal mixing glass, a strainer, a jigger, a bar spoon and some cocktail picks. Best of all, you'll be armed with the knowledge to impress anyone with your killer cocktail skills.

  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • Loop

Premiering in Chicago ahead of its Broadway debut, Paradise Square is the latest production from Garth Drabinsky—the Canadian theater producer who restored the Nederlander Theatre, where this musical will be staged. Set in New York City in 1863 during the Civil War, the production is set in a Lower Manhattan slum, where Irish immigrants and Black Americans who escaped slavery are living together. In a saloon called Paradise Square, characters from different walks of life are thrown together, confronting their differences (and similarities) as the New York draft riots begin. Expect stirring songs about what it means to be an American and some fancy choreography from two-time Tony winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!). Harnessing the drama of American history and a diverse cast, this Broadway-bound production seems to be positioning itself as the next Hamilton.

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  • 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!

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Lower West Side

The National Museum of Mexican Art's annual Day of the Dead exhibit holds special significance this year, honoring the thousands of Mexican and American individuals who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Día de Muertos" gathers a collection of artworks and installations, including a piece by Pilsen muralist Hector Duarte and an ofrenda for Adam Toledo, the 13-year-old student who was shot and killed by the police last year. As usual, admission is free—anyone is welcome to stop by the museum and pay their respects to those who are no longer with us.

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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.

  • 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.

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  • Theater
  • Loop

Rick Bayless’s latest theatrical creation is an immersive show that’s accompanied by a tasting menu (six bites, one small cocktail and two pours of wine), staged in a space beneath Petterino’s that’s dressed up to look like a fictitious restaurant called The Contumacious Pig. Written by Bayless, Windy City Playhouse artistic director Amy Rubenstein and local playwright Carl Menninger, A Recipe For Disaster casts the audience as attendees at a restaurant’s “influencer night,” where mishaps abound as the staff attempts to impress the Instagramming masses.

 

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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.

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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. 

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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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  • Things to do
  • River North

With more than 60 neon- and light-based installations spread throughout a gallery space, the Neon and Light Museum assembles an impressive collection of glowing artworks. Gaze at creations from the likes of conceptual artist Bruce Nauman or multimedia artist Monika Wulfers and snap a couple photos while you're at it. A series of hanging rods by Wulfers is the most immersive work on display, allowing viewers to stand in the middle of the work, but smaller works like a neon piece attributed to John Lennon (yes, the one from The Beatles) and a moving light sculpture by Gary Justic are equally intriguing.

The Neon and Light Museum was recently extended through December 15, giving you a few more weeks to bask in its glow.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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.

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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

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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  • 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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