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The best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Find the best things to do in Chicago this weekend with our guide to concerts, exhibitions, festivals and more.

chicago marathon 2018
Photograph: Jordan Avery
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It's Chicago Marathon weekend and there are plenty of reasons to dash through the city, even if you're not participating in the 26.2-mile race. When you're not lining the streets to cheer on runners, you can check out the first weekend of Chicago Ideas Week programming, head to the ACE comic book convention to see some famous Marvel movie stars or celebrate at an Oktoberfest event hosted by Dovetail Brewery and Begyle Brewing. Plus, you can make s'mores at the Chicago Campfire Festival, see dogs in their adorable Halloween costumes at the Chicago Botanic Garden and catch pop singer Charli XCX headlining the House of Blues. Soak in the feelings of fall in Chicago with some of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend.

RECOMMENDED: Full Chicago events calendar

Things to do this weekend in Chicago

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Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Ideas Week
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Ideas Week

icon-location-pin Various locations throughout Chicago,
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Learn more about politics, technology, cannabis, creativity, leadership and other interesting topics at the latest edition of Chicago Ideas Week. The week-long event brings together hundreds of thought leaders representing a variety of fields for a series of discussions and panels that take place in front of a live audience. Plus, attendees can also take part in a series of lab experiences, where you can take a yoga class surrounded by bunnies, visit the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios or learn about screenprinting from streetwear pros. This year's Chicago Ideas Week lineup includes former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, author Chelsea Clinton, director David Lynch, actress Jessica Lange, musician Liz Phair and comedian Pete Holmes. Discussions will revolve around topics like the state of the world in 2050, journalism in the age of disinformation and the rise of artificial intelligence. If you're looking for inspiration or enlightenment, this is the place to be. You can find a complete schedule of events on the Chicago Ideas Week website.

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Photograph: Michael Brosilow
Theater

The Great Leap

icon-location-pin Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lincoln Park
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On the heels of Victory Gardens’s stellar production of Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, it’s hard to resist drawing parallels between that work and her play The Great Leap, now playing at Steppenwolf. Both shows follow a similar recipe: one part historical atrocity (the Khmer Rouge, the Cultural Revolution), one part immigrant family drama and one part pop-cultural touchstone. In Cambodian Rock Band the latter element was rock music; in The Great Leap, it’s basketball. Like former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the two plays form a dynamic but ultimately mismatched duo.

Time Out says
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Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up
Photograph: Courtesy Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up
Things to do, Festivals

Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up

icon-location-pin 1265 W Le Moyne St, River West/West Town
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Returning to a two-acre plot of land just west of Goose Island, Jack's Pumpkin Pop-up saves you a trip to the suburbs by bringing a corn maze, thousands of pumpkins and an array of carnival games to the city. This year's edition of the outdoor event features a larger corn maze that contains a hidden bar, a "gypsy caravan," axe-throwing and plenty of photo backdrops and props (think tractors, trucks and piles of pumpkins) for you to take advantage of. Plus, the pop-up will also host events throughout its four-week run, including a pumpkin walk, a beer and cider festival and a sweet corn festival.

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Tracksmith
Photograph: Courtesy Tracksmith
Shopping, Pop-up shops

Tracksmith Chicago Marathon Pop-up

icon-location-pin Chicago Athletic Association, Loop
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Running apparel brand Tracksmith returns to the lobby of the Chicago Athletic Association, setting up a pop-up shop during the weekend of the Chicago Marathon. You'll find running gear for men and women, including a limited-edition Chicago Marathon Capsule Collection that includes singlets, shirts and shorts that sport the name of our fair city. Swing by to shop the collection or stop in to take part in events like a screening of the documentary The 41st Day (Oct 11 at 7pm) or a post-race party (Oct 13 at 11am).

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Replay Lincoln Park It pop-up
Photograph: Courtesy Replay Lincoln Park
Nightlife, Pop-ups and food events

It Halloween Pop-up

icon-location-pin Replay Lincoln Park, Lake View
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Replay Lincoln Park celebrates the spookiest month of the year with an appropriately terrifying tribute to one of Stephen King's most beloved novels and the movie adaptations it spawned. Visitors will be transported to the town of Derry, Maine, where a red balloon signals the presence of Pennywise the Clown. The It-inspired pop-up includes recreations of the abandoned house on Neibolt Street, an ’80s hangout stocked with tube TVs, a funhouse as well as scary, not scary and very scary doors. Stick around to sample themed cocktails and attend events, such as trivia, costume contests and a Derry Afternoon Day Party. Anyone with an overwhelming fear of clowns should stay far away from this pop-up.

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Wesley Willis
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Rachman Gallery
Art, Drawing

“Wesley Willis: City of Many Dreams”

icon-location-pin Matthew Rachman Gallery, River West/West Town
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Best known as a musician responsible for bizarre songs like "I Wupped Batman's Ass" and "Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's," South Side-native Wesley Willis was also an avid self-taught artist and could often be found roaming the city selling ink drawings of Chicago landmarks for $10 to $20. Matthew Rachman Gallery's exhibition of Willis' drawings are culled from the collection of architect Paul Young, who met Willis on the streets of Chinatown. "City of Many Dreams" also features sculptures created of Ricky Willis (Wesley's brother), an architectural historian who works with local nonprofit Project Onward.

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Lit & Luz
Photograph: Lisa Korpan
Things to do, Literary events

Lit & Luz Festival: Movement

icon-location-pin Various locations throughout Chicago,
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Mexican writers take the spotlight at the annual Lit & Luz Festival, which encompasses more than a dozen free bilingual events, including readings, conversations and film screenings. This year's festival is based around the theme of "movement," asking participants to consider migration, physical activities, political actions and other readings of the word. The fest kicks off at Sleeping Village on Saturday, October 12 and continues with an address from Latino author Luis Alberto Urrea (October 13), a reading by Mexican poet Sara Uribe (October 16) and screenings of three short films by Mexican filmmaker Dalia Huerta Cano (October 18). You'll find a complete list of programming (almost all of which is free to attend) on the Lit & Luz website.

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Handmade Market Chicago at the Empty Bottle
Photograph: Courtesy Handmade Market Chicago
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Handmade Market Chicago

icon-location-pin Empty Bottle, Ukrainian Village
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Add some shopping to your Saturday morning brunch routine by visiting Handmade Market at the Empty Bottle before (or after) you feast at Bite Cafe. You can sip a mimosa, a Bloody Mary or a beer while checking out the wares of 30 vendors, selling funky jewelry, clothing, handbags and paper crafts. You probably need a gift for someone—or yourself—right? Handmade Market takes over the Bottle on the second Saturday of the month from October through April.

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Chicago Architecture Biennial
Photograph: Tom Harris
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Architecture Biennial

icon-location-pin Chicago Cultural Center | Chicago, IL, Loop
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Every two years, Chicago becomes the center of the world of architecture and design during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Taking place over the course of nearly four months, the programming encompasses exhibitions, installations, forums and more events that explore the state of modern architecture and urbanism. The Chicago Cultural Center serves as the event's hub, where visitors can explore a large model of a traditional Chicago worker’s cottage, experience a multi-channel video installation and learn about the architecture present in cities such as São Paulo, Vancouver and Johannesburg. Venues like the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and the National Public Housing Museum also hosts Biennial programming, in addition to partner programs at a variety of local institutions. Find a complete list of events and happenings at the Chicago Architecture Biennial website.

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Jack o lantern
Photograph: David Menidrey on Unsplash
Things to do, Exhibitions

Pier Pumpkin Lights

icon-location-pin Navy Pier | Chicago, IL, Streeterville
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You'll find nearly 1,000 glowing pumpkins spread across Navy Pier at the attraction's month-long Pier Pumpkin Lights event. Stop by Polk Bros Park to visit the Juggernaut of Jack-O-Lanterns installation then head to the pier to take in five more pop-up experiences, all of which will be illuminated after dusk each evening. Navy Pier restaurants such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Tiny Tavern and Snow Dragon Shavery will be offering food and drink specials throughout the month of October, and Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze will transform into a haunted maze on select weekends. Plus, you can bring the kids to trick-or-treat at Navy Pier on October 26, 27 and 31.

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BlockMuseum.venue.jpg
Art, Pop art

“Pop América, 1965-1975”

icon-location-pin Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston
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While American and European Pop Art is well-known, works by Latin American artists don't often receive the same attention and reverence. “Pop América” showcases nearly 100 pieces employing the visual language of Pop Art that were created by artists in places like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Artists such as Antonio Dias, Rubens Gerchman, Hugo Rivera-Scott are represented in the exhibit via works that represent the social, political and cultural themes that were prevalent in Latin America in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

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The Barber of Seville
Photograph: Lyric Opera of Chicago
Music, Classical and opera

The Barber of Seville

icon-location-pin Civic Opera House | Chicago, IL, Loop
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The Lyric Opera's 2019/20 season kicks off with a production of Gioachino Rossini's popular romantic comedy, which acts as a prequel to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro. The plot revolves around the clever character Figaro, an enterprising barber who attempts to help a young woman marry a duke instead of being wedded to her older guardian.

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Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo
Kids

Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL, Lincoln Park
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Get your fall feels on at this free festival that begins at the tail end of September. You can snag a photo with a giant pumpkin, watch master carvers at work, explore an edible garden, enjoy live music and see all kinds of animals. The festival also includes several ticketed experiences ($3 per ticket, $27 for 10, $51 for 20) such as carousel rides, a bounce house, a Ferris wheel, corn mazes, a slide and an obstacle course. Take a look at the Lincoln Park Zoo's website for a complete list of activities and events throughout Fall Fest.

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GreenMill.venue01.jpg
Photograph: Martha Williams
Comedy

The Paper Machete

icon-location-pin The Green Mill, Uptown
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This twice-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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Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room
Photograph: Courtesy wndr museum
Art, Installation

wndr museum

icon-location-pin 1130 W Monroe St, West Loop
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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.

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

“Wired to Wear”

icon-location-pin Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL, Hyde Park
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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 air bags 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).

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Hofbräuhaus Oktoberfest
Photograph: Johnny Knight
Restaurants

Hofbräuhaus Oktoberfest

icon-location-pin Hofbräuhaus,
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If you can't make it to Germany for Oktoberfest this year, head to Rosemont and celebrate the beer-soaked holiday at Hofbräuhaus Chicago. The beer hall's celebration runs from September 13 through October 31 and features live music, huge steins of Oktoberfestbier and a menu of Bavarian schnitzels, sausages and more (Oktoberfest specials are offered beginning at 4pm Monday through Friday and beginning at 11am on Saturdays and Sundays). Stop by on Friday and Saturday nights to take part in the “Masskrugstemmen” stein-holding contest, which challenges participants to hold a filled one-liter stein parallel to the floor using only one arm.

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

“Fantastic Bug Encounters!”

icon-location-pin The Field Museum | Chicago, IL, Museum Campus
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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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Photograph: Mike Sause
Theater

Drunk Shakespeare Chicago

icon-location-pin The Lion Theatre, Loop
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This isn't your grandmother's Shakespeare. Five classically trained actors gather to perform a Shakespearean play. The twist? One of them got into the whiskey before the show. The four sober cast members attempt to keep the script on track as hilarity ensues.

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

Maxwell Street Market

icon-location-pin Maxwell Street Market, West Loop
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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.

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Miguel Cervantes and the Chicago cast of Hamilton
Theater, Musicals

Hamilton

icon-location-pin CIBC Theatre, Loop
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Let’s not mince words, since we’ve already spilled so many of them: Hamilton, writer-composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biography of Alexander Hamilton as refracted through a hip-hop, pop and R&B lens, is a sprawling, stunning, singular achievement. By filtering the story of the American Experiment’s beginning into modern, meticulously rhymed vernacular and populating the stage with performers of color to play the likes of Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson and Madison, Miranda and his regular collaborators (director Thomas Kail, music supervisor Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler) make the founding fathers feel fresh and, miraculously, human. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Hamilton Chicago Weeks out from the country’s naming its 45th president, Hamilton’s new Chicago company arrives to remind us our democracy has always been messy, political, personal, and worth fighting for. Kail and Blankenbuehler fill designer David Korins’s spare set—which suggests that, like the country, it’s still under construction—with movement as thrilling and dense as Miranda’s lyrics. (The few moments of stillness are also used to great counter effect.) The nearly all-new Chicago cast (ensemble member Emmy Raver-Lampman is the sole transfer) easily lives up to the originals while finding their own new moments and shades. Miguel Cervantes is a rather more grounded Hamilton than the more frenetic Miranda, who originated the role, but Cervantes conveys the man’s vital, fatal

Time Out says
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Art on theMART
Photograph: Joshua Brott
Art, Film and video

Art on theMART

icon-location-pin Merchandise Mart,
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Every night, 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, with projections beginning approximately 30 minutes after sunset.

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Photograph: Courtesy Pritzker Military Museum and Library
Museums, Military and maritime

“D-Day +75”

icon-location-pin Pritzker Military Museum & Library, Loop
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The Pritzker Military Museum and Library marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of northern France (better known as D-Day) with an exhibition that unpacks the planning and execution of Operation Overlord. Filled with vintage photos, maps, interviews with World War II veterans and other memorabilia from the operation, “D-Day +75” explores how Americans and their British, Canadian and French allies banded together to pull off the largest seaborne invasion in history.

GYG Chicago TTD

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