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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.

Miguel Cervantes and the Chicago cast of Hamilton
Photograph: Joan Marcus Miguel Cervantes and the Chicago cast of Hamilton

The final weekend of April has arrived and it's packed with things to do in Chicago that don't involve eating leftover Easter candy on your couch. Hamilton fans have their marching orders this weekend, as the expansive "Hamilton: The Exhibition" opens on Northerly Island, allowing guests to experience the life of the famous founding father (plus, you can always see Hamilton in Chicago, assuming you're able to snag tickets). If you need to do some early Mother's Day shopping, you'll find lots of thoughtful gifts at markets like the One of a Kind Show or Show of Hands Chicago. Don't forget about a detailed Game of Thrones pop-up bar, a celebration of Chicago bookstores and a visit from Daily Show host Trevor Noah. Fill your calendar with some of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend.

Things to do this weekend in Chicago

Photograph: Jake Chessum
Comedy, Stand-up

Trevor Noah

icon-location-pin United Center | Chicago, IL, United Center

Daily Show host Noah steps out from behind his desk and sets out on his first arena tour, mixing biting political commentary with personal tales of his childhood in South Africa during apartheid.

Courtesy HBO
Nightlife, Pop-ups and food events

Final Throne Chicago

icon-location-pin 809 W Evergreen Ave, River North

The final season of Game of Thrones is underway, which means that it's probably the last time you'll be able to enjoy a pop-up experience inspired by the land of Westeros (at least until HBO airs the inevitable prequel series and spin-offs). The team behind Frosty's Christmas Bar hosts a three-level pop-up bar that brings locations like the Hall of Faces, the throne room at King's Landing and Little Finger's brothel to life. Guests access Final Throne via a walkway that runs alongside a recreation of the Wall, entering a venue filled with costumed employees, serving Game of Thrones beers and White Walker whiskey.

Music, Rock and indie

Foals + Preoccupations + Omni

icon-location-pin Riviera Theatre, Uptown

In a just world, UK rockers Foals would be as big as contemporaries like Alt-J and Mumford and Sons, headlining an arena tour through the states. As it stands, the Oxford act has become one of Britain's most prominent alt-rock acts, with a major label record deal and the clout to release its sprawling new album in two parts. For the most part, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part 1 sticks to what the band does best, melding tricky rhythms with driving synths and proggy guitar riffs across a series of larger-than-life anthems. While the execution doesn't always live up to Foals ambitions (or justify its scale), seeing the band work out the material's kinks onstage should make for an invigorating evening. Get to the Riviera Theatre early to catch sets from Atlanta power-trio Omni and post-punk act Preoccupations.

Hamilton: The Exhibition
Illustration: David Korins
Museums, History

“Hamilton: The Exhibition”

icon-location-pin 1535 S Linn White Dr, Museum Campus

Experience the life of Alexander Hamilton at this stand-alone exhibition, created by the team behind the hit musical Hamilton. Debuting in Chicago, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" takes visitors on a journey from a trading post in St. Croix to the New Jersey hilltop where the Founding Father was shot in duel, using imaginative environments (created by the Broadway production's set designer David Korins) to immerse guests in the historical tale. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda serves as the exhibition's narrator (via a high-tech headset), fleshing out details as you make your way through the display and listen to rearranged music from the Broadway show.

Photograph: Pixabay
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Wine Fest

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL, Lincoln Park

Spring is here, so it's time to stop whining about how brutal this winter was and toast the arrival of warmer weather with a glass of vino. Guest will enjoy live music and selections from more than 15 different wineries and vineyards, set amidst the scenery of the Lincoln Park Zoo. Wine lovers can choose between three different sessions throughout the day and can upgrade their experience with a VIP ticket, which includes an additional hour of time to sample.

Photograph: Liz Lauren

Cambodian Rock Band

icon-location-pin Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Sheffield & DePaul

Shame is a hell of a thing, as likely to be felt by victims as it is to be ignored by the guilty. This is the notion that Lauren Yee addresses head-on in the exhilarating Cambodian Rock Band. Yee’s play is a nimble, spectacle-heavy whirligig: a detective story, a historical drama, a family comedy and a rock show with songs by the L.A. outfit Dengue Fever. Director Marti Lyons mixes and matches these disparate elements with aplomb, bringing Yee’s insightful, puckishly theatrical voice to the front of the mix. 

One of a Kind Show and Sale Chicago
Shopping, Arts, crafts & hobbies

One of a Kind Show

icon-location-pin Merchandise Mart,

They call this three-day market One of a Kind for a reason. A whopping 300 artists from around the country will fill out one floor in the Merchandise Mart for the spring edition of this seasonal bazaar. Take a look at the show's website for a full list of vendors making everything from hand-painted ceramic mugs and cool textured pillows to carved wooden bottle-stoppers. Come for the shopping and stick around for daily fashion shows and a gourmet market stocked with lots of tasty treats.

Photograph: Courtesy Eataly

Bar SABBIA at Eataly

icon-location-pin Eataly, River North

Inspired by the Italian seaside, Bar SABBIA brings coastal fare and a build-your-own spritz menu to the second floor of Eataly in River North. The extended pop-up bar offers a summer-ready menu with oysters, skewered grilled swordfish, arancini and traditional Roman-style pizza. On the booze front, guests can build their own spritz using ingredients like limoncello, sparkling red wine and blood orange-flavored gin. Or opt to try different varieties of the refreshing cocktail from Positano, Sorrento and Venice. Stop by on Mondays and Tuesdays from 5 to 7pm for Spritz Hour, featuring $10 spritz flights and $1 mix-and-match arancini. On Wednesdays starting at 5pm, Eataly's wine experts will crack open a rare magnum and offer glasses at a discounted rate. Circle back on Thursday for $8 Sicilian Sour cocktails and a cocktail class. Bar Sabbia runs through Monday, September 2.

Neko Case
Photograph: Courtesy Anti-Records
Music, Folk, country and blues

Neko Case + Shannon Shaw

icon-location-pin Vic Theatre, Lake View

In the decades since she recorded her first solo EP in the kitchen of her Chicago apartment, Neko Case has established herself as a formidable country and rock troubadour (and an integral part of Canadian indie rock supergroup the New Pornographers). Co-produced with Björn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, Case's latest album, Hell-On, plays to all of her strengths, filled with folk-rock ballads that showcase Case's powerful voice and her reliably dark sense of humor. During Case's two-night stand at the Vic, Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams supports.   

Miguel Cervantes and the Chicago cast of Hamilton
Theater, Musicals


icon-location-pin CIBC Theatre, Loop

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.

Women and Children First
Photo: Michelle Nolan
Things to do, Literary events

Independent Bookstore Day

icon-location-pin Various venues, Loop

Celebrate independent bookstores throughout Chicagoland by exploring the many wonderful businesses that keep great books flowing throughout the city. This year, customers can participate in the #ChiLovesBooks challenge by making a $25 purchase at a participating store in order to obtain a passport. Visit nine more indie bookstores throughout the day and you'll earn 10 percent off at participating shops for an entire year (if you make it to 15 stores on April 27, you'll get 15 percent off for an entire year. Find a complete list of locations at the ChiLovesBooks website.

The Obama Paintings Rob Pruitt
Photograph: Courtesy Stony Island Arts Bank
Art, Painting

“The Obama Paintings”

icon-location-pin Stony Island Arts Bank, South Shore

The Obama Presidential Library in Jackson Park is years away from completion, but a new exhibition near the facility's future home pays tribute to the former Illinois Senator in a fasinating way. "The Obama Paintings" is an exhibition made up of nearly 3,000 red- and blue-tinged paintings depicting scenes that correspond to each day of Obama's presidency. Artist Rob Pruitt renders everything from a walk with the Obama family dog, Bo, to State of the Union addresses and meetings with heads of state.

Photograph: Liz Lauren

Lottery Day

icon-location-pin Goodman Theatre | Chicago, IL, Loop

The final play in Ike Holter’s seven-show Rightlynd Saga, Lottery Day is the rare team-up event that hits the jackpot. Pulling in characters from the previous plays, Lottery Day builds on its predecessors with an eye toward tearing the whole complex to the ground. Holter’s characters have gathered for a backyard barbecue hosted by local matriarch Mallory (J. Nicole Brooks, in a titanic performance). She’s ready with a beer and a spare couch to crash on, but she’s not above casual blackmail. And while Mallory throws the best damn parties in town, this get-together is more than that: It’s a chance for her to set things right—or so she thinks.

Time Out says
Billy Bragg
Photograph: Anthony Saint James
Music, Folk, country and blues

Billy Bragg

icon-location-pin Lincoln Hall, Sheffield & DePaul

English folk singer Billy Bragg is best known for his collaborating with Wilco on the Woody Guthrie-penned Mermaid Avenue records, but he'll be focusing on some of his earliest songs when he brings his One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward tour to Lincoln Hall. During the three-night stand, Bragg will deliver a career-spanning set (April 25) before digging into his first three album, which marked his transition from a pub-rock frontman to a folk musician with a message (April 26). During this final show, Bragg will perform tracks from Workers Playtime, The Internationale and Don't Try This At Home, which are rife with overtly political lyrics.

Photograph: Rick Aguilar

Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical

icon-location-pin The Edge Theater, Edgewater

In 2002, when Hell in a Handbag premiered its loving musical parody of The Poseidon Adventure, that 1972 disaster flick was right in the sweet spot for nostalgia. Now that the film is pushing 50, its window as a pop-cultural touchstone has mostly closed. It’s not surprising, then, that the latest revival of Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical feels slightly past its prime. Like the feisty retiree played by Shelley Winters in the movie, it’s still brimming with vim and vigor. But although the show has solid bones, they’re starting to creak.

Photograph: Jordan Avery
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago Rum Festival

icon-location-pin Logan Square Auditorium, Logan Square

Presented by the experts at the Rum Lab, the Chicago Rum Festival (formerly the Midwest Run Festival) brings together producers from across the world for an afternoon of tastings and mingling. Guests can choose from one of three different tickets and work their way through more than 50 different rum expressions, accompanied by complimentary snacks and live music. All attendees will receive a two-ounce souvenir snifter cup.

Laurie Simmons, Big Camera, Little Camera, 1976.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Salon 94
Art, Photography

“Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera”

icon-location-pin Museum of Contemporary Art, Streeterville

Best known for her photos of dolls and miniature objects (as well as for being the mother of Girls creator and star Lena Dunham), New York artist Laurie Simmons creates work that views reality through a surreal lense. The MCA's career retrospective, entitled "Big Camera/Little Camera," includes works that explore scale, female gender roles and the artificiality of social media. In addition to photographs, guests can view a collection of the miniature props that Simmons used in her imagery, sculptures that comment on society's obsession with the female body and a trio of short films, including one in which actress Meryl Streep interacts with vintage puppets. In acknowledgement of Simmons' activism in the realm on gender inequality, the MCA will offer $12 tickets (81 percent of the regular $15 admission price) to those affected by the gender pay gap through the duration of the show's run.

Show of Hands Chicago
Photograph: Courtesy Show of Hands Chicago
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Show of Hands Chicago

icon-location-pin Artifact Events, Lake View

Presented by local design house Orange Beautiful, this three-day event curates wares from more than 100 local vendors with unique points of view. Geometric printed pillows, quirky wooden birdhouses and stunning ceramics are among the many distinct offerings. Admission is free throughout the weekend, but a ticketed preview event on Friday night allows guests to see all of the market's offerings (and they'll get a complimentary beer from Begyle or a cocktail from Jo Snow Syrups and Union Horse Distilling Co.).

Gregg Bordowitz
Photograph: Courtesy Video Data Bank
Art, Contemporary art

“Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well”

icon-location-pin Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The Art Institute assembles the first survey of artist, poet and activist Gregg Bordowitz’s career, beginning with his gay-rights and AIDS documentary, some aspect of a shared lifestyle. Named for a song by the Ramones (one of Bordowitz’s favorite bands), the exhibit also features examples of his poetry, site-specific installations and his recent explorations of televised stand-up comedy.

Music, Punk and metal

The Original Misfits

icon-location-pin Allstate Arena, Suburbs

Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein reunited onstage for the first time in 33 years at Riot Fest in 2016, but the Original Misfits are coming back to Chicagoland for another evening of classic punk rock. Expect to see plenty of smiling skull T-shirts in the crowd as you listen to renditions of classic horror-tinged tracks like "Night of the Living Dead" and "Skulls."

Laura Aguilar
Photograph: Laura Aguilar
Art, Photography

“Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell”

icon-location-pin National Museum of Mexican Art, Lower West Side

Candid nude self-portraits, photos of LGBTQ individuals and scenic black and white shots of naked bodies in nature are featured in this retrospective of Mexican-American photographer Aguilar, who passed away last year. Debuted at the Vincent Price Art Museum in Aguilar's hometown of Los Angeles, “Show and Tell” serves as an encapsulation of the career of an incredibly brave artist.

Art on theMART
Photograph: Joshua Brott
Art, Film and video

Art on theMART

icon-location-pin Merchandise Mart,

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, with projections beginning approximately 15 minutes after sunset.

GYG Chicago TTD

More to explore