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St. Patrick's Day Parade 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

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.

Jeffy Mai
Edited by
Jeffy Mai
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Welcome to another weekend! Take a load off by soaking in a spa or cozying up to a roaring fireplace. You can also plunge into the lake for a good cause, attend a beer fest at the Museum of Science and Industry or start celebrating St. Patrick's Day early in Forest Park. So ready to make the most of your time off? Check out the rest of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

Events and to do this weekend in Chicago

  • Things to do
  • Film events
  • Loop

The 25th annual Chicago Irish Film Festival is back to offer the best features, shorts and documentaries from The Land of Storytelling. This year’s festival will feature screenings at Theater on the Lake, AMC NEWCITY and the Gallery Theater from February 29-March 3, followed by virtual programming between March 4-10. Among the films that will be shown include That They May Face the Rising Sun, an adaptation of award-winning Irish author John McGahern’s final novel of the same name, and Made in Dublin, the story of an aspiring actor who picks the wrong director to audition for. The festival’s full schedule is available online.

  • Things to do
  • Lincoln Park

Brave the cold and head to North Avenue Beach this March for the Chicago Polar Plunge, which sends thousands of shivering participants into the icy waters of Lake Michigan to raise money for the Special Olympics Chicago. Can't make it to North Aveunue this year? The fundraiser is also offering a virtual edition, giving you some creative freedom to jump into a snow bank, a cold shower or pour a bucket of water over your head as you support Chicago's Special Olympians.

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  • Things to do
  • Hyde Park

Hopheads, grab tickets to Brewsology Beer Fest at the Museum of Science and Industry, where dozens of breweries and cideries (Two Brothers, Revolution, Three Floyds and Right Bee among them) will offer samples of their brews. Wander around with a beer in hand, chat with brewery reps and feel free to check out the museum's exhibits.

  • Things to do
  • Loop

Marz Community Brewing hosts this showcase of Chicago’s electronic music scene, which takes place from March 1-9. Live performances will be held at both of Marz’s taprooms, and there will also be a synth flea market featuring dozens of vendors and manufacturers selling gear. Admission is free; check out the full lineup here.

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  • Things to do
  • TV, radio and podcast recordings
  • Loop

“Come on down” for this touring, non-televised edition of the long-running game show The Price is Right. Randomly-selected contestants will have the chance to win appliances, vacations and more by playing favorite games like Plinko, Cliffhangers, the Big Wheel and the Showcase. A celebrity presenter (sorry, no Drew Carey) will be on hosting duties, and all audience members can take home prizes even if they’re not called on stage.

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  • Things to do
  • River West/West Town

Whiskey lovers, Bushmills is bringing an exclusive tasting experience to town. Guests will have the opportunity to savor over $3,000 of rare single malt and be transported to Ireland to learn about the storied history of the spirit through the magic of immersive technology.

  • Things to do
  • Wrigleyville

Head to Wrigleyville—the city's unofficial capital for themed pop-ups—to enter a glitzy leprechaun fever dream at Charm'd, Bamboo Club's annual Irish pop-up bar. The multi-level, multi-room bar is decked out in full green decor and, of course, stocked with a veritable pot of alcoholic gold. Standouts include an Irish mule and a boozy green shamrock shake sprinkled with Thin Mints and Peppermint Patties, plus an entire list of shamrock syringe shots. Feeling peckish? In between drinks, be sure to nab Irish classics like a Reuben sandwich or the not-so-classic Irish nachos topped with chipotle cheddar fondue. For dessert, tuck in with a Charm'd sundae, which comes with chopped Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, Reese's cups, peanuts, chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream.

FYI: You need a ticket to enter the pop-up, so be sure to buy one online before visiting.

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

The North Side is launching its inaugural Restaurant Week, offering exclusive deals from dozens of eateries. Enjoy three-course lunch and/or dinner menus at places throughout Andersonville, Edgewater, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, North Center, Rogers Park and Uptown. Participating spots include Big Jones, Luella’s Southern Kitchen, the Warbler, Honeybear Cafe and more. Find the full list of restaurants and menus here.

  • Things to do
  • East Garfield Park

Winter is almost over and the Garfield Park Conservatory is here to usher in warmer days with its Spring Flower Show. Make a reservation to explore this year's show, "What's in a Name?" which explains the history and science of botanical nomenclature. You'll find spring bulbs like Tulipa ‘Rococo’, Lilium ‘Josephine,’ Viola ‘Matrix Yellow’ and Anemone ‘Giant Blue Poppy.’ The show only sticks around through Mother's Day weekend, so book your visit soon!

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  • Restaurants
  • Greek
  • Loop

Feast on specials from restaurants like Athena Restaurant (free saganaki with any entree order), 9 Muses Bar & Grill (50 percent off Greek wine and beer) and more during Greektown Restaurant Week, when diners can take advantage of discounts from some of the neighborhood's most beloved eateries. Visit Greektown's website to see a full list of participating restaurants and remember to mention Greektown Restaurant Week when ordering!

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  • Things to do
  • Logan Square

Chicago Gamespace, a video game museum and gallery, opens a new exhibit that explores the unique and ephemeral history of vector (line) graphics in contrast to the dominant raster (pixel) visual displays that reign today. Notable games like Asteroids, Battlezone and Star Wars will be highlighted, as well as a recently-preserved emulation of Moonlander.

  • Things to do
  • Streeterville

Navy Pier’s newest attraction is here, transporting guests to some of Chicago’s most epic places via exhilarating flights. The multi-sensory experience incorporates drone technologies with aerial shots and first-person views to showcase the city like never before. Guests will swoop, dip and turn in motion seats as they climb up skyscrapers, check out iconic landmarks, float through fireworks and more.

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

The northwestern suburbs of Roselle, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Itasca, Rolling Meadows, Streamwood and Wood Dale will showcase their culinary scenes with 10 days of dining specials. Over 60 restaurants—from steakhouses to quick-service spots—will offer set menus or deals during lunch and dinner. Some of the participants include Chicago Prime Italian, Tokio Pub, Perry’s and Capital Grille. Check out the full list here.

  • Restaurants
  • Loop

It’s Rosemont’s turn to get in on the Restaurant Week action. The suburban village kicks off its week of deals on March 3 and diners will be able to enjoy three-course prix fixe lunch or dinner menus at a variety of participating spots. Participating restaurants include Bub City, Carmine’s, Truluck’s, Morton's and more. You can check out the full list and menus here.

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  • Things to do
  • Skokie

The largest and most immersive touring Titanic exhibition comes to Westfield Old Orchard mall in Skokie. Visitors will experience a narrative journey that brings to light the fates of the passengers and crew aboard the famous ship. Marvel at hundreds of artifacts that survived the sinking, plus props and costumes featured in James Cameron’s blockbuster film Titanic. Music from the era will play as patrons walk through detailed recreations of the ship’s interiors, including the grand staircase, while the Discovery Gallery will simulate what discovery teams saw during dives to the Titanic’s wreckage site.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Suburbs

Need a break from the monotonous sights of winter in Chicago? Head to the North Shore for the Chicago Botanic Garden's annual orchid show, where there are more than 10,000 vibrant blooms on display to brighten your day. This year's show is inspired by carnival and circus attractions—you'll walk under Ferris wheel seats and marvel at unicycles on tightropes while listening to classic circus tunes. Swing by on Saturdays and Sundays to shop for orchids of your own in a pop-up marketplace, or stay late on seled Thursday and Friday nights to have a cocktail and funnel cake during Orchids After Hours.

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  • Theater
  • River North

Gather a group of friends for this show, an off-the-cuff ode to Jane Austen that has gained a loyal following in the 15 years since its debut. The cast calls upon an audience suggestion to inspire the show’s title (ensuring a totally new performance each time), then creates a long-form, Regency Era "Rom-Com" with Austen tropes and manners of yore. Expect a tale of laughs, love and surprises.

  • Theater
  • Suburbs

Director Elizabeth Margolius presents a different take on this celebrated musical, which centers on tradition and family. Set in a small Russian village, a milkman tries to protect and impart wisdom on his five daughters as they grow up, fall in love and begin families of their own—all in the midst of social and political change. Come early for a bite at their onsite restaurant Lucille, plus specialty cocktails inspired by current shows.

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

Escape the frigid cold —at least temporarily—by heading to Cindy’s for a tropical pop-up experience. Sip on a selection of inventive drinks, like the buttery and complex Shake Ya Tailfeather and the fruity and spirit-forward Rum Ham, or nosh on bites such as egg rolls and pork sliders. The bar is open daily from 5-10pm for walk-ins.

  • Things to do
  • Suburbs

Sony Pictures Entertainment has brought its first immersive entertainment destination to Oakbrook Center, inviting guests to enter the worlds of popular franchises like Uncharted, Ghostbusters, Jumanji, Bad Boys, Zombieland and more. The 45,000-square-foot space is home to a variety of activities, ranging from escape rooms to virtual reality and racing simulators to bumper cars. When you need to refuel, drop into the Commissary Restaurant for a full menu of food, desserts and cocktails. Entry to Wonderverse is free, with attractions priced separately.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Wicker Park

Chicago farmers market season is well past its peak, but you can still get in on the fresh produce action during this winter edition of the Wicker Park market, which is popping up inside The Robey on the first and third Sundays from December through April. Browse goods from local vendors like Zeitlin Bagels, Chitiva and Frogtown Juice—and you can always grab a coffee from Cafe Robey to sip on while you stock up.

  • Things to do
  • Bucktown

Disney fans, rejoice! A new exhibit showcasing the company’s storied history has come to the 35,000-square-foot Exhibition Hub Art Center in Lincoln Park. You’ll be able to explore 14 interactive installations and see more than 250 rarely-seen artifacts and memorabilia from various Disney franchises, including Marvel Studios and the Pixar Living Archives. There's also the opportunity to purchase exclusive merchandise from the gift shop and take photos in front of enticing backdrops.

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  • Things to do
  • Ice skating
  • 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. Reservations for the popular ice rink should be made in advance, as they tend to fill up quickly.

Admission to the Skating Ribbon is free Monday through Thursday and for 11am sessions Friday through Sunday (and $5 for other time slots Friday through Sunday, as well as holidays) if you bring your own skates. No skates? Entry is $16–$22 if you need to rent a pair. The Ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and even offers hours on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

  • 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. Plus, take advantage of free skating lessons on most Saturdays and Sundays, 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, and if it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 3, weather permitting.

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  • Nightlife
  • Pop-ups and food events
  • Loop

Fairmont Chicago has brought back its seasonal experience, Fairmont Lodge, for another year of wintry fun. The hotel’s lobby is transformed into a wonderland full of themed décor, overnight packages, festive programming and seasonal menus. Guests can reserve a Lodge experience and indulge in hand-crafted cocktails and sweet and savory fondue, capped off with some s'mores. There’s also live entertainment Thursday through Saturday.

  • Things to do
  • Skokie

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition makes its way to Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, giving fans an opportunity to step into the world of the hit series. The immersive experience showcases the elaborate sets, detailed costumes and luxurious jewelry of Downton Abbey’s high society inhabitants, and transport visitors to the grand home of the Crawleys and those who served them. From Mrs. Patmore’s hectic kitchen and Carson’s office to the family’s glamorous dining room, the exhibition provides a fascinating look into the post-Edwardian period.

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  • Things to do
  • Skokie

This exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center takes a look at how Jewish immigrants created an entirely new American cuisine through delicatessens. Organized into thematic sections that explore the history of the Jewish deli in America, I’ll Have What She’s Having tells the story of local Holocaust survivors and presents items like a meat slicer, cookbooks and signs from Chicagoland institutions. A film produced by the museum exploring the impact of Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, Kaufman’s Delicatessen and The Bagel is also featured.

  • Things to do
  • Grant Park

Explore dozens of prints and drawings from Picasso's rich and varied 70-year career, from his student years in Barcelona to the last years of his life. Picasso: Drawing from Life traces how this celebrated artist’s success was tied to his network of artists, dealers, printers, family members and more.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Yoga & Pilates
  • Streeterville

Head to 360 Chicago on Saturdays for yoga with a killer view. Instructor Britta Eumann will lead an hour-long class on the 94th floor of 875 N Michigan Avenue (formerly the John Hancock Center) that’s suitable for all ages and skill levelsyou just need to bring your own mat and arrived properly dressed. Registration is $55 and includes a cocktail or coffee, plus admission to the observation deck so you can stick around and snap some photos after you're done striking poses on the mat.

  • Comedy
  • Sketch shows
  • Lake View

Bye Bye Liver combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened over a decade ago for a three-week run, then kept getting extended. A cast of four to six performers portray characters at the fictional "Franks Bar," telling stories that explore the city's robust drinking culture. Each show incorporates interactive audience drinking games, allowing you to sip a cocktail or beer while taking cues from the cast. And if you're up for a nightcap after the performance, you can stick around for the official after party and mingle with the cast.

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  • Nightlife
  • Cabaret and burlesque

Settle in for an evening of burlesque performers, belly dancers, drag artists and variety entertainers during this weekly show at Newport Theater. The hour-long show features speciality cocktails and intimate seating arrangements, making this feel like a clandestine speakeasy experience. Bring some singles so that you can tip performers throughout the night!

  • 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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