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market for makers
Photograph: Courtesy Market for Makers

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.

By Zach Long
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There may be some rain in the forecast this weekend, but the temperature will creep above 60 degrees—which means that rooftop bars and outdoor restaurants will likely be packed. pack an umbrella and explore some amazing museum exhibitions, visit Pop Up Grocer in Wicker Park or swing by the 7-Eleven in the Loop that's been dressed up by Joe Freshgoods. You can also shop handmade goods at the Chicago Market for Makers at Artifact Events or stream NNAMDÏ performing live from Lincoln Hall on Saturday night. Show yourself a good time with at some of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

Things to do this weekend in Chicago

Pop Up Grocer
Photograph: Heidi's Bridge

1. Pop Up Grocer

Shopping Grocery stores 1555 N Milwaukee Ave, Wicker Park

After hosting locations in Los Angeles, Austin and New York, the traveling Pop Up Grocer concept is coming to Chicago for the month of May. Setting up inside a Wicker Park storefront (1555 N Milwaukee Ave), the shop will stock more than 400 products, with a focus on innovative brands that offer plant-based and sugar-conscious food, beverage items, in addition to home, pet and body products.

The bright and colorful space will likely attract plenty of folks stopping by to snap a photo, but shoppers will find a selection of items that they likely haven't seen on the shelves of their usual grocery store. Pop Up Grocer stocks everything from baked chickpea thins from 34 Degrees to paleo-friendly cookie mixes from Chicago-based brand Lee's Grain-Free. Plus, the pop-up also features an in-store cafe serving baked goods from Elske, including a daily selection of cookies, Kringles and Danish rugbrød.

If your shelves are looking a little bare and you're hoping to stock up on some interesting new snacks, Pop Up Grocer will be in Wicker Park through May 30.

Chicago musician NNAMDI on a toy car in a park
Photograph: Maren Celest

2. NNAMDÏ

Music Rap, hip-hop and R&B

When multi-instrumentalist NNAMDÏ released BRAT last year, the world was a few weeks into a pandemic and planned tour in support of the album was canceled. A year later, NNAMDÏ has already released new music into the world (including the Looney Tunes-inspired Krazy Karl LP) and is finally bringing BRAT to life onstage. Performing live from Lincoln Hall as part of Audiotree's STAGED concert series, NNAMDÏ will play all of the hip-hop- and math rock-tinged on the record with the help of some talented friends, finally giving BRAT the release show it deserves.

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fireworks on navy pier
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

3. Navy Pier Fireworks

Things to do Fireworks Navy Pier | Chicago, IL, Streeterville

During the summer, one of the best aerial displays you'll find in Chicago originates from Navy Pier. To celebrate the reopening of the lakefront attraction, Navy Pier will host a 10-minute fireworks show every Saturday night during May—and there's a chance the the usual slate of bi-weekly shows could return this summer. 

The fireworks will begin at 9pm each Saturday and you're welcome to enjoy them from Navy Pier's various public spaces. Of course, you can also take in the show from nearby beaches or while cruising along the Lakefront Trail.

Dino Safari at Fox Valley Mall in Aurora
Photograph: Courtesy Dino Safari

4. Dino Safari – A Drive Thru Adventure

Things to do Fox Valley Mall, Suburbs

Take a trip back in time to the Mesozoic Era at Dino Safari, a drive-through cruise among massive animatronic dinosaurs in suburban Aurora. The experience transforms Fox Valley Mall into Pangea National Park, where guests will be able to catch glimpses of everything from the T. rex to Spinosaurus—plus more than 40 other moving dinos—from their cars, complete with a park passport that provides context and information about the dinosaurs' prehistoric lives. Learn about how the fearsome creatures lived, ate and evolved as you meander through the exhibit: and don't be surprised if you encounter a few dino fights and other adventurous sights along the way. 

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market for makers
Photograph: Courtesy Market for Makers

5. Chicago Market for Makers

Shopping Markets and fairs Artifact Events, Lake View

More than 50 vendors show off handmade home decor, art, clothing and jewelry at the latest Chicago edition of Market for Makers, a two-day event that brings together crafty people from across the country. Attendees will need to arrived mask, submit to a temperature check and make use of the hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue. Every guest recieves a tote bag and access to several photo backdrops.

OTV
Photograph: Courtesy OTV

6. OTVLIVE Premieres

Things to do TV, radio and podcast recordings Various locations throughout Chicago,

On every Saturday in May, OTV is releasing a live-to-tape pilot that highlights everyone from artists to activists. Each program takes on a different style, including a talkshow that discusses trans issues, a variety show that explores sexuality and an experimental show that revolves around fashion and art. Take a look at the complete schedule below and tune in via the OTV app.

May 1: Queers Got Talent (Performance)
May 8: Know We Can (News)
May 15: Beyond the Bias (Experimental)
May 22: Sexuality Out Loud (Education)
May 29: That Shit's Trans (Talkshow)

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art on themart
Photograph: Courtesy Art on theMart

7. Art on theMART

Art Film and video Merchandise Mart,

After taking most of the winter off, Art on theMart is back with another 25-story-tall video installation that takes over the side of the Merchandise Mart. The new program is based around a collaboration with the Adler Planetarium, transporting viewers into the cosmos with scientific visualizations that demonstrate just how gigantic the universe really is. 

Entitled Astrographics, the 16-minute video was created using imagery from telescopes around the world. You'll be able to see images of black holes, other planets, stars and more amazing images that offer a peek at what lies beyond our solar system. The program is accompanied by an appropirately trippy soundtrack assembled from Experimental Sound Studio's Sun Ra Arkestra archives.

Art on theMART's array of 34 digital projectors will fire back up on April 1, displaying the 30-minute program at 8:30 and 9pm every evening through April 30. Showtimes will shift to 9 and 9:30pm from May 1 through July 4. The show is best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street, though there is a 100-person capacity limit and face coverings are required.

Immersive Van Gogh yoga
Photograph: Courtesy Immersive Van Gogh

8. Gogh with Lifeway Immersive Yoga

Sports and fitness Yoga & Pilates Lighthouse ArtSpace, Old Town

Grab a mat and take a 35-minute yoga class inside of the "Immersive Van Gogh" experience, moving your body in sync with the music, lights and moving images within the high-tech show. The classes are presented by CorePower Yoga and take place early in the morning on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays—before the exhibit opens to the general public.

Participants must remain six feet apart from one another and wear a face mask while in the space (each class is limited to just 19 people). After you complete the class, you'll receive a Lifeway Kefir to enjoy and may stay in the venue to take in the "Immersive Van Gogh" show without having to strike a warrior pose.

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Behold, Be Held
Photograph: Sean Su | @PurplePhotoCo

9. "Behold, Be Held"

Art Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston

How can art offer us fortitude in times of hardship? Visitors are invited to explore that question and other pandemic-era musings at "Behold, Be Held," The Block Museum of Art's first-ever outdoor exhibition. Curated by PhD candidate and Block Museum graduate fellow Rikki Byrd, the exhibit showcases 16 large-scale reproductions of work that celebrate the miracle of human intimacy—from touch and self-care to dancing—and how art can serve as inspiration for new ways of engaging with the world. You can view the works on the exterior windows of The Block Museum and adjacent buildings; two additional works, this time curated by local high school students, appear on the window of the Y.O.U. building at Church Street and Dodge Avenue. 

the office
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

10. Back to The Office Pop-Up

Nightlife Pop-ups and food events Multiple venues

If you've spent some of the past year watching your favorite episodes of The Office, you're probably going to appreciate Replay Lincoln Park's latest pop-culture pop-up. Throughout April, the arcade bar is once again transforming its premises into locations featured on the hit workplace comedy, including a recreation of the iconic Dunder Mifflin office. You'll also find areas that pay tribute to Schrute Farms, the Michael Scott Paper Company, Chili’s and the Warehouse.

When you're not snapping photos and rattling off Michael Scott quotes, you'll be able to enjoy a menu of themed cocktails and food. That includes a Schrute Farm’s Beet Delight made with vodka and spice infused beet syrup; Michael Scott's signature Scotch and Splenda; as well as hot, soft pretzels that would make Stanley smile. 

You'll need to make a reservation to secure your spot at the pop-up—each ticket includes $20 in credit to spend on beverages. Just try not to get as tipsy as Pam at the Dundies!

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humboldt park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

11. El Jolgorio de Salsa y Más

Things to do Festivals Puerto Rico Food & Liquors, Ukrainian Village

Every Saturday through August, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center is teaming up with businesses on Paseo Boricua (a section of Division Street) in Humboldt Park to host a series of events. Visitors will be able to shop the wares of local street vendors, take in cultural performances such as DJs and salsa dancers and support the businesses that make up Chicago's Puerto Rican community. Check out the El Jolgorio de Salsa y Más Facebook page for the latest updates from organizers.

Rock Island Public House drive-in
Photograph: Courtesy Rock Island Public House

12. Drive-in, Dinner and Drinks

Movies Rock Island Public House, Suburbs

The Rock Island Public House hosts a themed drive-in movie series every weekend, screening classic genre flicks accompanied by beer and food that you can enjoy in your car. Upcoming weekends will feature kung-fu movies, romantic films and more. Screenings are free to attend and first come, first served, so check out the calendar and show up early to secure your spot in front of the makeshift screen!

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Luisa Miller, Lyric Opera
Photograph: Todd Rosenberg Photography

13. Lyric Opera Streaming On Demand

Music Classical and opera Various locations throughout Chicago,

You may not be able to see a show at the Civic Opera House right now, but the Lyric Opera has made recording of some of its most famous shows available through various streaming platforms. Lyric Opera Streaming On Demand presents archival audio recordings of complete shows, featuring some of opera's biggest stars backed by a full orchestra and chorus. New shows are being release each week, including a 2019 staging of Luisa Miller, a 2014 performance of Don Giovanni and a 2019 recording of Elektra.

Check out the Lyrics Opera's website for a complete list of available recordings and where you can listen to them.

Central Perk
Photograph: Marc Berry

14. The ‘Friends’ Experience Chicago

Things to do The Shops at Northbridge, River North

Longing for a time when you could curl up on the couch and binge-watch Friends for hours on Netflix? This experiential pop-up—originally conceived as a tribute to the sitcom's 25th anniversary—might be an even better way to indulge your nostalgia for the show. Visitors will have a chance to roam around the pop-up's 12 rooms, take photos and check out iconic show memorabilia like Rachel and Monica's purple door, a reconstruction of Central Perk (orange couch and all) and tons of other nostalgic highlights—there's even a glass case dedicated to the evolution of Rachel's haircuts. Once you've had your fill of photo ops and Friends-related trivia, you can visit the pop-up's gift shop full of exclusive show-themed swag. And as for COVID-era safety precautions, expect social distancing and mask requirements in addition to temperature checks; the exhibit will also be routinely cleaned and sanitized. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to My Block, My Hood, My City, the youth-based Chicago community organization. 

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Artopia Experience
Photograph: Courtesy Artopia Experience

15. Artopia: The Immersive Art Experience

Art Installation Multiple venues

This artistic pop-up fills the 32,000-square-foot West Loop venue Morgan Manufacturing with digital displays, interactive projections, installations and murals—including creations by some of Chicago's top street artists. Every ticket includes a guided tour of the display, which is socially-distanced and touch-free. After a tour of the space, VIP ticketholders can stick around and enjoy drinks in the Artopia Lounge.

Marvel exhibition MSI
Photograph: Courtesy Museum of Science and Industry

16. “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes”

Museums Movies and TV Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL, Hyde Park

Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Window and more famous costumed crusaders take over the Museum of Science and Industry in this pop-culture-focused exhibition that explore more than 80 years of Marvel comics, movies and memoribelia. You'll find more than 300 items on display, include costumes and props from Marvel movies and original art created for the company's comic books. Snap photos with recreations of some of your favorite character and learn how a comic company became a multi-media cultural juggernaut.

Save money on tickets with a Chicago CityPASS

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Christina Quarles, Tha Color of Tha Sky (Magic Hour), 2017.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Pilar Corrias Gallery, London

17. “Christina Quarles”

Art Painting Museum of Contemporary Art, Streeterville

Los Angeles–based artist Christina Quarles paints bodies, but not in the way you'd expect. Instead of straightforward studies of the human form, her canvases demonstrate a disregard for gravity and anatomy that finds torsos, limbs and faces arranged in surreal ways. This Museum of Contemporary Art show is her largest exhibition yet, focusing on her output over the past three years, including a large-scale installation that incorporates illusions.

Save money on tickets with a Go Chicago Pass

Scott Green
Photograph: Courtesy Scott Green

18. Scott Green's Magic Show in a Box

Theater Circuses & magic Various locations throughout Chicago,

Local magician Scott Green gets creative with a virtual version of his show, sending a mysterious box to ticket buyers that can be opened during a 75-minute Zoom performance. Participants will find a variety of surprises inside the box, allowing them to take an active role in Green's show. Typically, Green streams twice every Saturday—a family-friendly matinee in the afternoon and an evening show that's geared toward adults. Check out Green's website for additional information on the timing of each show.

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wndr museum
Photograph: Courtesy wndr museum

19. WNDR museum

Art Installation 1130 W Monroe St, West Loop

The home of Chicago's only Infinity Mirror Room (created by Japanese 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.

CAC
Photograph: Anna Munzesheimer, courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Center

20. Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady

Things to do Walks and tours Chicago's First Lady, Loop

Ready to explore Chicago's amazing architecture while floating on the river? The Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise takes place aboard a Chicago’s First Lady boat, transporting guests on a 90-minute tour that traverses three branches of the Chicago River and explores the stories behind more than 50 buildings that make up the city's iconic skyline.

What separates the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise from similar tours are the knowledgeable Chicago Architecture Center docents that lead each excursion. You'll be able to chat with experts who know the nitty-gritty details of Chicago architecture and are eager to help you learn more about the structures surrounding you—something that makes this attraction appealing to tourists and longtime residents.

All tours depart from the Chicago’s First Lady dock on the Chicago Riverwalk, located just down the stairs from the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. If you want to continue learning about Chicago's buildings after your tour, you can add a Chicago Architecture Center ticket for just $5—and it's good for seven days after you board the boat.

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Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit
Photograph: Vladimir Kevorkov

21. “Immersive Van Gogh”

Art Lighthouse ArtSpace, Old Town

Step inside of Starry Night and The Bedroom in Arles with the help of more than 75 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 takes 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.

Chicago Gamespace
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Gamespace

22. “Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History”

Art Digital & interactive Chicago Gamespace, Logan Square

You've probably played Pac-Man before, but did you know that the iconic video game character was introduced to American audiences by Chicago-based Midway Games? Chicago Gamespace's latest exhibition explores the history of one of the most popular digital characters on the planet, considering how a yellow group of pixels became a beloved part of pop-culture that has jumped from arcade cabinets to home consoles and movie screens. Collecting games and Pac-Man ephemrea (including soap, lunch boxes and clothing), “Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History” is an interactive tribute to a the hungriest video game icon.

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Awol Erizku: New Visions for Iris
Photograph: David C. Sampson, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

23. “Awol Erizku: New Visions for Iris”

Art Photography Various locations throughout Chicago,

The next time you're standing by a bus shelter, you might want to check to see if it's displaying the work of photographer Awol Erizku. His latest exhibition, "New Visions for Iris," is being displayed at more than 350 bus shelters in Chicago and New York, making it possible for anyone to safely enjoy his colorful still life and portrait photography. Named for his daughter, the collection of photos on display explore Erizku's identity as a Ethiopian American, the ways in which the world has been upended over the past year and the United States' reckoning with police violence. You can find a complete map of the bus shelters displaying Erizku's work at the Public Art Fund website.

Nelson Mandela
Photograph: Graeme Williams / Illinois Holocaust Museum

24. “Mandela: Struggle for Freedom”

Museums History Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Skokie

Learn about the life of Nelson Mandela and his long fight against apartheid in South Africa and racial injustice around the world through this exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. The exhibit celebrates the life of Mandela and seeks to empower visitors to fight the racism, antisemitism and injustice that still exists in the modern world. “Mandela: Struggle for Freedom” collects original letters and documents that Mandela penned, displayed alongside a recreation of the tiny prison cell where Mandela spent 18 years of his life and the small apartment that served as the backdrop for his first televised interview.

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Monet Poppy Fields
Photograph: The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Kimball Collection.

25. “Monet and Chicago”

Art Painting Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The Art Institute of Chicago has a special relationship with famed impressionist Claude Monet, hosting his debut U.S. solo show in 1895 and was the first American museum to buy one of his paintings. This came about in part due to the interest of Chicago-based collectors, who were early supports of the the painters work, buying many of his canvases. 

"Monet and Chicago" acts as an homage to the city's connection to the “father of Impressionism,” showcasing a mixture of major works as well as rarely seen sketches and landscapes sourced from local collections. Visitors will be able to take in early works like Apple Trees, Vétheuil and On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, as well as canvases from his Stacks of Wheat series.

Steppenwolf What is Left, Burns
Photograph: Lowell Thomas

26. Steppenwolf NOW

Theater Drama Various locations throughout Chicago,

With its stages closed to the public for the time being, the Steppenwolf NOW programming stream is a way to see groundbreaking new theater without leaving the house. A $75 membership gives you access to six works, which will premiere between November 2020 and June 2021. Playwright James Ijames kicks things off in November with the concise 20-minute play What is Left, Burns, which follows a video call between ex-lovers at very different points in their lives. Other works to look forward to include Isaac Gómez's department store drama Wally World, Carrie Coon in a new short called Red Folder and Sam Shepard's two-hander Ages of the Moon.

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Hideout Chicago, Cosmic Country Showcase
Photograph: Sarah Larson

27. Hideout Online

Music Folk, country and blues Various locations throughout Chicago,

Like most Chicago music venues, the Hideout is closed for the forseeable future, but the beloved local institution is keeping its music, comedy and other eclectic programming alive online. The venue now hosts its streams on NoonChorus, offering regular shows like a Friday happy hour with bartender (and local musician) Lawrence Peters and the monthly A Scientist Walks into a Bar discussion. You can snag a ticket to individual events or subscribe to get unlimited access to Hideout streams every month.

Krista Franklin, Self-Portrait in the Aftermath , 2020.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

28. “Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency”

Art Photography Museum of Contemporary Photography, Loop

Eight different artists consider the psychological, physical and emotional tolls of reproduction, displaying photographs that explore unconventional representations of the female body. Tackling topics like birth, miscarriage and abortion, “Reproductive: Health, Fertility, Agency” draws attention to the rights of females at a time when they are once again being threatened throughout the world.

Guests wishing to view this exhibition must secure a reservation in advance of their visit.

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 Jo Ractliffe
© Jo Ractliffe. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

29. “Jo Ractliffe: DRIVES”

Art Photography Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

The stark, black and white imagery of South African photographer Jo Ractliffe takes the spotlight in this new Art Institute of Chicago survey of her work. Ractliffe's images confront the aftermath of apartheid, the legalized form of racial discrimination that exisited in South Africa until the early ‘90s. Depicting barren landscapes and literal debris, her photos and video installations document places and people that are reckoning with the consequences of forces beyond their control.

Bisa Butler
Photograph: Margaret Fox

30. “Bisa Butler: Portraits”

Art Textiles Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park

Enter the colorful world of Bisa Butler in this exhibition devoted to the textile artist's portrait quilts, which depict Black subjects that have historically been marginalized. Originally trained as a painter, Butler shifted to making works with fabrics, layering textiles and building on the sewing techniques that she learned from her mother and grandmother. The Art Institute is presenting the first solo exhibition of Butler's work, collecting more than 20 of her vibrant portrait quilts.

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womanish
Photograph: Courtesy Womanish

31. WOMANISH Experience

Things to do Exhibitions 114 S State St, Loop

Showcasing the work of female and gender non-confirming artists, the WOMANISH pop-up is a five-story exhibit made up of multiple rooms and installations that explore womanhood from various perspectives. Visitors will be able to visit a recreation of a 1950’s-era diner, view a collage of vintage advertisements with women of color added to them and snap photos of a floral display. The pop-up has been modified with a new set of safety procedures, including capacity restrictions and plenty of hand sanitizer stations.

Cecil McDonald, Jr.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

32. “Cecil McDonald, Jr.: Cuts and Beats”

Art Contemporary art Hyde Park Art Center, Kenwood

Local artist Cecil McDonald, Jr. presents a collection of recent work, much of it developed during a 2018 residency at the Hyde Park Art Center. Known for his photomontages that comment on the various racist representations of Black individuals and artists throughout history, "Cuts and Beats" explores how Black artists were promoted during the Vaudeville and Minstrel eras. Juxtaposing vintage advertisements with contemporary photos, McDonald's work acknowledges the deeply problematic imagery and attitudes of the past and turns them on their head.

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The Neo-Futurists
Photograph: Ricky Kluge

33. The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral

Theater Experimental Various locations throughout Chicago,

The Neo-Futurists’ flagship show adapts to a world where social gatherings are restricted, launching new works with the funding of subscribers. Pledge a monthly donation to the The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral Patreon campaign and you'll have weekly access to recordings of 30 plays performed in 60 minutes (larger donations give you access to even more content from the Neo-Futurists). It's a creative way of keeping the long-running show alive—and now you can watch it on demand!

magic parlour dennis watkins
Photograph: Rich Hein

34. The Magic Parlour at Home

Theater Circuses & magic Various locations throughout Chicago,

Illusionist and actor Dennis Watkins dips into his ample trunk of wondrous effects, taking his long-running Palmer House magic show into your living room with streaming performances. Up to 10 guests can gather around a computer (cocktail attire is recommended) with a deck of cards and settle in for an evening of interactive magic and mind-reading, delivered via the internet. Only 30 tickets are sold for each performance, so lock down a date and prepare to have your mind blown.

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