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Photograph: Anthony Tahlier

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.

Emma Krupp
Edited by
Emma Krupp
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After months and months of dreary weather, it finally feels like summer in Chicago—and to make things even better, we've got a stacked lineup of events happening throughout the city this weekend. When you're not taking advantage of balmy temps at sky-high rooftop bars and tucked-away restaurant patios, check out outdoor events like a walking tour of Chicago brick or ogle vintage train cars at Pullman Railroad Days. And if you can bear to spend a bit of time indoors, go see in-depth retrospectives of Paul Cezanne at The Art Institute and Chicagoan Nick Cave at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Make the most of gorgeous weather with our list 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

  • Art
  • Painting
  • Grant Park

The Art Institute of Chicago has teamed up with London's Tate Modern to mount the first major retrospective of Paul Cezanne's work in more than 25 years, exploring the Impressionist painter's legacy across a variety of mediums and genres. Visitors can explore some of Cezanne's most enduringly iconic works—including his lush still life paintings and landscapes—as well as rarely-seen compositions pulled from private collections, encompassing a total of 90 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings and two complete sketchbooks. You'll need an additional ticket to gain access to the exhibit, but you'll rarely find such a comprehensive perspective on this seminal artist's life and work. 

  • Art
  • Mixed media
  • Streeterville

The Museum of Contemporary Art hosts the first career-spanning retrospective of Chicago artist Nick Cave's work at Forothermore, a comprehensive dive into Cave's acclaimed body of visual art alongside his roles as an activist and community builder. Dedicated to those who exist as the "other" (whether through racism, homophobia or other modes of discrimination), Forothermore spans everything from installations and sculpture to fashion, performance and video work, with never-before-seen highlights like a continuation of Cave's lauded Soundsuits series. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals

This annual festival—which returns in 2022 with a full slate of in-person events—assembles luminaries from the fields of politics, journalism and the arts for a multi-week series of programming across the city, with events ranging from lectures and discussions to screenings and musical performances. This year’s fest theme, ”Public,” explores how people might move forward with public and private life after two years of Covid-related isolation. 

Not sure which events to hit? Some of the fest’s biggest speakers—including Anita Hill, John Waters and Selma Blair—will come to Chicago during two “Festival Days” held on May 7 and May 14, when events will stretch from morning through the evening. You can see a full schedule of programming on the Chicago Humanities Festival website

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

Are you the type of person who stops to stare at gorgeous homes and buildings in Chicago? If so, you'll want to check out architecture photographer Will Quam's seasonal Brick of Chicago tours, which guide attendees through some of the city's most stunning examples of brick construction—from massive greystone mansions to the humble Chicago Common brick (and plenty more). Tours are broken up by neighborhood, so choose a date for an area near you or branch out to explore a new area of the city; for a complete list of tour dates, visit the Brick of Chicago website

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  • Comedy
  • Solo shows
  • Lincoln Park

Comedian Mike Birbiglia heads to Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater for a four-week run of his show The Old Man and the Pool, a funny and ruminative coming-of-middle-age story. Written and performed by Birbiglia, the show grapples with questions of life, death and growing older (including what happens when those decorative-looking items at the doctor's office suddenly become useful). 

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  • Art
  • Digital & interactive
  • Lincoln Park

Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija's incisive artwork and culinary installation (who's afraid of red, yellow, and green) transforms Wrightwood 659's second-floor gallery into a communal dining space, where visitors are intermittently served Thai curries while a large-scale mural depicting Thai political protests is painted on the walls. The interactive exhibit—which comes from the collection of the Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC—invites visitors to consider the ties between food and politics, and to consider the work alongside their fellow diners while sharing a meal. 

  • Theater
  • Lincoln Park

Anton Chekov's iconic play—set over the course of one long weekend in the Russian countryside—is adapted, translated and directed by Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Yasen Peyankov in this humorous new production, which is headed to the theater's recently unveiled in-the-round Ensemble Theater. 

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

Explore the housing crisis through the lens of artists like Gabrielle Garland, Tonika Lewis Johnson and Maymay Jumsai—as well as organizations such as the Southside Home Movie Project—in this Weinberg/Newton Gallery exhibit, a partnership with the nonprofit Mercy Housing Lakefront. Featured work includes paintings, collage, sculpture, video and large-scale installation, which tell the story of damaging housing practices while also imagining a more enriching, secure future for urban living. 

  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Washington Park

Will you be Her Majesty Queen Charlotte's diamond of the season? To find out, don your best finery and take a time machine to the Regency-era London of Shonda Rhimes' imagination at this immersive Bridgerton-themed ball.

Mix and mingle with other members of the ton (short for "le bon ton," or the well-heeled denizens of London) while wandering through rooms outfitted to look like the show's regal ballrooms; throughout the night, a string quartet will play music inspired by the series—including classical covers of contemporary songs—to set a properly aristocratic mood. Don't miss special immersive features like live dance performances and a Regency-era painting studio, and sip Bridgerton-themed cocktails provided by Tanqueray as the evening unfolds. FYI: Attendees must be 21 or older and proof of vaccination is required. 

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Loop

The Chicago Architecture Center's largest-ever exhibition explores how cities can rise to meet the challenge of climate change by utilizing creative, eco-friendly approaches to design and the built environment. Visitors can learn about how architects, engineers and urban planners are working on technologies like kinetic energy capture and high-performance facades to create net-zero carbon buildings, or how public transportation and more efficient appliances can help work toward a greener future on an individual scale,giving you a chance to see how you can contribute to the goal of a carbon-free world. 

  • Art
  • Film and video

Projecting a 25-story-tall video installation on the side of the Merchandise Mart, Art on theMart's spring program focuses on two climate change-themed projections presented in partnership with the Shedd Aquarium. The first, Floe, was created by Chicago choreographer Carrie Hanson (in collaboration with her dance company, The Seldoms) and spotlights climate change through melting ice, extreme weather and the human body, set to soundscapes of icebergs, water and rain. The second, Choral, is by the collaborative localStyle and depicts the human impact on coral ecosystems.

Art on theMART's array of 34 digital projectors display the 30-minute program at 8:30 and 9pm every evening. The show is best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

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  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Kenwood

Married artists Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger explore relationships, intimacy, queerness and loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic in this immersive exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center. Visitors can see three new works in the Art Center's gallery space—including a massive mural and a participatory installation that invites people to make their own paper cranes—and attend a number of free public programs, from a Pride-themed performance to a conversation with artist couples.  

  • Theater
  • Loop

Join all six of King Henry VIII’s wives—Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr—at CIBC Theatre as they push their murderous, conniving husband aside and take back the mic, sharing and singing their own stories in this history lesson turned pop-concert spectacular imported from the U.K.

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  • Art
  • Digital & interactive
  • Old Town

Ready for the next phase of immersive art in Chicago? Produced by the same team that created “Immersive Van Gogh” and hosted at the Germania Club Building in Old Town, “Immersive Frida Kahlo” showcases animated video projections of some of the artist’s most iconic paintings, including works like “The Two Fridas” and “The Wounded Deer,” alongside a selection of drawings, iconography and photographs of the artist at various stages of her life. Expect something of a history lesson alongside the images: The exhibition jumps through the eras of the Kahlo’s work in an attempt to illuminate themes from the artist’s life, from her feminism to her involvement in the Mexicanidad movement.

  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

The Field Museum's latest exhibition takes you into the depth of prehistoric seas, where gigantic underwater creatures made their home more than 200 million years ago. Visitors will learn how these Jurassic giants evolved into familiar marine animals, like sea snakes, turtles, dolphins and whales. The interactive exhibition include real fossils and CGI projections of ancient creatures like the mosasaur—also known as the T.rex of the sea.

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  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Hyde Park

Want to see recreations of Van Gogh's “Starry Night,” Da Vinci's “Mona Lisa” and Michaelangelo's “David”  constructed with Lego bricks? The Museum of Science and Industry's latest exhibition collects the work of Nathan Sawaya, a former lawyer who turned his passion for tiny plastic bricks into contemporary art. “The Art of the Brick” include more than 100 of his creations, include a 20-foot-long T.rex skeleton and a life-sized sculpture of a man pulling his chest apart. The traveling show is the first major museum exhibition to use Lego bricks as its sole medium—and a testiment to the creativity that can be achieved with hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of plastic.

This Museum of Science and Industry exhibit rquires a seperate ticket for entry, in addition to regular museum admission.

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  • Sports and fitness
  • Yoga & Pilates
  • Old Town

Grab a mat and take a 40-minute yoga class inside of the "Immersive Frida Kahlo" experience, moving your body in sync with the music, lights and moving images within the high-tech show. The classes are led by a certified yoga instructor and take place early in the morning (before the exhibit opens to the public) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Yoga & Pilates
  • Streeterville

Looking for a Sunday morning yoga class with a killer view? 360 Sky Yoga allows you to get on your mat while enjoying the sights from the 360 CHICAGO observation deck on the 94th floor of 875 N Michigan Avenue (formerly the John Hancock Center). Instructor Britta Eumann leads two one-hour sessions every Sunday—you just need to bring your own mat and arrived properly dressed. Each class includes a general admission ticket to 360 CHICAGO, so you can stick around and snap some photos after you're done striking poses on the mat.

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  • Comedy
  • Sketch shows
  • Lake View

Bye Bye Liver combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened 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.

  • Art
  • Painting
  • Loop

The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the first comprehensive retrospective of Robert Colescott, a 20th century American painter whose incisive, large-scale work took aim at racial inequities in America—among other social ills—with humor and wit. The exhibition examines Colescott's work throughout the decades, moving through the artist's stylistic evolutions from riffs on the Bay Area Figuration of the '50s and '60s to his graphic style of the '70s and beyond, as well as his role in bolstering Black representation in art.  

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  • 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.

  • 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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  • Nightlife
  • Cabaret and burlesque
  • Lake View

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!

  • 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").

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  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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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  • Art
  • Sculpture

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.

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