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wndr museum
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

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 and Emma Krupp
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By the end of the weekend, March will arrive and spring weather will (hopefully) not be too far behind. Fill the last few days of February with exciting things to do, including amazing museum exhibits or a visit to the reopened Garfield Park Conservatory. If you'd rather stay inside, you can toast the month at the virtual Northwest Brewfest, watch a streaming Lunar New Year-themed puppet show or learn about vino at the RPM Wine School. Keep thinking warm thought and check out 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

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit
Photograph: Vladimir Kevorkov

1. “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.

wndr museum
Photograph: Courtesy wndr museum

2. 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.

Like many galleries and museums, WNDR will be open at a limited capacity, with temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, increased airflow and manditory mask use in place to help protect staff and guests. Frontline workers can recieve free admission to WNDR Museum from 11am to noon on Saturdays and Sundays by emailing hello@wndrmuseum.com.

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Schitt's Creek
Photograph: Courtesy Comedy Central

3. Schitt Happens Pop-Up

Nightlife Pop-ups and food events Replay Lincoln Park, Lake View

Replay Lincoln Park's latest pop-up draws inspiration from Schitt’s Creek, the beloved comedy about a bunch of unlikable rich people adjusting to a new life in a town they own. Visitors to Schitt Happens will be able to snap photos in front of recreations of locations from the show, including the Rosebud Motel, Café Tropical, Moira’s Wig Wall and the welcome to Schitt’s Creek sign. The Chicago Makers Pop Up Shop is running a recreation of the Rose Apothecary, selling artisanal items and merch created by local artists.

The pop-up's Café Tropical menu features food and cocktails that fans will recognize, including Ahn-chiladas, Lovebird Wings, Rosebud Cinnamon Buns and Schitt Fries. Each reservation includes two cocktails and access to more than 30 vintage arcade machines during a one-hour time slot.

You'll be able to visit the Schitt Happens Pop-Up through April 1. While walk-ups are welcome, making a reservation in advance is recommended.

Chicago Gamespace
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Gamespace

4. “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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Rock Island Public House drive-in
Photograph: Courtesy Rock Island Public House

5. 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 an entire weekend of The Big Lebowski. 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!

rootstock, jessica lynn capron, bar awards, wine, wine bar, pour
Photograph: Jessica Lynn Capron

6. RPM Wine School

Bars Wine bars Various locations throughout Chicago,

Learn more about grapes, cultures and wine making techniques during this twice weekly online class, hosted by RPM Restaurants' Wine Director Richard Hanauer. During each interactive class, you'll learn about the wines from a specific region and how to taste them, with classes devoted to wine from Tuscany, Napa Valley, Loire Valley and Bordeaux. Each $50 class includes a package of wines that you can pickup from RPM Seafood. 

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Nelson Mandela
Photograph: Graeme Williams / Illinois Holocaust Museum

7. “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.

Cobra Lounge pop-up
Photograph: Courtesy Cobra Lounge

8. Chicago Craft: A Collective Grip Pop Up Shop

Shopping Pop-up shops Cobra Lounge, West Loop

Cobra Lounge and Jeppson’s Malört have teamed up to present an ongoing pop-up, bringing together goods from local creators as well as fresh beer from area breweries. Hosted inside the Cobra Lounge, you'll find vednors selling everything from soap to hand-knitted goods, alongside beer from All Rise Brewing, Half Acre and On Tour. You can also grab a drink (including the sought-after Barrel Aged Malört) and enjoy it beside an outdoor bonfire. Capacity is limited and face masks must be worn when inside Cobra Lounge.

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

9. “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.

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

10. “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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Virtual yoga
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Cats 'n Mats Yoga

Sports and fitness Yoga & Pilates Various locations throughout Chicago,

You can do your downward dogs in the company of some pretty adorable cats as part of this monthly virtual yoga series from the Anti-Cruelty Society, during which an instructor will host an hour-long session among a couple of kittens. After the lesson concludes, you'll be treated to a virtual show-and-tell session with the yoga kitties—and who knows, maybe you'll be inspired enough to take one home. 

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

12. “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.

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13. Late Great Nocturnal Night at NPV

Sports and fitness North Park Village Nature Center, North Park

Too busy for a hike during the day? Head to the 46-acre expanses of North Park Village Nature Center Park on the last Friday of every month for a self-guided hike during the early evening. The park, which normally closes at 4pm, will remain open until 6:30pm for strolling, stargazing and searching for nocturnal animals. It will be dark, of course, so bring a friend! 

14. “K. Kofi Moyo and FESTAC ’77: The Activation of a Black Archive”

Art Photography Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Woodlawn

Centered around a collection of images from Chicago-based photographer Karega Kofi Moyo, this exhibition looks back at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (a.k.a. FESTAC ’77), which took place in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. Moyo's photographs document a pivotal gathering of the Black diaspora, accompanied by images of Black life during the ’70s. The exhibit also includes contemporary responses to Moyo's work, provided by participants in a University of Chicago that explored Black photography archives.

Visitors will need to register and reserve a time to view the exhibition via the
Logan Center for the Arts website.

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Isaiah Collier
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

15. Fulton Street Collective Jazz Series

Music Jazz Various locations throughout Chicago,

Visual and performing arts incubator the Fulton Street Collective continues its regular jazz performance program, hosting sets featuring local musicians that can be streamed on YouTube. February's scheduled includes acts like the Kyle Madsen Trio, Chris Greene Quintet and the Isaiah Spencer Quartet playing John Coltrane's Both Directions at Once. Check out the Fulton Street Collective for a complete schedule and additional details.

Bisa Butler
Photograph: Margaret Fox

16. “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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ice skating
Photograph: Shutterstock/ReaLiia

17. Ice Skating at Rosemont’s Parkway Bank Park

Sports and fitness Parkway Bank Park,

Hit the ice at the Chicago Wolves Ice Rink at Rosemont's Parkway Bank Park, where you can reserve a free 45-minute skating session every day through January (including holidays); the rink will also be open on Sundays through February. Use of the rink itself is free—with skate rentals available for $8—but you'll need a credit card to hold your reservation online. 

Cecil McDonald, Jr.
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

18. “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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Photograph: Courtesy Maggie Daley Park

19. Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

Things to do Ice skating Maggie Daley Park | Chicago, IL, 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. Admission to the Skating Ribbon is always free, but this year you'll need a reservation in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines—a max of 180 skaters will be allowed on the ice at any given time. Skate rentals are available for $16–$20. The Ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting).

Steppenwolf What is Left, Burns
Photograph: Lowell Thomas

20. 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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Virtual yoga
Photograph: Shutterstock

21. Virtual Yoga at Garfield Park Conservatory

Sports and fitness Yoga & Pilates Various locations throughout Chicago,

Tune in every Saturday for a free yoga class taught by one of the resident instructors at Garfield Park Conservatory—all are welcome regardless of skill level. Be sure to register ahead of time to get the link to join, and consider throwing in a donation to help support the Conservatory's programming. 

Hideout Chicago, Cosmic Country Showcase
Photograph: Sarah Larson

22. 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, with offering regular show like the songwriter-curated perfromance series To The Front and Live From the Hideout, which finds local bands playing to an empty house. You can snag a ticket to individual events or subscribe to get unlimited access to Hideout streams every month.


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womanish
Photograph: Courtesy Womanish

23. 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.

The Neo-Futurists
Photograph: Ricky Kluge

24. 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!

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