October Chicago festival calendar

Kick off the fall season at these Chicago festivals, featuring food, music and films
Photograph: Max Herman Open House Chicago offers behind-the-scenes access to sites across Chicago including Chicago Temple.
By Time Out Chicago staff, compiled by Zach Long |

It's October and there's a chill in the air, the trees are beginning to shed their leaves and the smell of pumpkin spice lattes wafts from coffee shops. Thankfully, there are also plenty of Chicago festivals to look forward to. Kick off autumn at the first Great Chicago Fire Festival, where the creative pyromaniacs at Redmoon Theater will commemorate one of the city's greatest tragedies with an explosive riverfront celebration. Add a little culture to your life by attending a screening during the Chicago International Film Festival or catching a lecture at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Fill the days before Halloween with our list of the best film, food and art festivals that are happening this month.

Music, Dance and electronic

Via Festival

In its fifth year, the Via Festival brings its mission of audio-visual innovation to Chicago. The electronic gigs, underground parties and workshops are produced in partnership with Them Flavors, who hold down regular nights at Primary. Much of the events take place in that club, though half are listed at a "Secret Location." Check in with the fest's website for more details.

Taste Talks Chicago

Chef, restaurateur and media personality Mario Batali presents a food festival curated by Chicagoan chef Paul Kahan, exploring the future of taste at some of the city's hottest restaurants. Daily events include panels about cider and dried charcuterie, while exclusive evening dinners will feature food from Abraham Conlon (Fat Rice), Rick Bayless (Frontera) and more.

Things to do, Festivals

West Town Art Walk

Artists take over neighborhood shops during the annual West Town Art Walk, which mines the creative talents of area residents. The festival celebrates all kinds of art, including visual, fashion, musical and culinary.

Things to do, Festivals

Naper Settlement Oktoberfest

Ring in the arrival of autumn with German beer and polka bands at the historic Naper Settlement while supporting the Naperville Heritage Society. On Saturday, admission includes a tour of the Settlement.

Things to do, Festivals

The Great Chicago Fire Festival

In 1871, a huge portion of Chicago was leveled by a devastating fire that is commemorated by one of the stars on the city's flag. The inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival celebrates the city's rebirth in the years since the tragedy with an explosive show on the riverfront. Redmoon Theater is organizing a pyrotechnic display that will ignite a sense of pride in everyone who calls this city their home.

Mac & Cheese Fest

Mac and cheese is a dish that dates back to the 14th century, long before the geniuses at Kraft managed to pack its gooey, cheesy flavor into a neon orange powder. A momentous dish deserves an overindulgent festival, so on the heels of Baconfest and Poutine Fest, there is now Mac & Cheese Fest. Prepare to eat the noodle-filled creations of more than 60 Chicago chefs, with a portion of proceeds benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Things to do, Festivals

Ravenswood ArtWalk

Take a stroll down both sides of Ravenswood Avenue to see art, live music and theater at this local festival.

Things to do

Chicago Gangster Convention

Learn more about the lives of some of city's most famous criminals at the first annual Chicago Gangster Convention. The event hosts various crime authors and features activities like a Al and Mae Capone look-alike contest and gangster trivia. All attendees are encouraged to come dressed in 1920s garb.

Things to do, Festivals

Andersonville Arts Weekend

Andersonville’s artistic community gathers for a weekend of creative celebrations, showcasing work from local artists in businesses and galleries throughout the neighborhood. The weekend kicks off with Night of 100 pARTies, with receptions taking place at various local venues.

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