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The best winter events

If you get off the couch for anything this winter, make it these top winter events, from concerts to comedy shows

Chicago Polar Plunge 2014
Photograph: Max Herman Chicago Polar Plunge 2014
By Time Out Chicago editors |

Chicago doesn't slow down during the winter, and thankfully so, because winter in the Midwest seems to go on forever. These are the winter events that will keep you entertained all season. It's the perfect time to catch a few of the best concerts in Chicago, visit some just-opened Chicago restaurants or try out the new ice skating rink in Grant Park. Get out and make this winter one for the Instagram.

RECOMMENDED: Find more things to do in Chicago this winter

Best winter events

Photograph: Krystal Thibault
Things to do


Enjoy dozens of seasonal beers while walking beneath the menagerie of bright lights on display at the Lincoln Park Zoo. While you're sipping, snap photos with Santa at the Helen Brach Primate House and take a complimentary spin on the Endangered Species Carousel. Unlike ZooLights itself, this beer tasting isn't free, but proceeds from the event help keep the zoo open to the public year-round.

Jelani Remy as Simba and the company of The Lion King national tour
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Theater, Musicals

The Lion King

Julie Taymor's extraordinary, spectacle-filled Disney adaptation has been running on Broadway for 18 years. The national touring company returns to Chicago for the first time since 2010.

Comedy, Sketch shows

The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival

January can be a rough month in Chicago, so it's a good thing we've got something to laugh about. In its fifteenth year, the largest sketch comedy festival in the country will present a packed line-up of hilarious performers that will make you forget about those frigid temperatures outside.

Things to do, Festivals

Winter WonderFest

Navy Pier's annual indoor winter carnival returns with a selection of new activities, including a toboggan tunnel, winter mini golf and a 15-foot "snow tubing" hill. Returning attractions include the Blackhawks ice skating rink and various carnival rides. Kids can also snap a picture with Santa or decorate a cookie.

Things to do, Performances

Official Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

In its 102nd year, a favorite holiday tradition in Chicago gets uprooted. Since 1966, the city’s official tree lighting ceremony has taken place at Daley Plaza (all but once) but this year, the City of Chicago shakes things up by moving the event and tree itself to Millennium Park to create a winter campus that will include Cloud Gate, Maggie Daley Park, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink and a hunt for Santa Claus.

Music, Rock and indie


Slowcore legends Low return to town, touring behind their 11th album One and Sixes, recorded in Justin Vernon's April Base studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Using sparse instrumentation, the group’s latest batch of melancholy tunes leave plenty of room for the soaring harmonies of vocalists Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker.

Comedy, Stand-up

John Oliver

The host of HBO's indispensable Last Week Tonight and former Daily Show correspondent returns to stand-up mode for three shows at the Chicago Theatre.

The first Donut Fest was held this weekend at Chop Shop and the 1st Ward.
Photo: Hallie Duesenberg
Things to do, Festivals

Donut Fest

After a successful first year Donut Fest returns to Chop Shop for year three. Vendors include Glazed and Infused, West Town Bakery and many others.

Things to do

Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show

Stave off the winter blues inside the Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Center, where the greenhouses and gallery will be packed with more than 10,000 in-bloom orchids, featuring an array of hybrids. On Saturday and Sundays, the Orchid Marketplace allows you an opportunity to purchase the plants.

Cupid's Undie Run 2013
Photograph: Eric H. Brown
Things to do

Cupid's Undie Run

Dash through Wrigleyville in your unmentionables to raise dough for the Children's Tumor Foundation. Participants can raise funds to earn prizes, including shirts, undies and engraved flasks. There's also an afterparty at John Barleycorn where you can rub shoulders with people who have already seen you half-naked.

More to explore