We love a sloppy late night at our favorite dive bars just as much as the next Chicagoan. But we also really, really love our beds—specifically, we love the feeling of a good night's sleep. Thankfully, enjoying everything Chicago has to offer and turning in early aren't mutually exclusive. From fantastic happy hours to early-evening shows at local music venues, you can have it all without rocking bags under your eyes the next day. Stay entertained without staying out late with this list of things to do before 10pm in Chicago.
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Things to do before 10pm in Chicago
The University of Chicago's single-screen Doc Films theater is on record as the longest continuously running student film society in the country. For just $5, you can see a recent movie, a catalog title or a special advance screening of an upcoming feature. There's a 7pm screening nearly every day of the week (and 1:30 and 4pm screenings on Sundays), so don't worry about missing the ending of a movie because you need to get some sleep.
Armed with a permanent collection of more than 300,000 artworks, the Art Institute houses everything from Japanese prints to ancient Greek sculptures, in addition to classic paintings such as Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and Grant Wood's American Gothic. You can spend an entire day taking in the works on display—or if you want to take a peek at some exhibits after work, stop by on Thursdays when the museum stays open until 8pm.
It's no secret that classical music typically attracts an older audience—including plenty of people who have an early bedtime. Concerts at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Symphony Center cater to patrons with strict schedules, with classical, jazz and occasional pop performances that begin around 8pm and get you out the door (and one step closer to dreamland) before 10pm.
With all that sleep, you can probably get up early enough to enjoy having some of the city's most beautiful green spaces (mostly) to yourself. Spend an afternoon people-watching in Millennium Park or explore the expansive Jackson Park. Getting in touch with nature won't require you to stay up late (and most parks close at 11pm, anyways).
Most shows at the Empty Bottle start late in the evening, which means that anyone with an early bedtime will be lucky to catch a few songs played by an opening act. The exception to that rule is Friday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30pm, when country rockers the Hoyle Brothers perform at the venue's weekly Honky Tonk Happy Hour. Snag a cheap drink from the bar, listen to some twangy tunes and get home with time to spare.
Oysters may be aphrodisiacs, but we don't love shelling out a fortune for a dozen bivalves. Luckily, lots of Chicago restaurants are making it easy, offering day-long or happy-hour deals on oysters (and, in some cases, other seafood as well). It's the perfect excuse to leave work early, enjoy good eats and then wrap things up before it gets too late.
This 2.7-mile path provides a quick way to travel between Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown, making it an ideal spot for an evening jog or a mid-morning stroll. On weekends when the weather is nice, the 606 gets clogged with cyclists and pedestrians, so you're better off visiting in the early evening hours if you want to go for a relaxing bike ride or a short run.
The entertainment is always on at Chicago's arcade bars, where a few quarters will buy you a game or two of Ms. Pac-Man or air hockey. Grab a craft beer or a cocktail if you need a break from attempting to set high scores. Most arcade bars stay open late, but you'll have no problem playing some pinball and getting home before 10pm—unless you're very good at pinball.
This ’60s beauty salon-themed bar is best known for its nightly dance parties, but the celebration gets started a bit earlier on Friday nights. Each week, the Chicago Handshake Happy Hour marks the beginning of the weekend with a themed DJ set and drink specials, beginning when the bar opens at 7pm. You can also stop by Beauty Bar for its signature martini and manicure special, beginning at 7pm Wednesday through Saturday.
The Neo-Futurists' signature show, The Infinite Wrench, is a late-night affair on Friday and Saturday nights, but on Sunday you can catch the 60-minute performance at 7pm. The show's cast performs a series of two-minute plays, which range from comedic takes on current events to strange performance art pieces, which could lead to some creative dreams when you finally hit the hay.
The Italian mega-store houses 22 different places to eat, including a seafood counter, pasta shop, wine stores, a Nutella bar and more. It's essentially a food court for adults who enjoy fine Italian cuisine, and most of its restaurants are open all day long. Stop by after work for charcuterie, pizza and a glass of wine; you'll even have time to grab a scoop of gelato on your way out.
You might not think that you can make it to a museum and dinner before tucking yourself in at 10pm, but the Museum of Contemporary Art make this feat possible. Stop by on Tuesday or Friday (when the MCA is open until 9pm) to walk through the galleries before having a meal at the adventurous new in-house restaurant, Marisol, helmed by Lula Cafe chef Jason Hammel.
The best thing about summer in Chicago is all the street festivals. Lucky for you, these fun-filled fests have to shut down by 10pm. With a slate of new celebrations in different neighborhoods literally every single weekend in the summer months, early-to-bed Chicagoans always have a fresh event to attend.
No joke: You can see some great comedy without cutting into your beauty sleep. Wrigleyville's Under the Gun Theater presents early-evening sketch, improv and stand-up shows (starting somewhere between 7 to 8pm) nearly every night of the week. Stop by to see one of the theater's pop-culture-savvy improv troupes or the long-running Chicago comedy showcase, the Lincoln Lodge.
If you happen to work in the Loop, the Riverwalk is a convenient place to unwind and admire some picturesque sights before you turn in for the evening. Have a glass of vino at City Winery, grab a cocktail at Tiny Tapp & Cafe or treat yourself at Frost Gelato. Finish off the evening with a self-guided tour of the architecture along the Chicago River before you catch a train, bus or cab home.