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Fall in Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock/Nejdet

Things to do in Chicago today

Find the best things to do in Chicago today, including parties, concerts, screenings and other can't-miss events.

Zach Long
Emma Krupp
Written by
Zach Long
&
Emma Krupp
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Not sure what's happening around the city today? More events are headed indoors as fall in Chicago brings a chill to the air, so make sure you have your mask handy before checking out museum exhibitions, concerts and other fun happenings throughout the city. Even so, it's not too late to spend a little time outside: Pack a sweater and eat dinner at the coziest outdoor patios and dining spaces in Chicago, or plan a day trip to explore pumpkin patches near Chicago and find the perfect gourd to adorn your windowsill. Plus—as always—we're keeping track of the top parties, movie screenings, community events and more interesting stuff happening in Chicago day-by-day. Grab your calendar and check out all the best things to do in Chicago today.  

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now 

Best things to do in Chicago today

  • Art
  • Film and video
  • price 0 of 4

Projecting a 25-story-tall video installation on the side of the Merchandise Mart, Art on theMart's latest program showcases the work of conceptual artist Barbara Kruger. Throughout the fall, you'll be able to see Kruger's video piece "Untitled (Questions), 1990/2021," which projects a series of questions across the face of the building in a bold font. The presentation conicides with Kruger's new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, "Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You." Art on theMART's array of 34 digital projectors display the 30-minute program at 7:30 and 8pm every evening. The show is best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • price 2 of 4
  • Magnificent Mile

Calling all The Office fanatics: The same team that created "The Friends Experience" is back with another nostalgic pop-culture experience that will make you feel like a Dunder Mifflin employee. Spread across two floors, the pop-up features 17 rooms that recreate sets from the show, including the Scranton Business Park workplace (which features Michael's office, Pam's reception desk and Ryan's closet) and Schrute Farms. Guests will be able to ecreate moments like Kevin's chili spill and the Dundie Awards—and you'll also find a few original props and costumes on display. Don't forget to stop by a gift shop that's dressed up like the Warehouse, featuring merch like "World's Best Boss" mugs, sweatshirts that say "Nard Dog" and staplers (Jello not included). The gift shop will be open to both ticketed and non-ticketed guests, so even those who don't spring for the photo-friendly experience have a chance to buy some branded shirts and tchotchkes.

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  • Movies
  • Horror
  • price 2 of 4
  • Lower West Side

The Music Box of Horrors 24-hour movie marathon is back on the big screen at the Southport theater this year (on October 23 and 24), but organizers are also reviving the month-long drive-in screening series that took its place last year. Once again, you'll be able to pile your friends into a car and catch single and double features at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-In throughout October. Of course, the lineup of films is terrifyingly good. This year's themes include Nü-Metal Mondays (films with a late ’90s soundtrack), Thirsty Thursdays (vampire movies), Friday Night Double Features (two movies!), Rip-Off Saturdays (an original movie followed by its imitator), and Serial Killer Sundays (real-life monsters). Highlights of the lineup include psychedelic ’70s flick The Velvet Vampire, a Japanese horror double feature of Ringu and Dark Water, Hellraiser and its shot-for-shot Indonesian remake Roh, and Wes Craven's underappreciated social satire The People Under the Stairs. Just like last year's Music Box of Horrors drive-in screenings, you can expect specialized movie intros, hilarious pre-show content, filmmaker Q&As and vendors selling their spooky wares. If you don't think that you can stay up for 24 hours of horror movies at the Music Box's marathon, this is a pretty great alternative. Admittance for each screening begins 30 minutes before showtime.

  • Art
  • price 2 of 4
  • Old Town

Step inside of Starry Night and The Bedroom in Arles with the help of more than 50 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 show 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. Occupying four rooms in the space, the "Immersive Van Gogh" presentation is around 35-minutes in length, with mostly-identical projections displayed in each of the rooms throughout the show. Visitors to "Immersive Van Gogh" will find a variety of saftey measures in place, including social distancing circles within the exhibit, reduced capacity, a touchless ticketing system and face covering requirements for all guests. "Immersive Van Gogh" is currently scheduled to run through September 6.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 0 of 4

Want to get a free, behind-the-scenes look at the Bahá'í House of Worship, Herman Miller Showroom, Chinese American Museum of Chicago and more than 100 other architectural gems throughout the Chicago area? You'll soon have a chance to do so: After offering a virtual version of its programming in 2020, the annual architecture festival Open House Chicago returns this October with in-person tours, online lectures and an expanded version of its app for independent exploration throughout the city, featuring self-guided tours of thematic architecture "trails" in different neighborhoods of Chicago.  The program kicks off on September 28 with Chicago Architecture Center members-only previews before launching on-app programming on October 1 (available for download on Apple or Android devices). Using the app, folks can navigate a series of self-guided, multi-site tours—called "trails—which include topics like the Obamas in Hyde Park and the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. The app will also include a guide to sites available for in-person visits, plus info on other city attractions, and will be available through October 31. In-person tours will take place during the weekend of October 16–17, with tours spread throughout more than 30 neighborhoods and a handful of suburbs. New sites this year range from the newly-opened Pullman National Monument Visitor Information Center to the Sable Hotel at Navy Pier; in addition, catch returning favorites such as the Alfred Caldwell Lily

  • Art
  • Installation
  • price 2 of 4
  • West Loop

The home of Chicago's only Infinity Mirror Room (created by Japanese artist 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.

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  • Art
  • Design
  • price 0 of 4
  • Loop

Comic artist and author Chris Ware and historian Tim Samuelson curate an exhibition devoted to the early days of the comic strip. Showcasing work from the period of 1880 to 1960, the exhibit includes early strips that ran in newspapers as well as work by African-American cartoonists and publishers. The exhibit also pays tribute to Frank King, who penned "Gasoline Alley," creating one of the very first autobiographical comics based on real Chicagoans and the neighborhoods they lived in. If you've already seen the Museum of Contemporary Art's “Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now” exhition, this show will give you an even deeper understanding of the artforms ties to the Second City.

  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • price 1 of 4
  • Suburbs

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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  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • River West/West Town

To celebrate the release of the new book Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer's Guide, Atlas Obscura is setting up a custom vending machine in front of the Hideout and hosting a party on Saturday from 1–4pm. If you snag a ticket, you'll get to meet and get your book signed by Atlas Obscura co-founder and co-author Dylan Thuras. Plus, you'll witness a special fruit and vegetable synth performance and interactive music station. You don't need a ticket to gain access to the Gastro Obscura vending machine, which will remain in front of the Hideout through Monday, October 25. The machine is stocked with interesting edibles from Vargo Brother Ferments, Four Star Mushrooms and Blossoms by Angelica. You can try rare and unusual foods like a miracle berry that makes lemons taste sweet or a Rwandan condiment that is so spicy, it's served using eyedroppers. Bring an appetite for the unusual and purchase something from the vending machine between 1pm and midnight Saturday, October 23 through Monday, October 25.

  • Art
  • Architecture
  • price 1 of 4
  • Loop

Best known locally for designing the James R. Thompson Center and Terminal 1 (including its popular neon-lit walkway) at O'Hare International Airport, German-born architect Helmut Jahn spent his career pursuing distinctive visions. In light of his recent passing after being struck while riding a bicycle in suburban Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Center presents a career retrospective, exploring his work and the enduring legacy of the structures he designed. Showcasing a collection of personal and professional items loaned by Jahn’s family and firm, the exhibit traces his path, beginning with his days as a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Guests can take in photography, models and sketches of Jahn's most famous designs, including the Sony Center in Berlin and the Michigan City Public Library. You'll also get a peek at more recent projects like Chicago's 1000M and the Pritzker Military Archives, which is currently under construction in Somers, Wisconsin.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • price 0 of 4

Every two years, Chicago becomes a global hub of architecture and design during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. This year's edition takes place across three months, filling vacant lots with site-specific architectural projects and presenting a pair of exhibitions at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts and the Graham Foundation. The theme of this year's Biennial is "The Available City," presenting projects and conversations that respond to and expand upon the question of "who gets to participate in the design of a city?" Highlights of this year's programming include a circular outdoor meeting space designed by Matri-Archi(tecture) in a lot on 63rd Street in Woodlawn and a pair of exhibitions at the Bronzeville Artist Lofts and the Graham Foundation that feature projects by a global group of architects and designers, hailing from New York, Porto, Paris and Beijing. Plus, a series of Activation Weekends will activate the various Biennial installations throughout the city, welcoming performers, experts and cultural programming. Stay up-to-date on the latest programming and activations by visiting the Chicago Architecture Biennial website.

  • Art
  • Contemporary art
  • Grant Park

Don't call this one a retrospective. Yes, the Art Institute's exhibition of Barbara Kruger's work encompasses four decades of her career, but "THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU." isn't stuck in the past. Instead, the display takes Kruger's vintage works and presents it alongside new pieces that build upon them, unlocking new context and meaning. Spread throughout the museum, guests will find rooms wrapped in Kruger's imagery, installations in the Regenstein galleries and pieces that inhabit the exterior walls of the museum (as well as billboards, bus stops and storefronts around Chicago). Expect to see Kruger's biting sense of humor on display—often spelled out in big, bold letters.

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  • 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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