Winter Guide 2012: Things to do this winter

From museum free days to hot club nights, here are 27 things we're looking forward to while we wait for that first robin of spring to chirp. Click through our calendar of events, below, and then check out other late-winter problem solvers at the bottom of the page.

  • Museums: Winter free days
    Ongoing through February
    January and February traditionally offer a wealth of free days for Illinois residents, and this year is no different. If you want to take advantage of comped admission, check out our handy list of free days. Note: The Shedd Aquarium offers free admission to its original galleries only (and no, you can't sneak into the more exciting Oceanarium and Wild Reef).
    Art Institute of Chicago: Weekdays through Feb 10.
    Shedd Aquarium: Jan 31.
    Field Museum: Jan 31.
    Adler Planetarium: Jan 31, Feb 1, Feb 6-9, Feb 14, Feb 15, Feb 21, Feb 22, Feb 28, Feb 29.
    Museum of Science and Industry: Jan 31, Wednesdays in Feb.
    Chicago History Museum: Feb 5-29.

  • Copyright 2010 SaverioTruglia

    Theater: Ameriville
    January 27-February 26
    New artistic director Chay Yew puts his first stamp on Victory Gardens' programming with this piece by the performance group Universes. Ameriville, which Yew also directed in its 2009 debut at Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival, uses a collage of music, spoken word, video and dance to explore issues of race, class, immigration and poverty through the lens of post-Katrina New Orleans.?
    Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Ave (773-871-3000, Jan 27-Feb 26; $20-$50.

  • Photograph: Johnny Knight

    Theater: Motion
    January 28-March 3
    The last play that Signal Ensemble Theatre co-artistic director Ronan Marra penned was Aftermath, the Rolling Stones bio that sold out its run, extended, sold out again, was remounted months later, and sold out that run as well. So anticipation for his follow-up, set in the locker rooms and back rooms of pro football as a top sports agent jockeys for his client's draft pick, is high.
    Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W Berenice Ave (773-347-1350, Jan 28-Mar 3; $20, students and seniors $15.

  • Music: Rumer
    Feb 2
    Burt Bacharach's new muse is poised to be next Adele. But despite her ode to �Aretha,� Rumer is far from retro-soul. She�s in a funk, not funky. Rumer, born Sarah Joyce in Islamabad, Pakistan, soothes with an aloe-like contralto, pipes that can not avoid comparison to Karen Carpenter. The wonderfully tranquilizing lounge pop tunes within her debut, Seasons of My Soul, are the kind of soft tragedies Ali McGraw used to die to.
    Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln Ave, (773-525-2501, Feb 2 at 9pm; $13 ($15 at door).

  • Music: Estelle
    Feb 3
    The "American Boy" singer has the cool cadence of Sade on new single �Thank You.� There�s a romantic quality to Estelle�s voice, and matters of the heart serve her best. �Break My Heart� speaks to that with silky, �70s low-rider soul, as does the robotic yet seductive �ColdCrush.� The budding diva has found a classy workaround to pushing the tempo.
    Double Door, 1572 N Milwaukee Ave (773-489-3160 Feb 3 at 9pm; $20.

  • Shopping: Randolph Street Markets
    Feb 4, 5
    To entice hibernators out of their lairs, this thrifters�-approved flea promises more than its usual spread, which includes vintage clothing, jewelry, furnishings and art. New this year: Style bloggers and writers help you avoid the hazards of rummaging (read: purchasing items you don�t want or need). If shopping�s not your vice and someone dragged you out to carry his or her bags, chill in the Super Bowl big-screen TV lounge. Not into sports? No problemo. Get crafty and make your honey a V-Day card at the love-letter writing station. No flame? Warm up with a bowl of chili. Market vendors are also slinging comfort foods.
    Beaux Arts Plumbers Union Hall Building, 1340 W Washington Blvd (312-666-1200, Feb 4, 5, noon-6pm. $10, online $8.

  • Photograph: William Frederking

    Dance: The Seldoms: This Is Not A Dance Concert
    Feb 4
    The Seldoms open their tenth season with a show made for the colored neon-lit lobby spaces of the Harris Theater, not its stage and house. As far as we know, it�ll be the first time that anyone has used the Harris� love-it-or-hate-it, Dan Flavin-esque lobby for live performance. Music is by Chicago percussionist Tim Daisy, and costumes are by Maria �Michelle Obama� Pinto.
    Harris Theater (205 E Randolph Dr, 312-334-7777, Feb 4 at 7, 8:15 and 9:30pm; $20, with 10th anniversary gala reception $100.

  • Photograph: Doug Hamilton

    Theater: American Idiot
    February 7-19
    Take a stroll down the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams": The Broadway entertainment inspired by Green Day's 2004 concept album, crafted by band frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer using the songs from that album and others from Green Day's catalog, hits town on its national tour. A film version is due next year.?
    Oriental Theatre, 24 W Randolph St (800-775-2000, Feb 7-19; $27-$95.

  • Comedy: Brian Posehn at UP
    Feb 10, 11
    Name not ringing a bell? Remember the shlubby mail carrier from Just Shoot Me or the pot-smoking, video-game playing, gay guy on The Sarah Silverman Program? Ah, now you know who we're talking about. As a stand-up, Posehn's a lot like his Silverman character (minus the gay part) in that he's a nerd enthusiast with a passion for death metal. Although it's still "UP" in the air, Posehn's February appearance is likely to coincide with a weekend of festivities to officially celebrate the grand opening of the UP Comedy Club. ?
    UP Comedy Club, 230 W North Ave (312-662-4562, Feb 10, 11 at
    8, 10:30pm; $25.

  • Art: "This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s" at the MCA
    Feb 11-Jun 3
    While we have to mock the decade that gave us stirrup pants and Ronald Reagan's presidency, the 1980s yielded some phenomenal art. Robert Mapplethorpe, Doris Salcedo and Felix Gonzalez-Torres are among the heavyweights in this exhibition, which examines how feminism, multiculturalism, the AIDS crisis and other issues transformed contemporary art. ?
    220 E Chicago Ave (312-280-2660, Tue 10am-8pm; Wed-Sun 10am-5pm, Feb 11-Jun 3; $12 suggested admission, seniors and students $7, kids under 12 free. Tuesdays free for Illinois residents.

  • Art: "Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art" at the Smart Museum
    Feb 15-Jun 10
    Art aficionados and foodies can at last break bread together at this show, which celebrates 30-plus artists who have incorporated meals into their practices. The tastiest part? Several artists will involve the public in participatory projects, including Michael Rakowitz, whose Enemy Kitchen (@enemykitchen) food truck will roam the city, with Iraq War veterans serving up Iraqi cuisine; and Tom Marioni, who recruited guest bartenders such as MCA director Madeleine Grynsztejn for his installation The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art.?
    Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 5550 S Greenwood Ave (773-702-0200, Tue, Wed 10am-4pm; Thu 10am-8pm; Fri 10am-4pm; Sat, Sun 11am-5pm; Feb 15-Jun 10; FREE.

  • Film: Margaret
    February 17-23
    Mired in editing and legal troubles, You Can Count on Me director Kenneth Lonergan�s masterpiece Margaret didn�t reach screens until six years after production wrapped. And even then, it tanked, despite the rhapsodic praise of a few reviewers (us included). A Twitter campaign and some year-end accolades later, this rich, volatile, endlessly debatable movie�a portrait of an emotionally turbulent high-school teen (Anna Paquin) who inadvertently causes a bus accident�is finally starting to attract the attention it deserves. The Siskel has booked an encore run from February 17-23. Don�t miss it: You might have to wait another six years. ?
    Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N State St (312-846-2600,

  • Courtesy of: Windish Agency

    Nightlife: DJ Krush + Orchard Lounge + Maker at the Mid
    February 21
    Throwing around a term like cutting edge takes on a whole different meaning when it comes to turntablist samurai DJ Krush. The Japanese DJ and producer has been working his brand of left-field hip-hop and beat-driven grooves since the '80s, so to call him an elder statesman almost sells him short. He used to show up in town more often, but these days his visits are as seldom as once every other year. Given that this gig falls on a Tuesday, this basically means we'll see you there. Groovy dance trio Orchard Lounge and stalwart beats DJ Maker open. ?
    The Mid, 306 N Halsted St (312-265-3990, Feb 21 at 10pm; $25, discounts in advance at

  • Photograph: Nadia Oussenko

    Dance: The Delicate Hour
    Feb 23-25
    Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak�s latest work goes up in February. The contemporary-dance collective�s long-gestating dances are always anticipated and tend to pack a satisfying payoff; Mad Shak�s last big project, Sharks Before Drowning, made more than one of our best-of lists in 2010.
    Dance Center of Columbia College (1306 S Michigan Ave, 312-369-8300, Feb 23-25 at 8pm; $26.

  • Music: Bird in Flight: The Music of Charlie Parker with Strings
    Feb 24
    Puerto Rican alto saxist Miguel Zen�n sits in with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble to toast the Bird. The cats dig into the master's 1950 recordings, Charlie Parker with Strings, pretty much the template for this whole classical-jazz fusion thing.?
    Harris Theater 205 E Randolph Dr (312-334-7777, Feb 24 at 7:30pm; $18-$48.

  • Theater: Show Boat
    Feb 24
    The Lyric Opera looks to new audiences with its foray into Broadway. Not sure a Jerome Kern musical from 1927 will rake in the Glee set, but it'll be fascinating to follow the initiative, which could send the subscribers with fur coats and pearl binoculars into a tizzy. Hear "Ol' Man River" deeper than you've ever heard it. These are mighty bassos.?
    Civic Opera House, 20 N Wacker Dr (312-332-2244, Feb 12-Mar 17; $54-$224.

  • Music: Van Halen
    Feb 24
    David Lee Roth dresses like an old-timey paperboy and can't hit the high notes and high kicks. Michael "The Mullet" Anthony and his harmonies have been replaced out of nepotism with a kid named Wolfgang. But Eddie, poor Eddie, can still shred. A comeback record was largely based from demos older than most of our staff, which bodes well. And you won't hear "Poundcake." Out of morbid curiosity, we want to see this Camaro crash into a tractor. ?
    United Center, 1901 W Madison St (312-455-4500, Feb 24 at 7:30pm; $69-$2,750.

  • Courtesy of: Infamous PR

    Nightlife: Damian Lazarus at Spy Bar
    February 24
    Never one to follow trends, club land's challenger of the status quo Damian Lazarus returns to Chicago for an aural excursion at Spy Bar. Proprietor of the fittingly named Crosstown Rebels label, Lazarus is a key player behind the careers of some of the hottest current acts in underground tech-house, including Art Department, Dinky, Jamie Jones and Visionquest. If you're a seeker of that "next" sound when you head out on the dance floor, you need look no further than this veteran selector.?
    Spy Bar, 646 N Franklin St (312-587-8779, Feb 24 at 10pm; $20, free before midnight with R.S.V.P. at

  • Art: "Entre Nous: The Art of Claude Cahun" at the Art Institute of Chicago
    Feb 25-Jun 3
    Claude Cahun (1894-1954), a.k.a. French-born artist Lucy Schwob, is a recently rediscovered Surrealist whose deconstructions of gender and identity seem decades ahead of their time. Cahun's revolutionary life included a lifelong artistic partnership with her stepsister and lover Suzanne Malherbe, and brave efforts on behalf of the Resistance during World War II. But you should see this show for her photographs and photomontages, curated by the Jeu de Paume, Paris.?
    Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Ave (312-443-3600, Mon-Wed 10:30am-5pm; Thu 10:30am-8pm; Fri-Sun 10:30am-5pm; Feb 25-Jun 3. $18; seniors, students and kids 14 and over $12; kids 13 and under free. First and second Wednesdays of the month are free for Illinois residents. $2 discount for Chicago residents.

  • Courtesy of: AM Only

    Music: Zed's Dead + araabMUZIK + Dillon Francis + Midnight Conspiracy at Congress Theater
    March 2

    As far as the "brostep" brand of dubstep goes, Zed's Dead falls to the more tolerable side of the sound. The duo mixes heavy amounts of soul samples into its speaker-rattling bass stompers. Another cross-genre talent, MPC wizard araabMUZIK looks to the euphoric side of dance music for his source material, sampling acts like Kaskade and flipping it into some of the most potent hip-hop beats coming out. Diplo discovery Dillon Francis has his roots in dubstep, but has recently taken a liking to the emerging moombahton sound, stripping away the Latin-heavy side of the midtempo dance sound and giving it a potent pop makeover. Kicking the whole night off, local electro-step duo Midnight Conspiracy rolls out a new live show based around the humongous LED screen you might have seen at one of its earlier gigs this year.
    Congress Theater, 2135 N Milwaukee Ave (773-486-6672, Mar 2 at 7pm; $25, discounts in advance at 17 and up.

  • Gay & Lesbian: Chicago Takes Off
    March 3
    TPAN's annual striptease gala missed the mark by just a hair last year with its modest Lido des Boyz, but expect it to return with a sweaty, fighting vengeance with "Game On 2012," a sexy, sporty take on striptease that is already filling our heads with locker-room fantasies and images of wide receivers and tight ends. As usual, the funds generated benefit more than 25,000 Chicagoans impacted by HIV/AIDS.
    Park West, 322 W Armitage Ave (773-929-1322, Mar 3 at 7:30, 10:30pm; $50-$150.

  • Comedy: Jerry Seinfeld
    March 3
    We've got to hand it to Seinfeld, various recent successes like the Seinfeld reunion on season seven's Curb Your Enthusiasm and directing Colin Quinn in last year's Long Story Short haven't stopped the man from doing what he loves best, stand-up comedy. Seinfeld continues to be a ubiquitous face on the touring circuit, and his appearances on late night have showcased a man at the top of his game.?
    Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N River Rd (847-671-5100; Mar 3 at 7, 10pm; $45-$75.

  • Art: "Alan and Michael Fleming" at threewalls
    Mar 9-Apr 21
    The Flemings, who are twins, have collaborated since 2005 on playful videos, performances and other works that remind us art can actually be fun. We're eager to see the two SAIC alums double down on their first Chicago solo show. ?
    threewalls,119 N Peoria St, suite 2C (312-432-3972, Tue-Sat 11am-5pm, Mar 9-Apr 21; FREE.

  • Photograph: Gadi Dagon

    Dance: Batsheva Dance Company
    March 17, 18
    Two of 2011�s best dance premieres were made by choreographers from Tel Aviv�s Batsheva, for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. The Israeli company itself follows up on its brilliant 2009 Chicago visit with a double bill of choreography by Ohad Naharin, MAX and B/OLERO. It�d be hard to overstate how excited we are for this.
    Auditorium Theatre (50 E Congress Pkwy, 312-922-2110, Mar 17 at 7:30pm, Mar 18 at 2pm; $30-$90.

  • Music: Black Keys + Arctic Monkeys
    Mar 19
    Yeah, the modest Ohio boys are playing on the Bulls' home court. Hard to believe. To justify that jump to the big leagues, the Keys have nitro-charged and given a coat of gloss to their blooze on the new El Camino. It's probably their worst record, and Patrick Carney's cross-armed clunk-drumming is four pistons short of a power engine, but goddamn can Dan Auerbach belt 'em.?
    United Center, 1901 W Madison St (312-455-4500, Mar 19 at 7:30pm; $66-$310.

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Auditorium Theatre

    Dance: American Ballet Theatre: Giselle
    March 22-25
    New York�s ABT brings its Giselle to the Aud for five shows beginning March 22, with the Chicago Sinfonietta in the pit. On Saturday 24, see Natalia Osipova, David Hallberg and Gillian Murphy in the Romantic ballet�s lead roles�they�re three of the most talked-about classical dancers alive today. Hallberg, recently a guest on The Colbert Report, made waves for defecting from the U.S. to join Moscow�s Bolshoi Ballet. Osipova, who, in another bit of big news, recently left the Bolshoi for St. Petersburg�s Mikhailovsky, is a freak of nature. The two are gorgeous together onstage, especially in Giselle. Not to be missed, balletomanes.
    Auditorium Theatre (50 E Congress Pkwy, 312-922-2110, Mar 22, 23 at 7:30pm; Mar 24 at 2pm, 8pm; Mar 25 at 2pm. $32-$127.

  • Photograph: Eduardo Patino

    Dance: Ballet Hispanico
    March 22-24
    Now directed by the founder of Chicago�s Luna Negra Dance Theater, BH�s upcoming visit includes a new piece by Ronald K. Brown, a genius at blending and mashing up different dance styles from the U.S., Africa and the Caribbean, to songs by Peruvian singer Susana Baca. The company will also perform a work by Andrea Miller, whose work we tend to love, and another by hot up-and-coming European choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.
    Dance Center of Columbia College (1306 S Michigan Ave, 312-369-8300, Mar 22-24 at 8pm; $26.

  • Photo credit: Murray Close

    Film: The Hunger Games
    Mar 23
    With the Twilight saga winding down, audiences may be starved for a new teen-lit movie franchise to sink their fangs into. Can this post-apocalyptic actioner, based on the first book in Suzanne Collins's best-selling trilogy, fill the void? Winter's Bone breakout star Jennifer Lawrence reportedly edged out 30 other actresses�including True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld and Hanna's Saoirse Ronan�to win the starring role. She plays Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl competing against other youngsters in a televised death tournament. Bella who? ?
    Opens Mar 23 at area theaters.

Museums: Winter free days
Ongoing through February
January and February traditionally offer a wealth of free days for Illinois residents, and this year is no different. If you want to take advantage of comped admission, check out our handy list of free days. Note: The Shedd Aquarium offers free admission to its original galleries only (and no, you can't sneak into the more exciting Oceanarium and Wild Reef).
Art Institute of Chicago: Weekdays through Feb 10.
Shedd Aquarium: Jan 31.
Field Museum: Jan 31.
Adler Planetarium: Jan 31, Feb 1, Feb 6-9, Feb 14, Feb 15, Feb 21, Feb 22, Feb 28, Feb 29.
Museum of Science and Industry: Jan 31, Wednesdays in Feb.
Chicago History Museum: Feb 5-29.

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