Fortunately when schools close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, several Chicago museums answer the what-to-do question with free or discounted admission for Illinois residents. In addition, the Black Ensemble Theater and the Chicago Children’s Theatre also have programs.
Here are some places to spend quality time Jan. 15, 2018.
On Chicago’s Museum Campus, Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., (312) 922-7827, The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., (312) 922-9410 and the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake shore Dr., (312) 939-2438, all have free general admission to Illinois residents. (Not included: all access to special exhibits).
At the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ryan Learning Center (entrance at the Modern Wing, 159 East Monroe St. is doing “Say it Loud” program of story telling, arts and discussions from 10 :30 a.m. to 3 p.m. No registration needed. However, admission to the museum is also free that day for all Illinois residents as part Free Winter Weekdays, January 8–February 15, 2018.
Four Chicago doings, call them the ABCDs, are here to chase away January gloom.
A is for an amazing art show of the works of homegrown, internationally known artist, Winifred Godfrey. Running from Jan. 14 through Feb. 25, 2018 at the Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, the show brightens the indoor landscape with her famed flowers. The opening reception is Jan. 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.. For more information call (773) 445-3838 and visit Beverly Art Center Events.
B stands for boat show. The annual Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show is back in town. Held now through Jan. 14, 2018 at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, the show becomes a fun family day. There’s hands-on activities ranging from fishing and paddle sports to lessons, seminars and virtual reality experiences. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Boat Show.
C banishes the doldrums with comedy. The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival returns to the city Jan. 11 through 21, 2018 at Stage 773. The venue is a theater complex at 1225 W. Belmont Ave. What to expect: 130 shows by returning troupes and new artists. Among the highlights is “ The Future is Female: A discussion with women about the climate of Chicago comedy,” Jan. 20, 3 p.m. in the Thrust theater with panelists from The Second City, Susan Messing of Annoyance Theater and WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez. For schedule, tickets and other information call (773) 327- 5252 and visit Chicago Sketch Fest. www.chicagosketchfest.com.
D is for that important word “discount” because $10 and $15 or less tickets are now available for Chicago Theatre Week. The annual week when Chicago area production companies have tickets for their shows at special prices is Feb. 8 through Feb. 18, 2018. But tickets for shows that week went on sale Jan. 9 and they go quickly. To snag the show you want visit Chicago Theatre Week. To see a list of all shows visit League of Chicago Theatres at Chicago Plays.
You know that Chicago celebrates the holidays with sparkling lights but if you don’t want to have to walk or drive all over to see them then check out the Holiday Lights Tour that takes folks to them on a double-decker trolley.
The tour starts its rounds from the John Hancock Plaza Tree at 875 N. Michigan Ave. It continues for 2 hours, 30 minutes with a stop at nearby Sprinkles Cupcakes, then over to the Christkindlmarket followed by a stop at Lincoln Park for ZooLights before ending back at the Hancock Center.
The Holiday Lights Tour goes from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23. For tickets, tour dates and hours visit Chicago Trolley.
ZoolLights at Lincoln Park is more than a walk on the wild side. Along with visiting the animals and strolling among glowing, color-changing lights, there is a Light Maze labyrinth ($3), rides on the Endangered Species Carousel and a Lionel Train Adventure.
ZooLights entry is free but on Family Nights of Dec. 11, 18 and Jan. 1, the rides are also free.
ZooLights is Nov. 24-26 and Dec. 1-3 and then every night from Dec. 8 through Jan. 7 except Dec. 24-25. Hours are from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Lincoln Park Zoo is at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. For ticket and other information call (312) 742-2000 and visit Lincoln Park Zoo/events.
Brookfield Zoo glows with more than a million LED lights during Holiday Magic, weekends Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17 and during the week Dec. 26-31. Don’t miss the events 41-foot high talking Tree, other trees that seem to dance to music and large light-shaped animals. Lights go on at 4 p.m.
Brookfield Zoo’s main parking lot is at First Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield, IL. For more date, hours and specific holiday events call (708) 688-8000 and visit Holiday Magic.
Pumpkins still adorn some front doorsteps and Halloween candies still sit on some shelves but with Thanksgiving coming early this year (Nov. 23) and stores looking for a cheerful buying season, holiday decorations and events are already going up and beckoning.
If you have been downtown Chicago recently near Daley Plaza you likely noticed that the Christkindlmarket is already going up for its Nov. 17 opening and that Macy’s has already decorated its State Street and some Randolph Street windows. Its 45 foot high Great Tree is up in the Walnut Room sparkling with 2,000 ornaments and 6,600 lights.
So yes, it’s somewhat early to plan on where to go for some holiday cheer of the non-alcholoic, event type. But if you don’t want to miss a fun activity, a repeat of a delightful family tradition or something that might start a new tradition, take a look at what’s coming up, print this and circle those events worth putting on your calendar.
The events tend to fall into those that open Nov. 17 and the ones that start the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.
Head to Millennium Park before 6 p.m. to ooh and aah when the lights switch on the 62 foot Norway sprice donated by Darlene Dorfler, Grayslake. The Oakdale Christian Academy Choir will be singing and cast members from Goodman Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ will perform. Santa and Mrs. Claus are also expected to visit. Admission is free. The tree will be up through Jan. 6, 2018.
The Chicago Christkindlmarket opens weekdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and stays open Friday-Saturday until 9 p.m. Location: Washington Street between Clark and Dearborn Streets. Admission free. For other information call (312) 494-2175.
See trees from a different perspective when the Morton Arboretum has lights moving on them to music. In addition there is an Illu-medallion that can now be purchased to reflect the interactive light display. Tickets are date and time specific. Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Il Hwy 53, Lisle. For more information call (630) 968-0074.
The festival opens Friday with activities and food from 4 to 8 p.m. in Lights Festival Lane (Pioneer Court) at 401 N. Michigan Avenue. The Michigan Avenue tree-lighting parade, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, happens on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. after a day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at Pioneer Court and at Michigan Avenue shops. The parade begins at Oak Street and goes south to Wacker Drive ending with Fireworks at 6:55 p.m. .
Begun in 1942 with one tree, the exhibit now has a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree plus more than 50 trees and displays. They are decorated by volunteers to represent many different cultures. MSI is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.
The European holiday market is now opening in other Chicago area attractions. On Nov. 24 it opens in Naperville at the Naper Settlement, 523 S Webster St, and at the Park at Wrigley, 3637 N. Clark St.
If going to Wrigley, bring skates ($5 age 13 and older, free 12 and under) or rent them there because along with the Christkindlmarket the Park has an ice skating rink. If going there Nov. 28, take in the Tree-Lighting Ceremony when a Colorado Spruce tree from will sparkle with 2,700 bulbs. Instead of worrying about parking take the CTA Red Line or Clark bus 22 or Addison 152.
The garden welcomes winter with a wonderland of lights outside and miniature trains speeding around Chicago landmarks plus decorated halls and greenhouses inside. Entry is ticketed and datge and time specific. The garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd, just east of Edens Expessway, Glencoe. (847) 835-5440
Art Institute of Chicago’s annually welcomes the holidays with a wreathing of its famous lion statues at 10 a.m., then continues the day with hot chocolate, music and drop in art activities through 3 p.m. While there, stop downstairs at the Thorne Miniature rooms because they are fun to see and some even get a holiday decoration. The museum is at 111 S. Michigan Ave.
So that in the coming weeks you don’t have to say “oops, I forgot” or “oh, I wish I had known,” here are some fun and interesting choices of what to do now through Nov. 5, 2017.
Short Story Theatre
Short story theatres are trending now in the Chicago area. (See StorySlam). Highwood, a tiny city between Highland Park and Lake Forest known for its restaurants, also hosts short story telling.
Its next time is Oct. 26 when the theme is Survival. Stories are likely to be about lost wives, geese, road trips or angels.
So come to Miramar Bistro at 301 Waukegan Ave. east of the North Line train tracks at 7:30 p.m. Or come earlier and eat there first. Just tell them when making a reservation that you are staying for the Short Story Theatre. Show tickets are $10 at the door, cash or check. Phone 847-433-1078.
Boo at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Hand-carved pumpkins line the paths Oct. 26-29 for Night of 10000 Jack-O-Lanterns. Tickets are date and time specific so get yours before you go to avoid disappointment. Times are from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, east of Edens Expressway. For tickets and other information call (847) 835-5440 or visit CBGHalloween.
Broadway in Chicago
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, ‘Les Miserables, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production that is garnering rave reviews, closes Oct. 29. For tickets visit BroadwayinChicago.
Then, School of Rock’ an exuberant show with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Broadway Rock.
Verdi and Wagner
If you enjoy opera at its best know that Lyric Opera of Chicago has openings, closings and reviews similar to many downtown shows. Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ that also received rave reviews, has only three performances left: Oct. 26, Oct. 30 and Nov. 3. Wagner’s next Ring cycle opera, ‘Die Walküre,’ opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.
Sip and Stroll Festival
Visit more than restaurants and other businesses in Lincoln Square for the semi-annual Ravenswood Wine Stroll. Nov. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are for one of five different routes: three in Lincoln Square and two in Ravenswood. For tickets and route information see Lincoln Square Wine Stroll.
Really old and last century modern
Winnetka Community House’s famed Antiques + Modernism show runs Nov. 3-5 with an evening, first peek party Nov. 2. Because it’s a 60-year-old nationally known event, dealers bring their fine antiques and excellent mid-last-century modernism jewelry and furniture. For ticket and other information visit Winnetka Show.
Where high-end art and superior design mix
Known as SOFA for bringing together Sculpture Objects Fine Art plus Design, the annual Chicago event is back at Navy Pier Nov. 2-5. Go upstairs to the Festival Hall to see what the international galleries say are trending now in the art world. For tickets and other information visit SOFA.
If you have the ability to turn sound into images in your mind, spoken word performances can be great theater.
Moth StorySLAM events are open mic storytelling competitions held in several large cities around the U.S.
The event I attended this week took place at The Promontory in Hyde Park at 53rd and Lake Park, an attractive modern glass and steel second floor facility in what was previously a Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
It seats over 100 people, has a large well lighted stage and a full cash bar in the back. The venue is used mainly for music although there is a nice, full-service restaurant on the first floor.
Be prepared for a considerable number of stairs to the performance area. They claim to have handicap access but it is an awkward service elevator accessed from the restaurant.
Moth StorySLAMs are held in this location the second Tuesday of every month. Tickets are $10 and available online at The Moth.
Ten volunteer storytellers are chosen at random to tell a true story without using notes. Each story is five to six-minutes long. Then, they are scored on a scale of one to ten based on how well the story is crafted as well as presentation and entertainment value.
Winners have an opportunity to advance to The Moth GrandSLAM. Selected stories recorded at the various venues can be heard on the The Moth Radio Hour. In Chicago listen Thursday evenings on NPR Station 91.5 FM.
Each event has a topic upon which to base the stories. When I went it was DISCOVERY.
The first fellow spoke about what he discovered about his deceased parents through an interaction with a man who had been his father’s best friend and his mother’s first husband.
Another woman spoke about what she had discovered about childhood friendship the summer she and her friends rode a mattress down an infrequently used stairway at a major department store in St. Louis.
The winner incorporated a good deal of humor. His discovery related to his determination to hang on to his childhood dream of owning a monkey.
My friend, Robert, a frequent public speaker, talked about discovering that true winners help others to succeed.
There were other stories dealing with the discovery of love, romance and personal pain.
Some speakers are professionals while others may be making their first public speaking appearance which provides for great entertainment with an element of danger.
Though I have been something of a devotee of the radio show, I would say in this case I discovered a great new venue and an enjoyable event that I would easily recommend. Perfect if you enjoy exploring the diversity of the human experience.
Other MothSLAMs are held on Chicago’s Northside and in Evanston.
Instead of looking for them in farmers’ fields, look for scarecrows and pumpkins at three fun-for-all-ages festivals where you can make or carve an inspired personality. The festivals are happening Oct. 6-8, 2017.
Highwood, a North Shore town, is holding its now nationally famous Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival. St. Charles, west of Chicago, has its 32nd Annual Scarecrow Fest. The Chalet Nursery, a fun place to find holiday items and indoor/outdoor décor pieces near Edens Expressway, is doing its annual scarecrow-making festival.
You’ll never see as many pumpkins and different pumpkin faces as in Highwood, IL this weekend. The tiny (little over a square mile) city tucked between Highland Park and Lake Forest, has been trying to break the Guiness World record of 30,851 carved pumpkins for the past few years. The streets on the east side of METRA’s Union Pacific North Line tracks are edged with tall, metal pumpkin stands where lit pumpkins cunningly grin at visitors at night. Festival doings day and night range from pie eating and costume contests to hay, pony and camel rides. There is also a Super Hero walk-run to honor a Make-A Wish child plus pumpkin carving, entertainment, food, tricks and treats.
A $3 per day or $5 for the weekend admission charge benefits the Make A Wish Foundation. Last year the festival raised $60,000. But also go just because the event is fun.
Some events need registering. For the Fun Walk/Run click here. For the entertainment and full event times and other registrations visit schedule. Hours are Friday 4 to 10, Sat. 9 a.m Fun Walk/Run and general opening 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m, 847-668-1213
Best plan is take the train because parking will be scarce. Or go north to Old Elm Road then east to Sheridan road and back south to Hotel Moraine at 700 Sheridan Road where a shuttle will take visitors to the festival.
More than 100 scarecrows will populate St. Charles Oct. 6 through Oct. 8.
The event also includes, Arts & Crafts show, vintage autos, entertainment, pumpkin displays, make-you-own scarecrow stations, pumpkin carving and food. Most events are free. The festival is divided into sponsored activity zones along Main Street (Hwy 64) between Fifth and Third Streets east of the Fox River and just south of Main Street across the river.
Hours: Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more activity information download the detailed map pdf by visiting brochure.
Chalet Nursery Scarecrow Festival
The Chalet Nursery and Garden Center has lots of Halloween decor plus visitrs can make their own scarecrow. All that is needed is to bring the scarecrow’s clothes because the Chalet will provide a head and straw. Hours: Oct. 7-8, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Chalet is at 3132 Lake Ave, Wilmette across from Edens Plaza. For more information call (847) 256-0561 and for general Chalet information visit Nursery.
If you don’t want to compete with other drivers going out of town Labor Day, take advantage of the long weekend to visit events and places in the Chicago area.
Cirque du Soleil
“Luzia, A Waking Dream of Mexico” will leave Chicago after this weekend. The final performance is Sept. 3. An amazing mix of color and culture, the show is under a tent at the United Center in Parking Lot K. For tickets and other information visit Cirque du Soleil Luzia.
Chicago Jazz Festival
Enjoy great music to sway and tap to under the stars in Millennium Park or surrounded by wonderful mosaics in the Chicago Cultural Center at the Chicago Jazz Festival this weekend. Admission is free. Millennium Park stages (201 E. Randolph St.) host music from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For Cultural Center, (78 E. Washington St.) times and for who is playing where and when visit ChicagoJazzFestival.
Art Fair on the Square
Wander around historic Market Square downtown Lake Forest Sept. 3 or 4 to see 180 exhibitors at Art Fair on the Square. Sponsored by the Deer Path Art League, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Admission is free.
For directions and more information visit Deer Path Art League.
Catch the Gauguin exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago before it leaves. It is an exceptional show of Paul Gauguin’s sculptures, ceramics, paintings and etchings, but it ends Sept. 10 so try to fit it in during the long Labor Day Weekend. The exhibit is so popular it requires tickets. They’re included in admission price but they are date sensitive. For information and tickets visit ARTIC.
Breakfast and hike
Go to Morton Arboretum for waffles, eggs and other yummy treats in the Ginko Garden Restaurant, Saturday or Sunday. Then, hike the trails to work it off. The weather is supposed to be perfect for exploring the Arboretum, 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle. For more information or restaurant reservations call (630) 968-0074 and visit Morton Arb.
Hear UB40 or Aretha Franklin
Picnic on the lawn at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park where UB40 performs Sept. 2 and Aretha Franklin gets respect Sept. 3. The UB40 concert is 7:30 p.m. Aretha Franklin, original scheduled for June 17, also starts at 7:30. Original tickets will be honored. Ravinia Festival is at 418 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park. For directions, parking, tickets and other information visit Ravinia.
Even though summer activities are winding down some of the best art shows in the Chicago area are yet to come.
The first three festivals listed here are at the end of August. They mark the end of summer for their communities just as Labor Day Weekend festivals signal the beginning of fall.
September 16-17 is particularly a popular art festival weekend. The top one that weekend is ACE, The American Craft Exposition. Some folks may recall it used to be on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus then moved over to the Botanic Garden a couple of years ago. It is ticketed but the proceeds benefit NorthShore University HealthSystem research.
Aug. 26 & 27 Oak Park
The suburb of Oak Park, just west of Chicago is holding its Oak Park Avenue-Lake Arts Crafts Show in Scoville Park at Oak Park Ave and Lake Street. Operated by the American Society of Artists, the hours are Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tip: You might want to look up Frank Lloyd wright’s Oak Park designed structures before you go so you know where to look on the way to or from the art fair. For more information visit the American Society of Artists.
Aug. 26 & 27 Highland Park
The annual Port Clinton Art Festival features about 265 artists from several countries and states downtown Highland Park. Spread across the Port Clinton shopping square, Central Avenue, it also now crosses Central at 1st and 2nd Streets. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For other information visit Amdur Productions.
Aug. 26 & 27 Chicago’s Bucktown Neighborhood
The last weekend in August is also the Annual Bucktown Arts Fest. Approximately 200 artists will be in Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2300 N. Oakley Ave & 2300 W. Lyndale St.11 am to 7 pm 200 Artists The Bucktown Arts Fest is a non-profit, all volunteer-run, neighbourhood celebration of the arts. The fair benefits arts education programming at Holstein Park and in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhoods. For other information visit Bucktown Arts Fest.
Sept. 3 & 4 Lake Forest
Art Fair on the Square, sponsored by the Deer Path Art League, fills historic Market Square and Western Avenue across from the METRA station downtown Lake Forest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It features 180 exhibitors. For more info: visit Deerpath Art League.
At the same time, visit the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Artisan Guild Fall Fair adjacent to Market Square in the parking lots of Lake Forest Bank & Trust to see 45 more booths. There is live music, a BBQ cookout and homemade ice cream. This fair benefits C.R.O.Y.A, the local youth group.
Sept. 9 & 10 Lakeview East, Chicago
Lakeview East’s Festival of the Arts showcases 150 exhibitors at Broadway Street and Belmont Avenue, Sat. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Lakeview Festival.
Sept. 9 & 10 Wicker Park, Chicago
The annual Renegade Craft Fair featuring 300 crafters takes place at Division Street between Damen Avenue and Paulina Street from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit Renegade Crafts.
Sept. 15-17 Glencoe
The American Craft Exposition returns to the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 E. Lake Cook Rd. (east of Edens Expressway. The Preview Party is Sept. 14: 6:30 to 9 p.m. General admission is Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is extra if not a Garden member. For ticket prices and other information call (847) 835-5440 and visit ACE.
Sept. 16 & 17 Park Forest
The Park Forest Art Fair, considered among the oldest juried fairs in the area will feature more than 90 exhibitors downtown on the Village Square at at Main & Cunningham Streets. Presented by the tall Grass Arts Association, the fair is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit tallgrassarts.
Sept. 16 & 17 West Loop, Chicago
The West Loop Art Fest has 180 exhibitors on Washington Boulevard from Halsted to Racine. The fair is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.. For more information visit Amdur Productions.
Sept. 16-17 Ravenswood, Chicago
The annual Ravenswood ArtWalk is along Ravenswood Avenue from Irving Park Road to Leland Avenue from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Co-presented by the Greater Ravenswood Chamber and Community Council and the sponsor, Access contemporary Music, ArtWalk combines its arts and creative industries.m See Ravenswood ArtWalk.
Sept. 16 & 17 Naperville
The suburb’s Riverwalk Fine Art Fair has about 140 artists downtown at
Eagle Street and Jackson Avenue along the DuPage River. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See more information at Naperville Riverwalk.
September 23 & 24 Highwood
A tiny suburb known mostly for its restaurants, Highwood started its Annual Starving Artists Show last year and drew a crowd. Its 2nd annual show will showcase 120 artists along Sheridan from Highwood to Webster Avenues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. For more information visit Amdur Productions.
Sept, 23 & 24 Barrington
Art in the Barn features 166 exhibitors on the grounds of the Good Shepherd Hospital, 450 W Highway 22. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit Art in the Barn.
Sept. 23 & 24 Edgewater, Chicago
The Edgewater Arts Festival, formerly Edgewater fall Art Fair, is a popular neighborhood get together that now attracts visitors from other Chicago communities. Spread from 1040 to 1190 West Granville Ave. it features the performing and visual arts. Along with more than 100 juried-in Chicago area artists, the festival has three music stages, a beer garden and a children’s activity area. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Edgewater Arts.
Yes Lollapalooza just ended Sunday, but Platinum and VIP tickets are already on sale for 2018.
Next year the mega music festival returns to Chicago’s Grant Park Aug. 2-5. So if at all interested enter the dates on your calendar. Pick up tickets for all four days or the day you want to go.
BTW some hotel packages are already sold out so if coming to town you probably should book your room now.
The tickets available now are still in 2017 mode. Though not cheap – well maybe not bad considering the headliners, eight stages and 170 bands and what their tickets often cost – the Lolla tickets are likely to be higher next year.
The 2017 Platinum four-day tickets are $4,200 and VIP four-day are $2,200.
Click Lolla to get a ticket and see what is included in the General , VIP and Platinum categories. And pray for no thunderstorms.