Chicago events calendar for January 2016. Best festivals, fairs, fun things to do, Martin Luther King Day events, kids activities, free entertainment in Chicago, Illinois.

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Best events for 12 months
January 2016

Enjoy the best Chicago events, festivals, and things to do in January 2016 with this calendar of events.

Events are listed by starting date, and all dates are confirmed. Mileage is from the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago, Illinois.

New Year’s run

January 1, 2016

1.2 miles SE

Get off to a healthy new year at the New Year’s Day 5K Run/Walk, which begins and ends at the south end of Lincoln Park.

Commitment Day

January 1, 2016

Chicago suburbs

Kick off the new year in a 5K run or walk starting at 5 locations of Life Time Fitness on Commitment Day.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

January 1 - 2, 2016 (begins Nov. 27)

2.5 miles north

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carvings, music, carousel and train rides, food and gift shopping (plus photos with Santa some days). Open Nov. 27-29, Dec. 4-6, 11-23, 26-31, Jan. 1-2. Free entry.

Holidays around the world

January 1 - 3, 2016 (begins Nov. 19)

8 miles south

See trees decorated to represent many cultures plus weekend ethnic song-and-dance performances during Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science & Industry.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

January 1 - 3, 2016 (begins Nov. 27)

24 miles north

Wonderland Express features trains running through an indoor garden past miniature buildings at Chicago Botanic Garden.

Maxwell Street Market

January 3, 2016

2 miles SW

Bundle up and go to Maxwell Street Market in search of bargains and outstanding Mexican street food. It’s open every Sunday at 800 S. Desplaines St. Free.

Free science museum

January 4 - 29, 2016 (weekdays only)

8 miles south

Show Illinois ID to enter the Museum of Science and Industry free during Free Days. Repeats in Sept.

Sketch Comedy Festival

January 7 - 17, 2015

5 miles north

Choose from more than 180 shows to watch during Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival at Stage 773.

Elvis birthday party

January 8, 2016

1.3 miles north

Elvis Fest features Elvis tribute artists backed by a full band, karaoke, a look-alike contest, and a live radio broadcast from The Original Mother’s. Donation.

Boat and RV show

January 14 - 18, 2016

3 miles south

The Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show includes plenty of boats and RVs, seminars, camping gear, and even a trout pond for kids at McCormick Place.

Cubs Convention

January 15 - 17, 2016

0.5 mile east

Cubs fans will enjoy getting up close with their favorite players and broadcasters at Cubs Convention at the Sheraton.

Motorcycle show

January 15 - 17, 2016 (uncertain)

41 miles west

Chicago Motorcycle Show & Swap Meet features bikes, parts, demonstrations, food, beer, and live music at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

MLK tribute

January 17 - 18, 2015

Chicago & Naperville

The Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. includes a symphony, cellist, and gospel choir in Naperville on Sunday and in Chicago on Monday.

MLK museum day

January 18, 2016

Chicago area

Get free admission on Martin Luther King Day if you can show a valid ID that has an Illinois address:

MLK Day breakfast

January 18, 2016

3.7 miles NW

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast includes a keynote speaker and entertainment at DePaul University. Free.
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MLK Day celebration

January 18, 2016

7 miles north

Justice is Ours features a reception and a celebration in dance, song, poetry, and music by Sketch ‘n Tyme at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center.

MLK Day observance

January 18, 2016

13 miles north

Hear a speaker, with candlelight vigil, student music performance, and after-reception at the Campus Observance of Martin Luther King Day at Northwestern University. Free and open to the public.

MLK Day at the zoo

January 18, 2016

14 miles SW

MLK Celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is in the Discovery Center at Brookfield Zoo. Free.

MLK Day breakfast

January 18, 2016

29 miles west

Join 500 people attending a keynote speech with breakfast at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Benedictine University. News article.

Sportsman’s show

January 20 - 24, 2016

17 miles NW

Chicago Outdoor Sports Show has fishing and hunting seminars, kids’ activities, and hundreds of vendors at the Rosemont convention center.

Travel show

January 23 - 24, 2016

17 miles NW

Chicago Travel & Adventure Show has travel experts and travel industry vendors at Rosemont convention center.

Fishing show

January 28 - 31, 2016

28 miles NW

Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo offers expert seminars, fishing boats, fishing supplies, and exhibitors at the Schaumburg Convention Center.

Polar Bear Plunge

January 30, 2016 (noon)

1 mile north

Register to join the Lakeview Polar Bear Club, and then take the Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan for charity at Oak Street Beach. Free to watch.

Eagle weekend

January 30 - 31, 2016

96 miles SW

Learn about raptors and birds of prey, meet falcons and an eagle, hear River Valley history, and try kids’ activities at Bald Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock Lodge & Illinois Waterway Visitor Center.

Whiskey barbecue

January 31, 2016

6 miles north

Whiskey Wine and Swine is a hog roast and whiskey-tasting event at Old Crow Smokehouse. Repeats June.

Live story telling

January 2016 (undated)

9 miles north

Fillet of Solo Festival makes literature come alive with solo performances and storytelling in north Chicago at Heartland Studio Theatre and Lifeline Theatre.

Bluegrass & Blues

January 2016 (undated)

Chicago & Evanston

The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival attracts a young crowd to 23 shows by top acts in six venues.

Rhinofest fringe theater

January 2016 (undated)

6.5 miles NW

Watch hundreds of artists perform at the Prop Thtr during Rhinoceros Theater Festival, billed as Chicago’s longest-running fringe festival.

Chili fest

January 2016 (undated)

11 miles west

A ticket to the Chili-Cookoff includes tastes of 25 chili entries, appetizers, desserts, drink specials, and NFL playoff games in Forest Park. See schedule.

Music festival

January 2016 (undated)

3.6 miles north

Tomorrow Never Knows mixes up-and-coming and known local and national indie acts in north Chicago.

Puppet festival

January 2016 (undated)

Chicago locations

Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival features 50 performances with marionettes, shadow puppets, Bunraku puppets, and tiny toy puppets.

Free entertainment

January 2016 (undated)

multiple locations

OnEdge is a series of experimental theater, modern dance, and performance art. Arrive early. Free.

Bicycle swap

January 2016 (undated)

28 miles NW

Buy or sell a bike, and find parts and gear, at the Chicago Winter Bike Swap at Harper College in Palatine. Children 12 and under are free.

B-movie festival

January 2016 (undated)

14 miles north

B-Fest is 24 hours of low-budget movies with audience participation in McCormick Auditorium at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Northerly Island adventure

January 2016 (undated)

3 miles south

See birds of prey and wolves, hear folk music and a storyteller, walk on snowshoes (if there’s snow), make a craft, and have cocoa (while it lasts) at Polar Adventure Days. Free except parking. Also Feb.

Home show

January 2016 (undated)

3 miles south

See home improvement products, services, and demos at the Ideal Home Show at McCormick Place.

Restaurant tasting

January 2016 (undated)

1.5 miles SW

Taste samples from 50 restaurants, cocktails, and beer at First Bites Bash, a $125 kick-off gala for Restaurant Week at Union Station. Bring age 21 ID.

Chicago Restaurant Week

January 2016 (undated)

Chicago locations

Get a special deal on a fixed-price lunch or dinner at 250 restaurants during Chicago Restaurant Week.

Alternative bridal show

January 2016 (undated)

6 miles north

Indie Wed has 100 independent businesses offering handmade items and innovative services for unique weddings at Ravenswood Event Center.

Barrel-aged beer

January 2016 (undated)

6 miles NW

Wood-and-barrel-aged beers are on tap at Riverview Tavern during Festibarrel. Free entry. Bring cash.

Winter beer festival

January 2016 (undated)

7 miles north

Winter Brew is a Lincoln Square beer fest that features local brew and food at the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center.

Anime festival

January 2016 (undated)

9 miles south

Uchi-Con features gaming, cinema, Asian culture, vendors, speakers, panels, and workshops in the Ida Noyes Hall at University of Chicago. Free.

Dog show

January 2016 (undated)

3 miles south

The International Kennel Club Cluster of Dog Shows has prize competitions, dog fashion shows, meet the breeds, pet the dogs, and kids’ activities at McCormick Place convention center.

MLK celebration

January 2016 (undated)

9 miles south

UChicago MLK Celebration honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and is followed by a reception. Free and public.
Next month:February 2015

January 2016 calendar of events in Chicago, IL. Best events, fairs, festivals, and things to do in Chicago, Illinois.     steve.fox@events12.com