Chicago events, festivals, things to do – January 2018

January 2018
best events in Chicago

New Year’s run in Chicago

January 1, 2018 (11 a.m.)

1.2 miles SE

Join the New Year’s Day 5K Run & Walk at the south end of Lincoln Park, followed by a party at Select Cut Steakhouse.

Holiday train ride

January 1, 2018

1.4 miles SW

Take a one-hour train ride through downtown Chicago as you drink cocoa on the Polar Express, which travels round trip from Union Station at Jackson Boulevard.

Christmas lights - arboretum

January 1, 2018

27 miles west

See colorful tree lights and projections on a one-mile walk at Illumination, with fire pits to warm you up along the way at Morton Arboretum.

New Year’s run in the suburbs

January 1, 2018 (10 a.m.)

multiple locations

Kick off the new year with a 5K run or walk beginning at a Life Time Fitness location (Bloomingdale, Orland Park, or Romeoville) on Commitment Day.

Winter WonderFest

January 1 - 7, 2018

1 mile east

Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, carnival rides, and entertainment. Closed Dec. 25. If younger than 18, you need a parent. If older, you need ID.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

January 1 - 7, 2018

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). Free entry.

Holidays around the world

January 1 - 7, 2018

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. Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

January 1 - 7, 2018

24 miles north

Wonderland Express features trains running through an indoor garden past miniature buildings at Chicago Botanic Garden. See events schedule. Closed Dec. 25.

Maxwell Street Market

January 7, 2018

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 Street. Free.

Boat and RV show

January 10 - 14, 2018

3 miles south

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

Motorcycle racing

January 12 - 13, 2018

35 miles NW

Watch racers compete at Kicker Arenacross on a huge man-made dirt race course in Sears Centre Arena.

Cubs Convention

January 12 - 14, 2018

0.5 mile east

Cubs fans will enjoy autograph signings, player meet-and-greets, interactive exhibits, and special panels with Cubs players, alumni, and management at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand.

Healthy Living Expo

January 13, 2018 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

31 miles SW

Healthy Living Expo offers health screenings, fitness classes, and health-oriented vendors at Tinley Park Convention Center. Free including parking.

MLK Messiah

January 13 - 14, 2018

1 mile south

Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah is a swinging version of Handel’s Messiah that gets audiences on their feet singing and dancing in the aisles of Auditorium Theatre to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Chili fest

January 14, 2018 (12 to 5 p.m.)

9.7 miles west

A ticket to the Chili Cook-Off includes tastes of 20 chili entries, appetizers, and desserts at Fitzgeralds in Berwyn.

MLK tribute concert

January 14 - 15, 2018

multiple locations

The MLK Tribute includes the words of Langston Hughes, plus an orchestra, opera, jazz vocals, spoken word, archival audio samples, and video in Naperville on Sunday and in Chicago on Monday.

MLK Day observance

January 15, 2018 (7 p.m.)

13.6 miles north

Hear a keynote address and enjoy music by students at the Campus Observance of Martin Luther King Day in Alice Millar Chapel at Northwestern University, followed by a reception. Free to the public.

MLK celebration

January 16, 2018 (6 p.m.)

9 miles south

The University of Chicago’s MLK Celebration honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and is followed by a reception. Free and open to the public.

Game playing party

January 19, 2018 (6:30 to 11 p.m.)

1.9 miles west

Join 650 people facing off in game play at Eisenopoly, which includes an open bar with handcrafted cocktails, appetizers, and live music at Revel Fulton Market. The $120 tickets support cancer research.

Music festival

January 19 - 21, 2018

multiple locations

Tomorrow Never Knows presents up-and-coming local indie artists as well as acclaimed national acts.
CityPass Chicago

Live storytelling

January 19 - 28, 2018

10 miles north

Fillet of Solo Festival makes literature come alive with solo performances and storytelling at Lifeline Theatre and Heartland Studio Theatre on Fri., Sat., and Sun.

Harry Potter parody

January 19 - Feb. 25, 2018

0.8 miles north

Potted Potter is a live show with minimal props that crams all 7 Harry Pottery books into 70 goofy minutes at Broadway Playhouse.

Discount tickets $35 to $49.

Fringe theater festival

January 19 - Feb. 25, 2018

6.5 miles NW

Rhinoceros Theater Festival (Rhinofest) is billed as Chicago’s longest-running fringe festival at Prop Thtr. Choose from dozens of creative new shows for only $12 to $15. Closed Tuesdays.

Adult variety show

January 19 - March 31, 2018

7 miles north

Kiss Kiss Cabaret is a fun mix of burlesque, off-color comedy, music, magic, song, and variety acts for age 18+ Fridays and Saturdays at Uptown Underground.

Discount tickets $7 to $14.

Ale festival

January 20, 2018 (afternoon & evening)

1 mile east

Sample 150 American craft beers at Chicago Ale Fest, with food trucks and DJ music in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier. Repeats in June.

Polar Bear Plunge

January 20, 2018 (noon)

1 mile north

Register to join the Chicago Polar Bear Club, and then take the Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan for charity at Oak Street Beach, followed by an optional after party. Free to watch.

Beer games

January 20, 2018

3 miles NW

Beernival features carnival games with prizes, competitive flip cup, a beer pong tournament, and unlimited domestic beer at Joe’s Bar for age 21+.

Northerly Island adventure

January 20, 2018 (12 to 4 p.m.)

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 on three dates: Dec. 16, 2017; Jan. 20, 2018; Feb. 24, 2018. Free except parking.

Johnny Cash Festival

January 20, 2018 (6 p.m.)

9.2 miles NW

Join 900 people watching six bands play on two stages at the The Johnny Cash Festival, a fundraiser for kids’ athletics at the Irish American Heritage Center.

Historical drama

January 20 - 21, 2018

1.3 miles east

Red Velvet recalls the “shocking” night in 1863 when the first black man appeared on a London theater stage, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.

Discount tickets $31 to $35.

Documentary film festival

January 20 - Feb. 1, 2018

0.5 miles SW

See brand-new documentaries, some of which are followed by discussions with the directors, during Stranger Than Fiction at Gene Siskel Film Center.

Free science museum

January 22 - 31, 2018 (Monday to Thursday)

8 miles south

Show Illinois ID to enter the Museum of Science and Industry free during Free Days. The museum is not free on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, or Feb. 19.

MLK Day speech

January 25, 2018

Chicago & Evanston

Hear a keynote address to celebrate Martin Luther King Day at Northwestern University. Free.

Restaurant tasting

January 25, 2018 (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.)

1.5 miles SW

Taste samples from 60 restaurants, cocktails, and beer at First Bites Bash, a kick-off gala for Restaurant Week at Navy Pier. Bring age 21 ID.

Taste of Oak Park

January 26, 2018

11.6 miles west

A ticket to Bite Nite gets you tastes from 50 restaurants, with live music and drinks for sale at 19th Century Club in Oak Park.

B-movie festival

January 26 - 27, 2018

14 miles north

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

Monster trucks

January 26 - 27, 2018

35 miles NW

Big-wheeled trucks create big noise and excitement at Monster Truck Nationals in Sears Centre Arena.

All-American musical

January 26 - Feb. 3, 2018

14 miles north

Ragtime is the story of three ethnically diverse families whose fates unexpectedly intertwine in 1902 New York City, at Northwestern University.

Discount tickets $10.

Chicago Restaurant Week

January 26 - Feb. 8, 2018

Chicago locations

Get a special deal on a fixed-price lunch or dinner at 350 restaurants during Chicago Restaurant Week.

Winter beer festival

January 27, 2018 (2 and 7 p.m.)

7 miles north

Winter Brew is a Lincoln Square & Ravenswood beer fest that features local brew and food at Dank Haus for age 21+.

Anime festival

January 27, 2018

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.

Motorcycle show

January 27 - 28, 2018

41 miles west

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

Eagle weekend

January 27 - 28, 2018

96 miles SW

Learn about raptors and birds of prey, meet falcons and an eagle, take an eagle-watching hike, and try kids’ activities at Bald Eagle Watch Weekend at Starved Rock Lodge & Illinois Waterway Visitor Center.

Dating drama

January 30 - March 4, 2018

31 miles north

Described as “smart and riveting” by the Chicago Tribune, Sex With Strangers is about a female author and a male blogger whose private lives become public domain at Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest.

Discount tickets $5 to $20.