Chicago events calendar for January 2018. Best festivals, fairs, fun things to do, Martin Luther King Day events, kids activities, free entertainment in Chicago, Illinois.

Best events for 12 months

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

Miles are from the Wrigley Building in Chicago.

Commitment Day

January 1, 2018

Chicago suburbs

Kick off the new year in a 5K run or walk starting at 3 locations of Life Time Fitness on Commitment Day.

New Year’s run

January 1, 2018

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.

Holiday train ride

January 1, 2018 (begins Dec. 1)

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.
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Christmas lights - arboretum

January 1, 2018 (begins Nov. 17)

27 miles west

See colorful tree lights and interactive laser lights on a one-mile walk at Illumination, and then warm up at the fire pit at the Morton Arboretum.

Winter WonderFest

January 1 - 7, 2018 (begins Dec. 2)

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.

Christmas lights - Lincoln Park Zoo

January 1 - 7, 2018 (begins Nov. 24)

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.

Holiday trains - Lincoln Park

January 1 - 7, 2018 (begins Nov. 24)

3 miles north

Model trains wind their way through a miniature village among poinsettias during the Holiday Flower Show at Lincoln Conservatory. Free.

Holidays around the world

January 1 - 7, 2018 (begins Nov. 16)

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 Nov. 23 & Dec. 25.

Holiday trains - Botanic garden

January 1 - 7, 2018 (begins Nov. 24)

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 St. 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.

Sketch Comedy Festival

January 11 - 21, 2018

5 miles north

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

Live storytelling

January 12 - 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.

Healthy Living Expo

January 13, 2018

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.

MLK classical tribute

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 museum day

January 15, 2018

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 15, 2018

0.2 miles SE

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast is held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

MLK Day breakfast

January 15, 2018

29 miles west

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

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 public.

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.

Discount tickets $39.

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+.

Fishing show

January 25 - 28, 2018

28 miles NW

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

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.

Winter beer festival

January 26 - 27, 2018

Location uncertain

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

Polar Bear Plunge

January 27, 2018

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.

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.

Chicago Restaurant Week

January 2018 (undated)

Chicago locations

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

Music festival

January 2018 (undated)

multiple locations

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

Cubs Convention

January 2018 (undated)

0.5 mile east

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

Documentary film festival

January 2018 (undated)

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.

Chinese New Year

January 2018 (undated)

1 mile south

Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year with music, dancers, calligraphy demonstrations, art tours, and a performance by the National Peking Opera Company at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Home show

January 2018 (undated)

1 mile east

See home improvement products, services, and demos at Greater Chicago Home and Remodeling Show at Navy Pier.

Restaurant tasting

January 2018 (undated)

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.

Game playing party

January 2018 (undated)

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.

Northerly Island adventure

January 2018 (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.

Fringe theater festival

January 2018 (undated)

6.5 miles NW

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

Free science museum

January 2018 (undated)

8 miles south

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

Johnny Cash Festival

January 2018 (undated)

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.

Chili fest

January 2018 (undated)

9.7 miles west

A ticket to the Chili Cook-Off includes tastes of 20 chili entries, appetizers, desserts, NFL playoff games, and a kids’ area at Fitzgeralds in Berwyn.

B-movie festival

January 2018 (undated)

14 miles north

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

Bicycle swap

January 2018 (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.

MLK student speeches

January 2018 (undated)

1 mile NE

Hear finalists who entered the Chicago campus student oratorical competition talk about Dr. King’s words: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” at Northwestern University in Chicago. Free.

MLK Day breakfast

January 2018 (undated)

3.7 miles NW

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast includes a keynote speaker and a breakfast buffet at DePaul University. Free.

MLK Day celebration

January 2018 (undated)

7 miles north

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day Celebration includes a reception 6 to 7 p.m. and a program with speakers and young musicians 7 to 8 p.m. at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center.

MLK Day observance

January 2018 (undated)

13 miles north

Hear a keynote address, enjoy music and performances by students, and attend a reception at the Campus Observance: Candlelight Vigil on Martin Luther King Day at Northwestern University in Evanston. Free to the public.

Free zoo day

January 2018 (undated)

14 miles SW

Brookfield Zoo is free on MLK Day, and there are musical performances at noon. Free.
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© January 2018 calendar of events in Chicago, IL. Best events, fairs, festivals, and things to do in Chicago, Illinois. ord-01