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CHICAGO LABOR DAY WEEKEND MUST-DOS

Experience it all this Labor Day weekend in Chicago.

Whether it's the biggest fireworks show around (Navy Pier has you covered!), mesmerizing portraits at the Art Institute of Chicago, or seeing jazz legends up on stage at the 40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, these festivals, events, exhibitions and shows are must-sees and dos for Labor Day weekend 2018.

Must-Do Festivals & Events

FREE! CHICAGO JAZZ FESTIVAL 

September 1-2, 2018 (begins August 29)
Millennium Park & Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Jazz Festival

Jazz legend Ramsey Lewis, courtesy DCASE

The Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary at Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, with the legendary Ramsey Lewis heading the bill at the Pritzker Pavilion on September 1. Read more about it on Chicago Like a Local.

NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL 

August 31-September 2, 2018
Union Park

The North Coast Music Festival brings together artists from every genre, including folk, rock and hip hop. DJs and performance and installation artists are also featured. Check out ticket options.

GREAT AMERICAN LOBSTER FEST 

August 31-September 2, 2018
Navy Pier

The Great American Lobster Fest

This is the Midwest's largest Lobster and Seafood Festival, held at stunning Navy Pier. Enjoy live lobster flown in fresh from the East Coast, live music, family-friendly games and activities, unique arts/crafts vendors, land food options, and cold beverages. Check out ticket options.

CHICAGO FRINGE FESTIVAL 

September 1-3, 2018 (begins August 30)
Jefferson Park

Watch 50 wonderfully weird shows performed by local theater groups at the Chicago Fringe Festival in Jefferson Park. This year's troupes include 2000FeetUp, BimBamBoom and the Minneapolis Ballet Dancers.

TASTE OF POLONIA 

August 31 - September 3, 2018
Jefferson Park

Enjoy four days of live music at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park. Over 30 bands take to 4 stages, while Polish food and beer are served up. Plus, there are bounce inflatables, a climbing wall, face painting, clowns, a casino, tastings and cooking classes, exhibits, carnival rides and games ... and a whole lot more! Tickets range from $5-$10.

AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS 

August 31 - September 3, 2018
Washington Park

Chicago African Festival of the Arts

Now in its 29th year, Washington Park comes alive with a simulated African village — think vibrant drumming, museum quality and collectible artifacts, and colorful and rich handwoven fabric and textile. Interactive spaces include: Drum & Afro-folk Village, Children and Family, African Heritage, African Spirituality, Wellness (Health) Village, Books and Authors, Fine Art, Film and Video, Food Court, Seniors and Quilting, and the African Marketplace. Tickets are $15 pre-festival and $20 at the gate.

FREE! Navy Pier Summer Fireworks

September 1, 2018
Navy Pier

Don't miss the last chance to catch Navy Pier's spectacular fireworks this summer. The night sky lights up at 10:15pm, but make it a whole day of fun. Navy Pier is home to 50 acres of scenic boardwalk boasting new restaurants, boat tours and attractions like the climate-controlled Centennial Wheel. 

FREE! Music on the Lake at Navy Pier

September 1-3, 2018
Navy Pier

Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier

Swing by the Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier for free live music and dancing over Labor Day weekend. Catch the Nick Lynch Band, playing with special guests Jocelyn & Chris Arndt and MER & Friends on September 1. Or listen to the Indika Reggae Band, with special guests DJ Papa G and Radio Free Honduras on September 2.

Adler Summer Film Fest 

Through Labor Day, jump forwards and backward in time, across the Universe, and toward a whole new horizon. Witness the birth of the Universe and explore the night sky, all from the comfort of your seat in the Adler's newly remodeled Definiti Space Theater. Get tickets here.

Ravinia Music Festival

August 31-September 3, 2018
​Ravinia Park, Gurnee 

Ravinia

Venture a little further to Ravinia, which has a great line up of musical acts this Labor Day weekend, including Culture Club, B-52s and Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey on August 31 and September 1, and Jethro Tull on September 3. Check it all out here.

 

Must-See EXHIBITIONS

Antarctic Dinosaurs at the Field Museum 

Through January 9, 2019

Discover fossils unearthed as recently as 2011—including two dinosaur species that are new to science. Be transported back to the Jurassic period, stand beside a life-sized model of Cryolophosaurus, a 26-foot-long meat-eating theropod dinosaur, and go back even further in time to meet the animals and plants that made Antarctica home before the dinosaurs. 

John Singer Sargent and Chicago's Gilded Age at the Art Institute of Chicago

Through September 30, 2018
Art Institute of Chicago

John Singer Sargent and Chicago's Gilded Age

John Singer Sargent, La Carmencita, 1890. Musee d"Orsay, Paris

This exhibition not only traces Sargent’s impact on Chicago’s Gilded Age, but also brings to light the sheer breadth of the artist’s work — his best-known Gilded Age portraits, his lesser-known early work, his landscapes, watercolors and public murals.

I Was Raised on the Internet

Through October 14, 2018
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

This immersive exhibition focuses on how the internet has changed the way we experience the world, exploring everything from gaming to social media.

Amplified: Chicago Blues at the Chicago History Museum

Through August 10, 2019
Chicago History Museum

This phenomenal exhibition explores the way in which Southern black migrants brought the blues to Chicago, ultimately leading to the development of electrified and amplified blues to compete with urban noise. The photography of Raeburn Flerlage captures the Chicago scene of the 1960s, while interactive elements include the chance to play guitar, design an album cover, write lyrics, and sing karaoke.

The Science Behind Pixar

Through January 6, 2019
Museum of Science & Industry

Pixar at MSI

Courtesy of the Museum of Science & Industry

This interactive family pleaser reveals the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts behind Toy StoryA Bug’s LifeThe IncrediblesFinding Nemo, and more timeless Pixar movies. Read more about it on Chicago Like a Local

CHICAGO CALLING: ART AGAINST THE FLOW at Intuit

Through January 6, 2018
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

Art Design Chicago

JOSEPH YOAKUM, THE MOUNDS OF PLEASURE/ON JA BRIMS FARM NEAR WALNUT GROVE, 1970. COLLECTION OF RICHARD AND ELLEN SANDOR FAMILY​

Chicago Calling draws from 30 collections and highlights the work of 10 Chicago artists, including Henry Darger, Lee Godie and Joseph Yoakum. At the heart of the exhibition is an exploration of the artists' intermingled histories and shared themes, as well as the "culture of receptivity" that Chicago has fostered. FYI: Admission is only $5!

FREE! KEITH HARING’S MURALS FOR THE CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS 

Through September 23, 2018
​Chicago Cultural Center

Keith Haring CPS Murals

Keith Haring artwork © Kieth Haring Foundation

This FREE exhibition features 36 original panels from Keith Haring's monumental 1989 mural, created with the assistance of 500 Chicago Public School students in Chicago's Grant Park. The mural is a reflection of Haring’s incisive draftsmanship and symbolic characters.

PICTURE FICTION: KENNETH JOSEPHSON AND CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY

Through December 30, 2018
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Picture Fiction - MCACourtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

“Chicago-based photographer Kenneth Josephson changed the way we think about pictures,” the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) explains. “His so-called conceptual photography pushes the boundaries of the medium, demonstrating that photographs are not neutral; on the contrary, they convey an idea in addition to a picture.”

NEVER A LOVELY SO REAL: PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILM IN CHICAGO, 1950-1980

Through October 28, 2018
Art Institute of Chicago

Art Design Chicago

VALERIA "MIKKI" FERTIL, UNTITLED, 1972 FROM THE GARAGE (1970/80). THE ART INSTATE OF CHICAGO, NATIONAL DOCENT SYMPOSIUM ENDOWMENT, 2012.533, (C) 1972 MIKKI FERRILL​

Through both images and film, this exhibition offers a fascinating view of life in the communities from which the featured artists heralded, or to which they were granted intimate access. Works span the 1950s through the 1970s, and provide commentary on the narratives that defined the city during a period of pivotal cultural and social change. 

Must-See Shows

GASLIGHT DISTRICT

Through September 2, 2018
The Second City at The Second City e.t.c.

Gaslight

From aliens to the alienated, savage roasts to distorted boasts, The Second City e.t.c.’s 42nd Revue invites you along on a frenzied frolic that translates our modern world into the common language of laughter. Clear your mind, open your eyes and hail one wild rideshare to a place where the truth isn't just out there, it's waaaay out there. Check for half-price tickets at Hot Tix!

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

Through September 9, 2018​
Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place

From the creator of the Tony Award-winning smash hit Million Dollar Quartet comes Heartbreak Hotel, a record-breaking musical, selling out at its world premiere at the historic Ogunquit Playhouse. This prequel to Million Dollar Quartet follows the story of Elvis Presley in the early years of his bourgeoning career as he and Sam Phillips create the music that will forever change their lives. As Elvis’ career skyrockets, both lifting and shattering the lives of those he loves, a secret love story is revealed, a betrayal is discovered, and “Colonel” Tom Parker changes the course of history, all in just 18 short months. Check for half-price tickets at Hot Tix!

AVENUE Q

Through September 9, 2018​
Mercury Theater 

The homegrown production of Avenue Q from 2014 is lovingly revived on the Mercury stage. A racy cross between South Park and Sesame Street, Avenue Q is a modern musical focusing on a group of unique 20-somethings making their way in the big city, seeking their purpose in life. Although the show addresses humorous adult issues, it is similar to a beloved children’s show; a place where puppets are friends, Monsters are good and life lessons are learned. Winner of the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q is part flesh, part felt, and packed with heart. Check for half-price tickets at Hot Tix!

CHICAGO FRINGE FEST

August 30 - September 1
Jefferson Park

Chicago Fringe Fest-2

Fringe Fest began 70 years ago with the founding of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. The Fringe Fest concept can now be found all over the world, including Chicago. Chicago Fringe Fest (August 30-September 3) is dedicated to giving artists a platform upon which to create, innovate, risk take and connect with new audiences. 

As Chicago Fringe explains, “This festival will, above all, create a place where Chicago performance artists can interact with performers from across town and the world in a fun immersive environment. It will encourage performers and patrons alike to travel beyond their comfort zones and go someplace new…. It will further put Chicago on the map as a, if not the, major theatrical center of the United States.”

From monologues and dance to kids’ theater and puppetry, it’s all available at Fringe Fest, staged at fabulous Jefferson Park (note that performances take place in several buildings/spaces within walking distance of Milwaukee and Lawrence Avenues). In fact, Kids Fringe specifically focuses on kid-centered theater programming. Each weekend of the festival, the Chicago Fringe Festival presents family-friendly shows plus free activities and workshops that include dance, movement, improv, and storytelling classes; mask-making, birdhouse building, castle building, and instrument making.

Tickets are just $10 a show, but packages are usually more economical if you plan to see several of the 30 performances over the five-day festival. It’s also nice to know that 100% of the box office revenue goes to the performers. 

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