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The Best Winter And New Year’s Cultural Events In Chicago
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The Best Winter And New Year’s Cultural Events In Chicago

Picture of Andrew Kingsford-Smith
Updated: 9 February 2017
Although Chicago faces chilling winters each year, the creative buzz of the city only gets stronger during the festive season. From Christmas markets and light shows to special art exhibitions and iconic theater performances, we reveal why December and January are great months to visit the Windy City.

Art and Design | Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection

This significant event is the inaugural exhibition of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, showcasing the work of celebrated American artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. This is the first time that this collection has been shown publicly and it reveals Tiffany’s works in glass, ceramic, metalwork, jewelry and paint. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is located in a stunning restored mansion dating back to 1879, adding further grandeur to this captivating experience.

28 September 2013 to 28 June 2014, Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 312 482 8933, 40 East Erie Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611

Art and Design | Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection
Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company (American, est. 1892). Fish table lamp, ca. 1900 | Photo by John Faier, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Art | Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street Art

Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street Art is a free exhibition being held in the Chicago Cultural Center that has been catching the attention of not only art enthusiasts but also the wider public who might not normally venture to art galleries. The exhibition has been acclaimed as a thought provoking experience as it presents outlawed vandalism art in a city council venue, juxtaposing sticker and graffiti works with government caution signs that prohibit such art forms. The exhibition displays the work of over 24 artists and has been praised as a great insight into the Chicago’s buzzing street art scene.

19 October 2013 to 12 January 2014, Chicago Cultural Center, 312.744.5000, Exhibit Hall, 4th Floor, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602

Art and Food | Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine

Food is a large part of the festive season, and The Art Institute of Chicago’s Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine exhibition offers a fascinating perspective of gastronomy and art. The exhibition includes over 100 culinary themed paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, investigating the cultural context of the works in their exploration of politics, race, class, gender and commerce from an American perspective. The exhibition also includes cookbooks and menus from this time period, and The Art Institute of Chicago’s website features an online cookbook of classic American dishes and innovative new recipes from the city’s leading chefs.

12 November 2013 to 27 January 2014, The Art Institute of Chicago, 60603-6404, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

Art and Food | Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine
Wayne Thiebaud. Salad, Sandwiches and Dessert, 1960. Lent by the Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NAA–Thomas C. Woods Memorial. Art | © Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Food and Shopping | Christkindlmarket Chicago

Celebrating Christmas, Chicago’s German cultural identity and the city itself, the Christkindlmarket Chicago is a beloved annual event that takes over the Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop. The marketplace comes to life with festive lights, unique shopping stalls, traditional German cuisine and alluring drinks, creating an enthralling atmosphere like no other. The Christkindlmarket is also home to a number of events including choir recitals, theater performances, music concerts and parades.

26 November to 24 December 2013, Daley Plaza in Chicago Loop, (312) 494-2175, On Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop (between Dearborn, Washington and Clark Street)

Film and Art | City Self

Presenting a film by New York based filmmaker Sarah Morris, City Self offers a fascinating look into the city of Chicago from the perspective of an outsider. The film is the 10th installment of Morris’ city portrait series, and the inspiring cinematography is accompanied by a ‘hypnotic electronic’ score by British artist Liam Gillic. In conjunction with the film, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is also displaying a range of artworks that similarly reflect Chicago’s identity, offering an unmissable opportunity to view the city from a new perspective.

29 November 2013 to 13 April 2014, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 312 280 2660, 220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Joffrey Ballet: The Nutcracker

2014 is a significant year for Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre as the venue celebrates its 125th year, and Mrs. Michelle Obama – the First Lady of the United States – will be the honorary chair of the theater. In the lead up to this, the theater is closing its 2013 season with the traditional Christmas show The Nutcracker. This performance is by the esteemed Joffrey Ballet Company, and it has been receiving rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. The production is accompanied with a full orchestra, allowing Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score to truly be appreciated.

The Auditorium Theatre, 800 982 2787, 50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60605, United States

Opera | Die Fledermaus

An iconic operetta that premiered in 1874, Die Fledermaus by Austrian composer Johann Strauss Jr will perform at the Lyric Opera of Chicago this festive season in a ‘new to Chicago’ production from San Francisco Opera. The show has been celebrated as ‘the world’s favorite operetta’, with a hilarious story that follows the escalating circumstances of two friends as they try to out-prank each other. This production has been directed by the critically acclaimed director E. Loren Meeker, and the performances are presented in German with English texts.

10 December 2013 to 18 January 2014, Lyric Opera of Chicago, + 312-332-2244, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60606, United States

Music | Welcome Yule!

For some people December is never complete without the joyful sounds of carols and Christmas classics. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will present a series of performances called Welcome Yule!, promising ‘a delightful program of new arrangements, cherished carols and some musical surprises’. The performances will be held in the stunning Symphony Center, creating the perfect atmosphere to celebrate with the whole family.

14-23 December 2013, Symphony Center, 312-294-3000, 220 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60604

Music | Roy Hargrove Quintet

Chicago’s oldest jazz club, The Jazz Showcase, will celebrate the New Year in style, with the Roy Hargrove Quintet presenting several concerts in this beloved venue. American jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove is acclaimed as one of the premier players in the world, winning two Grammy Awards and other prestigious accolades. Hargrove’s past discography has spanned across multiple genres and his creativity and adept skills have left audiences mesmerized all over the globe.

26 December 2013 – 1 January 2014, The Jazz Showcase, +1 312-360-0234, 806 S Plymouth Ct, Chicago, IL 60605, United States

Theatre and Literature | Fillet of Solo Festival

Returning for its 17th year, the Fillet of Solo Festival sees the Lifeline Theatre and Live Bait Theater unite in celebrating storytelling and live literature. The festival takes place in multiple venues and consists of an exciting program of performances that tread the line between literature and theater, bringing powerful and personal stories to the fore. The three week long event will also include workshops and storytelling panels for passionate emerging writers and performers who are keen to improve their craft.

3-19 January 2014, Lifeline Theatre, (773) 761-4477, 6912 N Glenwood Ave, Chicago, IL, 60626