31 of the Best Things To Do in Chicago and the Suburbs in January 2023

New year, new you? New year, new adventure? No matter what you have your sights set on in 2023, it’s never been a better time to explore what’s new in Chicago and the suburbs, from new museum exhibits and classes to new shows and live theatre, to new bites and sips at Chicago restaurants. Sound like an enticing way to start the new year? Read on for all the best things to do in Chicago and the suburbs this January.

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All Month

Winter Wellness

Photo by Angela Garbot Photography

Health and wellness goals in the new year often center on weight loss and dietary restriction — but they don’t have to. Join the Lakeview/Roscoe Village community as participating businesses offer exclusive health and wellness services throughout the month of January. Find discounted or special-rate classes and programs — with over 20 opportunities, from chiropractors and yoga to dance, and a whole lot more! Start this year off on the right foot and visit the Lakeview/Roscoe Village website for more information on availability.

The Art of the Brick

Ingenuity in science, technology and art are always on display at the Museum of Science and Industry, which also includes their latest, long-run exhibit, The Art of the Brick — a 100-plus statue collection composed entirely of childhood’s favorite building blocks, LEGOs, created by artist Nathan Sawaya. See life-size dinosaurs, breathtaking wildlife, renditions of famous art works and tons more, sure to be a thrill for any age, but especially for children. The exhibit will end its run on January 16. Before then, tickets and museum specifics can be found on the Museum of Science and Industry website.

5700 S. DuSable, Lake Shore Drive

The Chinatown Adventure Food Tour

Photo courtesy of Chicago Food Tours

Chicago’s Chinatown is rich in both culture and community, with one of the neighborhoods’ greatest attractions being delicious food. So it is no surprise that a food tour has begun in the neighborhood — a Saturday-only, 3-hour experience that gives guests a “full immersion into the culinary & ethnic pageantry” at five different restaurants. While your taste buds go for a trip, the local food expert leading your experience will help guests bypass language and cultural barriers. All ages are welcome, as well as vegetarian folks. Group sizes max out at 12 — make sure you secure your spot in the next tasty tour by visiting the Chicago Food Tours website.

Nature Neighbors

Starting January 10, sign-up begins for the Skokie Park District’s “Nature Neighbors” program — a series of indoor and outdoor nature classes that run through March 14. “Explore the wonders of the pond, prairie and woodland ‘neighborhoods’ and learn about the animal neighbors that live there through exploration, play and creative projects.” These seasonal sessions are for children ages 4-5 who are curious about nature — parents can find more information on the program, its requirements and how to register on the Skokie Park District website.

9300 Weber Park Pl., Skokie

Adria Arch: Better Angels

Installation by Adria Arch | Courtesy of Evanston Art Center

This exhibits’ origin stems from an Abraham Lincoln quote to be our most moral selves. That thought was the foundation for artist Adria Arch’s latest exhibit, Better Angels. Located at the Evanston Art Center, it will be on display from January 7 – February 12. Curious viewers can find more information on the exhibit — a “sculptural installation [that] hovers overhead, drawing our attention upwards to a higher plane” — on the Evanston Art Center website.

The Twenty Sided Tavern

For those keen on fantasy and live-action gaming, The Twenty Sided Tavern theatrical performance is certainly for you! Dragons, dungeons and a “raucous comedic explosion full of riddles, puzzles, combat and more.” This experience — running until January 15 — will break the barrier between audience member and participator, where attendees are responsible for the story and world they create. All ages encouraged, head over to the Broadway in Chicago website for tickets and more information.

1717 Central Street, Evanston

Mold-A-Rama™: Molded for the Future

Photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

Can you smell it? Hot plastic, freshly molded into a knick-knack resembling the Chicago skyline or a vintage train car. The retro-favorite still alive at the Museum of Science and Industry is finally getting its due, with an exhibit, Mold-A-Rama™: Molded for the Future, now on display until late 2023. Peruse countless Mold-A-Rama designs that have been retired and learn more about the 60-year-old invention that has delighted guests with bright colors and memories for decades. More information can be found on the Museum of Science and Industry website.

5700 S. DuSable, Lake Shore Drive

January 10-12: Dinner and a Movie at Thalia Hall

Dinner and a movie — a simplicity that has been ingrained in Americana. The good folks at Pilsen’s Thalia Hall know this tradition is one worth keeping alive, which is why for three consecutive nights this month they will be showing The Godfather trilogy. And not just that, but attendees will receive a token which can be parlayed into a meal and wine pairing before the movie — vegetarian options available, or concessions for those just seeing the movie. Seems like the perfect harmony, right? Interested guests can secure their ticket and learn more about what’s on the menu at the Thalia Hall website.

January 11 – 15: The Icicle Picnic: Journey For The Sun

Image courtesy of The Actors Gymnasium — where the first Journey For The Sun was devised, directed and produced

What do giant puppets, beatboxing and outer space all have in common? They are just three of the enticing elements of Cabinet of Curiosity’s The Icicle Picnic: Journey For The Sun — a theatrical “immersive winter picnic” for all ages. Come for the out-of-this-world music, stay for the chance to meet the performers who brought it to life. Want to know more about the show? Visit the Cabinet of Curiosity website for specifics.

January 11: Chicago Boat Show

If you think of boat shows and think of nothing but displays, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that the Chicago Boat Show, held at McCormick Place, is far more than that. From sand pits to wave simulators, from tiki bars to the newest water toys — this show is for lovers of all things sun, surf and boating. Check out the full lineup of activities and businesses on the Chicago Boat Show website.

2301 S. Lake Shore Dr.

January 12-14: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert

As a part of their series, CSO at the Movies, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be hosting a screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, accompanied by live music that matches the film’s score. Even more exciting for Potter heads, this experience will be the first of many installments in their Harry Potter™ Film Concert Series. Interested movie goers can find more information and tickets on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra website.

220 S. Michigan Ave.

January 13: Latte Art

Tired of paying extra just for that fancy latte? This class at the Counter Culture Training Center can help you get over that hump from making a so-so latte to making the caffeinated concoction of your dreams. This “very hands-on” class is perfect for those who want to get into true coffee making. Become a barista in one afternoon — or join their other listing this month, January 20, if you can’t make this one. Bring a friend or hone your skills by yourself — either way you’ll leave with a new trick and some delicious coffee. All information and registration details can be found on the Latte Art webpage.

177 North Ada, Unit 106 

January 13-15: Chicago Cubs Convention

Get ready Cubs fans, because your chance to meet up with some of your favorite Cubbies is coming this month. Head over to the Sheraton Grand Chicago where select players, coaches and alumni will be making appearances, offering autograph opportunities, giving panel discussions, plus plenty of kid-friendly activities. Want to sweeten the weekend? The Sheraton is offering special rate packages including access to the convention and a weekend stay at the hotel, prices vary. Curious fans can find all the information they need on the Cubs MLB website.

January 14: NA Day — Non-Alcoholic Tasting Event

Participating in Dry January? Or maybe just looking for some alcohol-free fun? Come check out NA Day a Loft on Lake, hosted by Chicago AF, where people can sample NA spirits from over 20 different beverage brands. Have the fun without the spirits, and join in with other like-minded folks for an afternoon of sober fun and exploration. Registrations can be made on the NA Day webpage, where more information can also be found.

January 14: Step Afrika!

Photo courtesy of Auditorium Theatre

Step Afrika! is the world’s first professional dance company dedicated to the dance tradition of stepping — which blends stepping with “traditional Southern African dances and an array of contemporary dance and art forms, in a cohesive, and compelling artistic experience.” The performance will feature many movements, and conclude “with a piece called Chicago based on a summer in the windy city.” This inviting performance is guaranteed to be lively and entertaining for all those who appreciate percussion and the art of dance. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased on the Auditorium Theatre website.

50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.

January 14-15: Chicago Travel and Adventure Show

Photo courtesy of Travel & Adventure Show

Planning your next trip can be stressful, especially if finding the best deal is imperative. Take some of the weight off your shoulders by letting the professionals help you at the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show. Navigate through destination ideas, vacation activities, family-fun opportunities, how to get the best bang for your buck and so much more all at one convenient convention. Want to know what to expect? The Travel and Adventure Show website can give all the details you need. Happy traveling!

Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Rd., Rosemont

January 15: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at Nichols Concert Hall

Featured musician Ephraim Champion (left) and Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss to appear

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed on the third Monday of each year; this year January 16. In remembrance, on January 15 at 3pm, The Music Institute of Chicago will present a free musical celebration at Nichols Concert Hall — also available via livestream. The event will feature dance, art, music and more, including the world premiere of a “A Stone of Hope (Martin’s Song)” for soprano, cello and piano by Ephraim Champion — commissioned through the Hearing in Color Young Composer Residency. This special event is free to the public, however, registration is necessary on the Music Institute of Chicago website.

1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston

January 18-29: The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

The wonder and craftsmanship of puppeteering is on grand display in Chicago this month. More than 10 days of performances and screenings will be available to audiences from all around Chicagoland — from the whimsical to the woesome, the CIPTF has a range of fantastic programming ahead. Visit The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival website for images and information on the spectacle to come.

410 S Michigan Ave.

January 20: Chicago Restaurant Week

Chicago Restaurant Week 2019

Once again, it is a foodies’ favorite time of year: Chicago Restaurant Week — a 17-day celebration of the city’s best culinary feats and finds. In its 16th year, and running until February 5, CRW welcomes diners to enjoy delicacies from over 300 local restaurants — each a part of Chicago’s rich, award-winning culinary scene. Join other Chicagoans as you sample some of the unique and rare treats featured from a range of participating restaurants — prices and entry vary. Want to nosh during Chicago’s tastiest time of year? Find more details on the Chicago Restaurant Week website.

January 20 – 21: Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret

The mental and physical burden of being in the armed forces is not something easily left behind. In Steppenwolf’s presentation of Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret, the story’s lead grapples with the reality of being stuck between Afghanistan and home, and what that means for his civilian life. This powerful, 2-plus-hour production has a limited run, grab your tickets on the Steppenwolf Theatre website while you can.

1650 N. Halsted St.

January 21: Dining in the Dark

They say in the absence of one of our senses, the others may grow stronger. It’s that line of thinking that gave way to the Dining in the Dark series, which blindfolds guests as they embark on a culinary adventure. The 90-minute dining experience allows guests to pick their meal and wine pairing to ensure all dietary restrictions are met and the meal is a sensory success. This unique experience has various dates throughout the rest of 2023, but start the year off in an exciting, albeit unusual, way with this one-of-a-kind night out. Reservations can be made on the Dining in the Dark website.

January 21: Polar Adventure Day

Who says Chicago’s outdoors can’t be enjoyed in the winter? Because the Chicago Park District has certainly found a way around that, with two different Polar Adventure Days this month, located at Northerly Island. The all-outdoor activities include: touring the Northerly Island Natural Area during winter; seeing Husky teams sled around the peninsula; encountering birds of prey; building a shelter in the Nature Play space; and much more. This event is perfect for kids looking to burn off a little winter steam or families looking to spend more time outdoors. An additional date is listed for February, for those unable to attend. More information on how to register and what to expect can be found on the Chicago Park District website.

January 26: International Holocaust Remembrance Day Film Screening

To commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center will host a live opera performance of the first act of Two Remain: Out of Darkness  — in partnership with Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performance Arts. This compelling story of Krystyna Zywulska, a political prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, will “uplift the heart and cradle the soul.” The event will also feature a post-film Q&A. Take some time this month to honor this solemn day, visit the IHMEC website for more.

January 26-29: JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival

“Lost In Translation” | Courtesy of Ricardo Vaz Palma

Back with another weekend of programming — and celebrating 10 years of doing so — JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival has carved out a catalogue of films that commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which we observe on January 27. Three exceptional films in three days, which can be enjoyed both in-person at Landmark in the Glen or virtually. For the screening lineup and more information on the good work the organization does, visit the JCC Chicago website.

January 26, 28, 29: Albert Herring

Strokes of comedy and emotional complexity are sure to be found in Albert HerringAthenaeum Center for Thought & Culture’s latest performance that just may find itself in the hearts of whimsical Millennials in the crowd. The plotline follows the search for an obedient and moral Queen, but will the grocer’s son Albert actually be the right fit? Find out by catching this limited-run show, more information and tickets available on the Chicago Opera Theater website.

2936 N. Southport Ave.

January 27: Wuthering Heights

This Emily Brontë novel has stayed in the minds and hearts of many for decades. And now, in this New York Times-approved production, the dark wonder of this story is given a new life. This limited run show — until February 19 — will be held at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s The Yard. Complete with “live music, dance, puppetry and a dash of impish irreverence” this performance is set to wow a whole new generation of theater-goers. Tickets can be purchased on the Chicago Shakespeare website, where all the details about this revival can also be found.

800 E. Grand Ave.

January 28: Mac and Cheese Crawl

Nothing makes cold weather a little more bearable, and satisfying, than a warm bowl of cheese and carbs, right? That’s the idea over at the annual Mac and Cheese Crawl, where attendees are given six free samples of mac, over $200 worth of freebies, plus drink specials, photo contests and more. Do you really need that much convincing for an afternoon full of cheesy goodness? Probably not. So grab your tickets while you can on the Mac and Cheese Crawl website.

Around Wrigleville, Crawl Route TBD

January 28: Chicago Polar Bear Club Plunge

We’ve all heard of it before, the icy-cold plunge into winter waters followed by the quick shuffle to warmth. But why do people come out in droves for such an event? To support the earnest efforts of the Chicago Polar Bear Club — which has always strived to raise money and support for local Chicago families in need, and this year is no different. This utterly unique experience is something fun to check off your bucket list, all while raising money for our neighbors in need. Registration can be completed on the CPBC website.

January 28: 2023 Chicago Winter Whiskey Tasting Festival

If nothing else, maybe a little whiskey can keep you warm this winter. At least that’s the case with the 2023 Chicago Winter Whiskey Tasting Festival, where attendees can sip on 20+ brands of whiskey for around three hours and learn all the facts from the craftsmen themselves. To balance out the occasion, food, live music and mingling are all on the menu as well. This is the spot to be for whiskey lovers — don’t miss out, tickets are selling fast. Find out all the details and how to secure your spot on the Chicago Winter Whiskey Tasting Festival webpage.

January 28: Chicago Rowing Foundation 25th Anniversary Open Water Gala

Photo courtesy of Chicago Rowing Foundation

The 25th Anniversary Open Water campaign will prepare the Chicago Rowing Foundation (CRF) for the future, which centers on charting a path to open water to change lives meaningfully through the magic of rowing. Join CFR in celebrating their “growth and trajectory through three core areas of program differentiation: accessibility, excellence and opportunity.” By supporting the club, you are supporting team development, community outreach, operational improvements and expansion plans. For specific details on the event or to learn more about this deserving organization, visit the Chicago Rowing Foundation website.

Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Drive

January 29: National Geographic Live — Greenwood: A Century of Resilience

Photo courtesy of Auditorium Theatre

A necessary reminder of true American history comes to us from Dr. Alicia Odewale, an archaeologist who is devoted to researching and writing on, among many topics, the horrors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This event with Dr. Odewale discusses how archaeology can be used for “recovering lost stories, reclaiming a narrative and pursuing restorative justice.” This powerful event will be held at the Auditorium Theatre, curious attendees can find more information and tickets on their website.

January 29: Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade

Though Chinese New Year falls on January 22 this year — the Year of the Rabbit — the Lunar New Year parade will take place January 29 in Chicago. Starting at 1pm, from the intersection of 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue headed north, parade goers will be able to share in the brilliant, colorful, culturally-important celebration. The parade will also feature “traditional dragon and lion dancing teams, colorful floats, marching bands and marching groups” and more. This annual showcase of pride and community is well worth the trip — check out more details on the Chicago Chinatown Community Foundation website.


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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.