About the Town in January


By Philip Vidal




As a life-long Chicagoan, I know not to be lulled into a false sense of security regarding the weather.  As we all know, weather in Chicago can be changeable, and unpredictable.  We hadn’t had much cold weather, and hardly any snow, until the winter storm just before Christmas.  That storm reminded me, as I was writing this column, that we’ve had some of our worst winter weather in January.  The blizzards of 1967, 1979, 1999 and 2015, and the polar vortices of 2014 and 2019, all occurred in January.  The coldest temperature recorded in Chicago was -27 degrees on January 20, 1985.  The blizzard of 2011 was on February 1-2.


If you like snow but in a more manageable way, go to the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) to see “City in a Snow Globe” exhibition, through February 17.  UrbanLab created five small-scale models depicting winter scenes along Chicago’s lakefront. The exhibition invites viewers to ponder the possibilities of winter in Chicago.   I live in a Mies van der Rohe building on Chicago’s lakefront with floor to ceiling windows, so during a blizzard, the view outside is much like looking into a shaken snow globe.


I prefer being indoors in January and fortunately there are a host of things to do inside this month, but you’ll still have to brave the cold to get wherever you plan to go.


And the New Year marks anniversaries and milestones.  Richard Gray Gallery celebrates its 60th anniversary with “GRAY at 60: On Paper,” an exhibition that runs January 26-March 11 at their galleries at 2044 West Carroll and 875 North Michigan Avenue before it moves to their gallery in New York City.


Chicago Opera Theater (COT) presents “Albert Herring” for their 50th anniversary, January 26, 28 and 29. Photo by Chicago Opera Theater.


Chicago Opera Theater (COT) begins its 50th anniversary year with performances of Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring” at the Athenaeum on January 26, 28 and 29.  If you’d like to learn more about the opera, attend  “Close-up of the Opera “Albert Herring” at the Newberry Library on January 12.  The program includes a discussion between Dame Jane Glover, the conductor, Stephen Sposito, the director, and the Newberry’s Stuart Fraser, along with snippets of the opera performed by COT singers (free/advance registration required).   Chicago Philharmonic presents a “Tan Dun: Guitar Concerto Yi2 and Crouching Tiger Concerto” on January 14 at the Harris Theater featuring the work of the Academy and Grammy Award-winning Chinese-American composer.  Grammy Award-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin performs the North American premiere of Dun’s “Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (Yi2).”   In its 19th year, Tomorrow Never Knows, the indie music and comedy festival, brings the best of upcoming local and national talent to venues citywide, January 18-22.  The Music Institute of Chicago’s annual Open House and Musical Petting Zoo for all ages runs January 8-22 at four locations:  Winnetka, January 8; Lake Forest, January 14; Chicago, January 21; and Evanston, January 22.  If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn an instrument, this is your chance to try an instrument and learn more about what the Music Institute of Chicago has to offer.


More than 100 events over 10 days! The 5th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival will have multiple shows citywide, January 18-29. Photo by Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.


Also appealing to all ages is the 5th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, with over 100 events citywide, January 18-29.  Giant puppets are only part of the spectacle at The Cabinet of Curiosity’s inaugural pageant “The Icicle Picnic: Journey for the Sun” at Chopin Theater, January 11-15.  Another family-friendly outing is the Chicago’s Magic Lounge’s “Family Show”  on the first Sunday of the month: January 8, February 5 and March 5.


Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Watch the grand debut on January 14 at the Auditorium Theatre. Photo by Sekou Luke for Auditorium Theatre.


On January 14, Step Afrika!, the first professional dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, makes it Auditorium Theatre debut with a program featuring “Chicago,” a work inspired by our city in summer, which given the current frigid weather, now seems like a distant memory.


If you haven’t already seen the longest-running American musical, now is your chance.  As part of the Broadway in Chicago series, “Chicago” runs January 17 to 29 at the CIBC Theatre.


Fillet of Solo Festival returns as an in-person multi-venue festival this year for two weeks of powerful personal stories. Photo by LifeLine Theatre.


Chicago has a rich theater, storytelling and live literary scene. Pegasus Theatre Chicago presents the 36th annual Young Playwrights Festival at Chicago Dramatists featuring the works by three Chicago high school students who won this year’s competition, January 4-28.  The 26th annual Fillet of Solo Festival is back in-person this year.   Presented by LifeLine Theatre, the multi-venue festival runs January 13-22.    Don’t forget that value-priced tickets to more than 100 performances from February 16-26 go on sale January 10 as part of for Chicago Theatre Week.


Congratulations to The Chicago Diner on the 40th anniversary of it first location in Lakeview.  As their slogan says, they’ve been “Meat free since ‘83.”


Kicking off Chicago Restaurant Week is First Bites Bash at the Field Museum on January 19. Photo by Choose Chicago.


The First Bites Bash at the Field Museum on January 19 kicks off the 16th annual Chicago Restaurant Week, January 20-February 5.  Make your reservations soon to take advantage of a prix fixe lunch or brunch for $25 and prix fixe dinner for $42 or $59 at restaurants throughout the city.


Take part in the festivities of the Lunar New Year by attending the Lunar New Year Parade on January 29th in Chinatown! Photo by Chicago Chinatown Community Foundation.


Chinese New Year on January 22 ushers in 4721, the year of the rabbit.   ComEd presents “Global Connections: Lunar New Year,” at Navy Pier on January 28 featuring live dance, drumming and martial arts performances and a marketplace.  It’s outdoors, but it’s always fun to watch the floats, marching bands and traditional dragon and lion dancing teams go by at the Lunar New Year Parade that begins at Wentworth Avenue and 24th Street on January 29.


Take the Plunge, help Chicago families. The Chicago Polar Bear Club’s 2023 Plunge on January 28 at Oak Street Beach will help raise money to help real Chicagoland families.


Also outdoors, enjoy the ice caves, slides and sleigh rides at Ice Castles  at the Geneva National Resort and Club in Lake Geneva, January 27-February 12.  Not only outdoors, but actually in Lake Michigan…. the Chicago Polar Bear Club’s 2023 Plunge on January 28 at Oak Street Beach benefits Chicago families.  Accommodations for the Polar Bear Plunge is one of the five scenes in the CAC’s “City in a Snow Globe” exhibition.


A winter’s Sunday evening is the perfect time to watch season three of “All Creatures Great and Small on Masterpiece,” which begins January 8.  If you’d like to see canine creatures great and small in-person, head to the Great American Dog Show at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, January 6-8.


Aon Step up for Kids fundraiser supports the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago on February 5. Photo by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.


My “About the Town in February” will be posted on Sunday, February 5th, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few events in early February.   The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) hosts the 16th edition of the Architecture and Design Film Festival on February 1-5 at the CAC.  Ice Fest 2023 in Downtown Downers Grove is February 3-5.  The inventive dance troupe Pilobolus celebrates its 50th anniversary with a “Pilobolus: The Big Five-Oh!” on February 5 at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn.  The 24th annual Aon Step up for Kids fundraiser sponsored by KPMG supporting the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is also February 5.  A performance by violist Anne-Sophie Mutter is always one of the highlights of the Chicago Symphony season.  As founder of and mentor to the Mutter Virtuosi, an ensemble of outstanding string students,  Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Mutter Virtuosi perform at Symphony Center, February 5.


The Music Institute of Chicago and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theater presents a free  concert, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at Nichols Concert Hall. Photo by Music Institute of Chicago.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is January 16.  The Chicago History Museum marks the day with a family-friendly Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Day event on January 16. The event is free with museum admission, which is complimentary for Illinois residents that day.  On January 15, the Music Institute of Chicago and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theater present a free (early reservations recommended) concert, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at Nichols Concert Hall.  Chicago Sinfonietta presents Thunder – Annual MLK Tribute Concert at Wentz Concert Hall on January 15 in Naperville and January 16 at Symphony Center.


The Chicago Cubs Convention was cancelled in January 2021 and 2022, but it’s back this year at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, January 13-15.  Proof that spring is sure to come!


Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change.  Please stay healthy and safe and keep up with the latest COVID-19 information, protocols, mandates and guidelines.