Among the standards in Chicago cultural scenes, there are special exhibits and short run theater performances. For updates on what's happening now in the cultured world: Chicago's What's Hot Now.
Among the many notable theaters in Chicago, one of the most impressive is the aptly named Chicago Theatre. Opening on October 26, 1921, the theater was the first large, lavish movie palace in America and was said to be "the Wonder Theatre of the World". The Goodman Theatre is Chicago's oldest and largest non-profit professional theater. Chicago theater is also represented by Steppenwolf Theatre Company, a Tony Award-winning repertory company that focuses on new plays, neglected works, and re-interpretations of masterpieces. Chicago's also has young companies that are making a difference. The Lookingglass Theatre Company is just one example of the fresh, intellectual performances that can be found throughout the city.
If you are looking for laughs instead of tears, Chicago has the theater that has been the launching ground for several of the most beloved American comedians. Since 1959, The Second City, has allowed budding comic genius to grow within its walls. With alumni like John Belushi, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Mike Myers, Bonnie Hunt, John Candy, Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and more, the talent speaks for itself.
For reviews of some other notable theaters and maps of location, try the Chicago traveler guide.
Chicago's reputation as a cultural hotspot is supported by its excellent and diverse selection of museums. The city's oldest cultural institution is the Chicago Historical Society collects all kinds of artifacts of history and touts itself as "History With Soul". The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the largest of its kind at 151,000 square feet. The museum focuses on contemporary works that are often risk-taking and controversial. Its permanent collection includes works by Christo, Rene Magritte, and Andy Warhol. The Chicago Cultural Center is a free exhibit with the world's largest Tiffany stained-glass dome and the center houses the Museum of Broadcast Communications and hosts free daily concerts, films, lectures, and dance performances.
The DuSable Museum explores the involvement of African-Americans in Chicago and is the nation's first museum dedicated to preserving, displaying, and interpreting the all aspects of African American life. Other important museums studying different races and cultures are the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Spertus Museum of Judaica, the Oriental Institute Museum and the Swedish American Museum Center.
Museums that will interest a younger group are also prolific in Chicago. The Chicago Children's Museum on Navy Pier and the Kohl Children's Museumoffer hands on activities to learning history and science. Chicago's first museum founded in 1857, the Academy's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum also has attractions for children like life-size dioramas on natural areas of the Great Lakes and the children's gallery with its lifelike animated dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. The Field Museum of Natural History's most famous feature is “Sue”, the worlds largest, most complete, and best-preserved T-Rex.
Chicago also has some very unique, one of a kind cultural centerpoints. The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum houses a permanent collection of more than 500 pieces focusing on war from the soldiers' perspective. The city's love of art is even apparent in the Loop's parking garage, where famous paintings are reproduced. Not to be missed is the Chicago Public Library's Cultural Center which presents hundreds of free programs, concerts, and exhibitions annually. To get a unique look at a crime fighting icon, go to the Chester Gould Dick Tracy Museum. The famous writer Ernest Hemingway was also from Chicago and is honored with his own museum, the Ernest Hemingway Museum.
Chicago's major cultural institutions rank with the best in the world. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra holds over 100 concerts at Orchestra Hall from September to June and has a special summer concert series at Ravinia Park. The Ravinia Festival is a summer season of outstanding classical, popular, and jazz concerts performed by well-known artists.
Chicago's vibrant personality and history is celebrated through variety of events held throughout the year. The second weekend in June features the Chicago Blues Festival which takes place the Petrillo Music Shell and brings the best blues musicians to one of the world's blues capitals for concerts, food, and exchange of memorabilia. Chicago Gospel Festival in June brings to light another side of the music industry. The Printers Row Book Fair is also in June and is the largest free literary event in the Midwest. Chicago notes its midwest placement with the Country Music Festival in early July. Taste of Chicago bridges June into July with food sampling from Chicago restaurants as well as entertainment in Grant Park. Viva Chicago takes place in late summer and celebrates Latino music, food, and arts and crafts at the Petrillo Music Shell. The Chicago Jazz Festival brings more notable musicians into town from August to September. The Celtic Festival Chicago in September and World Music Fest Chicago bring out some different sounds then are traditionally heard in Chicago. October's Chicago International Film Festival is one of the largest in the country. In December, Mayor Daley's Holiday Sports Festival is a free event that covers a variety of athletic events and is targeted at children. For more information about festivals and events: Mayor's Office of Special Events, 121 North LaSalle Street, Room 703, Chicago, IL 60602; telephone (312)744-3315 or try City Calendar.