10 Events to Visit in Chicago in November


With the city starting to get into its festive rhythm, November is an atmospheric time to visit Chicago, with plenty of great events taking place at both indoor and outdoor venues throughout the month.

(Photo: Marcin Wichary via Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

It’s a time when the moderate temperatures of spring give way to cooler climes, and while snow is rare, the charm and ambience that we all associate with the winter period is nonetheless already permeating across the city. If you’re planning to visit Chicago this November, we’ve picked out 10 of the best events to look out for during your stay.

Christkindlmarket Chicago

Attracting more than 1 million visitors annually, this German-style outdoor market is one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in America. The vast numbers who flock here can enjoy all of the sensory trappings of the festive period, including the smell of roasted nuts, fresh pretzels, bratwurst and hot spiced wine, the sound of festive music, and the glimmer of sparkling Christmas ornaments. It’s also a great chance to pick up gifts and souvenirs, with numerous vendors selling enticing products from around the world.

Daley Plaza, 50 West Washington Street / 19 November-20 December 2021

All Together Now – Sound x Design

(Photo: Design Museum of Chicago)

With each relying on rhythm, melody, form, harmony, texture, and dynamics to communicate ideas and emotions beyond words, the craftmanship of designers and musicians has always been symbiotic. Exploring the crossovers between design and music, this exhibition showcases the work of 24 artists, designers, and musicians from across the country, each chosen through a blind jury selection process from over 70 submissions. Held in concert with the City of Chicago’s Year of Chicago Music, the exhibition illustrates the ways in which music, sound, and design can unite to create something entirely new, and in doing so celebrates the integral part music has always played in Chicago’s creative culture.

Design Museum of Chicago, Expo 72, East Randolph Street / 13 November – 3 April 2022

Chicago Humanities Festival

(Photo: Chicago Humanities Festival)

Anyone with an interest in the ideas that shape and define us, and how we’re connected to them as a species, can delve deep into such big questions at this thought-provoking annual festival. With two separate editions each year – one in Fall and one in Spring – the festival comprises a series of lectures, concerts, and films, bringing people together to explore ideas that go beyond their personal experiences. In attendance each year are eminent thinkers at the heart of contemporary civic and cultural conversations, including authors, artists, journalists, policy makers, and others striving to make sense of the past, the future, and the now. Highlights for this year include a talk with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, actor Kal Penn and Chasten Buttigieg in conversation, and programs with Tony-Award winning actor Alan Cumming and famed essayist Teju Cole.

Venues across Chicago / Spring edition through 7 December 2021

PAN: Prints of Avant-Garde Europe, 1895-1900 / William H. Bradley and The Chap-Book 

(Photo: Driehaus Museum)

Explore the pivotal moment of transcontinental printmaking with these two combined exhibitions, which tell the original story of how the medium of printmaking evolved into a fine art. In Berlin, the seeds were planted in 1895 with the publication of the journal, PAN; its myriad contributors were the era’s most important artists – Aubrey Beardsley, Käthe Kollwitz, Auguste Rodin, Georges Seurat, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the same time but a world away, artist William H. Bradley’s Art Nouveau-inspired designs graced the cover of The Chap-Book, Chicago’s very own art and literary magazine, and dressed the windows of Chicago’s streets.

Driehaus Museum, 40 East Erie Street /  Through 9 January 2022

Art on theMART 

Throughout the year the Merchandise Mart commercial building in downtown Chicago serves as the canvas for a free-to-view video installation by an eminent artist from the past or present. Featuring a different artist every season, a 25-story-tall installation is projected onto the side of the building at 30-minute intervals at night time, which can be enjoyed from nearby vantage points. For 2021, the project will feature Barbara Kruger, one of the most significant visual artists of our time, who will use the event to debut her unseen work, named Untitled (Questions), featuring trademark bold texts and provocative messages that invite us to reconsider how we relate to one another.

The Merchandise Mart, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza / 17 September – 25 November 2021

Drawn to Combat: Bill Mauldin and the Art of War

(Photo: Pritzker Military Museum)

For nearly fifty years, from World War II to the end of the Cold War, political cartoonist Bill Mauldin used his artistry and wit to provide commentary on the world as he saw it, earning two Pulitzer Prizes in the process. As a soldier and nationally syndicated cartoonist, he used his voice and platform to critique the policies and actions of the nation’s leaders, both military and civilian. Featuring nearly 150 of Mauldin’s framed original drawings and published cartoons, as well as personal material from his prolific career, this exhibition serves as a fascinating retrospective of his often provocative but always thought-provoking work, and its efforts to capture the mood of the nation at a time of war, civil rights, and social justice.

Pritzker Military Museum, 104 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago / Through Spring 2022

Scene/Unsceen: Artistic Engagement as a Ritual of Return Post 9/11

Featuring artwork by several post 9/11 veteran-turned-artists, this exhibition invites visitors to witness and engage with the liminal and unseen perspectives of the veteran experience in an meaningful, stimulating, and thought-provoking way. Building on the broad concepts of experience, interpretation, and understanding, the exhibition reveals the truth of these veterans’ experience through a variety of artistic medium and fine art selections, serving as a timely reminder of the social and emotional impact of these operations for all veterans and families as we continue to confront the impact that the event has had on individuals, society and the nation as a whole.

National Veterans Art Museum, 4041 North Milwaukee Avenue 2nd floor / Through May 2022

Wild Color

(Photo: Blue Projection Gallery, © Field Museum)

The amazing variety of colour found in nature is not only appealing to see, but it also communicates a great deal of information to the surrounding world.  The hues of plants and animals can warn predators, attract mates, or indicate their preferred diet while the brilliance and sparkle of colour in gems and minerals can give clues to how they were formed. Through this November and all the way into 2023, thus stunning new exhibit will transport visitors into an immersive, kaleidoscopic world that its organisers have vividly described as a being akin to walking through a rainbow.

Field Museum / Through 28 January 2023

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

A full day of free, family-friendly activities culminates with a famous tree-lighting parade on Michigan Avenue – aka the Magnificent Mile – at this annual celebration marking the start of the holiday season in Chicago. During the parade, more than a million lights illuminate hundreds of trees along the street, with the procession led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Santa Claus on his sleigh, and other iconic kids’ characters. There are also spectacular floats, giant helium-filled balloons, marching bands, celebrity appearances, live music, and more.

Magnificent Mile / 20 November 2021

(Photo: Natasha Jelezkina via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving parades are a time-honoured tradition in cities across the US, and Chicago’s contribution to this national celebration is as big and bombastic as they get. Taking over the city’s famous State Street in the Loop district before making its way through downtown, the procession features a lively mix of everything from equestrian performers and fire twirlers to ballerinas and soul steppers. Spectators can gaze upwards as the skyline fills with giant helium balloons, wave at the entertainers as the decorative floats cruise by as they soak up the magical sights and sounds.

State Street, from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph / 25 November 2021

By Paul Joseph