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Midnight Circus, Riot Fest, Dogfight: What to Do in Chicago This Week

Here are the five coolest things to do in and around Chicago this week. We publish a new list every Wednesday, covering Thursday through Wednesday. Stay tuned for insider updates on restaurant openings, festivals, exhibitions, shows, weekend escapes, and more. Planning a trip? Check out the AFAR guide to Chicago.

September 11–13 | Music
Riot Fest
One of the coolest things about this mega music festival, other than its midway of shriek-inducing carnival rides, is the patchwork of people it brings together in one South Side park. Where else can you find mohawked followers of The Prodigy, aged new waver devotees of Echo & the Bunnymen, countrified fans of Merle Haggard, metalhead adherents of Anthrax, and whoever it is who actually likes GWAR? Prepare for seven stages of rock, punk, country, metal, hip-hop, and…Snoop Dogg.
11 a.m.–10 p.m. | Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento Dr., Chicago | From $190 | website

September 12–13 | Festival
Andersonville City Made Fest
We Chicagoans love to support locally made everything, which is why the City Made Fest in Andersonville is a stand-out, despite being just three years old. City Made only features bands, beer, food, artisans, and even sponsors that call Chicago home. Which means the beer, from brewers such as Half Acre, Ale Syndicate, Moody Tongue, and Lagunitas (technically from California, but the huge brewery and taproom in Douglas Park make it an honorary Chicagoan), is outstanding. Nor will the food be your run-of-the-mill funnel cake variety. And you might know someone performing onstage. All of which means: You should go.
Noon–9 p.m. (till 7 p.m. on Sun) | Clark Street, between Argyle and Carmen Avenues, Chicago | $5 suggested donation | website

September 12–13 | Circus for a cause
Midnight Circus in the Parks
Trapeze artists, tightrope walkers, dancers, jugglers, and one talented dog perform in green spaces across the city to raise money for Chicago park improvements. More than $800,000 has been raised since the event began in 2007, when the organizers corralled their network of artists and performers to raise money for the renovation of a playground in Lincoln Square’s Welles Park. This year, eight parks are getting the big-top treatment. Next up: Ogden Park on the South Side.
3–4.30 p.m. | 6500 S. Racine Ave., Chicago | $5 | website

September 13–October 18 | Theater
It may seem like an odd choice to make a musical out of an obscure 1991 movie starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, but the rave reviews for the 2012 off-Broadway debut of this show—with music and lyrics by rising stars Benj Pasek and Justin Paul—suggest it was a chance worth taking. BoHo Theatre stages the Chicago premiere of Dogfight, which centers on a group of friends about to be deployed to Vietnam who compete to find the ugliest girl to bring to a dance. When one of these jerk’s “dates” gets wind of the cruel prank, she shames him…and he falls for her. Predictable? Sure. But aren’t most great love stories?
8 p.m. Thur–Sat, 2 p.m. Sun | Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago | (773) 975-8150 | From $27 | website

Weekend escape | Road trip
Starved Rock State Park
Thousands of years ago, glaciers melted in central Illinois, releasing the deluge of water that created the 18 canyons of Starved Rock—a stark contrast to the flat-as-a-pancake plains surrounding the 2,600-acre state park. A perfect escape from the city’s own concrete canyons, Starved Rock offers 13 miles of hiking trails to 14 waterfalls (most spectacular after a big rain), as well as the chance to see bald eagles swooping down from the sky. You could make the 90-minute drive there and back in one day, but that would mean missing out on staying at the 1930s-era Starved Rock Lodge, with its grand lobby and double-sided fireplace made from 250 tons of limestone.
Starved Rock State Park, 2668 E. 873rd Rd., North Utica, IL | (815) 667-4211 | website

Laura Baginski is a Chicago-based writer and editor who specializes in travel and parenting. Because of the latter, the former doesn’t happen as much as she’d like.