The best things to do in and around Chicago this week
It's hard to know which will be the most impressive spectacle in Chicago this week. There's Mexican wrestling paired with craft beer, a traditional Swedish winter festival in Andersonville, and a recreation of Mos Eisley Cantina—yes, that bar from the original Star Wars—in The Whistler cocktail bar. The Art Institute in Chicago also unveils an exhibition that is the largest gift in its history.
December 12 | Beer & wrestling
Beer Fest Beatdown
Beer and Mexican wrestling: You can’t have one without the other. But this event makes the pairing even better. Each ticket gets you both a chance to watch masked men toss each other around the ring (to earn the title of Beer Fest Beatdown King) and a commemorative beer tasting glass that you can use to try craft brews from 30-plus breweries, including Brickstone, Stone Brewing, Revolution, Firestone Walker, and Magic Hat. Bonus features: a “Beering-ham Fountain” bubbling with (undrinkable) beer, a designated drivers’ lounge showing the movie “Roadhouse” on a continuous loop, tons of pub grub, and the opportunity to pose for a wrestling-themed holiday card—with props.
2–6 p.m. | Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy, Hoffman Estates, IL | From $45 | website
December 13 | Festival
Saint Lucia Festival of Lights
Only a few traces of the Andersonville neighborhood’s Swedish heritage remain, and, thankfully, this annual event is one of them. On Sunday night, young girls will don white robes and silver garland crowns to honor Saint Lucia, an Italian saint revered for her generosity. The girls walk down Andersonville’s main drag, Clark Street, at twilight while holding candles and solemnly singing the gorgeous Saint Lucia hymn. Follow them to the Swedish American Museum, which is hosting a Lucia party with Swedish treats and family entertainment.
4:45 p.m. | Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago | (773) 728-2995 | $1 or canned good | website
December 13 | Exhibition opening
The New Contemporary
Many museums owe much of the diversity of their collections to the generosity of their benefactors, and the Art Institute of Chicago is no different. This week, the largest gift in the museum’s 136-year history, from Chicago collectors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson, is being unveiled in this new exhibit titled The New Contemporary. The collection includes 44 paintings, sculptures, and photographs from contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Cy Twombly.
10:30 a.m.–5 p.m. (till 8 p.m. Thu) | Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago | (312) 443-3600 | From $25 | website
AFAR Local is published every Wednesday, so check back for insider updates on restaurant openings, festivals, exhibitions, shows, weekend escapes, and more. Planning a trip? The AFAR guide to Chicago has you covered.
December 16 | Star Wars bar
Mos Eisley Cantina Presents Figrin D'An and the Modal Nodes
Have you heard that a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens is coming out on Friday? And one of the more creative events happening during the frenzy surrounding the film’s release comes from an unexpected place: The cocktail bar The Whistler is transforming itself into Tatooine’s Mos Eisley Cantina, from the first Star Wars film. A local band will dress up as Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes—yes, the band in the movie has an actual name—and play the iconic tune from the scene where Han Solo meets with Greedo, as well as other Star Wars–inspired songs. The bar is also serving special drinks based on the series, including the Blue Milk—apple brandy, rum, amaro, milk, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Angostura bitters.
6 p.m. | The Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago | (773) 227-3530 | Free | website
Lake Geneva, WI
Ever since the railroad linked Chicago to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in the 1870s, the area has been a weekend retreat for city folk from oil barons to Al Capone to families just looking for an excuse to get out of the city. Though Lake Geneva is most popular in the summer, the winter brings skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and fireplace lounging at the Grand Geneva (a resort and spa that started its life as Hugh Hefner’s Lake Geneva Playboy Club Resort). You can also hike the Geneva Lake Shorepath, a 21-mile trail the hugs the shoreline of the lake and allows you to traipse through the backyards of some incredible mansions.
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.