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This day is billed as the world's largest Mardi Gras–themed pub crawl—and it's not in New Orleans.

See Chicago through the eyes of 50 artists from each of the city’s 50 wards at an ambitious public art exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. Then take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get outside on a Mardi Gras–themed bar crawl or a craft beer festival.

AFAR Local is our weekly insider guide to the best of what’s happening in cities around the U.S.

February 11 - April 9 | Art
“50 x 50 Invitational”
Showcasing 50 works from 50 local artists, each representing a Chicago ward, 50 x 50 Invitational is a multimedia art exhibit focused on the people and places of the city. Part of Chicago’s Year of Public Art, the exhibit is on display for free viewing at the Chicago Cultural Center. The paintings, drawings, videos, photography, and sculptures are a unique way to see how Chicago’s artists view their city, especially the more overlooked nooks and crannies.
Chicago Cultural Center, Exhibit Hall, Fourth Fl. N., 78 E. Washington St., Chicago | Free | website

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February 25 | Outdoors
Polar Adventure Days
The weather has been unseasonably warm this winter, so instead of embracing the snow at this year’s iteration of Polar Adventure Days, use the lack of it as an excuse to get outside. You can still sip hot cocoa and walk in the snowshoes available for rent at the event, as well as see the Siberian huskies in attendance. It’s all the same fun with a little less of the cold, which is OK with us.
12:00 PM - 4:00 PM | Chicago Northerly Island, 1521 S. Linn White Dr., Chicago | Free | website

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February 25 | Drink
World's Largest Mardi Gras Bar Crawl
You don’t have to travel to New Orleans to celebrate your favorite beaded and masked carnival. Chicago is getting in the Mardi Gras spirit with a huge NOLA-style pub crawl in the Rush & Division bar district. Participating restaurants and bars include Original Mother’s, Hangge-Uppe, She-Nannigans, Lodge Tavern, Coconutz, and Mother’s Too. Your ticket includes admission, two drink tickets, beads, masks, and live entertainment.
2:00 PM - 8:00 PM | 14 W. Elm St., Chicago | From $11 | website

Maple Grove Forest Preserve


February 25 | Drink
Northalsted Frost Fest Craft Beer Festival
The Northalsted Frost Fest Craft Beer Festival is Lakeview’s largest celebration of craft beer, with more than 40 brews on tap from local breweries. Expect more than 2,000 attendees to descend on the 5,000-square-foot tent throughout the day, as well as live music from DJ Marc “Moose” Moder and food trucks (Beavers Donuts, Chubby Wieners, and Pico St. Kitchen) for when the drinkers get the munchies.
1:00 PM - 9:00 PM | 800 W. Waveland Ave., Chicago | $35 | website

February 25 - 26 | Escape the city
Maple Grove Forest Preserve
The warm weather snap Chicago’s been going through makes this the perfect time to take a quick jaunt to Downer’s Grove—an hour’s drive from Chicago—to check out the Maple Grove Forest Preserve. It is the oldest forest preserve in DuPage County, as well as one of the largest. The rare historic forest is home to a great secret beyond the ancient trees, too: the Downers Grove Wine Shop, where you’ll find an incredible selection of wines from around the world. Each bottle has been taste-tested and vetted by the owner before making it into the impressive collection.

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Danielle Braff lives in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, two cats, and her dog. When she’s not writing, she’s out photographing her city and running around frantically trying to fit as many events as she can into her day. You can check out her other articles at Daniellebraff.com.

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