Real talk: It’s freezing in the city right now. Luckily, we’ve got some ways for you to warm up this week. First, laugh off the chills at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, which attracts thousands of attendees annually thanks to its killer lineup. Then head to the (indoor!) boat show, where you can pretend, just for a while, that it’s already summer. Up your lunch game at the Grilled Cheese Meltdown, which pits local restaurants against each other in a battle of who can create the cheesiest version of the comfort food. Get cultured at the Chicago Sinfonietta concert celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.
AFAR Local is our weekly insider guide to the best of what’s happening in cities around the U.S.
January 5 - 15 | Comedy festival
Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival
This festival is laugh-out-loud funny—just ask the more than 11,000 people who are expected to attend during its eight days. Now in its 16th year, the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival is known for its lineup of comedians from across the nation. This year, over 180 groups will perform, including award-winning L.A. comedy troupe The Cool Table, New York’s Pop Roulette (featuring SNL writer Sudi Green), The Defiant Thomas Brothers, and The Cupid Players.
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago | From $15 | website
January 11 - 15 | Boat show
Chicago Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show
Dream of summer at the Chicago Boat, RV & Strictly Sail Show this week. The indoor event has more than 600 powerboats and sailboats on display, plus interactive activities such as a sailing simulator and a fishing pond for kids. There will also be previews of new products, seminars on boating and sailing, and demonstrations.
McCormick Place Complex, 2301 S. King Dr., Chicago | $14 | website
January 14 - 16 | Escape the city
Use the long weekend to take a short two-hour flight from Chicago to Wichita, Kansas, a mid-sized city where you can get a hefty dose of small-town charm. Stay at the Inn at Glenstrae, a central, circa-1900 bed-and-breakfast. Then plan your day. First on the sightseeing list should be the Old Cowtown Museum, which is composed of 54 historic and recreated buildings along the Arkansas River. There, you’ll be transported back in time to experience a working historic village. Cap your day off at the Larkspur Bistro and Bar, where you can feast on steaks and homemade pasta accompanied by live jazz.
January 15 | Food
Grilled Cheese Meltdown
This grilled cheese face-off is the ultimate comfort food battle. Chicago’s top restaurants (including Michael Jordan Steakhouse, South Water Kitchen, and Gayle’s Best Grilled Cheese Ever) will be offering their most creative takes on the classic sandwich. Taste them all (your ticket includes a sample from each restaurant) and champion your favorite.
11:30 AM | Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport St., Chicago | $30 | website
January 16 | Music
The Chicago Sinfonietta will be performing a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., at Symphony Center on MLK day. The program will also feature a diverse set of young musicians and singers from across the city for an intergenerational dedication that will culminate in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
7:30 PM | Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago | From $18 | website
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.