St. Patrick’s Day lasts all month in Chicago, but the can’t-miss celebration happens on March 11, when the river will be dyed its famous green hue and a massive parade will take revelers to the streets. Plus, dancing performances head to a new level. AFAR Local is now coming to your inbox monthly with the best events to help you travel deeper in your own city.
AFAR Local is our monthly insider guide to the best of what’s happening in cities around the U.S.
February 24 - March 25 | Dance
Chicago Flamenco Festival
Chicago’s annual flamenco festival attracts star dancers from around the world who come to perform during the more than four weeks that the fest runs. This year, watch dancer Anabel Veloso, pianist Alfonso Aroca, and guitarist Josemi Carmona, among others, bring the music and dance style to life. Then participate in the dance and guitar workshops also offered throughout the month, and head into April a flamenco expert.
Instituto Cervantes of Chicago, 31 W. Ohio St., Chicago | From $25 | website
March 5 | Philanthropy
Chicago Polar Plunge
Take a plunge for a good cause at the Chicago Polar Plunge, where those brave enough will take a dip in Lake Michigan to raise money for Special Olympics Chicago. Plungers must only fund-raise a minimum of $200 to participate—a fairly low bar when you consider how many friends and relatives would happily give $10 or $20 just to see your face post-plunge. Come to swim or just to watch. Afterward, join in on the Melt Down Party, where there will be music, food, and a cash bar.
10:00 AM | Castaways, 1603 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago | Free | website
March 9 - 11 | Music
Salonen & Yo-Yo Ma
The famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma is joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the world premiere of composer Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Cello Concerto, a piece co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Barbican Center, and the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. Also on the program are Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka and John Adams’s Slonimsky’s Earbox. During intermission, slip away to grab a drink in the ballroom—the view over Michigan Avenue is unbeatable.
Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago | From $50 | website
March 11 | Parade
St. Patrick’s Day
You don’t have to be Irish to party like the Irish do for St. Patrick’s Day. In Chicago—a U.S. city with a particularly large Irish American population—the celebrations start a week early at the river dyeing and St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Before the parade, head to Columbus Drive Bridge at 9 a.m. to see 45 pounds of vegetable dye poured into the Chicago River. Then make your way to the parade route early to grab a great viewing angle of the floats and performers before the whole thing kicks off at noon.
9:00 AM | Chicago River (Columbus Dr. & Wacker Dr.) | Free | website
March 18 - 26 | Gardening
Chicago Flower and Garden Show
It’s a clear sign that spring is in the air when it’s finally time for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. Come here for the landscaping ideas (it’s way better than browsing Pinterest) or to enjoy the aroma of plants on display. You’ll have the chance to walk through more than 20 gardens, including examples of urban and suburban yards, as well as get in on gardening workshops that teach the newest techniques for acquiring that coveted green thumb.
10:00 AM | Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago | From $13 | website
March 20 | Art exhibit
“Saints and Heroes” Opening Day
You’ll go back in time to medieval and Renaissance Europe when you step into the Art Institute’s new permanent exhibit Saints and Heroes, which will focus on art and armor from 1200 to 1600. They’ll have almost 700 objects on display, including a 24-foot piece commissioned in 1396 by the chancellor of Castile for his family’s chapel in Spain. There’s also an entire gallery dedicated to luxury goods of the era.
10:30 AM | Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago | $15 | website
March 22 - 26 | Dance
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Only the Alvin Ailey dance company can blend ballet, modern, jazz, and African dance techniques and have it all come together seamlessly. The mixing of styles is completely mesmerizing live, and it’s a treat to catch them whenever they roll through Chicago. Snag tickets ASAP before they sell out to enjoy new choreographies as well as old favorites.
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., Chicago | From $33 | website
March 31 | Music
The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra with Bernadette Peters
This is the kind of show where you belt out the lyrics. It’s Bernadette Peters’s first Chicago appearance in more than a decade, and she’ll be performing a medley of Broadway hits (no, they won’t tell us which ones). The first half of the program will feature the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Keith Lockhard featuring a tribute to composer George Gershwin, who’s best known for his originals An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue.
50 E. Congress Pkwy., Chicago | From $35 | website
March 31 - April 1 | Food festival
You’ll smell this festival long before you see it. The annual Baconfest is a beloved Chicago tradition featuring everything from bacon cocktails and bacon cheesecake to pork belly meatballs. It’s also the home of the Golden Rasher Awards (basically the Oscars of the bacon world). Buy your tickets early—this event will sell out, as it does every year.
725 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago | From $100 | website
April 1 - 2 | Comedy
Due to popular demand, the Chicago Theatre has already added a second performance for Billy Crystal, who is bringing some comic relief at a time when we need it. The Tony and Emmy Award–winning comedian and actor’s first show is already sold out, but you can still snag seats to his second show. He’ll be joking about his own life and career.
176 N. State St., Chicago | From $40 | 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.