Chicago Winter Festivals seem to get bigger and better each year. The line-up for 2016 should keep the party going until the summer festival season hits in May.
There’s lots to celebrate this winter. In February alone, there’s Valentine’s Day, Superbowl, Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras (not to mention Groundhog Day and Leap Day) along with Restaurant Week and Theatre Week. The month of March, as always, will be one long St. Paddy’s Day party capped off with an early Easter on Sunday, March 27.
The only problem with Chicago’s Winter Festival Calendar, there are still not enough festivals to satisfy the demand. Many fests sell out as soon as tickets become available–so be quick.
Here’s are our ten top picks.
1. Foodie Fest
Foodie Fest in Oak Park was created from Chicago’s Restaurant Week model. The “week” (actually two weeks) kicks off with Bite Nite (January 29 (5:30 to 9:30 p.m.)–not unlike Restaurant Week’s, First Bites Bash (this Thursday). Bite Nite offers tastes from 50 restaurants, live entertainment and drinks for sale. The Foodie Fest showcases various restaurants around Oak Park featuring prix fixe 3-course menus at price points of $10, $20 or $30. January 28 through February 11.
Winter Brew takes the cold out of winter by bringing the Chicago Street Festival scene indoors. Cozy up at Lincoln Square’s Architectural Artifacts on Ravenswood Avenue. with local brews, eats and more on Friday, January 29th with 6 local breweries, 5 restaurants, and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board cooking up mouthwatering cuisine paired with local craft beers from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Saturday, January 30th local breweries from around Chicago will offer craft beer tastings on the 5th floor ballroom and 6th floor skyline lounge of the Dank Haus at 4740 N. Western Avenue. Two sessions: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. & 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The perfect comfort food for winter–WINGS. At WingFest, restaurants compete to win the “Best of Fest” award for their wings. The crowd gets to try a variety of wings–Mild, Hot, BBQ, and Exotic–at the all you can eat fest. Celebrity judges pick their favs while WXRT’s Lin Brehmer warms up the crowd and cool blues music sets the scene. Prizes, raffles, beads and T-shirts are tossed out throughout the event. Bailey Auditorium, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. Tickets are on sale now. February 21, 2016 (1 p.m.). Hurry, this sells out fast.
Catch the spirit as distillers offer samples their beverages at Distillinois. In addition to the cocktails, there’s live jazz and food. Logan Square Auditorium for age 21+ March 1 (5:30 to 10 p.m.)
Localicious features savory dishes of locally grown food by award-winning chefs, plus local beer and spirits, with bluegrass and swing at UIC Forum. March 25.
6. Donut Fest
Donut Fest celebrates the ultimate comfort food–fried sugary dough. This popular Bucktown fest returns for its third year on Saturday, January 31 at Chop Shop. Officially, the show is SOLD OUT but with a little creativity you may be able to score some tickets. Donut Fest features the best of Chicago’s outstanding donut emporiums competing for “top” donut in two categories: The judge’s choice and the people’s choice. Last year’s winners were:Firecakes (Judges) and West Town Bakery (Crowd).
7. Poutine Fest
A poutine, for those who have yet to run across one, is in its most basic form made with crispy hand-cut french fries mixed with cheese curds then covered with a rich gravy. From there the combinations are limitless. Poutines can go upscale with the addition of lobster meat, shrimp, rabbit confit, caviar, or truffles. Or poutines can come back to earth with beef, pulled pork or lamb in the mix.
Poutine Fest returns for its third year on February 21, at Chop Shop. The fest pits some of Chicago’s best chefs against each other to see who will win the coveted title of “King of Poutine.” The crowd can sample a variety of poutines that just happen to pair well with the ice cold beer that will be flowing.
8. Cider Summit
150 artisanal ciders from around the globe will be available for tasting at the Cider Summit in the Grand Ballroom of Navy Pier. Requires age 21 ID due to alcohol content. February 27, (11 a.m. & 4 p.m.). According to the website, they are expecting a sellout.
9. Frost Fest
Now in its 2nd year, Frost Fest might just be winter’s best fest. The Lakeview fest takes place in a 5,000 square foot HEATED tent filled with 41 local brewers serving craft beers. In addition to the craft beers there’s food trucks and live music. The fun takes place at two sessions on Saturday, February 27 at Halsted and Waveland. Click here for tickets.
10. Chinese New Year Lantern Festival
A fun fest for all ages. Celebrate the year of the Monkey at this free afternoon festival presented by the Chinese Fine Arts Society at Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens. The festival features a Chinese marketplace filled with local vendors, craftsman, and entertainers showcasing Chinese arts with dance, music, and martial arts. February 21 from noon to 3 p.m. Navy Pier (Crystal Gardens), 600 E. Grand Ave.
Baconfest Chicago 2016
Not exactly a winter fest but not quite a summer fest the popular Baconfest returns to UIC Forum on Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1. Hundreds of chefs, restaurants, and vendors are on tap for the 2016 bash allow fest-goers to sample creative bacon-laden food and drinks which features bacon-inspired creations which now spans two days at the UIC Forum at 725 W Roosevelt Road. General admission tickets go on sale in February and sell out fast.
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