Things To Do This Weekend: September 23 – 25, 2011

Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO, doing a book signing at Chicago GourmetFrom celebrity chef-spotting at Chicago Gourmet 2011 to putting on your Lederhosen for an Octoberfest celebration at Navy Pier, there are tons of things to do this weekend in Chicago – and many of them are free!

Treat your taste buds and see local celebrity chefs: Head to Millennium Park this weekend for Chicago Gourmet 2011, a celebration of good food, good wine, and the renowned chefs and culinary masterminds that make Chicago a world-class dining destination.

  • Enjoy live cooking demonstrations, gourmet tastings, wine seminars and book signings by internationally acclaimed chefs, master sommeliers and winemakers.  Admission ranges from $150/day to $250 for a weekend pass.
  • Chicago Gourmet kicks off at 6 pm on Friday, September 23 with Hamburger Hop, a fun and tasty burger showdown on the Harris Theater rooftop where top Chicago chefs vie for the title of the city’s best burger.  Capacity is limited; tickets required.
  • Take part in exclusive Grand Cru wine tastings Saturday and Sunday, 2 – 4 pm; taste and discuss some of the world’s finest wines with master sommeliers and wineries.  Separate ticket required.
  • Chicago Gourmet’s Dine Around promotion offers special prix-fixe menus at participating restaurants through Sunday, September 25.  Diners who purchase five meals at these restaurants during the Dine Around period will receive a complimentary one-day ticket to the Chicago Gourmet festival.
  • See all Chicago Gourmet events and participating chefs and restaurants here.

Make a day of it with a museum excursion (or two) this weekend!

  • Visit a participating museum this Saturday, September 24, during the Smithsonian Museum’s Museum Day!  Your free ticket, available online here, grants you and a guest free admission to many museums nationwide, including some of Chicago’s most popular attractions, including the Adler Planetarium, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and others.
  • Take a stroll through Chicago’s illustrious history at the Chicago History Museum, which is also FREE for Illinois residents Friday, September 23 .  Step aboard a real 19th century ‘L’ car that was in service ferrying passengers to the World’s Columbian Exposition.
  • Watch the miracle of science unfold before your very eyes at the baby chick hatchery at the Museum of Science and Industry, which is FREE Friday, September 23, to Illinois residents.
  • Learn all about African American history and culture at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which is FREE this Sunday, September 25, to Illinois residents.
  • Take a FREE guided tour of the Chicago Cultural Center this Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, at 1:15 pm, to learn all about the building’s rich history and see the world’s biggest Tiffany glass dome.
  • View never-before-seen photos of legendary musicians at the Soul Train 40th Anniversary Photo Exhibition in Expo 72 in the Loop.  This groundbreaking exhibition celebrating the venerable TV music variety show is on an extended run through October 2 – catch it while you can!
  • For information on the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Mexican Museum of Fine Art, and Chicago’s many other Always Free Attractions, click and/or share this link:
  • For more information about free admission days at Chicago museums, click here.

Shop this season’s freshest produce and see a top local chef at work at farmers market events throughout the city.

  • Stop by the Green City Market, Chicago’s only year-round farmers market, this Saturday for a FREE cooking demonstration with Executive Chef Kristine Subido of Wave, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood, at 10:30 am.
  • Visit farmers markets throughout the city to find and buy what’s in season this time of year.  Click here to see which markets are open this weekend.

Experience great food, family fun and amazing music and art across the city.

  • Hear the legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird, Jon Langford and other music luminaries at The Hideout’s 15th Annual Block Party, this Saturday from 12 Noon – 10 pm.
  • Celebrate Octoberfest at Navy Pier, which kicks off Friday September 23 and runs through October 10.  Look out for the Octoberfest tent, which is fully decked out in traditional German and Bavarian style, and treat yourself to Bratwurst and other authentic German food.
  • Usher in the arrival of fall with Lincoln Square’s 24th Annual Apple Fest, this Saturday from 8 am – 4 pm, featuring dozens of vendors, children’s activities, musical acts and of course, apple pie, hot apple cider, bushels of apples – and yes – even apple pizza!
  • Bring the entire family to Lincoln Park for Dickens Fest this Saturday for plenty of fun, recreation, snacks and novelty events in the afternoon, and music and al fresco dining in the evening.
  • Enjoy two days of FREE, nonstop music at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Saturday and Sunday, with performances by some of the greatest local jazz musicians.
  • See a wonderful variety of art and craft work at the Hyde Park Arts & Crafts Adventure, this Saturday and Sunday; enjoy artmaking demos and other events at this popular juried art show.
  • Head to Hale Park on the city’s South Side for their Fall Theater Festival, featuring performances of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice taking place Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm.

Explore a new neighborhood with a friendly local with Instagreeter!

  • Get a delightful introduction to the architecture and public art of Millennium Park with a free Millennium Park Instagreeter tour, available on a first-come, first-served basis daily at 11:30 am and 1 pm.
  • Visit the Hyde Park InstaGreeter Outpost at the Hyde Park Art Center this Saturday and take a free guided walk of this historic neighborhood.  Hyde Park is home to the University of Chicago and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, as well as the Chicago residence of President Barack Obama.
  • See the sights of historic Old Town with an Old Town Instagreeter tour this Saturday!  Learn where the neighborhood got its name – hint: it has nothing to do with its age!
  • Discover the vibrant heart of Chicago’s Mexican American community on an Instagreeter tour of Pilsen this Saturday!
  • Learn all about the history and architectural gems of downtown Chicago on a Loop Instagreeter tour, available on a first-come, first-served basis Friday through Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm.

Take an urban excursion and earn the new Windy City Foursquare Badge!

For even more upcoming events, visit