MLK Day Events and Activities in Chicago

Png Martin Luther King sticker

MLK Day is a National holiday that honors and celebrates the legacy and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. These celebrations take place in the form of community events, a day of service, or through cultural experiences. The commemorative day off in Chicago offers a chance for locals and visitors alike to experience the impact of the incredible civil rights leader in a way that suites them best.

For 2023, celebrations are back and in full effect with many taking place in person throughout the city of Chicago. From free museum days to community service events, Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Chicago has something for everyone to enjoy.

Here are some new and can’t miss events to check out this MLK weekend in Chicago.


Free Intro to Nonviolence Principles & Act of Service

On this day of remembrance, join the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago for a two-hour introduction to Building the Beloved Community using Dr. King’s Principles and Steps of Nonviolence. Then, in the spirit of Dr. King’s quote “What are you doing for others?,” support our Beloved Community as we assemble toiletry packs for participants and neighbors in need. Lunch is provided during this all-ages event. Toiletry donations are also welcomed.

DreamFest: An Open House Celebration

Monday, January 16th //  10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Celebrate MLK Day at the Kroc Center Chicago on Monday, January 16th. Dream Fest is a free community event featuring activities for the whole family. Participate in an open swim, gym, ongoing movies, arts and crafts, fitness demos, and more during this all-day event.

Free admission to Chicago Museums

Monday, January 16th // Time Varies

Cost: $0 – $30

Many of Chicago’s area museums will be open in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day—offering free or low-cost admission for all Illinois residents. Check out new and ongoing exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, or Shedd Aquarium in the heart of the loop. You can also visit South Side institutions like the Museum of Science and Industry during their Black Creativity Family Day or the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center for their annual Kings Day event.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

2023 PUSH Excel Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast

Monday, January 16th // 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Cost: $150

The 33rd annual Martin Luther King Scholarship Breakfast with PUSH for Excellence is returning in person after two years bringing together leaders, businesses and the community across the country. The annual scholarship breakfast recognizes and awards scholarships to hundreds of students across the nation.

2023 MLK Remembrance with DePaul University

Tuesday, January 17th // 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Visit DePaul University for a community conversation as they remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a champion for equal rights and dignity for all. The featured speaker will be Audra Wilson CEO of Shriver Center on Poverty Law at DePaul. Register in advance and enjoy a free lunch during the event.

MLK Commemoration Celebration at the University of Chicago

Monday, January 23rd // 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Celebrate the legacy of Dr. King with the University of Chicago as they welcome their 2023 keynote speaker, Former U.S Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for their annual celebration. Following his remarks, Holder will be joined in conversation by Valerie Jarrett. The program will also feature performances by Uniting Voices Chicago (formerly the Chicago Children’s Choir).

The (RE)volution of Real Estate in the Black Community (a MLK Day Special)

Monday, January 16th // 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Join in on the conversation about real estate and it’s impacts on the Black community this MLK Day weekend. This community-centric conversation, will highlight the past, present, and future of real estate for African-Americans. This event is hosted Cassandra (Ms. Cass) Sneed, Principal Broker of the Aspire Group Powered by EXIT Strategy Realty, and features a guest appearance by Photographer and Social Justice Tonika Lewis Johnson, a visual artist/photographer from Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood.

MLK Day 2023: South Side Stories

Monday, January 16th // 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

In collaboration with South Side spaces, Arts + Public Life, Court Theater, Intonation, Lumpen Radio, and more, join Hyde Park Art Center and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and honor the legacy of historical Black leaders, spaces, and stories from the Southside of Chicago. The all-day event will include a variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

MLK Day of Service: Housewarming Baskets

Monday, January 16th // 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

Join LINK Unlimited Scholars on January 16, 2023, for a day of service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as they collect housewarming baskets to benefit the individuals at Deborah’s Place & Facing Forward to End Homelessness.

Visit the event page for more details on what to donate during this volunteer event.

MLK Day Of Service Parade Clean Up

Monday, January 16th // 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Cost: Free

In honor of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Something Good in Englewood wants to continue to support his dream in creating and maintaining a safe, and peaceful environment in our Englewood community. Live in the Englewood neighborhood or looking to support? Find out how you can pitch in on the action by following the link below.

Annual MLK Tribute Concert: Thunder

Saturday, January 14th and Monday, January 16th // Time Varies

Cost: $27 – $67

Sinfonietta’s annual MLK Tribute Concert is a beloved yearly tradition. This year, come and experience an inspiring program full of power and intensity. Performances take place at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville

MLK Day of Service with My Block, My Hood, My City

Monday, January 16th // 10:00 a.m.

Cost: Free

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., My Block, My Hood, My City will be collecting food, PPE, and home goods for delivery to elders across Chicago. Join them in Chatham on Monday at 10 a.m. to help serve. Bring items for donation to community elders, or come with room in the car for a food box and additional home goods to make deliveries to 2-3 seniors. Make a difference and impact hundreds of elders’ lives.

Curious about unique museums in Chicago? Check out our guide to the most interesting museums here.

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