Best Friends Unite! 30 Ideas for Celebrating Palentine’s Day in Chicago
Roses are red, violets are blue. Where would we be without our best crew?
Save the chocolates and roses for your sweetie and celebrate the people who help you get through this thing called life with Palentine’s Day. Obviously, a play on Valentine’s Day (the one about romantic love) and Galentine’s Day (the celebration of female friendships), Palentine’s Day is about showing your platonic love for your besties, your ride-or-dies, your squad, your chosen family, your friends.
And because we know you know how to have a good time with your friends, this list is intended for when you want to kick the festivities up a notch, whether that’s with a few tight besties or a whole mess of pals. The only question left is, what do you want to do for Palentine’s Day?
We want to eat!
Group dining can be daunting — how do we split the check? Shared apps or separate entrees? Did everyone tip enough? But if you want the whole gang to gather together, try hot pot. The ultimate group-dinner-eating-frenzy, this Asian staple allows for lots of plate sharing and lots of laughs as someone inevitably fumbles the chopsticks. Head to Chinatown, the epicenter of delicious dining that won’t bat an eye at your table of 10. We like Happy Lamb Hot Pot and Qian Lin Hot Pot, but there are several within a block of each other, so you really can’t go wrong. Bonus: work off your full bellies with some karaoke at No. 18 Karaoke Bar or Sakura (call ahead for reservations because they are always popular!).
Other group dining and international options include infinitely shareable Spanish tapas, Italian family style, Japanese hibachi, or convene at a new food hall so everyone can get what they want and be happy.
We want to chill!
Along with current releases, Alamo Drafthouse in Wrigleyville hosts specific screenings for rowdy shows, family friendly flicks, and beloved favorites back on the big screen. You also get a full menu of beverages and snacks brought directly to your seat — what more could you ask for?
Swing by the Music Box Theater, home to the interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show (playing Saturday, February 18 at midnight) as well as off-kilter events like Mortified: Live, as well as current indie films, quirky throwbacks, and everything in between.
A spa day with friends is the perfect amount of luxury and lounge. Check out day passes from downtown hotels — the InterContinental Chicago has a beautiful pool that you can access for the day — or spend a little less to try a 45 min session relaxing while releasing toxins at the Galos Salt Caves.
We want to do something active!
A workout doesn’t feel like work when you’re with friends. Try walking a tightrope, pose on the lyra (an aerial hoop), or swing in your silk hammock at private lessons with Aloft Circus Arts or Chicago Aerial Arts.
Shopping with your best buds is practically a Saturday staple. So step it up by visiting pop-up maker markets and weekend sample sales. We like the Handmade Market every month at Empty Bottle or Chicago Artisan Market in Ravenswood or Fulton Market.
If you and your friends are true Potterheads, geek out together at Harry Potter: Magic at Play. Grab your Ron and your Hermione to join you in this totally immersive experience that brings to life everything from Harry’s wizarding world.
If your squad is more hands-on, try a class at Rebuilding Exchange, where your group can learn to craft and create useful items like serving trays, lamps, and mosaics with reclaimed wood and materials. Want to celebrate your furry friends? Schedule a session at Painting with a Twist, where you and your friends can perfect your pet portrait painting — we won’t judge!
Ah, the charcuterie board. It’s easy, no-fuss, and everyone loves it. Before you cut the cellophane from a prepackaged grocery store board, why not make everyone’s favorite app into the star of the show with a charcuterie making class? DM I’ve Got The Board, Chicago’s favorite board maker, to get the details on private assembly parties and workshops. (Then make sure to invite us, too.)
We want to laugh!
We love a game night, but it’s hard to fit everyone in a small apartment. So for Palentine’s Day, step it up with in-person, fully hosted Game Night Out, where the professional hosts handle everything from games to scorekeeping and general merriment while you and your buddies make hilarious memories. It’s hosted in the Lincoln Park neighborhood or you can opt for a virtual version with friends from all over.
As for comedy and improv shows, the mainstage at the Second City is always a good time. But venture further into the Piper’s Alley theaters to check out shows that get less attention but still garner all the laughs. Get interactive with Comedy Sportz’s House Party, or geek out for Baby Wants Candy’s improvised hip-hop musical Shamilton. The Annoyance Theater in Lakeview also has a wide variety of off-kilter and spot-on shows (like Friendsh*t or HitchCocktails), every night of the week.
We want to use our brains!
Escape rooms burst on the scene as a great way for groups to work together to solve a problem and have a good time. There are several options with different themes all over the city but we like The Escape Game’s creative missions and varying difficulty levels.
Chicago is a big theater town, and as much as we all love Wicked, there is more to the theater scene than what’s on tour from Broadway. Skip the big playbills and seek out smaller venues or experimental theater with one or two of your most open-minded friends. We like the Neo-Futurists for their lightning fast mini-plays (30 original plays in 60 min!), and a night spent at the Steppenwolf Theater is like witnessing magic.
We want to drink!
We know you could go to your local watering hole but why not step it up and really celebrate your friendship with bubbles? Pops for Champagne corners the market on glitzing up any occasion. Hit up Three Dots and a Dash for tiki-inspired cocktails (and mocktails!) while your friends plan a tropical friend-cation. Or pick a fancy hotel rooftop and cheers to your friendship while taking in the city views.
And since you’re trying new places, why not try a new beverage? Gather your friends for a crash course in a new taste. Set up a tour to see how whiskey is made, or finally see (and taste!) what mezcal is all about, try a fruity brandy experience, or a classic whiskey tasting, or go really outside the box with a mead tasting. And because we know that everyone has a different drink order, give it all a whirl with a mixology class for the group. Whichever you choose, do it responsibly because friends take care of friends.
Whatever you call them, you know who they are and what they mean to you. While no one needs a Hallmark holiday to show your appreciation, any excuse to plan a night out with friends is worth the effort. Happy Palentine’s Day!