Chicago's Top 100 Events 2015

The list of the meetings, parties, and industry gatherings that make the most impact in Chicago year after year.

By Jenny Berg November 17, 2015, 3:00 AM EST

This year was a big year for Chicago events. For the first time, the James Beard Foundation hosted its prestigious award gala outside of New York City, hosting it instead at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in May. The awards will return to the city in 2016 and 2017. The city also hosted the N.F.L. Draft for the first time in 51 years; this, too, will take place in Chicago again next year. Other new arrivals to the scene included Food & Wine magazine's first local Food & Wine Festival, and the 2016 iteration is already in the works.

Apart from working on the big inaugural events, local industry professionals stayed busy with the city's own calendar of annual affairs. This year, the Chicago Top 100 list spotlights the city's most iconic, tourist-drawing events, such as the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The list also highlights trade shows such as the Sweets & Snacks Expo, where serious business transactions are made; there are also fashion events, benefits, and large-scale sporting events.

New entries to the list include the edgy Riot Fest, a music festival with a 130-act lineup that's the same size as Lollapalooza's. Also new is the Weizmann Institute of Science Annual Midwest Region Gala Dinner, which raises nearly $2 million and has a guest list filled with powerhouse business leaders. And the Chicago Ideas Week, which is gaining buzz and attracts big-name speakers year after year, also makes its debut on the list this year.

To choose and rank the annual events on this list, we look at several factors, including economic impact, buzz, innovation, and an event's prominence within the communities it intends to serve.


Art & Architecture Events

Theater, Dance & Music Events

Trade Shows & Conventions

Sports Events


Fashion & Retail Events

Parades & Holiday Events

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