The best parties in Chicago don’t all take place in the summer — just most of them.
But if you’re getting early stages of cabin fever and don’t feel like you can spend another weekend in your sweatpants, there is the appropriately titled Woody’s Winter Warm-Up on Friday. The second annual fundraiser hosted by retired Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and his wife Sarah coincides with the annual Cubs Convention (which explains the frigid conditions) and is the lone winter function on my list of top Chicago parties I’m looking forward to in 2013.
Here’s a look at what makes Woody’s Winter Warm-Up and the other parties on my list more than just an excuse to get dressed up and crush the open bar, as well as a list of celebrities that have attended in the past:
Woody’s Winter Warm-Up (Friday)
Past guests: Kerry Wood, Plain White T’s, Ryan Dempster, Richard Dent, Israel Idonije, Theo Epstein, Matt Garza
Preview: There are tons of charity events hosted by sports stars in Chicago. This fundraiser for the Wood Family Foundation at Harry Caray’s Tavern at Navy Pier, however, separated itself from the rest last year thanks to the number of athletes serving drinks behind the bar and the memorable music performances. Sure, having the Grammy-nominated Plain White T’s perform at your event is great, but having them perform with Cubs pitcher Randy Wells and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein on guitar? That’s just awesome.
Rock 'N' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (July 21)
Past guests: Al Roker, Giuliana Rancic, Kate Gosselin, James Marsden, Cobra Starship, Roger Craig, Jake Pavelka
Preview: Not only do you get to watch a famous band perform at the post-race party with the skyline in the background, but you also get to run alongside celebrities (and try to beat the pants off of them). The lesser-known bands performing along the race course every few blocks will help keep you motivated, and the unique view of the city from the closed downtown streets will remind you why you love Chicago.
Rolling Stone Rock Room (TBA)
Past guests: David Arquette, Joe Manganiello, Karmin, Jessica Szohr
Preview: Some of us prefer to do our partying earlier, which is why this invitation-only brunch at Studio Paris during Lollapalooza weekend the last two years has been right up my alley. The party in Paris Club’s upstairs club includes performances by Lollapalooza bands, great food (last year’s king crab spread was a nice alternative to the bowl of Fiber One I normally eat for breakfast) and a more relaxed atmosphere than the typical Lolla party. And, best of all, I didn’t have to stay out until 5 a.m. to enjoy it. The brunch has yet to be officially confirmed for this year, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Chicago Fire Foundation’s White Party (Aug. 8)
Past guests: Cory Gibbs, Frank Klopas, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Sean Johnson
Preview: For those who complain about seeing the same people at every party, I give you this highly underrated benefit featuring members of Chicago’s Major League Soccer team. The players and guests get decked out in South Beach-worthy white attire and enjoy a loose dance floor and simple-but-impressive food spread meant for people who don’t feel like repeatedly asking the wait staff “What is it?” Last year’s White Party at MCA Warehouse had the best dessert table I’ve ever seen. My advice for this year’s event? Lose the VIP room. A hierarchy doesn’t belong at such a carefree party.
Macy’s Glamorama (Aug. 9)
Past guests: Beyonce, Cee Lo Green, Ne-Yo, Robin Thicke, Macy Gray, Cyndi Lauper, MC Hammer
Preview: You don’t need to be a fashionista to enjoy Macy’s annual fashion show, which took place at Harris Theater last year but has not announced its location this year. The well-known music acts, breakdancing and Broadway-like sets will keep you entertained even if you don’t know the difference between “Project Runway” and “America’s Next Top Model” — and will almost make you forget you’re looking at outfits you probably can’t afford worn by models who probably wouldn’t give you the time of day. The after-party is just as great, if not more so, with its crowded dance floor and fun photo booths. Never underestimate the power of a fun photo booth.
Chicago Gateway Green’s Green Tie Ball (Sept. 7)
Past guests: Jon Stewart, Pete Wentz, Wolfgang Puck, Richard M. Daley, The B-52s, Duncan Keith, Steve McMichael
Preview: Think this is some stuffy benefit for the environment just for socialites? So did I, until I went last year and saw the club-like atmosphere in front of the stage and incredible “Alice in Wonderland”-themed decorations and costumes. Now I’m kicking myself for skipping it in previous years. The fundraiser at A. Finkl & Sons Co. in Lincoln Park also included a casino and 60-plus participating restaurants with tables along the walls (it’s set up like Chicago Gourmet, minus the long lines). This year’s theme is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Chicago Gourmet (Sept. 28-Sept. 29)
Past guests: Jay Cutler, Kristin Cavallari, Rahm Emanuel, Richard M. Daley, Ted Allen, Rick Bayless, Art Smith
Preview: The outdoor setting in Millennium Park adds to the atmosphere, as does the pleasant fall weather, but it’s the upscale food and booze that have helped Chicago Gourmet grow each year. This festival has become Lollapalooza for foodies: There are a variety of options and opportunities to try new things, you’ll be hard-pressed to get to everything you want to and you’ll see plenty of tattoos (in this case, on the chefs). And a Chicago Gourmet spokeswoman hints: “The Illinois Restaurant Association is considering some potential new programming that will be rolled into the weekend, but details are too premature to share at this time.”