Chicago boasts hundreds of world-renowned museums, hospitals, and non-profit institutions — so it’s no surprise that some of the most spectacular galas in the world take place right here in the Windy City. For guests looking to wine, dine, and (most importantly) give back to a great cause, there’s always an event on the horizon. From January to December, Chicago’s year-round gala season is in full swing. Many important planning steps go into creating a meaningful (and beautiful) gala. These 33 Chicago galas and charity events stand out for their beautiful venues, engaging entertainment, and heartwarming causes. Whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall; a good cause is always worth celebrating.
PAWS Chicago “Animal Magnetism”
On March 13, 2020, the PAWS Chicago Professional Board will host their annual gala at Morgan Manufacturing in the West Loop. This event will welcome approximately 600 guests for an evening of dining, entertainment, and a silent auction. Pups in attendance can enjoy a special buffet and a designated dog spa. This pet-friendly celebration provides the operational support PAWS Chicago needs to continue rescuing thousands of worldwide homeless pets. Guests can even adopt pets rescued by PAWS Chicago during the gala. Visit here for more info.
photo from Paws Chicago | venue: The Drake Hotel
American Heart Association’s “Chicago Heart Ball”
This year’s black-tie event will be held on April 4, 2020 at Navy Pier’s AON Grand Ballroom. Over 1,000 individuals from Chicago’s business, medical, and philanthropic communities will attend to benefit the American Heart Association’s life-saving mission. Last year’s event raised 2.9 million dollars and was attended by 1,000 guests, who celebrated the American Heart Association’s efforts to build a foundation of health in the Chicagoland community with dinner, entertainment, and a live auction. Kehoe Designs captured the heartfelt theme with red monochromatic décor. Learn more here.
photographer: Bill Richert Photography |event agency: Magnificent Events | décor: Kehoe Designs | venue: Navy Pier |
American Cancer Society “Discovery Ball”
On April 18, 2020 the American Cancer Society will host their 14th annual Discovery Ball black-tie event at the luxurious Hilton Chicago. Last year, over 800 guests attended this sensational event planned by event agency Magnificent Events. The gala brought to life the “Where Hope Grows” theme with a wonderland of green foliage. The “Late Night Party” after-event featured performances from Barenaked Ladies & Final Say. The organization researches cancer and its causes to find better treatments, promote healthy lifestyles to help prevent cancer, and fight for policy changes. Learn more here.
photo from American Cancer Society | planner: Magnificent Events | décor: HMR Designs | venue: Hilton Chicago | production: Frost Chicago | entertainment: Final Say & Barenaked Ladies
Chicago Zoological Society “Whirl” Gala
This year’s fundraiser, “Rainforest of the Whirl,” will be held on April 25, 2020 at Sheraton Grand Chicago. The event, attended by over 700 guests, is hosted by the Women’s Board and the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society and Brookfield Zoo. It is Brookfield Zoo’s largest annual fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the Chicago Zoological Society’s award-winning conservation, education, and animal welfare programs. Last year’s sensational event featured a roaring 20s-theme with flapper dancers and glittery tabletop décor. Learn more here.
photo from Chicago Zoological Society | event agency: Magnificent Events |décor: The Flower Firm | venue: Sheraton Grand Chicago | caterer: Calihan Catering | entertainment: The Mystique Dancers & Maggie Speaks
UNICEF Gala Chicago
UNICEF Gala Chicago will celebrate its 13th year on April 25, 2020 at The Geraghty, a sophisticated and contemporary venue. This year’s event, designed by Kehoe Designs, will honor Chance the Rapper for his humanitarian work. The evening will include dinner and a reception, along with sensational entertainment. The gala committee hopes to raise over a million dollars to support UNICEF’s core programs that improve children’s lives throughout the world. Learn more here.
photo from Michigan Avenue | venue: The Geraghty | entertainment: Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum “Butterfly Ball 21”
This year’s “Butterfly Ball,” co-chaired by Peggy and Stephen Diamond and Beth and Joao Ferreira, will be held on May 1, 2020. Over the last 21 years, the Butterfly Ball has raised over 34 million dollars to benefit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s science-education initiatives. Originally known as the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the museum was Chicago’s first public museum. Today, it continues to serve as an urban gateway to nature and science. Find out more here.
photographer: Ana Miyares Photography | décor: HMR Designs | venue: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum | caterer: Calihan Catering | entertainment: Maggie Speaks
Ronald McDonald House Charities’ Annual Gala
On May 2, 2020, guests are invited to put on their favorite pair of red footwear for an evening of fun at The Geraghty. Spoken Four, represented by Magnificent Events will keep guests entertained. This heart-warming gala benefits Ronald McDonald House® and Family Room®’s programs that provide financial assistance to families caring for hospitalized children. Last year’s event featured late-night McDonald’s cheeseburgers as well as dazzling red décor. Learn more here.
photographer: Nicee Martin Photo & Design | venue: The Geraghty
James Beard Foundation Awards Gala
On May 4, 2020 guests can expect another Oscar-worthy James Beard Awards Gala at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Last year’s ceremony, hosted by actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, drew over 2,000 guests. Participants enjoyed a multi-course dinner in the mezzanine boxes as well as bites from various top chefs. The James Beard Foundation creates high-impact initiatives to promote food culture that’s “more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.” See more details here.
photographer: Clay Williams Photo | venue: Lyric Opera of Chicago
St. Jude “Four Stars of Chicago Restaurant Extravaganza”
This year’s 26th annual “St. Jude Four Stars of Chicago Restaurant Extravaganza,” benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will take place on May 5, 2020 at The Field Museum. Presented by Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, the event will feature samplings by some of Chicago’s best chefs. Guests will also enjoy live entertainment as well as a live auction. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital aims to treat and defeat childhood life-threatening diseases. Find more information here.
photo from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Alzheimer’s Association “Rita Hayworth Gala”
Chicago’s 33rd annual Rita Hayworth Gala supporting the Alzheimer’s Association will be held on May 9, 2020 at the luxe Hilton Chicago. This year’s gala will celebrate “The Greatest Moment on Earth,” inspired by the idea that a cure is only a moment away. Working to achieve a world without Alzheimer’s disease, last year’s gala raised over one million dollars. Guests enjoyed décor inspired by the renowned “Love Lock” bridge in Paris and performances by The Orchestra 33 and country singer Jay Allen. Learn more here.
photo from Alzheimer’s Association | venue: Hilton Chicago | entertainment: The Orchestra 33 & country singer Jay Allen
Woman’s Board of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago “Summer Ball Gala”
The 71st annual Woman’s Board Summer Ball Gala will take place on May 15, 2020 at the deluxe Four Seasons Chicago. This year’s gala will honor Kim White and Karen Z. Gray-Krehbiel, two of the Woman’s Boards leaders and visionaries. Proceeds from this fabulous event will fund youth programs sponsored by The Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. Last year’s gala delighted guests with its “Mirror Ball” theme and stunning iridescent décor. Learn more here.
photographer: Robert F. Carl | venue: Hilton Chicago
Bears Care Gala
The 2020 Bears Care Gala will be held on May 16, 2020 in the United Club at Soldier Field. The annual gala raises funds to support cutting-edge breast and ovarian cancer research and treatment programs in Chicago. Head to the orange carpet for an evening of dinner, dancing, cocktails, and live and silent auctions. Your favorite Chicago Bears players and coaches will be there to help raise money for this important cause. Learn more here.
photographer: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune | venue: Soldier Field
Make-A-Wish Foundation “Wish Ball”
On May 16, 2020, the annual Wish Ball will be held at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom in Chicago. This powerful event will welcome more than 900 guests and include a special guest appearance by actor Steve Martin. Last year, The Make-a-Wish Foundation raised over two million dollars to support their life-transforming mission to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses. Comedian Seth Meyers brought laughter and cheers to this heartwarming event. Visit here for more details.
photo from Make-A-Wish Foundation | venue: Navy Pier
Embarc’s “Variety Spectacular”
On May 16, 2019, Embarc’s Variety Spectacular once again wowed guests with creative performances and riveting entertainment (with fun activities like chocolate-making and puppy petting). Last year’s gala at the fabulous Moonlight Studios, and the event once again wowed attendees with artists, musicians, chefs, and creatives of all kinds. Embarc is a three-year program that prepares low-income high school students for college and career success. This year’s gala date will take place on May 28, 2020 at Morgan Manufacturing. Learn more here.
photo from Embarc | venue: Moonlight Studios
Chicago GI Research Foundation’s Annual Ball
This year’s “Vision for the Future” GIRF ball, benefitting the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center, will be held May 30, 2020 at Radison Blue Aqua Hotel. Guests can expect a spectacular performance by magician and mentalist Oz Pearlman. Last year’s gala, featuring celebrity comedian David Spade and emcee Leeann Trotter, raised over a million dollars to find cures for digestive diseases. Visit here for more information.
photographer: Jai Girard Photography | venue: Sheraton Grand Hotel
Chicago Innovation “Un-Gala”
On June 26, 2019, excited guests gathered at Revel Fulton Market to raise money for Chicago Innovation Foundation’s community mentoring programs (such as Women’s Mentoring Co-op, MBA scholarships, and the Chicago Student Invention Convention). Guests enjoyed a performance by New Moon Chicago. This year’s gala will take place on June 18, 2020 at Revel Fulton Market. Learn more here.
photographer: Greg Inda | venue: Morgan Manufacturing | caterer: Blue Plate Catering | entertainment: New Moon Chicago
Chicago Botanic Garden “Summer Dinner Dance”
This year’s Chicago Botanic Garden Summer Dinner Dance will be held on June 19, 2020. The Garden will present Picturing the Prairie, a program that cultivates enthusiasm for the prairie ecosystem. The gala celebrates the busy season while also supporting the Garden’s mission to “shape how people value, perceive, and care for the environment.” Last year’s gala was elegant and chic with floral décor by Revel Décor that doubled as eco-friendly pollinators. Learn more here.
photographer: Robert Kusel | event agency: Magnificent Events | décor: Revel Décor | venue: Chicago Botanic Gardens | caterer: Food for Thought | entertainment: Maggie Speaks
Lincoln Park Zoo Ball
The Lincoln Park Women’s Board has held the highly successful Zoo Ball since its inception in 1977. Last year’s “A Feathered Affair” — complete with flamingo décor — raised nearly one million dollars for Lincoln Park Zoo, including “The Pride of Chicago” capital campaign. Over 800 civic, business, and philanthropic-minded leaders attend this annual gala to support one of the only remaining free zoos in the United States. Next year’s Zoo Ball will be held on July 10, 2020. View here for more information.
photographer: Kyle Flubacker Photography | venue: Lincoln Park Zoo
Adler Planetarium “Celestial Ball”
On September 12, 2020, the Adler Planetarium’s gala, hosted by the Adler Planetarium Women’s Board, will feature a cocktail reception, dinner, and dancing. Proceeds from this event go toward supporting the planetarium’s many educational programs. Last year, the annual black-tie affair raised 1.7 million dollars. Apollo astronaut Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., and award-winning author Charles Fishman made a special guest appearance, while gorgeous pink-balloon ceiling installations kept guests looking toward the heavens. Learn more here.
photographer: David Miller Photography | venue: Adler Planetarium
Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center’s Fall Gala
The Woman’s Board of Rush University Medical Center will present its annual Fall Benefit on October 2, 2020. Last year’s benefit at the historic Theater on the Lake drew over 450 guests in the effort to support the Medical Center’s many programs, including the Rush Community Service Initiative Program. Guests enjoyed breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan, as well as a cocktail buffet and musical performance by The Bob Hardwick Sound. Find out more here.
photo from The Women’s Board of Rush University Medical Center
Friends of Prentice Annual Gala
Friends of Prentice held “An Evening in Oz” benefit gala on October 26, 2019 at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago. The annual benefit welcomed over 450 of Chicago’s philanthropic and business leaders, raising over 750,000 dollars to fund education, research, and patient care programs that support women’s health. Friends of Prentice has raised over 20 million dollars since its inception in 1986 and awarded grants to more than 80 researchers and clinical programs. This year’s gala will take place on October 24, 2020. For more information, visit here.
photo from Friends of Prentice | planner: Taylor & Co | venue: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago | entertainment: Dr. Bombay Band
Museum of Science and Industry “Columbian Ball”
On October 5, 2019, the Museum of Science and Industry held its 39th annual “Columbian Ball.” The space-themed event raised 1.8 million dollars to support MSI’s science-education programs and exhibits. Guests enjoyed stunning planetary ceiling installations, space suit-wearing servers, and on-theme bites by Catering By Michael (we especially love the Galaxy Mousse Cakes). Next year’s gala will take place in October. Learn more here.
photo courtesy of & caterer: Catering By Michaels | venue: Museum of Science and Industry
Lynn Sage Cancer Foundation “CHILL”
On Thursday, November 12, 2020, LuxeHome and Wine Spectator Magazine will host their annual international culinary fundraising event at the historic Merchandise Mart. Since its inception in 2007, proceeds from “Chill” go to The Lynn Sage Foundation to support the fight against breast cancer. The event includes 150 premium wines, 50 top chefs, as well as a fun raffle and auction activity. Learn more here.
photo from Lynn Sage Cancer Foundation | venue: Merchandise Mart
Women’s Board’s Breakthrough Ball
Since 1966, the “Breakthrough Ball,” hosted by the Women’s Board at the University of Chicago Medicine, has raised millions of dollars to fund cancer research at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Last year’s gala at the glamorous Four Seasons Hotel Chicago was particularly stunning with vibrant uplighting and unique centerpieces. This year’s gala, co-chaired by Him Alley and Whitley Herbert, will take place on November 14, 2020. Details pending. To find out more, visit here.
photo from University of Chicago Research Foundation Women’s Board | venue: Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
Children’s Research Fund “Children’s Ball”
This year’s Children’s Ball will take place on December 12, 2020 at the Hilton Chicago. Proceeds from the black tie gala will go to the Children’s Research Fund that benefits the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. Last year’s gala raised a record-breaking amount of over-four million dollars. Patients of Lurie Children’s Hospital shared their moving stories throughout the evening. As the night progressed, guests enjoyed cocktails, dinner, and lavish entertainment. Learn more here.
photographer: Ana Miyares Photography | décor: Kehoe Designs | venue: Hilton Chicago
JDRF Illinois “One Dream Gala”
JDRF Illinois will host the 41st Annual “One Dream Gala” on December 12, 2020 at McCormick Place. Last year’s gala raised a record-breaking amount of over 7 million dollars, with all proceeds going to fun research to “cure, prevent, and treat type 1 diabetes.” Guests enjoyed a spectacular performance by Third Eye Blind, as well as a live auction. Allison Rosati and Rob Stafford from NBC5 will be back to host next year’s event. See More here.
photographer: Lynn Persin
2020 GALA DATES NOT YET ANNOUNCED
ChicagoGateway Green “Green Tie Ball”
Chicago Gateway Green’s 28th annual Green Tie Ball was held September 13th, 2019 at Alhambra Palace. Chicago Gateway Green is a non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to beautifying Chicago through landscape enhancement, public-art installation, and litter and graffiti removal. Last year’s “I Dream of Genie” theme wowed guests with food from 25 of Chicago’s finest restaurants, a special guest performance by Pete Went of Fall Out Boy, and more. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced. Visit here for more information.
photographer: Matt Mansueto Photography | venue: Alhambra Palace | entertainment: DJ Rock City, Brennan Besser, DJ Eddie Mills, Blake Alexander, DJ Bombay, Pete Wentz, & charitable gaming by Rivers Casino | caterers: 312 Chicago, Adobo Grill, Aidells, Alhambra Palace, Artango Bar & Steakhouse, Avli Taverna, Barton G. The Restaurant, Bellwether, Bistronomic, City BBQ, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood-Chicago, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company, Geja’s Cafe, Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, Hugo’s, Katana, Mirabella, Old Crow Smokehouse, Peet’s Coffee, Pizano’s, The Palm Restaurant, Spin-Spun Cotton Candy, Stan’s Doughnuts, STK-Chicago, Sunda, SX Skybar, Taureaux Tavern, Tavern on Rush, Trulucks, & Vu Rooftop
After School Matters Gala
At the After School Matters Gala, you can expect plenty of show-stopping performances by talented Chicago youths. The organization’s mission to “provide Chicago public high school teens with opportunities to explore and develop their talents, all while gaining critical skills for work, college and beyond,” came to fruition with 150 teens showcasing their work at this heartwarming event. Last year’s gala took place on September 24, 2019 at the Wintrust Arena. The celebration hosted more than 750 guests and raised over three million dollars. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced, but when it is you can learn more here.
photo from After School Matters | venue: Wintrust Arena
Lyric Opera “Opening Night Opera Ball”
Lyric Opera of Chicago kicked off its 65th season on September 28, 2019 with a performance of The Barber of Seville and the annual Opera Ball at the opulent Hilton Chicago. Guests enjoyed an evening of cocktails, dinner, and live performance by the Stu Hirsh Orchestra. Every year, this grand gala raises essential funds that support each Lyric-stage production. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced. Check out more details here.
photo from Lyric Opera of Chicago | venue: Hilton Chicago | entertainment: Stu Hirsh Orchestra
The Service Club of Chicago Annual Gala
On November 1, 2019, The Service Club of Chicago hosted their annual black tie gala at the glamorous Four Seasons Hotel Chicago. Guests enjoyed a night of cocktails, dancing, and live and silent auctions in this beautiful venue — all while supporting this female-led charitable organization. Exquisite décor by Kehoe Designs included butterfly-ceiling installations and a lavish violet photo backdrop with lush blooms. This year’s gala date has not been announced yet. Find out more here.
photographer: John Reilly Photography | décor: Kehoe Designs | venue: Four Seasons Hotel Chicago | entertainment: The Becca Kaufman Orchestra
The Gateway for Cancer Research “Cures Gala”
On November 2, 2019, guests attended the Cures Gala to raise over 4 million dollars for The Gateway-funded clinical cancer research. Ninety-nine cents of every dollar went directly to funding early-phase, patient-centered trials. With a Studio 54-theme, the event was filled with disco balls, moving stories by courageous patients, and lively performances by Grammy-winning artists CeeLo Green, Tony Vincent, and The Sugarhill. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced. Visit here for more information.
photo from Guest of a Guest | venue: Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel | entertainment: CeeLo Green, Tony Vincent, & The Sugarhill
Wish Upon a Wedding’s Blissful Wishes Ball
On November 24, 2019, guests gathered at Revel Fulton Market to raise money for Wish Upon a Wedding’s mission to grant weddings and vow renewals to couples facing life-altering health circumstances. PartySlate was proud to be a sponsor and support this incredible cause. The gala’s theme, “Diamonds are Forever,” kept the evening sparkling with plenty of disco balls and candlelight. Revel Décor created stunning backdrops, while BBJ Linen, Bowery & Bash, and Nuage Designs wowed guests with beautiful linen and furnishings. Limelight Catering perfected the evening with a delicious sit-down dinner. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced. Check out details here.
photographer: Tuan B & Co | décor: Ashland Addison Floral and Event Decor, Atmosphere Events Group, Flowers for Dreams, Revel Decor, Taylor & Co, Yanni Design Studio, Vale of Enna, Willrett Flower Co., Zuzu’s Petals, and Ella & Rose | venue: Revel Fulton Market | rentals: BBJ Linen, Blue Peak Tents, Bowery & Bash, Hall’s Rental Service, Inc, & Nuage Designs | entertainment: BeatMix Music | av & technology: Frost Chicago | videography: Hunter Floyd Films | caterer: Dipsy Desserts, Limelight Catering, & Vanille
Field Museum Women’s Board Gala
On March 7, 2019, friends of Field Museum celebrated the 125th anniversary of this iconic institution, raising 2.6 million dollars to support the museum’s educational programs, collections-based research, and conservation efforts. Maggie Speaks, represented by Magnificent Events, gave a dazzling performance. Chaired by the Women’s Board, the annual gala is always a favorite event on the year’s social calendar. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced. Check out more details here.
photographer: Elliot Mandel | venue: Field Museum
Chicago Urban League Annual “Golden Fellowship Dinner”
The 2019 Golden Fellowship Dinner at the Hilton Chicago was emceed by NBC 5 News anchors Michelle Relerford and Rob Stafford, with a stunning performance by 10-time Grammy Award-winner Chaka Khan. Last year’s event gathered more than 1,500 of the city’s corporate, faith, and civic leaders to explore the theme “Getting Equal Together,” which emphasized how communities and business organizations must work in unison to further racial equality. The gala is Chicago Urban League’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds go to supporting various programs (including employment, housing, and more) for African-American communities in Chicago. This year’s Golden Fellowship Dinner date has not yet been announced. Learn more here.
photographer: Powell Photography | venue: Hilton Chicago
Shedd Aquarium Annual Black Tie Gala
Over 600 Chicago philanthropists attended last year’s Shedd Aquarium Gala, raising almost 2 million dollars to support the aquarium’s conservation efforts. The gala’s theme, “Reflections,” was evident from the moment guests walked through a giant mirrored installation. Some of the evening’s activities included shucking oysters (while enjoying sustainably-sourced seafood of course) and a musical performance by Musicality. Best of all, guests enjoyed an aquatic presentation that included dolphins and sea lions. This year’s gala date has not yet been announced. Learn more here.
photographer: Brenna Hernandez/Shedd Aquarium | décor: Revel Décor | venue: Shedd Aquarium | entertainment: William Borris Trio & Musicality
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation “Grand Chef’s Gala”
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation held their 2020 annual gala at the Field Museum on February 8, 2020. Guests enjoyed a chef’s tasting via individualized stations, signature hors d’oeuvres, and custom-curated cocktails. After the tasting, guests dined with Maximo, the world’s largest dinosaur. All proceeds from this event went to the CF Foundation and their efforts to cure cystic fibrosis. The event for 2021 is in the planning phases; find out more here.
photo from Grand Chefs Experience | venue: Field Museum
On February 28, 2020, Tickled Pink hosted their annual gala at Rockwell on the River, a unique industrial space. To date, the gala has raised over two million dollars to support Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization committed to breast cancer prevention and early detection. Last year’s gala featured vibrant uplighting and lively entertainment, ensuring guests will return for another year of good causes. Paramount Events, Kehoe Designs, BBJ Linen, figMEDIA, The Laurel Room, Eden, and The Chicago Players all contributed to the evening’s success. The Tickled Pink gala for 2021 will be another not-to-be-missed event. To learn more, visit here.
photo courtesy of & décor: Lux Productions | venue: Rockwell on the River | caterer: Paramount Events