Events and exhibits that bring the wow factor

The arts, as a rule, are known for their tendency to bring the wow factor. That said, some exhibits and events go above and beyond in the dazzle department, like these eye-poppingly cool picks.

The 22nd Annual Kaleidoscope Family Day 

The family that plays together—and creates fabulous artistic projects—is the family that stays together. They’re also the family that takes advantage of this terrific program, now in its 22nd year, at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Collaboration is the name of the game on Kaleidoscope Day, and artists of all ages will be inspired by the works of Chicago artist Cauleen Smith and cartoonist Saul Steinberg.Museum educators will be on hand to guide all that creativity and, to add an extra layer of kaleidoscopic sparkle to your experience, participating Illinois families also get free admission all day. Now that’s a thing of beauty!

Saturday, July 22, The Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryan Learning Center (enter via the museum’s Modern Wing Entrance), 159 E. Monroe St., Chicago

Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” 

What happens when acclaimed beauty-purveyor Cirque du Soleil blends the Spanish words for light and rain? Luz and lluvia create a magical narrative in the form of “Luzia,” a dreamlike homage to an imagined Mexico under a white and gold big top. With a cast of 44 performers, this exquisite production combines fantasy, reality and acrobatics with some surprising elements. (And to file away for the “dreams do come true” conversation with your kids: Marta Henderson & Dominic Cruz, who studied at the National Circus School of Montreal, performed for the Chicago Midnight Circus as their first professional circus gigs. See? You can join the circus! Thank me later.)

Opens Friday, July 21, the United Center parking lot, Chicago

Backstage tours at the Lyric Opera

Whether you’re a middle school theater nerd at heart or simply raising one, this behind-the-scenes tour is a must-do for performance lovers. After all, one-hour tours exploring the incredible art deco Civic Opera House (the second largest in the nation!) aren’t everyday experiences; not only do Lyric docents guide you through the mezzanine boxes, orchestra pit and stage of the beautiful Ardis Krainik Theatre, but you’ll also have a chance to poke through the props room, wardrobe and costumes, wigs and makeup, scenery handling facility, and a host of artist-only spaces. Ever wondered if you were brave enough to walk the catwalk? Well, here’s that chance to live out those tech-crew dreams of glory.

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