August 2014 events calendar for things to do in Chicago

Plan your August in Chicago with our events calendar of the best activities, including free things to do, and picks from theater, art and music

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Chicago Air and Water Show

Chicago Air and Water Show Photograph: Jamie Kraus

It's August already? Time to get serious about maximizing your swimming pool time and making this summer count. If you still haven't made it out to a music festival this year, join the crowds at Lollapalooza or dance with the hippies at North Coast. Alternatively, you can skip the porta potty lines and head indoors to see Arcade Fire, Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus. Looking for some visual spectacle to round out your summer? Try watching the stunt planes at the Chicago Air and Water Show or the acrobatics on display at the Chicago Dancing Festival. With so much to do this month you're going to work up an appetite, so make sure to hit SausageFest for a hot dog or the Food Truck Social for a delicious meal on the city's streets.


RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2014


"Art Alliance: The Provocateurs"

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Street artist turned graphic design activist Shepard Fairey is bringing his politically charged work back to the city, setting up a gallery in Block 37 during Lollapalooza. "Art Alliance: The Provocateurs" will include works by Fairey himself in addition to more than 40 artists, including Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh and longtime Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. A portion of the event's proceeds will support Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education, an organization that helps integrate arts and music into school curriculums.

  1. Block 37 108 N State St, at Randolph St
  2. Until Mon Aug 4
Buy tickets

First Look Repertory of New Work

  • Price band: 1/4

The lineup of Steppenwolf Theatre Company's ninth annual First Look Repertory of New Work includes three new plays in rotation this summer. Tanya Saracho's dramedy Hushabye explores the ups and downs of a family dynamic in the face of tragedies. Martyna Majok's Ironbound is an eye-opening discussion of one Polish immigrant's past relationships, and how she will move forward in love. Joshua Conkel's Okay, Bye chronicles a new friendship budding between two old high school classmates after reuniting at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

  1. Steppenwolf Theatre Company 1650 N Halsted St, between Willow St and North Ave
  2. Until Sun Aug 24
More info

ACTIVATE

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The newest series of events presented by Chicago Loop Alliance transforms mundane, downtown alleys into glowing laser light shows. Each month, the party will move to a different alley in the city, transforming the space for a single evening. In August, the event takes place in back of the Chicago Theatre, where the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will present a runway fashion show.

  1. Chicago Theatre 175 N State St, between Randolph and Lake Sts
  2. Until Fri Aug 1
More info

Lollapalooza

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Set between breezy Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, Lollapalooza is the city's largest music festival, boasting numbers of attendance well in the six digits on a regular day (though it can feel like seven), mostly consisting of throngs of high school and college kids. This year the bill features headliners like the Arctic Monkeys, Outkast and Skrillex amid middleweights such as Lykke Li, Interpol and Spoon.

  1. Grant Park 337 E Randolph St, at Columbus Dr
  2. Until Sun Aug 3
Buy tickets

Katy Perry + Capital Cities

It was a tall order to ask Katy Perry to re-reach the heights of Teenage Dream. After all, it was only the second album in history to see its first five single top the Billboard charts. Yes, the ex-wife of Russell Brand, the pop singer that put the va-va-voom in bubblegum, is the Michael Jackson of our era. Still, we didn't expect Prism to be so downright dull. That being said, we still expect her to be bulging out of latex onstage.

  1. United Center 1901 W Madison St, between Wood St and Damen Ave
  2. Until Fri Aug 8
More info

Illinois State Fair

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Come for the festival fare, stay for the Butter Cow—the fair's unofficial icon and Paula Deen's life-long dream, a life-size cow sculpture made of 500 pounds of butter. Watch tractor pulls, horse races, parades and musical acts. Some events require additional tickets. The music lineup includes Pitbull, Steely Dan, Boston and Hunter Hayes.

  1. Illinois State Fairgrounds 801 Sangamon Ave
  2. Until Sun Aug 17
More info

Coraline

  • Price band: 1/4

Neil Gaiman's semi-macabre children's book, about a lonely girl who finds a hidden doorway to a creepily perfect parallel world, made its debut as a stage musical in 2009, with a book by playwright David Greenspan and music by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields. Edward Rutherford directs the Chicago premiere under the auspices of the appropriately-named, ad hoc Black Button Eyes Productions, with musical direction by Nick Sula.

  1. City Lit Theatre 1020 W Bryn Mawr Ave, at Kenmore Ave
  2. Until Sat Sep 6
Buy tickets

Ginza Holiday Festival

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Throw on a yukata, the summer kimono, at this 59th annual celebration of Japanese culture. Meet and buy crafts from master craftsmen (called Waza). Live martial arts, cultural songs, classical dances and Japanese food give Chicago a taste of Japan. Get to the fest early Saturday before the entrance fee rises to $12 at 7pm for Yoko Noge's Japanesque Band.

  1. Midwest Buddhist Temple 435 W Menomonee St, between Sedgwick St and Hudson Ave
  2. Until Sun Aug 10
More info

Bud Billiken Parade

  • Free

The world's largest and oldest African American parade enters its 85th year, celebrating Chicago's youth. The parade's two mile route begins in the Bronzeville neighborhood and continues north on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, concluding in Washington Park with a picnic that features various vendors and performers.

  1. Martin Luther King Dr from 35th to 55th 3436 S Martin Luther King Dr, at 35th St
  2. Until Sat Aug 9
More info

Northalsted Market Days

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Northalsted Market Days is the largest two-day street festival in the Midwest and features lots of booze, phallic junk food (think corn dogs and chocolate-dipped bananas), music acts and terrific street fashion.

  1. Halsted St
  2. Until Sun Aug 10
More info

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The Chicago History Museum's celebration of one our city's signature dishes expands to two days in its second year. Multiple hot dog vendors will be slinging sausages while tribute bands such as Kashmir and Don't Speak entertain guests. You can bring your own ketchup, but prepare for some disapproving looks.

  1. Chicago History Museum 1601 N Clark St, at North Ave
  2. Until Sun Aug 10
More info

Echo & The Bunnymen

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Sofa-lipped singer Ian McCulloch and his merry band of new wavers perform their long-life Scouse indie. They're still at it, with a new album, Meteorites, on the cards for 2014, so new material is a given alongside "The Killing Moon," "Bring on the Dancing Horses" and other moody ’80s classics.

  1. Metro Chicago 3730 N Clark St, between Waveland and Racine Aves
  2. Until Sun Aug 10
Buy tickets

Downtown Sound: Russian Circles

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The local post-rock, instrumental, metal-y group hits Pritzker to close out the city's Downtown Sound summer series. The band—named for a hockey drill—recently had some of its righteous, horn-throwing hooks used in an NBCSN ad. Colin Stetson, who plays sax for Bon Iver, opens.

  1. Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion 205 E Randolph St, Michigan Ave and Columbus Dr
  2. Until Mon Aug 11
More info

Miley Cyrus

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

There are concerts and then there are spectacles. At Allstate Arena this past winter, from the moment Miley Cyrus slid down the giant twisted tongue slide protruding from an oversize portrait of herself and onto the stage until the last of the confetti hit the floor, it was a nonstop spectacle. Now she returns for Bangerz II: Electric Bonkers Zoo at a larger sports arena.

  1. United Center 1901 W Madison St, between Wood St and Damen Ave
  2. Until Thu Aug 14
Buy tickets

Stupid Fucking Bird

  • Price band: 1/4

The title should tell you something about the reverence level in Aaron Posner's 2013 "sort-of adaptation" of Chekhov's The Seagull. Sideshow Theatre Company artistic director Jonathan L. Green helms the Chicago premiere.

  1. Victory Gardens Biograph Theater 2433 N Lincoln Ave, between Fullerton Ave and Montana St
  2. Until Sun Sep 21
Buy tickets

Chicago Air and Water Show

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Don't be surprised if you get a neck ache from looking up during this two-day event. Join throngs of people at North Beach and surrounding areas to catch air and watercraft demonstrations, including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights.

  1. North Avenue Beach 1600 N Lake Shore Dr, North Ave
  2. Sun Aug 17
More info

The Great American Lobster Fest

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Dig into some of Chicago's freshest seafood at this two-day event, which features lobster flown in from Boston. The Air and Water Show will be going on overhead, but bands like Local H, White Mystery and Santah will be providing the tunes down below. Attendees can purchase general admission tickets or pre-order their very own lobster.

  1. Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, at Streeter Dr
  2. Sun Aug 17
Buy tickets

Chicago Dancing Festival

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Even though this terrific festival of international dance companies is free, tickets sell out faster than Lar Lubovitch can plié. This year, the Harris Theater, Museum of Contemporary Art and Pritzker Pavilion host performances by the likes of Hubbard Street Dance, the Juilliard School and the Joffrey Ballet. You can claim your tickets at noon on July 8 and 9—don't forget to celebrate with a victory dance.

  1. Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion 205 E Randolph St, Michigan Ave and Columbus Dr
  2. Fri Aug 22 - Sat Aug 23
Buy tickets

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Wizard World returns to Rosemont for another year of comics, costumed attendees and people waiting in line for celebrity autographs. Marquee guests this year include Stan Lee (if you missed him at C2E2), Matt Smith (Dr. Who), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) and Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk).

  1. Donald E. Stephens Convention Center 5555 N River Rd
  2. Thu Aug 21 - Sun Aug 24
Buy tickets

My Name Is Asher Lev

  • Price band: 2/4

As her last act before making her Broadway debut helming Disgraced, director Kimberly Senior stages the Chicago premiere of Aaron Posner's 2009 adaptation of Chaim Potok's novel, about a young Hasidic man whose artistic inclinations bring him into conflict with his religious community. The three-person cast of TimeLine Theatre Company's production includes Alex Weisman as the title character, with Lawrence Grimm and Danica Monroe in multiple roles.

  1. Stage 773 1225 W Belmont Ave, between Racine and Lakewood Aves
  2. Fri Aug 22 - Sat Oct 18
Buy tickets

Artists On Board

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

There's plenty of art on deck at Artists on Board, a touring skateboard art show featuring more than 350 one-of-a-kind boards designed by a variety of contemporary artists. Presented by ArtDeckCo, the one-day show will also include skateboard and BMX demos, live DJs and vendors. After 6pm, the event is 21+.

  1. Lacuna Artist Lofts 2150 S Canalport Ave, between 21st St and Cermak Rd
  2. Fri Aug 22
Buy tickets

SausageFest Chicago

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This year's SausageFest finds a new home in Old Town, where attendees will be able to dig into some of the city's finest encased meats from Boback's, Gilbert's and more. The highlight of the event is the crowning of the Sausage King of Chicago, an attendee who proves his worthiness by raising donations and awareness for a charitable cause. Here's hoping that this year's fest also finds room for a Sausage Queen.

  1. North Ave and Cleveland Ave 455 W North Ave, at Cleveland Ave
  2. Fri Aug 22 - Sun Aug 24
More info

The Boulevard

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

This Logan Square music festival returns to the neighborhood's iconic Boulevard for three days of music, food and entertainment. Performers include the Dean Ween Group, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Rubblebucket.

  1. Logan Blvd at Whipple St
  2. Fri Aug 22 - Sun Aug 24
More info

Chicago Food Social

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Fill up on grub from more than a dozen mobile eateries while Empty Bottle provides the tunes, including sets from the Sea and Cake, Al Scorch and Varisty. If that's not enough, there's booze and retail vendors to boot.

  1. Kendall College 900 N Branch St
  2. Sat Aug 23 - Sun Aug 24
More info

Epic Fail Challenge 5K

  • Price band: 3/4

If you're looking for quick way to become a YouTube star, the giant slip 'n slides and foam pits at this new 5K race offer plenty of opportunities for hilarious falls. The aptly named Epic Fail Challenge sends participants through a course stocked with 12 obstacles. Once you've made a fool of yourself, you can enjoy a cold beer and some live music with your comrades.

  1. Soldier Field 1410 S Museum Campus Dr, at McFetridge Dr
  2. Sat Aug 23
Buy tickets

Midwest Brewers Fest

  • Price band: 2/4

If you're looking for a short weekend road trip, Midwest Brewers Fest is the perfect reason to visit scenic Plainfield, IL. Highlights of the event include a tent featuring 15-20 casks in addition to beers brewed specifically for the festival.

  1. Plainfield Riverfront Park 24321 W Lockport St
  2. Sat Aug 23
Buy tickets

Robyn & Röyksopp

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The "song of summer," by Billboard or iTunes measures, will likely be Ed Sheeran, Iggy Azalea or some other chunklet of boombox fluff. But in our hearts, and in some alternate Earth utopia (Scandinavia?), the jam of heat season, 2014, is Robyn & Röyksopp's "Do It Again". The Swedish pop pixie and Norwegian electronic duo go back, having collaborated on tracks "The Girl and the Robot" and "None of Dem." Now the threesome has blossomed into a record, the new Do It Again.

  1. Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion 205 E Randolph St, Michigan Ave and Columbus Dr
  2. Sun Aug 24
Buy tickets

Arcade Fire

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The Canadians bring a carnival to the basketball court with their newfound disco groove, cover songs, costumes and more. Reflektor found the band sounded like it was finally enjoying itself, even if the listener's pleasure was a little harder to come by. Still, there are enough curveballs, mirrored surfaces and glitter particles to make this the party of the month. You're supposed to come dressed up, so get thee to a craft store. Might we suggest dressing up like Talking Heads? Seems appropriate.

  1. United Center 1901 W Madison St, between Wood St and Damen Ave
  2. Tue Aug 26 - Wed Aug 27
Buy tickets

Chicago Jazz Festival

  • Free

In its 36th year, Jazz Fest returns to Millennium Park (and the Cultural Center) with a lineup slightly less exciting that that of 2013, but solid nonetheless in its mix of fusion, traditional bop and cosmic shizz. The big event here is Sun Ra Arkestra closing on Sunday night at Pritzker Pavilion, celebrating the 100th birthday of the man from Saturn. Bassist Rufus Reid (Fri), Terence Blanchard with Ravi Coltrane and Lionel Loueke (Sat), vibist Gary Burton (Sat), and Brit bassist Dave Holland (Sat) also headline and merit your attention.

  1. Millennium Park 55 N Michigan Ave, at Washington St
  2. Thu Aug 28 - Sun Aug 31
More info

North Coast Music Festival

  • Price band: 2/4

The other big festival in Union Park (the one that doesn't rhyme with Itchpork) leans heavy on EDM, jam and rap. The 2014 lineup especially runs up a large electric bill—Bassnectar, Snoop Dogg, Kid Cudi and STS9 headline. The rest of the bill looks a lot like a year's subscription to Mayhem at the Mid, with big name DJs like Alesso, Zeds Dead, Dada Life, Wolfgang Gartner and more.

  1. Union Park 1501 W Randolph St, between Ogden Ave and Justine St
  2. Fri Aug 29 - Sun Aug 31
Buy tickets


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