July 2014 events calendar for things to do in Chicago

Plan your July 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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People flock to the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park.

People flock to the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park. Photograph: Martha Williams

The smell of barbecue is in the air, the beaches are packed, and festivals have taken over the streets and parks. Yes, summer is in full swing in Chicago and we're trying to enjoy everything that our fine city has to offer. The month kicks off with some explosive Fourth of July celebrations, leading into the city's annual culinary celebration at Taste of Chicago. If you're looking for some musical fun in the sun, you'll want to head out to Pitchfork Music Festival, Wicker Park Fest or West Fest. Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Jack White lead the pack of the best concerts in Chicago this month. Plus, it's a great month for beer nerds, with events like Sierra Nevada Beer Camp and Tour de Fat coming through town. 


RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2014


Eyes to the Skies Festival

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

In Lisle, the Fourth of July features plenty of airborne eye candy, including fireworks and hot air balloons. July 3-5, balloons launch daily at 5:30am and 6:30pm, filling the sky with colorful inflatables of all shapes and sizes. In the evening, the balloons come down and the fireworks begin. Attendees can also check out the festival's carnival, kids area, live music and craft fair.

  1. Lisle Community Park 1825 Short St
  2. Until Sun Jul 6
More info

African Caribbean International Festival of Life

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Get together and feel all right at the 22nd annual African Caribbean International Festival of Life in Union Park. The festivities promote cultural awareness with a weekend full of reggae, dancing, soccer, art and delicious Afro-Caribbean food.

  1. Union Park 1501 W Randolph St, between Ogden Ave and Justine St
  2. Until Sun Jul 6
Buy tickets

The Qualms

  • Price band: 3/4

Freshly minted Steppenwolf ensemble member Bruce Norris drops his seventh world premiere on Halsted Street, his first production at the ’wolf since he won the Pulitzer Prize for Clybourne Park. The new comedy, in which the arrival of a new couple upsets the power structure of an apartment complex's swingers' club, sports a heck of a cast.

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

Naperville Ribfest

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

For more than two decades, this pork party has been serving up grilled grub along with rock- and country-flavored tunes. This year, headliners include the BoDeans, Blue Öyster Cult and Foghat. On July 4th, the evening concludes with a firework display at 9:30pm.

  1. Knoch Park 724 S West St
  2. Until Sun Jul 6
Buy tickets

Fourth of July Fireworks

  • Critics choice
  • Free

The city of Chicago ditched its official fireworks show a few years back, but Navy Pier picks up the slack with its explosive Independence Day celebration. Revelers can head down to the pier or Millennium Park for an up-close view, but if you're not a fan of crowds you'll want to hit the lakefront or find a friend with a rooftop by the shore.

  1. Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, at Streeter Dr
  2. Until Fri Jul 4
More info

Glen Ellyn's Fourth of July Fireworks

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Glen Ellyn's Fourth of July festivities are an all-day event, including a four-mile run, a picnic and a parade at noon. The festivities culminate with a fireworks display in Lake Ellyn Park that rivals Navy Pier's explosive show. The show starts at dusk.

  1. Lake Ellyn Park 645 Lenox Rd
  2. Until Fri Jul 4
More info

Windy City Ribfest Uptown

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Flew your jaw muscles and stretch that waistline at this sixth annual 'cue fest during Fourth of July weekend. Expect plenty of ribs and some live music, including national acts and regional cover bands.

  1. Lawrence Ave at Broadway Lawrence Ave at Broadway
  2. Until Sun Jul 6
More info

Afrojack

  • Critics choice

EDM and 4th of July fireworks. It seems like a marriage made in Heaven—if Heaven were a Las Vegas casino. Afrojack, the DJ that has more money than he knows what to do with (according to The New Yorker), brings huge beats and a bunch of sky explosives to 6000+ people on the eastern tip of Navy Pier. After producing a string of hits for Pitbull, the Dutch house kingpin is finally getting around to his own debut album, Forget the World, which features Snoop Dogg and Sting. It's the rare all-ages EDM event, and it'll be pretty bonkers. Ravers: you can Build-A-Bear beforehand.

  1. Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, at Streeter Dr
  2. Until Sat Jul 5
Buy tickets

Bristol Renaissance Faire

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Have a jolly olde time and butcher your favorite European accent as you engage in live-action fantasy play, enjoy interactive riddles, cheer on your favorite jousting knight or revel in period performances from 1574.

  1. Bristol Renaissance Faire 12550 120th Ave
  2. Sat Aug 2 - Mon Sep 1
Buy tickets

Paul McCartney

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Did you still love him when he was 64—nearly a decade ago? Man, time flies. But some things never change, like happy-go-lucky Paul McCartney. Macca hits the Madhouse on Madison as part of his Out There tour. The Beatle will be 72 and howling through the hits, including some cuts from his latest, New, which was a pleasant return to his mid-'70s Wings form. In 2011, Sir Paul played Wrigley. See you at Soldier Field in 2017?

  1. United Center 1901 W Madison St, between Wood St and Damen Ave
  2. Until Wed Jul 9
Buy tickets

Taste of Chicago

  • Critics choice

Since 1980, Grant Park has been hosting what has become the granddaddy of food festivals. You know the drill: Trade tickets for a taste of Chicago's street fare. Hopefully what you gain in weight, you'll lose from your wallet. The music lineup at Petrillo is as strong as it's ever been, with AWOLNATION (Jul 9), Janelle Monáe + Gary Clark Jr. (Jul 10), Nickel Creek + Emmylou Harris (Jul 11), Jeff Tweedy (Jul 12) and Aloe Blacc + The Wailers (Jul 13). We can't wait to see what band Rahm awkwardly dances to this year!

  1. Grant Park 337 E Randolph St, at Columbus Dr
  2. Until Sun Jul 13
Buy tickets

Bastille Day 5K & 8K Run, Walk & Block Party

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Celebrate the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution a few days early with a 5K or 8K run or walk. You can commemorate your own accomplishment by reclaiming all those lost calories at a post-race block party featuring food and live music. Proceeds will benefit Chicago's Mercy Home for Boys & Girls.

  1. Lincoln Park at Stockton and LaSalle Drs
  2. Until Thu Jul 10
Buy tickets

Square Roots Festival

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Square Roots festival returns to Lincoln Square for a weekend of brews, food and music presented by the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. More than 30 regional craft breweries will be tapping kegs so that you can wash down food from various local eateries. Once you're full, go see some bands play on one of the festival's various stages.

  1. Lincoln Square 4700 N Lincoln Ave at Leland Ave
  2. Fri Jul 11 - Sun Jul 13
More info

Windy City Smokeout

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The annual celebration of grilled meats and country music returns to River North with ample amounts of pork, beer and tunes from the likes of Brett Eldredge and the Randy Rogers Band. Attendees will be able to sample smokey culinary creations from the likes of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Lillie's Q and Smoque.

  1. Grand Ave and Chicago River 560 W Grand Ave
  2. Fri Jul 11 - Sun Jul 13
Buy tickets

Tour de Fat

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Ft. Collins’ New Belgium Brewery brings its signature celebration of bikes and beer to Palmer Square for another year of freaky fun. The day begins with a bike parade and continues with vaudeville acts, circus performers and live music in Palmer Park. The environmentally conscious festival raises funds for local non-profits and culminates with one lucky attendee trading his or her car in for a brand new bicycle.

  1. Palmer Square Park 3100 W Palmer Blvd, between Humboldt Blvd and Kedzie Ave
  2. Sat Jul 12
More info

The Great Bull Run

  • Price band: 3/4

Are you prepared to run for your life? Sign a waver, lace up your running shoes and head to Hawthorne Race Course for Chicago's inaugural Great Bull Run, where participants will weave through a quarter-mile course pursued by eighteen 1,500-pound bulls. There's a beer waiting for you at the end of the run, in addition to a festival featuring food, mechanical bulls and a tomato food fight.

  1. Hawthorne Race Course 3501 S Laramie Ave, at 35th St
  2. Sat Jul 12
Buy tickets

West Fest

  • Price band: 1/4

Befitting its location on the hip Chicago Avenue corridor, West Fest can be counted on for a greater sleeper of a summer street fest bill. Empty Bottle books the main stage, bringing its typical blend of garage and art rock, while local house folks spin on the DJ stage.

  1. Chicago Ave between Damen Ave and Wood St Chicago Ave, between Damen Ave and Wood St
  2. Until Sun Jul 13
More info

Roscoe Village Burger Fest

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

It's no secret that we unabashedly love burgers, so you can imagine how much we're anticipating Roscoe Village's annual celebration of succulent, beef patty cuisine. Attendees will be able to sample food from DMK Burger Bar, Cortland's Garage, Rockit Burger Bar and more while enjoying live music and ample libations.

  1. Belmont and Damen Aves Belmont and Damen Aves
  2. Sat Jul 12 - Sun Jul 13
More info

Burgers and Beer 5K

  • Price band: 2/4

Sure you could go for a jog around the block and buy yourself a burger and a beer, but wouldn't it feel better to earn that reward? That's the thought process behind this 5K race, which awards each participant with a juicy burger and a cold beer when they cross the finish line. Victory has never tasted this succulent.

  1. Soldier Field 1410 S Museum Campus Dr, at McFetridge Dr
  2. Until Mon Jul 14
More info

Billy Joel

  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

Erstwhile angry young man Billy Joel—now an official Madison Square Garden franchise, like the Knicks and Rangers—is tacking on date after date in what's threatening to become an endless run in NYC. Because you had to be a big shot, didn’t you, eh, Piano Man? (P.S. Welcome back.) With the career revival in full swing, he's taking the show on the road, to other iconic sporting arenas. We're guessing there's not a lot of bleed between this audience and that of Pitchfork Fest. Otherwise, tough choice, right?

  1. Wrigley Field 1060 W Addison St, at Clark St
  2. Until Fri Jul 18
Buy tickets

Pitchfork Music Festival

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The ultimate hipster blog brings the ultimate hipster festival to Chicago. Be prepared for another year of vintage clothing, dusty fields and ironic mustaches as the most relevant musical acts rock out for a bunch of twentysomethings (and nostalgic music nerds). This year's headliners include Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Grimes. There's a mix of very old (Giorgio Moroder, Slowdive) and the fresh out of the box (the Haxan Cloak, Ka), and overall a heavy hip-hop flavor (Earl Sweatshirt, Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown, etc.). See our list of the 11 must-see acts at Pitchfork Music Festival 2014.

  1. Union Park 1501 W Randolph St, between Ogden Ave and Justine St
  2. Until Sun Jul 20
Buy tickets

Chicago Craft Beer Festival

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Foamy, flat macrobrewed suds in a plastic cup not exactly your idea of a good time? Unleash your inner sophisticate at this Lincolb park fest, which serves up more than 100 local, regional and national craft beers. Purchase tickets before making your way to the tasting session each day from 12pm-4pm—each ticket is good for one 3-oz sample of beer.

Chinatown Summer Fair

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Celebrate Chinese culture at this annual Chinatown event, featuring food, art and music from the Far East. Experience the Lion Dance Procession, take in a classical Chinese dance performance or sit in on a martial arts demonstration. Of course, you'll also want to try some food from one of the many neighborhood restaurants.

  1. Wentworth Ave and Cermak Rd Wentworth Ave and Cermak Rd
  2. Sun Jul 20
More info

Jack White

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Two years after headlining Lollapalooza, Mr. White returns to Chicago to wail and shred. The neo-bluesman has a new record to promote, Lazaretto, another slab of retro-rock pressed into thick, multicolored vinyl no doubt. No word yet on whether the former White Stripes man—now deep into his blue period—will again tour with two backing bands. But you do have a choice of ornate theater to see him in—Chicago or Auditorium.

  1. Auditorium Theatre 50 E Congress Pkwy, between Michigan and Wabash Aves
  2. Until Thu Jul 24
Buy tickets

Nine Inch Nails + Soundgarden + Death Grips

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Two titans of classic rock (that's what we're calling '90s alternative now) and Lollapalooza regulars, Nine Inch Nails (Lolla '91, '08, '13, Chile '14) and Soundgarden (Lolla '92, '96, '10, Chile '14) bro down for the summer in a coheadlining tour. Both started out a little funkier in the 1980s, both released their seminal albums on the same day in March of 1994, both released comfortably familiar comeback albums over the last couple years.

  1. First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre 19100 S Ridgeland Ave
  2. Until Thu Jul 24
Buy tickets

Newberry Library Book Fair

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Thousands of used paper Kindles will be up for sale at this popular book bonanza. Prices are low, and the selection is vast, including books signed by President Obama.

  1. Newberry Library 60 W Walton St, between Dearborn and Clark Sts
  2. Until Sun Jul 27
More info

Beyoncé + Jay Z

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

After smashing it at United Center in summer 2013, the one and only Beyoncé Knowles is back in Chicago. With Mr. Carter in tow. Oh, and (no biggie) she also surprise-released a self-titled new album, with one track even featuring baby Blue Ivy Carter on guest vocals. It means that Bey’ll have plenty of brand new songs to bust out at these stadium shows, not to mention some of the definitive pop and R&B tracks of the last 20 years.

  1. Soldier Field 1410 S Museum Campus Dr, at McFetridge Dr
  2. Until Thu Jul 24
Buy tickets

Hank Williams: Lost Highway

  • Rated as: 3/5

Randal Myler and Mark Harelik’s 1987 stage biography of the seminal country & western crooner Hank Williams falls somewhere on a spectrum between Jersey Boys and Million Dollar Quartet in its style of storytelling. The facts of Williams’s life are half-staged, half-narrated in direct address by characters, and like both of those later shows, Lost Highway exists more in service to Hank’s music than his history.

  1. Greenhouse Theater Center 2257 N Lincoln Ave, between Webster and Belden Aves
  2. Until Sun Aug 31
More info

Wicker Park Fest

  • Price band: 1/4

The Crotch hosts this hipster-friendly fest that features three stages of Pitchfork-quality tunes on the cheap. This year's larger fest blocks off more streets for additional arts, crafts, food and family fun.

  1. Milwaukee Ave Milwaukee Ave at Higgins Rd
  2. Until Sun Jul 27
More info

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company invited more than 600 Midwestern craft brewers to the Navy Pier stopover of its seven-city traveling beer festival. Selection will be the name of the game, with brewers like 3 Floyds, New Glarus and Ballast Point offering up samples of rare brews to thirsty attendees.

  1. Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, at Streeter Dr
  2. Sun Jul 27
Buy tickets

Randolph Street Market Festival

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

More than 200 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this indoor-outdoor festival. Stop in for vintage clothes and jewelry, a vinyl swap meet, a fancy food market and global goods bazaar or bring your own items for appraisal. This event typically occurs on the last weekend of each month, beginning in April.

  1. Randolph Street Market 1340 W Washington Blvd
  2. Sat Aug 30 - Sun Oct 26
Buy tickets


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