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

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

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. 

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Eyes to the Skies Festival

Critics' pick

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.

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Lisle Community Park

African Caribbean International Festival of Life

Critics' pick

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.

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Union Park

The Qualms

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.

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Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Naperville Ribfest

Critics' pick

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.

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Knoch Park

Fourth of July Fireworks

Critics' pick

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.

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Navy Pier Free

Glen Ellyn's Fourth of July Fireworks

Critics' pick

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.

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Lake Ellyn Park Free

Windy City Ribfest Uptown

Critics' pick

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.

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Lawrence Ave at Broadway

Afrojack

Critics' pick

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.

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Navy Pier

Bristol Renaissance Faire

Critics' pick

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.

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Bristol Renaissance Faire

Paul McCartney

Critics' pick

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?

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United Center

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