The best summer events in Chicago

Start making summer plans with our guide to the best festivals, concerts and more great summer events in Chicago

Summer events in Chicago happen everywhere—even at the beach.

The only remedy to another horrible Chicago winter is making this the best summer ever. Do not spend a minute inside if you can help it. Only eat at outdoor restaurants and drink at rooftop bars. Go to every summer music festival. And when you need a break from the sun's rays, head to exhibits showing at at Chicago museums. Summer is coming—we promise—so start filling out your to-do list with the help of our guide to the best summer events.

RECOMMENDED: Even more things to do in the summer in Chicago

Best summer events


Second Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival

Critics' pick

The confusingly named comedy festival organized by The Onion and The A.V. Club returns for a second year, bringing John Mulaney, Vanessa Bayer, Ellie Kemper and more funny people to town. This year's lineup introduces a couple of cult classic film screenings to the mix, including Cabin Boy and UHF. You're guaranteed to laugh at something.

Read more
Lincoln Hall Until Saturday May 30 2015


Critics' pick

After killing the mixtape with his latest release, If You're Reading This It's Too Late, the 28 year old is arguably the biggest rapper in the game (well, the biggest rapper that people still like as a person). Instead of a headlining spot at a festival, we get the MC on his own at the United Center. Future opens.

Read more
United Center Friday May 29 2015

Lana Del Rey + Grimes

Critics' pick

The backlash to the backlash came quickly for Lana Del Rey. After a rather disasterous debut performance on SNL and subsequent LOLs, the Jessica Rabbit–like crooner responded by selling over 5 million copies of Born to Die. Now, she returns for her second lap of promoting Ultraviolence, the even more David Lynchian record recorded with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. To sweeten the pot, seapunk pop urchin Grimes is opening up.

Read more
First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre Saturday May 30 2015

The Second City's Break Out Comedy Festival

The Second City teams with NBCUniversal to present a new comedy festival spotlighting some of the country's best emerging talent in sketch, improv and stand-up. Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal hosts on Friday, while Undateable cast member Ron Funches holds down the stage on Saturday, introducing a slew of rising talent from Chicago and beyond.

Read more
UP Comedy Club Friday June 5 2015 - Saturday June 6 2015

Lagunitas Beer Circus

Critics' pick

After a successful first year, Lagunitas is bringing its Beer Circus back to its gigantic Douglas Park brewing facility. The event will assemble circus performers, live music, food trucks, carnival rides and plenty of beer for an afternoon of drunken fun that could make you reconsider your irrational fear of clowns.

Read more
Lagunitas Brewing Company Saturday June 6 2015

The 606 opening weekend

Critics' pick

After a slight delay, the 606 is finally opening, bringing foot and bike traffic to a formerly abandoned stretch of elevated rail in Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park. The celebration begins with ribbon cuttings (8am), processions on the trail and a street festival on Humboldt Blvd (10am–9pm) on Saturday and concludes with a pancake breakfast at the West Trailhead on Sunday morning.

Read more
Humboldt Blvd and Cortland St Saturday June 6 2015 - Sunday June 7 2015 Free

The Birds

Irish playwright Conor McPherson's 2009 work is inspired by the same Daphne DuMaurier story of winged attackers as Alfred Hitchcock's film, though like Hitchcock, McPherson uses DuMaurier as a jumping off point for a tale that departs from the original, with three strangers coming together to hide from the birds in an abandoned seaside house. Kevin Kingston directs the Chicago premiere for Griffin Theatre.

Read more
Theater Wit Saturday June 6 2015 - Sunday July 19 2015

Mumford & Sons

Dylan did it, but we should be banned from covering music for making the comparison. Mumford & Sons have gone electric. Fender guitars have replaced banjos, leather jackets have replaced overalls. It's a complete makeover, and though the resulting arena rock is fine in a Temper Trap meets Kings of Leon way, the whole Mr. Potato Head identity swap smells more like a put on than sincerity. This summer, the band will hit the beach instead of headlining a festival.

Read more
Montrose Beach Wednesday June 17 2015

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Christopher Durang's Tony Award–winning comic riff on Chekhov gets an overdue Chicago premiere. Steve Scott directs a stellar cast, including Janet Ulrich Brooks, Mary Beth Fisher, Ross Lehman, E. Faye Butler, Jordan Brown and Rebecca Buller.

Read more
Goodman Theatre Saturday June 20 2015 - Sunday July 26 2015


Critics' pick

A few months removed from the overanalyzed and overdramatized release of Songs of Innocence, U2 are getting back to the arena grind. You'll forget any qualms you may of had about the band "hijacking" your iPhone once you hear Bono and the gang belting out the classics.

Read more
United Center Wednesday June 24 2015 - Thursday July 2 2015

Cyrus Tang Hall of China

On June 26, the Field Museum's collection of textiles, rubbings, bronzes, ceramics, and sculpture finds a new home in the museum's latest permanent exhibit. The Cyrus Tang Hall of China will explore the history of China, tracing a path from the country's ancient beginnings to its modern status as a leader in trade, technology and innovation.


Grand Concourse

A volatile young volunteer (Brittany Uomoleale) threatens to upend the careful routine of a nun (Mariann Mayberry) who manages a Bronx soup kitchen in Heidi Schreck's 2014 play. Yasen Peyankov directs the Chicago premiere, which also features Francis Guinan, Tim Hopper and Victor Almanzar.

Read more
Steppenwolf Theatre Company Thursday July 2 2015 - Sunday August 30 2015

The Grateful Dead

Critics' pick

They're going to need a new Ben & Jerry's flavor. But, seriously, this is a big deal. The Grateful Dead reunite with Trey Anastasio in Jerry's place. Who better? The show comes nearly 20 years to the day after the Dead's final shows with Garcia at the Bears stadium, July 8, 9, 1995. The ticket prices are steep, but most of the audience is collecting retirement, so no big deal.

Read more
Soldier Field Friday July 3 2015 - Sunday July 5 2015

Tour de Fat

Critics' pick

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.

Read more
Palmer Square Park Saturday July 11 2015 Free

"The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now"

Critics' pick

Last year the MCA explored the multifaceted world of rock music through the lens of David Bowie's career. This summer, the museum turns its eye to avant-garde jazz, exploring experimental music and its relation to visual art. Visitors will be able to view archival photographs, posters, sheet music and record covers along with pieces by contemporary artists while examining the creative influence that the 1960s avant-garde birthed.

Read more
Museum of Contemporary Art Saturday July 11 2015 - Sunday November 22 2015

Pitchfork Music Festival

Critics' pick

The hub for indie music snobs celebrates its tenth anniversary in Chicago. This year, Wilco will reel in the cool dads (and moms) on Friday, reunited riot grrrls Sleater Kinney top the bill on Saturday and Chance the Rapper closes out the fest.

Read more
Union Park Friday July 17 2015 - Sunday July 19 2015

Park 574

This colorful playlot opened last fall, but we're excited to take advantage of its facilities this summer. Big kids will love the zipline, 22-foot slide and pummel horses, while little ones will appreciate the rubbery surface, raised play structures and various things to climb on. Adults aren't left out, either: There's a walking path complete with fitness circuit equipment. When the heat rises, there is also a natural stone water-spray area.

Read more
Garfield Park

"North Korean Perspectives"

Critics' pick

North Korea is one of the world's most reclusive nations, a place where the flow of information is strictly controlled by the government. Because of this, there are contrasting views of the state which this exhibition explores by using government imagery as well as photographs taken by imbedded photojournalists. The collection seeks to reconcile the way North Korea's government presents itself with the way it is viewed by the rest of the world.

Read more
Museum of Contemporary Photography Thursday July 23 2015 - Sunday October 4 2015 Free

Chicago Hot Sauce Fest

If you're the kind of person who enjoys a little heat in every dish you eat, you'll want to check out the inaugural Chicago Hot Sauce Fest. The event promises to set mouths on fire with a diverse selection of spicy samples from sauce makers and local restaurants.

Read more
Brands Park Saturday July 25 2015 - Sunday July 26 2015


The Tony-winning revival of the Stephen Schwartz musical, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus with circus elements created by Gypsy Snider of Montreal's 7 Fingers, comes to the Cadillac Palace for a scant two weeks. The national touring cast includes Sasha Allen as the Leading Player, Kyle Selig in the title role and Tony winner John Rubinstein, the original Pippin of 1972, as Charles.

Read more
Cadillac Palace Theatre Wednesday July 29 2015 - Sunday August 9 2015


Critics' pick

Set between 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. Large stages, big acts and huge crowds. This year, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Florence and the Machine, Sam Smith and Bassnectar top the bill, so expect a weird mix of unironic bucket hats and neon tank tops.

Read more
Grant Park Friday July 31 2015 - Monday August 3 2015

The Great American Lobster Fest

Critics' pick

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 local bands will be providing the tunes down below. Attendees can purchase general admission tickets or pre-order their very own lobster.

Read more
Navy Pier Saturday August 15 2015 - Sunday August 16 2015

Taste of Greektown

While "taste of grease" may describe the cuisine at most summer festivals, this celebration of Greek food, music and dancing will still sate your appetite.

Read more
Halsted St and Van Buren Sts Saturday August 22 2015 - Sunday August 23 2015 Free

Foo Fighters

Critics' pick

Dave Grohl and his arena rockin' crew are returning to the same corner where he saw his first punk show in 1983. Only this time the gig is in the giant baseball stadium. The Foos should be just as powerful in the Friendly Confines as they were in the sports bar. Urge Overkill, Naked Raygun and Cheap Trick open, making this a Chicago love affair. Only without Chicago (the band).

Read more
Wrigley Field Saturday August 29 2015


David H
David H

This article contains an error. The Morrissey show is on Friday, June 13th, not Monday, June 16th.