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Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth RivasNorth Avenue Beach

11 awesome things to do on Memorial Day

Written by
Nick Kotecki

Memorial Day weekend is one of the most relaxing weekend stretches of the year in Chicago. We have one of the largest and oldest Memorial Day parades in the nation, plus more than a hearty handful of events, festivals and ways to spend your time off. Get your first tease of the glory of Chicago's summer months with our guide to the best things to do in the city.

Head to the Chicago Memorial Day Parade

Since 1870, Chicagoans have flocked downtown to pay their respects to the U.S. military veterans who gave their lives in service of our country. Watch the procession march down State Street starting at noon, heading from Lake to Van Buren. A wreath-laying ceremony occurs prior to the parade at 11am.

Lounge on Chicago beaches

Grab your towel and head to one of Chicago's many, many beaches: Memorial Day weekend (starting Friday, May 27) marks the first time this year that these sandy lakeside park spaces are open to the public. Dip your toe in the water, even if it might still be a little too cold to swim.

See the Cirque de la Symphonie

Watch acrobats, aerial contortionists and stunt masters execute daring feats set to classical music performed live by the Chicago Philharmonic. 

Holy mole!

The annual Mole de Mayo street festival in Pilsen celebrates the traditional Mexican sauce with a cook-off, an open-air market and lucha libre wrestling.

Kick off festival season

May kicks off music and street festival season in Chicago, and the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival is one of the city's first of both. This fest has been around for 30-plus years and features sets from local cover bands as well as food vendors from around the area.

Cruise down Lake Shore Drive

Riders participating in Chicago's annual Bike the Drive event roll down LSD in the morning hours on Sunday, May 29, when the iconic roadway is closed to motorized traffic.

Walk like a zombie

That's right. Join the herd of comic fans and conventioneers flocking to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center to meet stars from The Walking Dead and other zombie-related movies and shows, as well as other gory fan favorites such as Hannibal and Breaking Bad at Walker Stalker Con.

Celebrate the Irish

It doesn't have to be St. Patrick's Day to celebrate all things Irish! Gaelic Park Irish Fest has music, dancing, storytelling and Irish food and drink.

Uncork for a while

For the fourth year in a row, Uncork Illinois Wine Festival presents Chicagoans with more than 100 wines from local wineries and eats from local food producers in downtown Oak Park.

Return to summer camp (almost)

Check out the college summer jam band scene with big names like Umphrey's McGee, Moe and STS9, and more than 100 other bands on seven stages over the course of four days at Summer Camp Music Festival.

Don your finest leather

The niche extravaganza International Mr. Leather Weekend kicks off for four days, celebrating all things leather, including a leather market, a physique competition, a sexy shoe-polishing competition and the crowning of International Mr. Leather.

RECOMMENDED: A complete guide to Chicago Memorial Day

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