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How to spend Memorial Day weekend in Chicago

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

After a brief bout of summer-like weather, Memorial Day weekend is upon us and (weather permitting) we're looking forward to celebratory barbecues, street festivals and vacations. Not heading out of town for a weekend getaway? Don't worry—there are plenty of events in Chicago to keep you busy throughout the three-day weekend. Celebrate Memorial Day like a pro with our guide to some of the most exciting things happening around town during your extra-long weekend.

Pay your respects downtown

On Saturday morning, the annual Memorial Day parade marches down State Street (from Lake St to Van Buren) beginning at noon. Arrive early to honor America's fallen soldiers during a wreath laying ceremony in Daley Plaza at 11am.

Head to the lake

On Friday, Chicago's beaches open for another season of sunbathing, splashing and swimming. As long as the rain clouds stay away, you can hit the sand and submerge yourself in the (generally low in bacteria) waters of Lake Michigan.

Dig into some premium grub

You can always enjoy an amazing brunch over a long weekend, but Memorial Day is traditionally a holiday known for picnic lunches and backyard barbecues. Honey Butter Chicken will be offering an eight-piece cold fried chicken picnic pack with plenty of fixins' for just $45. If you need to break in your grill, consider calling up Yusho, which will be offering "grab n' grill" options like skewered meats, braised pork belly or an entire squid.

Cool off in a rock club

Music fans won't be lacking options during this holiday weekend. On Saturday, the Sea and Cake play the Portage Theater while prolific bassist Thundercat turns in a set at Thalia Hall. The You Are Here Festival comes to a close this weekend, offering a final chance to see experimental music in a maze constructed in Thalia Hall's basement.

Spend a day at the museum

Get to the Museum of Contemporary Art's and view the powerful "Doris Salcedo" exhibition before it closes on Sunday. Other notable exhibits include "Charles Ray: Sculpture, 1997–2014" at the Art Institute and the newly opened "Robot Revolution" at the Museum of Science and Industry. Most of Chicago's major museums will be open on Monday, but you'll probably have to dodge crowds of kids (and parents) enjoying their day off.

Hit the streets at a festival

If you're feeling festive, you may be interested in sampling Mexican dishes at Mole de Mayo in Pilsen, seeing tribute acts at the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival or quaffing a beverage (or three) at the inaugural Welles Park Craft Beer Fest on Saturday, which wraps up Chicago Craft Beer Week.

Go for a ride on LSD

Roll out of bed at 5:30am, grab a helmet, hop on your bike and enjoy a car-free ride along Lake Shore Drive during the annual Bike the Drive event on Sunday. Hundreds of cyclists will be spending a morning on the route, which runs from Bryn Mawr Avenue to 57th Street.

Stock up on leather

For just $10, you can peruse a selection of fine gimp masks, chaps and assorted leather goods at the International Mr. Leather Market, located on the second floor of the Congress Plaza Hotel. You're guaranteed to run into at least one guy dressed like Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls.

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