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June 2020 events calendar for Chicago

Jump into summer in Chicago with our picks for the best art, music, beaches, events and festivals

pride parade 2017, jordan avery
Photograph: Jordan Avery

We're not sure that there's a more beautiful month than June in Chicago. It's the time of year when you can visit Chicago beaches and rooftop bars every weekend—at least when you're not indulging in a veritable mountain of events through the city. When June arrives, Chicago's summer festival season kicks into high gear, with weekend gatherings devoted to everything from barbecue and beer to gospel music. It's also the season for naked bike rides, genre film festivals and annual Chicago Pride celebration, including the 50th Chicago Pride Parade. Not sure which June events are worth adding to your summer schedule? We've filled our June events calendar with the cream of the crop, including festivals, concerts, theater, art exhibits and more.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2020

Featured events in June 2020

Photograph: Courtesy ACTIVATE
Things to do, Quirky events

ACTIVATE: Premiere

icon-location-pin Multiple venues

Chicago Loop Alliance's pop-up party series returns to alleys and other unexpected downtown locations this summer, giving you a good reason to hang out downtown after work. The first of four events will be hosted at MacChesney Court, and guests can enter at the corner of Lake Street and Garland Court. Inspired by circus arts, this surprising seasonal pop-up transforms a hidden alley for one night only. The event features contortionists, magicians and hip-hop acts on two stages, plus a costume photo booth and live murals. This year's theme, "ACTIVATE: Backstage," celebrates the city's Year of Chicago Theatre initiative by honoring the local performing arts community through its programming. Look out for more ACTIVATE events on July 18, August 22 and September 26 at soon-to-be-announced urban spaces around the Loop.

Morton Arboretum Nature Connects
Photograph: Michael Hudson
Art, Outdoor art

“Nature Connects: Art with LEGO Bricks”

icon-location-pin Morton Arboretum, Suburbs

Take in 15 sculptures spread throughout the Morton Arboretum's pathways, including an eight-foot dragonfly, a peacock, a turtle and a nearly life-size family of deer—all made out of LEGO bricks. The intricate models are the work of New York-based artist Sean Kenney, who is well-known for turning the tiny plastic bricks into creative works that tour the world as part of the "Nature Connects" exhibition.

Hamilton: The Exhibition
Illustration: David Korins
Museums, History

“Hamilton: The Exhibition”

icon-location-pin 1535 S Linn White Dr, Museum Campus

Experience the life of Alexander Hamilton at this stand-alone exhibition, created by the team behind the hit musical Hamilton. Debuting in Chicago, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" takes visitors on a journey from a trading post in St. Croix to the New Jersey hilltop where the Founding Father was shot in a duel, using imaginative environments (created by the Broadway production's set designer David Korins) to immerse guests in the historical tale. Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda serves as the exhibition's narrator (via a high-tech headset), fleshing out details as you make your way through the display and listen to rearranged music from the Broadway show. Highlights of the 20,000 square-foot experience include a moving sculpture representing the hurricane that brought Hamilton to America and a 70-foot parchment map of Manhattan circa 1772 outfitted with scale models of key locations, like Fraunces Tavern and King’s College.

Millennium Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

icon-location-pin Millennium Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park

Pack your own popcorn, bring a blanket and enjoy another season of free outdoor movie screenings during the Millennium Park Summer Film Series. In honor of the Year of Chicago Theatre, this summer's lineup was curated by 13 local theater companies, which means that you'll find a few stage adaptations on the list, including the 1962 musical The Music Man, 2016 Academy Award best picture winner Moonlight (based on a play written by Steppenwolf ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney) and 10 Things I Hate About You (an updated retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew). The lineup also includes superhero movies (Black Panther, Wonder Woman), foreign films (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and kid-friendly flicks (Inside Out, The Muppet Movie).

Off-White for Nike, Virgil Abloh
Photograph: Courtesy MCA Chicago
Art, Design

Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech”

icon-location-pin Museum of Contemporary Art, Streeterville

A Rockford, Illinois-native and a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology's architecture program, Virgil Abloh's decision to pursue a career in fashion recently landed him a job as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton. The MCA's latest exhibition explores Abloh's career, including his time as creative director of Kanye West, his popular streetwear company Off-White and the various high-profile collaborations he's had a hand in. Throughout the exhibit, you'll find examples of Abloh's work in fashion, music, design and architecture, offering an intimate look inside his creative process. Naturally, you'll also be able to cop some exclusive Abloh-designed threads when you exit through the gift shop.

Photograph: Courtesy DCASE
Things to do, Festivals

Chicago SummerDance

icon-location-pin Multiple venues

All ages and skill levels are welcome at this annual event series that will allow you to practice your jives, twirls and jumps. The dancing breaks out Thursday through Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons in the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park, where a professional instructor gives dance lessons (with genres ranging from Swing to Argentine Tango) for the first hour before allowing participants to cut a rug with the accompaniment of a live band. You'll also find SummerDance lessons at Buckingham Fountain during Taste of Chicago and one-off events in parks throughout the city. The series culminates with a day of dancing and performances in Millennium Park on August 24.

Water Flicks Navy Pier
Photograph: James Richards IV Photography
Movies, Action and adventure

Navy Pier Water Flicks Summer Film Series

icon-location-pin Polk Bros Park, Streeterville

Superheroes are taking over Navy Pier's Water Flicks summer film series at Polk Bros Park this year, with eight screenings centered around cinematic renderings of spandex-suited defenders. Fans of Marvel and DC will be able to enjoy screenings on the shore of Lake Michigan, including recent blockbusters like Black Panther, Aquaman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Hideout Picnics on the Porch
Photograph: Courtesy Hideout
Music, Folk, country and blues

Picnics on the Porch

icon-location-pin Hideout, River West/West Town

Hideout's annual summer concert series brings the bands out of the back room and onto the venue's front porch for intimate performances under the setting sun. As usual, the Picnics on the Porch series features sets from a selection of folk and country acts, including Big Sadie, Joan Shelley and Freakwater. Ukranian Village eatery All Together Now will be offering a menu of picnic meals and snacks to accompany the music, including "Lunchables for Grownups," brats and roasted beet sandwiches. If you're craving dinner and show, this summer tradition is one of the best ways to spend a warm Chicago evening. Big Sadie kicks of the season on June 28.

Gallagher Way
Photograph: Courtesy Gallagher Way

Movie Night at Gallagher Way

icon-location-pin Gallagher Way, Wrigleyville

Wrigley Field-adjacent green space Gallagher Way teams up with the Music Box Theatre to program free outdoor movie screenings on Wednesday evenings when the Cubs are on the road. Nearly all of the films being shown are family-friendly (with the exception of the R-rated High Fidelity) so feel free to bring along the kids. Gates open for each screening at 6pm and the movies begin at 7:30pm, giving you some time to claim a spot on the lawn and grab food from Big Star, West Town Bakery or the Smoke Daddy food truck. 

Theater and dance in June 2020


The River

icon-location-pin Greenhouse Theater Center, Lincoln Park

Jerrell L. Henderson directs this ghostly rural thriller from The Ferryman playwright Jez Butterworth that sees one couple’s stay in an isolated cabin take a turn for the supernatural. The follow-up to Butterworth’s monumental 2009 hit Jerusalem, The River is a smaller play that still displays his mastery of language and mood.

Photograph: Joe Tunk

Something Clean

icon-location-pin Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Sheffield & DePaul

Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble team up for this searing drama from rising playwright Selina Fillinger, who was only 22 when her play Faceless was produced by Northlight Theatre in 2017. In Something Clean, Fillinger examines the aftermath of a brutal sexual assault, as the perpetrator’s mother tries to a new way forward by working at a sexual-assault crisis center.

Theo Ubique

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

icon-location-pin Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Evanston

Sure, John Cameron Mitchell’s cult classic musical received a star-studded Broadway revival as recently as 2014, but if you want to do Hedwig right, you need a more intimate setting. Enter the local musical theatre maestros at Theo Ubique. Will Lidke stars as everyone’s favorite down-on-their luck genderqueer glam rocker whose sad life story makes for one hell of a show.

Photograph: Sean Williams


icon-location-pin Lookingglass Theatre, Magnificent Mile

The last of this season’s many Frankenstein adaptations, all of which commemorated the novel’s 200th anniversary, this production from writer-director David Catlin (creator of Moby Dick and Lookingglass Alice) captures the night that Mary Shelley first let loose her tale of one man’s triumph over death—and the lonely creature that paid the price.