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Photograph: Jordan Avery

14 things to do in Chicago on the Fourth of July

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

While you'll likely spend the evening of the Fourth of July watching (or hearing) fireworks being launched throughout Chicago, you might still be looking for things to do during the day. Fortunately, you've got plenty of options, including summer festivals, exhibitions at the best Chicago museums and a free concert in Millennium Park. We've gathered 14 things to do in Chicago on Independence Day (including some aerial displays) so that you can focus on even more difficult discussions, like what you should put on the grill this weekend.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Chicago 4th of July

1. Gaze up at officially sanctioned fireworks

You'll be able to see rockets bursting in the air all over Chicago on Independence Day, but the only *official* show within city limits goes down at Navy Pier (though you're better off watching it from a nearby beach or rooftop). And don't forget about 4th of July fireworks in surrounding suburbs, like Naperville, Skokie and Oak Forest.
Navy Pier. July 4 at 9:30pm; free.

2. Hear Tchaikovsky in Millennium Park

Spread out a blanket on the Great Lawn as the Grant Park Orchestra performs its annual Independence Day Salute, featuring works like Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s "1812 Overture" and John Philip Sousa’s "Stars and Stripes Forever." Sorry, but Pritzker Pavilion's usual BYOB policy won't be in effect on the Fourth (but you can always pre-game).
Millennium Park. July 4 at 6:30pm; free.

3. Celebrate the 30th anniversary of Do The Right Thing

Spike Lee's ode to a day in the life of a group of memorable characters residing in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood turned 30 this year and the Music Box Theatre is celebrating with two 35mm screenings of the classic film on America's birthday.
Music Box Theatre. July 4 at 2pm and 7:15pm; $9–$11.

4. Let Windy City Ribfest take care of the barbecue

Instead of rolling out your grill on the Fourth, why not let the pros from Texas Lightning BBQ, I-45 Ribs and Chicago BBQ Company serve you a few racks at Windy City Ribfest?
Lawrence Ave and Broadway. July 4 noon–10pm; $5 suggested donation.

5. Witness some death-defying BMX stunts

It's the final weekend in Chicago for Cirque du Soleil's Volta show, so if you still haven't witnessed the jump rope, trampoline and acrobatic stunts, head for the big-top tent in Soldier Field's south parking lot.
Soldier Field South Parking Lot. July 4 at 12:30pm; $49–$245.

6. Dance to some disco beats

The Chosen Few DJs Picnic and Festival doesn't kick off until Saturday, July 6, but some members of the house music collective (joined by local selector Craig Loftis) will be spinning at the Promontory's Disco Party. Hit the dance floor and get limber before the weekend arrives.
The Promontory. July 4 10pm–2am; $10–$15.

7. Snap a selfie inside of an Infinity Mirror Room

Yayoi Kusama's popular mirrored room is still the centerpiece of the West Loop's wndr museum, but everything else inside of the attraction has changed since its second chapter launched in May.
wndr museum. July 4 10am–4pm; $32.

8. Get your hands on some bugs

There's a lot to see in the Field Museum's brand new “Fantastic Bug Encounters!” exhibit (including detailed models of insects created by Weta Workshop), but the bug zoo might be the most interesting feature, allowing guests to get their hands on a dozen live bug species.
The Field Museum. July 4 9am–5pm; $32–$40.

9. Learn the Zyedco two-step

Chicago SummerDance doesn't skip a beat on the Fourth of July, offering Zydeco dance lessons followed by live music (and a chance to show off your new moves) from two Zydeco bands.
Spirit of Music Garden, Grant Park. July 4 6–9:30pm; free.

10. See Art on theMART's patriotic display

Looking for a visual amuse-bouche before the Navy Pier fireworks begin? Art on theMART will be showcasing patriotic projections on the side of Merchandise Mart throughout the evening, and you can take them in from the Chicago Riverwalk.
Merchandise Mart. July 4 at 8:45pm; free.

11. Watch a parade in Hyde Park

Hyde Park marks the Fourth of July with an old-fashioned community parade, which gathers in the parking lot of the Hyde Park Bank. Marching south on Lake Park Avenue, east of 55th Street, north on Hyde Park Boulevard and West on 53rd Street, the parade ends at Nichols Park.
54th Street and Old Lake Park Ave. July 4 at 11am; free.

12. Have a drink at a SpongeBob Squarepants pop-up bar

If you want to spend your Fourth of July playing arcade games, drinking cocktails out of fishbowls and eating Krabby Patty burgers, Replay Lincoln Park's The Salty Spitoon pop-up is the best approximation of of Bikini Bottom you'll find (without actually going under the sea).
Replay Lincoln Park. July 4 5pm–2am; free.

13. Take in an art exhibition for hype beasts

The current artistic director of Louis Vuitton and the creator of the Off-White streetwear brand, designer Virgil Abloh's career is on display in the MCA's latest exhibition "Figures of Speech," which includes displays devoted to the clothing he's created and gigantic replica of a Kanye West album cover he designed. Make sure to reserve your timed ticket to the exhibition before you arrive.
Museum of Contemporary Art. July 4 10am–5pm; $15.

14. Listen to reggae and gospel music in Washington Park

Bringing together more than 200 vendors, food from around the world and two stages of reggae and gospel music, celebrate global culture at the African Caribbean International Festival of Life before the U.S.A.'s birthday fireworks start flying.
Washington Park. July 4 noon–10pm; $25.

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