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Mole de Mayo
Photograph: Courtesy Star Events

9 things to get excited about this summer in Chicago

Get ready for new music fests, rooftop movies, exciting art exhibitions and more summertime highlights.

Lindsay Eanet
Written by
Lindsay Eanet

It's not just the rising temperatures and the long-awaited return of the sun: Summertime Chi is almost upon us, and with it, all the excitement of new restaurants, events and festivals. We already shared a bunch of the things we're most looking forward to in 2022, but if that wasn't enough to get you hyped, here are a few more reasons that summer in Chicago is truly second to none. 

Photograph: Shutterstock

New music festivals are making their debuts

Chicago's packed summer music festival lineup kicks off Memorial Day weekend with the inaugural Sueños Music Festival, a two-day Grant Park bash featuring a stacked roster of Latin artists, including Puerto Rican rapper Ozuna, "Prince of Reggaeton" J. Balvin and Grammy-winning reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel. In August, Bridgeview will host to the new Sacred Rose Music Festival, a "choose-your-own-adventure" multi-genre weekend with three curated stages showcasing indie, bluegrass, jam bands, funk and soul, with headliners Phil Lesh and Friends, The War on Drugs, Khruangbin and Black Pumas. 

...and longtime favorites are back and better than ever

After a COVID-induced hiatus, some of Chicago's favorite fests are making their triumphant returns. Celebrate Chicago's exuberant Pride Weekend at Pride in the Park in Grant Park with headliners the Chainsmokers and Alesso, drag icons like Shea Coulée and Monet X Change, and Rebecca Black (who we promise actually has some bangers other than "Friday"). After going virtual last year, the legendary Chosen Few Picnic, a celebration of Chicago house music and the people who make and love it, returns as an in-person celebration July 2 in Jackson Park.

Then there are the new-and-improved summer fests: The beloved Silver Room Sound System Block Party is coming back as a two-day event on Oakwood Beach with not just live music but tons of other stuff to do, including beach volleyball and a design pavilion showcasing Black artists and designers. And speaking of Hyde Park, Hyde Park Summer Fest (formerly Hyde Park Brew Fest) is back June 11–12 with an incredible lineup including Busta Rhymes, Jhené Aiko, Ashanti, the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff and local favorites BJ the Chicago Kid and Lupe Fiasco, the latter of whom will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of his album The Cool

Plus, forget the new (and returning) food fests

Looking for new ways to dive into the city’s food scene this summer? Longtime Chicago food reporter Steve Dolinsky is on a mission to celebrate the creativity and diversity of Chicago's pizza purveyors. On July 23–24, you can reap the benefits of this dedication to the cause at the first ever Pizza City Fest in the West Loop, showcasing 10 different styles of pizza made by nearly 40 different pizzerias over the course of the weekend. A $59 ticket gets you all-you-can-eat pizza, live music and access to panels, pizza seminars and demonstrations. It's like the tastiest TED Talk ever.

Some of the city's top food festivals are returning in-person as well. Mole de Mayo returns to Pilsen Memorial Day weekend with a variety of savory mole dishes to sample, live music and lucha libre. The touring Vegandale fest will make a stop in Grant Park in June with tasty plant-based vendors from all over the country. On the opposite side of the coin, Ribfest Chicago is back in August with more than two dozen vendors piling on the pork. And the juggernaut Taste of Chicago returns as a scaled-back 'fest the weekend of July 8–10, with additional smaller Taste pop-ups across the city leading up to the weekend. 

Rooftop Cinema Club
Photograph: Courtesy Rooftop Cinema Club

Take in a movie with a side of skyline at Rooftop Cinema Club

As always, you'll be able to catch plenty of free outdoor movies across the city this summer, from Movies in the Parks to outdoor flicks at Gallagher Way. But for a more upscale alfresco film experience, head up to the roof at the Emily Hotel in Fulton Market for Rooftop Cinema Club. The program includes iconic Chicago favorites like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Blues Brothers, along with delicious food and drinks, lawn games and killer views of the skyline.

Celebrate the Year of Chicago Dance with free programs and performances

The City of Chicago declared 2022 the Year of Chicago Dance, and there are countless ways to celebrate throughout the summer. Enjoy free classes and performances as part of See Chicago Dance throughout June, energetic dance lessons and live music across the city with the SummerDance program and even colorful dance-inspired projections as part of Art on theMART.

Explore the life & legacy of His Royal Badness...

Beginning June 9, a special immersive, interactive exhibit dedicated to the life, music and legacy of the legendary Prince is coming to the Shops at North Bridge, 540 N Michigan Ave. The exhibit will transport fans to the dreamscape of the Purple Rain album cover and a recording session at his legendary Paisley Park compound. The exhibit even includes "an audiovisual dance party" designed by LeRoy Bennett, who served as Prince's lighting and production designer on the Purple Rain, Controversy and Dirty Mind tours. So... let's go crazy.

Nick Cave, "Speak Louder"
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo:James Prinz Photography.

...and the first career retrospective of a Chicago art icon.

For decades, multidisciplinary Chicago artist Nick Cave has built community and enthralled art lovers through his captivating, immersive mixed-media works and performances, most notably his iconic "Soundsuits." This summer, the first career retrospective of Cave's work, Nick Cave: Forothermore, opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Featuring a continuation of his "Soundsuits" work and a mesmerizing site-specific installation, Forothermore "is an ode to those who, whether due to racism, homophobia, or other forms of bigotry, live their lives as the “other”—and a celebration of the way art, music, fashion, and performance can help us envision a more just future." Nick Cave: Forothermore opens May 14 and runs through October 2. Get your tickets here.

Catch world-class talent during the WNBA All-Star Weekend

The defending champion Chicago Sky are hosting the WNBA All-Star Weekend at McCormick Place and Wintrust Arena July 9–10. Catch the best players from the Sky (including, in all likelihood, Candace Parker, Kahleah Copper and Courtney Vandersloot) and from around the league at the skills competition, dunk contest and the game itself, and explore the immersive "WNBA live" fan fest event around the arena throughout the weekend. 

Levain cookies
Photograph: Mark Weinberg

Oh, and a cult-favorite bakery is coming to Chicago

You'll soon be able to get Levain Bakery's decadent, chocolatey cookies at their recently-announced incoming Randolph Street location, which the team is aiming to open this summer. Sweet dreams are truly made of this.

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