jazzing at the shedd
Photograph: Brenna Hernandez

The best things to do in Chicago this week

Find the very best things to do in Chicago this week, including cultural events, festivals and shows.

Jeffy Mai
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Looking for fun activities to do this week? You've come to the right place! Summer is here, which means it's time to get outside and go hiking or head to a summer festival. You can also celebrate Juneteenth with markets highlighting Black-owned businesses at the Salt Shed and the Promontory, watch the World Gay Boxing Championships or attend a Swedish Midsummer Party. There’s even more on our list below, so scroll through the roundup of the best things to do in Chicago this week and start planning your calendar.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Best events and things to do in Chicago this week

  • Music
  • Pop
  • United Center

A consummate pro, J.T. mixes Sinatra’s swagger and charisma with the airtight funk of Michael Jackson at his peak. Though the former NSYNC member’s last few albums haven’t quite lived up to the rest of his catalog, he’s still adept at making magic on stage night after night (especially when with an accompanying big band). 

  • Music
  • Jazz
  • Museum Campus
The Shedd Aquarium's weekly summer concert series presents a rotating lineup of jazz bands on its scenic lakeside terrace, where attendees can dance, have a drink and get a great view of the Navy Pier fireworks. Guests also get access to the Shedd's exhibitions, meaning that you can gaze at the creatures that inhabit the Caribbean Reef, snap a picture of a cute sea otter or touch a sea star.
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  • Music
  • Classical and opera
  • Millennium Park

For classical music lovers who enjoy taking in a show set beneath Chicago's skyline, the annual Grant Park Music Festival is perennial favorite summer event. This year's series of classical concerts runs from June 12–August 17 with performances ranging from world premiere works and performances of symphonies by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich to an evening of classic Broadway arrangements and the annual Independence Day salute. Take a look at the complete schedule of events below and find more information on the Grant Park Music Festival website.

  • Things to do
  • Loop

Based on the family-favorite board game, this immersive and interactive experience puts guests into the roles of beloved CLUE characters as they try to solve the murder of estate owner Boden "Boddy" Black. The mystery starts at Block 37, where detectives are greeted by the Butler before being sent on their way to gather clues from popular Chicago sites and shops. You’ll be tasked with finding long-lost antiques and figuring out who did it, where and with what.

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  • Things to do
  • Streeterville

Navy Pier hosts a series of free dance lessons every Wednesday throughout June. Learn new moves across a variety of different styles—including Bollywood, salsa and swing—from trained instructors. Afterwards, hit the dance floor and show off your skills.

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

The JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival returns this year with in-person screenings for the first time since the pandemic. The new lineup features 23 documentaries, dramas and comedies from around the world that explore Jewish identity and experience. Spread across three weeks, the showings will take place at Wayfarer in Highland Park, The Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago and Landmark Century Centre in Chicago, alongside a special premiere of 999: The Forgotten Girls at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie.

  • Experimental
  • Loop

Curious Theatre Branch's Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, which bills itself as Chicago's longest-running fringe festival, returns for its 35th outing with a slate of new theater, music performances, art and more. Visit rhinofest.com for the complete schedule.

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  • Things to do
  • Wrigleyville

Gallagher Way hosts a night market on most Thursdays through September, featuring more than 20 vintage vendors selling a mix of specialty foods, crafts and artisanal goods. Grab a glass of wine, browse the market to discover something new each week and stick around to catch live music from a host of different artists.

  • Things to do
  • Fireworks
  • Streeterville

During the summer, one of the best aerial displays you'll find in Chicago originates from Navy Pier. The Chicago attraction hosts twice-weekly fireworks shows (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, with stunning views available from across the pier's public spaces. Of course, you can also take in the show from nearby beaches or while cruising along the Lakefront Trail.

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  • Music
  • Music festivals

Looking for free concerts near Chicago? Hop on the Blue Line to Rosemont's Parkway Bank Park for Thursday night performances—with a few holiday and weekend dates sprinkled through the summer—from classic rock cover bands like Dancing Queen (ABBA), Ticket to the Moon (Electric Light Orchestra) and Elton Rohn (Elton John, obviously), complete with a fireworks show at the end of the night. Beverage tents will be located on site, but we won't fault you if you prefer to pre-game with a fishbowl-sized spiked punch from nearby Sugar Factory. For a full schedule of shows, visit the Parkway Bank Park website

  • Movies
  • Wrigleyville

Wrigley Field-adjacent plaza Gallagher Way is once again showing free outdoor movie screenings this summer. Admission is free and attendees are welcome to bring their own food, enjoy on-site concessions or snag a meal from nearby restaurants like Big Star and Smoke Daddy. VIP seating is also available for $33—check out the Gallagher Way website for more details. Gates open at 6pm for each screening and the movies start at 7:30pm.

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  • Things to do
  • Streeterville

Navy Pier, in partnership with the Design Museum of Chicago and The Vintage House Show Collective, presents a new exhibit exploring the history of the home-grown artists, clubs and labels that have built House music. The exhibit will be open and free to the public during all Pier operating hours through the end of October.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Lincoln Park

One of Chicago's most popular farmer's markets, Green City Market welcomes vendors selling regional produce to the south end of Lincoln Park (between Clark Street and Stockton Drive) on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Amid the rows, you’ll find farm-fresh eggs from Michigan, cheese from Wisconsin and scrumptious pies baked by Chicago’s own Hoosier Mama Pie Co.

  • Art
  • Film and video

Displaying a 25-story-tall video installation on the side of THE MART, ART on THE MART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, with programming that changes seasonally. ART on THE MART's array of 34 digital projectors show the creations after dusk every evening. It’s best viewed from the section of the Chicago Riverwalk between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

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  • Things to do
  • Hyde Park

The Museum of Science and Industry debuts a new exhibit dedicated to the science and technology behind the world’s longest-running film franchise, James Bond. Fans can check out 13 vehicles and over 90 additional artifacts, including the prototype jetpack used in Thunderball, an MI6 Retina Scanner from GoldenEye and the Parahawk snowmobile hybrid from The World Is Not Enough. You’ll also be able to step into a lab space inspired by “Q” and test your skills developing the perfect vehicle for spy activities, designing stunts and more.

  • Things to do
  • Skokie

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition makes its way to Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, giving fans an opportunity to step into the world of the hit series. The immersive experience showcases the elaborate sets, detailed costumes and luxurious jewelry of Downton Abbey’s high society inhabitants, and transport visitors to the grand home of the Crawleys and those who served them. From Mrs. Patmore’s hectic kitchen and Carson’s office to the family’s glamorous dining room, the exhibition provides a fascinating look into the post-Edwardian period.

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  • Things to do

Navy Pier’s newest attraction is here, transporting guests to some of Chicago’s most epic places via exhilarating flights. The multi-sensory experience incorporates drone technologies with aerial shots and first-person views to showcase the city like never before. Guests will swoop, dip and turn in motion seats as they climb up skyscrapers, check out iconic landmarks, float through fireworks and more.

  • Things to do
  • Skokie

The largest and most immersive touring Titanic exhibition comes to Westfield Old Orchard mall in Skokie. Visitors will experience a narrative journey that brings to light the fates of the passengers and crew aboard the famous ship. Marvel at hundreds of artifacts that survived the sinking, plus props and costumes featured in James Cameron’s blockbuster film Titanic. Music from the era will play as patrons walk through detailed recreations of the ship’s interiors, including the grand staircase, while the Discovery Gallery will simulate what discovery teams saw during dives to the Titanic’s wreckage site.

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  • Things to do
  • Suburbs

Sony Pictures Entertainment has brought its first immersive entertainment destination to Oakbrook Center, inviting guests to enter the worlds of popular franchises like Uncharted, Ghostbusters, Jumanji, Bad Boys, Zombieland and more. The 45,000-square-foot space is home to a variety of activities, ranging from escape rooms to virtual reality and racing simulators to bumper cars. When you need to refuel, drop into the Commissary Restaurant for a full menu of food, desserts and cocktails. Entry to Wonderverse is free, with attractions priced separately.

  • Museums
  • Museum Campus

Escape the planet with exhibits about the first lunar missions, the solar system and more, plus immersive shows in the dome theater. The Doane Observatory is also home to the largest public telescope in the area, and gathers 7,000 times more light than the human eye. Every Wednesday, the Adler stays open late from 4pm-10pm so that folks can visit after work or school. And best of all, admission is free on those nights for Illinois residents.

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  • Comedy

This weekly “live magazine” is a cavalcade of culture, politics and wit featuring journalists, actors, comedians and musicians offering idiosyncratic reports on the news of the day. Head to Uptown’s iconic Green Mill for drinks, hot takes and laughs; the longstanding Saturday afternoon edition tends to run about two and a half hours.

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  • Comedy
  • Sketch shows
  • Lake View

Bye Bye Liver combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened over a decade ago for a three-week run, then kept getting extended. A cast of four to six performers portray characters at the fictional "Franks Bar," telling stories that explore the city's robust drinking culture. Each show incorporates interactive audience drinking games, allowing you to sip a cocktail or beer while taking cues from the cast. And if you're up for a nightcap after the performance, you can stick around for the official after party and mingle with the cast.

  • Experimental

For more than 30-years, the Neo-Futurists have been delighting late-night crowds with performances that pack 30 miniature plays into a 60-minute show. Returning to in-person programming (attendees must be vaccinated and masked) after more than a year spent in the virtual realm, the company's signature show is more unpredictable than ever, with a handful of compact new plays premiering every week. Within the span of 10 minutes, you may be treated to a poignant monologue about everyday life or an irreverent diatribe delivered by a pantsless member of the cast—all inspired by the experiences of the performers on stage. Always changing and evolving, it's the rare show that truly offers something different everytime you show up to see it.

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