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Navy Pier new year's eve fireworks
Photograph: Courtesy Navy Pier

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
Edited by
Jeffy Mai
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Looking for fun activities to do this week? You've come to the right place! Summer is almost here, which means it's time to get outside and go hiking or plan an exciting day trip. Memorial Day weekend brings us plenty of exciting events, including Sueños Music Festival, Mole de Mayo and the return of fireworks at Navy Pier. 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

Memorial Day Parade
  • Things to do
  • Loop

After a wreath is laid at the eternal flame in Daley Plaza at 11am in remembrance of those who died serving in the U.S. armed services, Chicago's annual Memorial Day Parade marches down State Street (from Lake to Van Buren streets) beginning at noon. Crowds line the street waving flags and paying their respects as part of this Chicago tradition, which dates all the way back to 1870.

  • 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
  • Millennium Park

Started in 2022, this two-day extravaganza returns to Grant Park over Memorial Day weekend. Taking place on a single stage in Grant Park's Hutchinson Field, Sueños will feature headlining sets from Peso Pluma, Ivan Cornejo, Rauw Alejandro and Maluma. Other notable names on the lineup include Bad Gyal, Mora, Manuel Turizo, Xavi, Gabito Ballesteros and more.

In addition to two days of music, you can try food from some of Chicago's best Latin restaurants, a host of experiential activations and a Ferris wheel in the park that you can ride between (or during) sets. It's one of the largest new festivals to come to launch in Chicago in years and a fitting addition to a summer festival calendar that's more crowded than ever.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Lower West Side

Pilsen's annual Mole de Mayo street festival—which honors the traditional Mexican sauce with a mole cook-off, plus a market full of vendors—moves to a new stretch on 18th Street this year over Memorial Day weekend. Grab some enchiladas smothered in aromatic mole and don't miss the festival's lucha libra wrestling matches. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Lake View

Love cover bands? Head to Lakeview (right by the Belmont Red Line station) for three days of music, featuring local tribute acts like 16 Candles and Rod Tuffcurls & the Bench Press. A second stage hosts an eclectic array of community performers, plus karaoke with Trader Todd's. Plus, you'll find beer, wine and plenty of neighborhood vendors to browse while you hang out on the street.

  • 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

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  • Things to do
  • Lincoln Square

The second annual Screen Time will be held at the Davis Theater on May 23, showcasing seven short films made in the Chicago area. This year’s selections include Except, a love story about loneliness, and Bob’s Funeral, a tale of an estranged man who secretly films his grandfather’s funeral in hopes of uncovering the source of the family’s generational trauma.

  • Things to do
  • Loop

The musical adaptation of Robert Zemeckis’ 1992 cult classic Death Becomes Her gets its pre-Broadway premiere in Chicago. Running through June 2, the hilarious production stars Tony Award nominees Megan Hilty and Jennifer Simard, and is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli. The plot follows two women as they fight for the affections of the same man and drink a magic potion that promises eternal youth.

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  • 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.

  • Movies
  • Documentary
  • Loop

Documentaries, dramas and shorts make up the 27th edition of the Asian American Showcase, which highlights new works by established and emerging Asian American filmmakers. This year's lineup includes Sean Wang's Sundance Award winner DìdiAshima by director Kenji Tsukamoto, Smoking Tigers by So Young Shelly Yo and many others.

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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.

Zhou B Art Center 3rd Fridays
  • Art
  • Public art

On the third Friday of every month, resident artists at Bridgeport's Zhou B Art Center open their studio doors to the public for a night of mixing, mingling and, of course, art. Tour individual artist work spaces and shop for one-of-a-kind works from local painters, sculpters, photographers and more.

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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
  • Festivals
  • Loop

This annual festival assembles luminaries from the fields of politics, journalism and the arts for a multi-week series of programming across the city, with events ranging from lectures and discussions to screenings and musical performances. Not sure which events to hit? Some of the fest’s biggest speakers this season include former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, architect Jeanne Gang, musician Kathleen Hanna and comedian Reggie Watts. You can see a full schedule of programming on the Chicago Humanities Festival website.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • Things to do
  • Streeterville

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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Theater
  • 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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