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2019 Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, July 2019.
Photograph: Courtesy City of Chicago DCASE

The best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Find the best things to do in Chicago this weekend with our guide to concerts, exhibitions, festivals and more.

Emma Krupp
Edited by
Emma Krupp
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Welcome to another weekend in Chicago! After a brief lull during Fourth of July celebrations, Chicago's summer festivals are back in full force this weekend—check out live music and craft beer during Square Roots Festival in Lincoln Square, shop from local artists at the Southport Art Fest and grab food from dozens of vendors as Taste of Chicago returns to Grant Park after a two-year hiatus. Ready to make the most of your days off? Check out the rest of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend. 

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Chicago right now

Things to do this weekend in Chicago

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Millennium Park

It's official, folks: Taste of Chicago is back for 2022! After two years of pop-ups and other pandemic-era modifications, the city-run summertime tradition is returning to Grant Park for a three-day food and music fest. Attendees can explore 30 food vendors as well as Chicago SummerDance lessons and free musical performances from acts like Nelly, Drive-By Truckers and Aterciopelados, which will be spread across three stages. And unlike previous years, you won't be paying with paper food and drink tickets this year—the fest is switching to cash and credit payments only. 

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Lincoln Square

This midsummer block party staple returns to Lincoln Square in full-fledged form for the first time since 2019, bringing alt-country, folk and Americana jams—plus craft brews and snacks from local food vendors—to Lincoln Avenue. Headliners this year include former Hüsker Dü member Bob Mould and Chicago indie rockers Dehd, plus appearances from The O'Mys, Bnny, Sleepy Gaucho and more. Admission is free, but consider tossing in a donation to benefit small business workshops, community efforts and scholarship programs at the Old Town School of Folk Music. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Evanston

West Town's rollicking street festival returns to Chicago Avenue for three days of music, food and shopping from local vendors. This year's main stage lineup—which, as always, is curated by the Empty Bottle—includes performers like Chicago-based singer-songwriter Lala Lala, dream pop group Choir Boy and indie rockers Deerhoof, as well as DJs Derrick Carter, Mark Farina and more. Plus, browse tons of local vendors and don't miss the Pet Fest area, which features charming attractions like a dog obstacle course and pet painting while raising money for Alive Rescue and One Tail at a Time. 

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • United Center

After hosting an autumn edition of its yearly music fest last October, Spring Awakening Music Festival returns to a summer slot for 2022 (albeit in July instead of June). The 10th anniversary iteration of the electronic fest moves from Addams-Medill Park to the United Center, bringing three days of performances from artists like Zedd, Benny Benassi, Kaskade, Dillon Francis and more. Keep an eye out for afterparties throughout the weekend, too!

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals

The Southport Corridor hosts its annual two-day art festival, bringing together a variety of artists and local vendors near neighborhood landmarks like the Music Box Theatre. Guests can peruse pieces, shop at Southport Avenue stores, take kids to an area packed with interactive games or sit down on a patio to enjoy food and drink specials throughout the weekend. All proceeds benefit the Southport Neighbors Association.

  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • Rogers Park

Formerly known as the Flatts and Sharpe Music Festival, this Rogers Park fest is expanding to a two-day format for its third year with live music, food and art vendors filling up a corner of Sheridan Road and Columbia Avenue. Catch performances from acts like Nashville blues crooner Sarah Potenza, Chicago rockers Satellite Union and Austin honky tonk trio Choctaw Wildfire, as well kid-friendly performers earlier in the day and a host of local art vendors. Hungry? Blow Wow Jamaican and The Oasis Tavern will be on hand with hearty eats. 

 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Hyde Park

This Hyde Park street festival outside of the Promontory brings together some of the biggest names in Afrobeat music, a genre pioneered by musician Fela Kuti, who fused Nigerian instrumentation and rhythms with contemporary pop, funk and jazz. You'll catch sets from DJs spinning global tunes, plus access to local food, a fashion show, African board games and more fun activities.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Gaze at neighborhood gardens during this self-guided tour of nearly 100 plots throughout the neighborhood, showcasing the efforts of residents with green thumbs. You can download a map online and make your way through Bucktown, visiting gardens as you go—some will even host live music and visual artists creating work throughout the day. 

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  • 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.

  • Theater
  • South Shore

See four original by local BIPOC playwrights during this two-day festival—now in its second year—hosted by Perceptions Theatre in South Shore. Can't make the in-person fest? The four works, which explore everything from love triangles to police brutality, will also be available for streaming from July 11–August 14. 

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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 15–August 20 with performances ranging from world premiere works and performances of symphonies by Mozart, Haydn 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:

June 15: Mozart Symphony No. 35
June 17, 18: Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony
June 22: Schubert Unfinished Symphony
June 24, 25: Shostakovich Symphony No. 11
June 29, July 1: Britten Spring Symphony
July 2: Independence Day Salute
July 6: Cirque Goes to Hollywood
July 8, 9: Lights on Broadway
July 13: Haydn Drum Roll Symphony
July 15, 16: Beethoven Eroica Symphony
July 20: Dvorak Symphony No. 8
July 22, 23: Rachmaniov Piano Concerto No. 2
July 27: A Gospel Jubilee
July 29, 30: Mahler Symphony No. 9 
Aug 3: A Mariachi Fiesta
Aug 4: 60th Anniversary Choral Spectacular 
Aug 5, 6: Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique 
Aug 10: Franck Symphony in D Minor
Aug 12, 13: Tetzlaff Plays Shostakovich
Aug 17: Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty 
Aug 19: Haydn Creation

  • 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 Yachtley Crew ('70s and '80s hits), Ticket to the Moon (Electric Light Orchestra) and Rush Tribute Project (Rush, 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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  • Theater
  • Lincoln Park

Steppenwolf Theatre mounts a new staging of the Tony Award-nominated play Choir Boy, a story of a young gay Black man struggling to solidify his identity within the confines of a prep school's elite choir. Written by Steppenwolf ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), the show delves into a world rife with rituals, peer pressure and quiet longing using a cappella hymns as a stirring background track. 

  • Art
  • Painting
  • Grant Park

The Art Institute of Chicago has teamed up with London's Tate Modern to mount the first major retrospective of Paul Cezanne's work in more than 25 years, exploring the Impressionist painter's legacy across a variety of mediums and genres. Visitors can explore some of Cezanne's most enduringly iconic works—including his lush still life paintings and landscapes—as well as rarely-seen compositions pulled from private collections, encompassing a total of 90 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings and two complete sketchbooks. You'll need an additional ticket to gain access to the exhibit, but you'll rarely find such a comprehensive perspective on this seminal artist's life and work. 

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  • Art
  • Mixed media
  • Streeterville

The Museum of Contemporary Art hosts the first career-spanning retrospective of Chicago artist Nick Cave's work at Forothermore, a comprehensive dive into Cave's acclaimed body of visual art alongside his roles as an activist and community builder. Dedicated to those who exist as the "other" (whether through racism, homophobia or other modes of discrimination), Forothermore spans everything from installations and sculpture to fashion, performance and video work, with never-before-seen highlights like a continuation of Cave's lauded Soundsuits series. 

  • Movies

From June through September this year, dozens of movies will screen in parks all over Chicago as part of the city's annual Movies in the Parks program. From recent blockbusters like Encanto and Sing 2 to classics like The Princess Bride and Space Jam, you're sure to find good something to watch (for free!) beneath the stars this summer.

Screenings typically begin at 8:30pm each evening. Take a look at the full list of movies and participating parks.

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  • Art
  • Digital & interactive
  • Lincoln Park

Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija's incisive artwork and culinary installation (who's afraid of red, yellow, and green) transforms Wrightwood 659's second-floor gallery into a communal dining space, where visitors are intermittently served Thai curries while a large-scale mural depicting Thai political protests is painted on the walls. The interactive exhibit—which comes from the collection of the Smithsonian's Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC—invites visitors to consider the ties between food and politics, and to consider the work alongside their fellow diners while sharing a meal. 

  • Things to do
  • Magnificent Mile

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to say that a purple-hued world has opened up on Michigan Avenue, thanks to the arrival of a new Prince-themed immersive exhibition inside the sprawling Shops at North Bridge complex. Step inside to experience everything from a lilac-scented imitation of the bathroom in the “When Doves Cry” music video to a realistic version of Prince’s Paisley Park studio, painstakingly recreated with details like a shelf stocked with the 5-Hour Energy shots Prince kept on hand for recording sessions. And because this is an immersive experience, many of the rooms are equipped with some kind of interactive element, whether you prefer to experiment with sound mixing “Let’s Go Crazy” in the studio, take a personality quiz to get a custom playlist of Prince’s deep cuts or pose for photos atop a replica of the famous “Purple Rain” motorcycle.  

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • River West/West Town

Explore the housing crisis through the lens of artists like Gabrielle Garland, Tonika Lewis Johnson and Maymay Jumsai—as well as organizations such as the Southside Home Movie Project—in this Weinberg/Newton Gallery exhibit, a partnership with the nonprofit Mercy Housing Lakefront. Featured work includes paintings, collage, sculpture, video and large-scale installation, which tell the story of damaging housing practices while also imagining a more enriching, secure future for urban living. 

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Loop

The Chicago Architecture Center's largest-ever exhibition explores how cities can rise to meet the challenge of climate change by utilizing creative, eco-friendly approaches to design and the built environment. Visitors can learn about how architects, engineers and urban planners are working on technologies like kinetic energy capture and high-performance facades to create net-zero carbon buildings, or how public transportation and more efficient appliances can help work toward a greener future on an individual scale,giving you a chance to see how you can contribute to the goal of a carbon-free world. 

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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

Are you the type of person who stops to stare at gorgeous homes and buildings in Chicago? If so, you'll want to check out architecture photographer Will Quam's seasonal Brick of Chicago tours, which guide attendees through some of the city's most stunning examples of brick construction—from massive greystone mansions to the humble Chicago Common brick (and plenty more). Tours are broken up by neighborhood, so choose a date for an area near you or branch out to explore a new area of the city; for a complete list of tour dates, visit the Brick of Chicago website

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Kenwood

Married artists Dutes Miller and Stan Shellabarger explore relationships, intimacy, queerness and loneliness during the Covid-19 pandemic in this immersive exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center. Visitors can see three new works in the Art Center's gallery space—including a massive mural and a participatory installation that invites people to make their own paper cranes—and attend a number of free public programs, from a Pride-themed performance to a conversation with artist couples.  

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  • Art
  • Digital & interactive
  • Old Town

Ready for the next phase of immersive art in Chicago? Produced by the same team that created “Immersive Van Gogh” and hosted at the Germania Club Building in Old Town, “Immersive Frida Kahlo” showcases animated video projections of some of the artist’s most iconic paintings, including works like “The Two Fridas” and “The Wounded Deer,” alongside a selection of drawings, iconography and photographs of the artist at various stages of her life. Expect something of a history lesson alongside the images: The exhibition jumps through the eras of the Kahlo’s work in an attempt to illuminate themes from the artist’s life, from her feminism to her involvement in the Mexicanidad movement.

  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

The Field Museum's latest exhibition takes you into the depth of prehistoric seas, where gigantic underwater creatures made their home more than 200 million years ago. Visitors will learn how these Jurassic giants evolved into familiar marine animals, like sea snakes, turtles, dolphins and whales. The interactive exhibition include real fossils and CGI projections of ancient creatures like the mosasaur—also known as the T.rex of the sea.

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  • Art
  • Sculpture
  • Hyde Park

Want to see recreations of Van Gogh's “Starry Night,” Da Vinci's “Mona Lisa” and Michaelangelo's “David”  constructed with Lego bricks? The Museum of Science and Industry's latest exhibition collects the work of Nathan Sawaya, a former lawyer who turned his passion for tiny plastic bricks into contemporary art. “The Art of the Brick” include more than 100 of his creations, include a 20-foot-long T.rex skeleton and a life-sized sculpture of a man pulling his chest apart. The traveling show is the first major museum exhibition to use Lego bricks as its sole medium—and a testiment to the creativity that can be achieved with hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of plastic.

This Museum of Science and Industry exhibit rquires a seperate ticket for entry, in addition to regular museum admission.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Yoga & Pilates

Grab a mat and take a 40-minute yoga class inside of the "Immersive Frida Kahlo" experience, moving your body in sync with the music, lights and moving images within the high-tech show. The classes are led by a certified yoga instructor and take place early in the morning (before the exhibit opens to the public) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the month.

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  • Comedy
  • Sketch shows
  • Lake View

Bye Bye Liver combines two robust Chicago traditions: comedy and heavy drinking. The show opened 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.

  • Theater
  • Circuses & magic
  • Loop

Enjoy dinner and show on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel at Teatro ZinZanni, a 2.5-hour experience that combines circus acts, comedy, cabaret and a meal curated by Debbie Sharpe—the Goddess of The Goddess and Grocer. The show takes place in an ornate, circular theater (designed to resemble a Belgian mirror tent) where the audience surrounds the stage. Guests dig into a four course meal while watching as comedians, aerialists, acrobats, singers and dancers perform amazing feats and catchy tunes. It's somewhere between Cirque du Soleil and a traditional cabaret show, with restaurant-quality refreshments.

Performances take place every evening, Wednesday through Saturday, with a special brunch matinee at noon on Sundays. You can find menus, wine and cocktail lists on the Teatro ZinZanni website.

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  • Time Out Market
  • West Loop

Every Sunday from 11am to 3pm, Time Out Market Chicago's chefs offer a variety of delicious brunch dishes, from Hangover Ramen with shrimp and smoked pork to a stack of Buttermilk Pancakes layered with whipped mascarpone. Order as much as you want, grab a mimosa pitcher from the bar and stick around from 1 to 3pm for a set of tunes from the Chicago Soul Jazz Collective. 

  • Nightlife
  • Cabaret and burlesque

Settle in for an evening of burlesque performers, belly dancers, drag artists and variety entertainers during this weekly show at Newport Theater. The hour-long show features speciality cocktails and intimate seating arrangements, making this feel like a clandestine speakeasy experience. Bring some singles so that you can tip performers throughout the night!

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Museum Campus

Explore the colors of the natural world in the Field Museum's latest exhibition, which examines the meaning and function of some of the brightest hues in the world. “Wild Color” explores how plants and animals use color to ward off predators or attract maters, and how the color of gems and minerals can offer clues about their formation. The 7,000-square-foot exhibition is filled with specimens from the Field Museum's extensive collection, including a platypus that fluoresces under UV light and birds in every color (including "super black").

  • Theater
  • Experimental
  • Uptown

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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  • Comedy
  • Uptown

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.

  • Art
  • Sculpture

See five towering sculptures by South African artist Daniel Popper at the Morton Arboretum's new outdoor exhibition, which spreads the 15- to 26-foot-tall works throughout the natural area. Made of glass-reinforced concrete, wood, fiberglass and steel, the one-of-a-kind pieces in "Human+Nature" depict human figures that evoke the natural landscape they're set amid, including a pair of 36-foot-long hands reaching out from a grove of oak trees and a maternal figure that springs up amid magnolia trees.

Access to "Human+Nature" is included as part of timed-entry admission to the Morton Arboretum, and there's a map that will allow you to easily plan your visit and spot all five of the sculptures along the way.

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