Once the weather in Chicago starts warming up, the streets fill with people and the city's summer festival season gets started. Looking for things to do this weekend? There's likely a festival for that and you can find it here. Find dozens of bands at Chicago summer music festivals or go on a hunt for the best burger in Chicago. Don't get too stuffed though, because these Chicago summer festivals offer some of the best, and most worldly food available all year long.
RECOMMENDED: Things to do in the summer in Chicago
Chicago summer festivals in May 2017
Enjoy the best beer Chicago and the Midwest have to offer. Sample brews from the more than 80 participating breweries, including local standbys and national favorites such as Half Acre, Revolution, Bucket List, Lagunitas and more. Attendees receive 48 2-ounce samples, as well as access to exclusive brews, activities and games, and interactive learning opportunities to get better educated about the beer-making process. Beer drinkers are also able to cast their votes for the best beer of the day. The winner receives the Most Valuable Brew award.
Celebrate the arrival of spring at this free, outdoor family-friendly festival at Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park, where kids can fly a kite or watch professional demonstrations. Free paper kites will be provided, but families will also be able to purchase more intricate flying creations from a variety of vendors.
The Polish Constitution was signed on May 3rd, 1791 and for over 100 years Chicago has celebrated the date with a parade through the Loop. More than 250,000 attendees are expected to flock to the celebration's route along State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street to watch the procession and honor Europe's first democratic constitution.
This Lakeview neighborhood tradition typically kicks off street festival season, celebrating its 22nd anniversary with food and music in a giant heated tent. Munch on pretzels, grab a brew from the outdoor beer garden and get ready for a summer full of weekends spent drinking on the street.
Sample more than 100 wines from all over the world while listening to classical music at the inaugural Lincoln Park Wine Fest. Yes, it doesn't get much more sophisticated than this. Our advice? Cozy up to the most nicely dressed person in attendance and ask them to take you for a post-fest ride on their yacht.
Take a tour of the world at this popular festival in Skokie, which features ethnic music, dance, food and arts. Attendees won't have trouble finding ways to celebrate cultural diversity at this free event, with activities like an international beer tasting competition and plenty of games for kids and families.
Chicago summer festivals in June 2017
Every summer, the Two Brothers Brewing Company puts together a weekend full of beer and music while rasing money for charity. This year, the festival moves to RiverEdge Park in downtown Aurora, where X Amassadors, saint Motel, Blind Pilot, Knox Hamilton and Savoir Adore will headline the two-day event.
The oldest juried craft fair in Hyde Park features paintings, sculptures, jewelry and ceramics from more than 200 artists. This year's event will feature pop-up artist talks as well as an artist-at-work area, where attendees can observe the process of creation. Attendees can shop for artwork created in a variety of mediums, including glass, jewelry, leather, photography, printmaking, painting, sculpture, wood, ceramics or fiber.
Get your lit fix as the city's historic former bookmaking hub hosts the Midwest's biggest free outdoor ode to literature. Publishers, booksellers, literacy and cultural organizations advocate books and related merchandise in different lanuages and genres, while authors participate in panels and discussion. The kiddies can enjoy special activities at the Lil' Lit Park.
Head to Northcenter to dig into over 50,000 pounds of ribs and BBQ and don't forget to grab some napkins. The annual celebration of saucy pork will also play host to RibMania, the Midwest's only sanctioned rib-eating contest, which invites amateur and professional competitive eaters to chow down for a cash prize.
With the Copa América Centenario international soccer tournament taking over Soldier Field throughout June, Chicago's biggest EDM festival is moving to Addams/Medill Park this summer. In its new location, local promoter React Presents is planning the biggest Spring Awakening to date, featuring more than 100 acts, five stages and carnival rides. Headliners for the 2016 fest include Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, Flying Lotus, A-Trak more of the biggest and best electronic acts.
Lombard's annual craft beer festival showcases more than 100 seasonal beers from breweries across the country, including Central Waters, Lakefront Brewing and Stone Brewing Co. Thirsty attendees will gather in the downtown Lombard Metra station to sample brews and wash down savory dishes from Chicagoland food trucks.
More than 25 trucks will show up to sling sample portions of tasty grub on the street outside of Thalia Hall at the Pilsen Food Truck Social. A percentage of the proceeds benefits the Illinois Food Truck Owners Association, the St Procopius Church soup kitchen and food panty and local after school programs.
Chicago summer festivals in July 2017
In Lisle, the Fourth of July features plenty of airborne eye candy, including fireworks and hot air balloons. Balloons launch daily, filling the sky with colorful inflatables of all shapes and sizes. In the evening, the balloons come down and the fireworks begin. Attendees can also check out the festival's carnival, kids area, live music and craft fair.
For more than two decades, this pork party has been serving up grilled grub along with rock- and country-flavored tunes. This year, The Wallflowers, Toby Keith, the B-52s, Collective Soul and more serve as the suburban fest's big musical acts. As always, on July 4th the celebration concludes with a firework display.
Get together and feel all right at the 25th annual African Caribbean International Festival of Life in Union Park. The festivities promote cultural awareness with a weekend full of reggae, dancing, soccer, art and delicious Afro-Caribbean food.
Flex your jaw muscles and stretch that waistline at this 'cue fest in Uptown during Fourth of July weekend. Expect plenty of ribs and some live music, including national acts and regional cover bands. This year, vendors include BBQ King Smokehouse, Chicago BBQ Company, Aussom Aussie Australian BBQ and more great meat purveyors.
Chicago's annual celebration of house music, the Chosen Few Old School Reunion Picnic, gets a makeover this summer, transforming into a full-fledged two-day music festival in Jackson Park. On Saturday, guests can pack a basket and take in performances from the event's namesake DJs, as well as guests like Joe Claussell, Harry Dennis and Curtis McClain. Sunday's lineup highlights soul, R&B and jazz performers, including vibraphone player Roy Ayers and R&B singer Cheryl Lynn.
The city of Chicago ditched its official fireworks show a few years back, but Navy Pier picks up the slack with its explosive Independence Day celebration. Revelers can head down to the pier or Millennium Park for an up-close view, but if you're not a fan of crowds you'll want to hit the lakefront or find a friend with a rooftop by the shore.
Looking to escape to the suburbs to celebrate the nation's independence? Glen Ellyn's Fourth of July festivities are an all-day event, including a four-mile run, a picnic and a parade at noon. The festivities culminate with a fireworks display in Lake Ellyn Park that rivals Navy Pier's explosive show, beginning at dusk.
Since 1980, Grant Park has been hosting what has become the granddaddy of food festivals. You know the drill: Trade tickets for a taste of Chicago's street fare. Hopefully what you gain in weight, you'll lose from your wallet. As always, there will be music at Petrillo (The Roots, The Decemberists and more) for you to listen to while you devour your turkey leg, rainbow cone or deep dish pizza.
Alt-country and Americana music are the two presiding genres at the annual Square Roots festival, which returns to Lincoln Square in July. Presented in conjunction with the nearby Old Town School of Folk Music, attendees can take in sets from more than 70 bands spread across two indoor stages and two outdoor stages while enjoying eclectic fare from nearby restaurants and beer from craft breweries. There will also be a local market where festival-goers can purchase unique products and fine art from regional vendors. Proceeds from the festival benefits small business workshops, community place-making efforts and the Old Town School of Folk Music Scholarship programs.
Returning to Pilsen's Addams/Medill Park, Ruido Fest fills a void in Chicago's summer festival scene: Latin American rock en español, pop and electro. Headliners include Texan Norteño act Intocable, Puerto Rican reggae band Cultura Profética, Mexican alt-rockers Molotov and pop singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas. Ther rest of the bill is equally exciting, with appearances from Columbian electro dup Bomba Estéreo, Chilean art-rocker (and son of director Alejandro Jodorowsky) Adan Jodorowsky and masked electronic act the Wookies.
Chicago summer festivals in August 2017
Not a celebration of U2's guitarist. The "edge" here is Edgewater. This year, the 'hood hosts a long weekend of wholesome family entertainment featuring tons of interactive, kid-friendly activities including karaoke night and DockDogs, a traveling aquatics dog competition. Vendors willl serve up the anticipated array of festival foods (corn dogs, funnel cakes, blintzes, donuts), while local artists display handmade goods and crafts.
The world's largest and oldest African American parade enters its 88th year celebrating Chicago's youth. The parade's two mile route begins in the Bronzeville neighborhood and continues north on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, concluding in Washington Park with a picnic that features vendors and performers. This year, South Side native Chance the Rapper will serve as the parade's Grand Marshall.
Come for the festival fare, stay for the Butter Cow—the fair's unofficial icon and Paula Deen's life-long dream, a life-size cow sculpture made of 500 pounds of butter. Watch tractor pulls, horse races, parades and musical acts. Some events require additional tickets. The music lineup this year includes Meghan Trainor, Pat Benator, Jake Owen and more.
Chicago summer festivals in September 2017
Chicago is known for its blues musicians, but these days it's more of a jazz city. The annual Chicago Jazz Festival celebrates contemporary improvisers and legendary players with four days of concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. If you don't have Labor Day weekend plans, why not go see some musicians showing off their improvisational prowess?
The other big festival in Union Park (the one that doesn't rhyme with Itchpork) leans heavy on EDM, jam and rap. Booked by some of the same folks behind Spring Awakening and Mamby on the Beach, North Coast is an eclectic affair with a focus on EDM, jam bands, hip-hop and a few more adventurous indie rock acts.
Sample more than 300 wines from around the world at this annual sommelier extravaganza at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Area restaurants and caterers will be serving up their signature dishes while bands provide musical accompaniment to your wine tasting journey.
Relocated to the sprawling Douglas Park on the city's West Side, replete with circus attractions, Riot Fest prides itself on being punk. It's bookings are as diverse as "punk" is difficult to define. There's mall-punk, hardcore, emo, goth, metal, thrash, new-wave, rap and gray-haired indie.
Declare your independence from corporate, mass-produced beer at this Irving Park festival, which features brews by the likes of Firestone Walker, New Belgium and more. It all happens in Independence Park, just a few blocks away from one of our favorite barbecue joints in town.
Children's art and creativity come with a hyperlocal focus at the 3rd Annual Edgewater Fall Art Fair. Local schools showcase student artwork programs through gallery exhibitions, while smaller-size budding Rembrandts can face- and finger-paint at the Children’s Activity Corner. This family friendly fest includes a children's music talent showcase, costume contest, pet parade. Adults can enjoy the beer garden as well.