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Clark After Dark
Photograph: Courtesy Star Events

The best Chicago summer festivals

Start making weekend plans filled with food, music and art with our guide to Chicago summer festivals and street parties

Written by Zach Long in association with Good News
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The city's streets and Chicago parks are about to come alive again this summer, as Chicago summer festivals return to the city—the& Windy City Smokeout officially kicks off the season in July, though some smaller events are taking place before then. While many events (even the free ones) are requiring advance registration this year, you'll still be able to see your favorite bands at a summer music festivals, sample the latest creations from Chicago breweries at beer festivals or swing by a neighborhood street festival to mingle with locals. Not sure where to start? We've gathered a list of all the Chicago summer festivals taking place this year, and what you can expect to find at each of them.

Keep in mind that some events may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination (by flashing your CDC card or verifying your status on an app) or a negative test result obtained within 24-72 hours of your arrival. Check out each event's website for the latest details.

RECOMMENDED: Things to do in the summer in Chicago

2021 Chicago festivals

Ørkenoy
Photograph: Courtesy Ørkenoy

Midsummer Block Party

Things to do Festivals Kimball Arts Center, Humboldt Park

Celebrate Midsummer (the holiday, not the trippy A24 movie) with local brewery Ørkenoy and the Kimabll Art Center at this festive block party. Guest will be able to step inside the newly-renovated Kimball Arts Center building, meeting some the artists with studios inside the space and getting an opportunity to purchase their work. Ørkenoy will be serving food, beer, cider, and batched cocktails, alongside refreshments from Cruz Blanca Brewery, Nanette’s Ice Cream, Rye Humor Baking, and Dayglow. Plus, Wild Prairie will be spinning records in the parking lot throughout the afternoon. An RSVP via Eventbrite is recommend, but walk-ins will be admitted as capacity allows.

Cannonball Productions, Seltzerland
Photograph: Courtesy Cannonball Productions

Seltzerland

Things to do Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course, Uptown

Have you hopped on the hard seltzer craze? Mosey around the grounds of Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course at this socially distanced hard seltzer tasting event, where you'll have the chance to sample more than 30 sparkling bevvies—from Coors Seltzer to the the iconic White Claw—while walking the course over the course of the afternoon (and no, you won't actually be golfing). Varying "tee times" for each ticket ensures space between groups; a VIP ticket will also net you complimentary snack bites, a take-home can of seltzer and other goodies. 

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Pride in the Park
Photograph: Clinton Bigelow

Pride in the Park

LGBTQ+ Grant Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park

Chicago's Pride Parade and Pride Festival are on hold for now—though a later summer date may be forthcoming—but more than a dozen performers will still take to Grant Park this June for the two-day Pride in the Park festival, a musical celebration of Pride Month and the city's LGBTQ+ community. Chaka Khan, Tiësto and Gryffin will headline, with appearances from Betty Who, Alyssa Edwards and Tracy Young. You can also catch drag performances from performers like RuPaul's Drag Race stars Denali Foxx, The Vixen and Naysha Lopez. A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit Center on Halsted.

Windy City Smokeout Riley Green
Photograph: Katie Kauss, KDK Creative

Windy City Smokeout

Music Folk, country and blues United Center | Chicago, IL, United Center

Spend enough time basking in the smell of barbecued meat, the twangy strains of country music and the sweltering heat at Windy City Smokeout and you might feel like you've been transported to Texas. Taking place in a parking lot outside of the United Center, this annual festival brings together some of the nation's most talented pitmasters and a stacked lineup of Nashville-approved musicians. This year, Texas's Salt Lick BBQ, Pappy's Smokehouse from St. Louis and Little Miss BBQ from Phoenix will be serving smoked meats (alongside locals like Bub City and Lilie's Q). Plus, you'll be able to catch headlining sets from Brett Eldredge, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Jon Pardi.

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Southport Art Festival
Photograph: Courtesy Star Events

Southport Art Fest

Things to do Festivals Southport and Waveland Avenues,

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.

Wicker Park Fest 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Wicker Park Fest

Things to do Festivals Milwaukee Ave between Paulina St and North Ave, Wicker Park

Wicker Park may be overrun with chain restaurants, boutiques and shoe stores, but the neighborhood still clears out Milwaukee Avenue for a street celebration each summer. The main attraction of the annual fest is the music lineup—which is still TBA this year—but you'll also find plenty of delicious food, sales at local shops, daily fashion shows and twentysomethings watching the festivities from precarious perches on rooftops, balconies and fire escapes.

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Taste of Lincoln Avenue
Photograph: Courtesy Taste of Lincoln Avenue

Taste of Lincoln Avenue

Things to do Festivals Lincoln Ave between Fullerton and Wrightwood Aves, Sheffield & DePaul

Local restaurants bring their most famous dishes outside for two days of tastings at this Lincoln Park street festival. You'll find more than 100 vendors lining Lincoln Avenue, including area businesses and eateries, as well as four stages of live music and a kids carnival area stocked with activities, face painting, games and more. Don't forget to try the fest's myriad tastings, which offer samples of goodies ranging from wine and whiskey to chocolates. 

Photograph: Kaitlin Hetterscheidt

Chinatown Summer Fair

Things to do Festivals Wentworth Ave and Cermak Rd, Armour Square

Chinatown celebrates the arrival of summer at this annual event—featuring food, art and music—which has been expanded into a two-day bash for its 2021 edition. The festival opens with a traditional lion dance procession and continues with performances, kung fu demonstrations, pony rides and cuisine from Chinatown restaurants. 

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chicago theatre, state street
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sundays on State

Things to do State St and Lake St, Loop

No one would claim that downtown Chicago isn't walkable, exactly, but you'd also be loathe to find it empty of traffic except late at night and other quiet occasions. That'll change ever so slightly starting July 11, when a section of State Street spanning from Madison to Lake Streets will close to vehicle traffic for Sundays on State, a new initiative from the city and Chicago Loop Alliance that invites pedestrians to explore the iconic downtown stretch without interruption from cars. Expect plenty of outdoor dining and shopping options as well as streetside activations—the Chicago Loop Alliance is currently accepting applications for pop-ups, demos, classes and food carts.

lollapalooza 2018
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Lollapalooza

Music Music festivals Grant Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park

Lollapalooza is back in action at full capacity this summer, welcoming 100,000 attendees to Grant Park for a four-day music festival that's packed with some of the biggest names in pop, rock and hip-hop. Post Malone, the Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus and Tyler, the Creator headline the fest this year, joined by acts like Meghan Thee Stallion, Journey, Brockhampton, Steve Aoki and—inexplicably—Limp Bizkit. Like many other large-scale events this summer, you'll need proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID-19 test completed within 24 hours of entry) to gain access to Lolla.

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