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Southport Art Festival
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

Emma Krupp
Edited by
Emma Krupp
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Do you feel that newfound warmth in the air? It's summer in Chicago—and all of a sudden, the city's streets and parks are full every weekend, thanks to the city's stacked lineup of festivals. After hosting a somewhat abbreviated season in 2021, Chicago's festival season is roaring back to life in full-fledged form this year, with everything from heavy-hitting summer music festivals like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork to beloved neighborhood fests on the calendar from June through September. We'll continue to update this list throughout the season as more fests announce lineups and additional details—in the meantime, take a look through some of the best summer festivals in Chicago this year.

RECOMMENDED: Things to do in the summer in Chicago

2022 Chicago festivals

  • 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
  • Millennium Park

Head to Pritzker Pavilion every Monday and Thursday from June 20–August 18 for the 10-part Millennium Park Summer Music Series, which showcases a wide range of music from both emerging and well-established performers. The series kicks off on June 20 with performances from Afrobeat saxophonist Femi Kuti (son of iconic Nigerian musician Fela Kuti) and Moroccan-born electronic artist HAT; throughout the rest of the summer, catch acts like Ukrainian folk-fusion quartet DakhaBrakha (July 18), Afro-Cuban artist Cimafunk (August 11) and none other than Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy (July 21), who will perform along with students from The People's Music School as opening act. 

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  • Things to do
  • Loop

Last summer's inaugural Sundays on State program—which shuts down a strip of State Street spanning from Madison to Lake Streets for activations, performances, food and shopping—brought thousands of visitors downtown to check out everything from outdoor dining and browsing opportunities to pop-up karaoke and barre fitness classes. The event returns on select Sundays this year by popular demand, expanding its footprint to cover State from Lake to Monroe. For a full schedule of vendors and events, check out Chicago Loop Alliance's website.

 

  • Music
  • Classical and opera
  • Lincoln Square

Fed up with the cover bands and DJs that typically perform at Chicago's street festivals? Thirsty Ears Festival provides an alternative to the usual summer programming, with local organization Access Contemporary Music presenting a lineup of classical music performances ranging from Baroque to contemporary. Taking place in Ravenswood on Wilson Ave between Hermitage Ave and Ravenswood Ave, the festival features two days of performances and a miniature version of the Sound of Silent Film Festival (where ensembles accompany silent film screenings). You'll also find beer from Empirical Brewing, food trucks and a kids zone stocked with activites and performances for the little ones.

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Lower West Side

Chicago is the city that built house music and this Pilsen festival carries on our city's tradition of talented DJs, great beats and dancing crowds. Organized by realtors Re/Max Loyalty, this two-day fest raises money for local charities and includes access to music, live art, food and beverages. Expect to find plenty of local producers and DJs on the lineup, including DJ Sneak, Ralphi Rosario, Farley "Jackmaster" Funk and more.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Edison Park

This far Northwest Side neighborhood gets in on street festival season fun with a three-day affair (its 50th anniversary!) packed with live music, activities for the kids and delicious food. Stop by to see country band Hillbilly Rockstarz, ’80s hair metal devotees Lounge Puppets or perennial rock favorites 7th Heaven before digging into grub served by local vendors. 

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  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Head to North Center to dig into more than 50,000 pounds of ribs and BBQ across the streets of Lincoln, Damen and Irving Park. The annual celebration of saucy pork brings together more than 30 vendors, lounges where you can sit down to eat and live music to keep you entertained while you're digesting your second rack of ribs.

  • Things to do
  • Festivals
  • Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park transforms into an outdoor tapas bar during this boozy bash, which pairs bites from local restaurants—like 5411, Tapas Valencia and Azul Mariscos—with pitchers of red wine and chopped fruit. Lay our a blanket to sip sangria on the lawn, put color on a canvas at the festival's painting station or watch live salsa and Brazilian dance music.

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  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • West Loop

Filling a notable void in the Chicago summer festival calendar, Ruido Fest is one of the only large-scale events in the city that champions the diverse sounds of Latin American pop, electro and rock en español. The fest is returning to Union Park this August and features performances from singer-songwriter Cuco, Argentine ska group Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and genre-defining West Coast hip-hop trio Cyprus Hill. 

  • Art
  • Outdoor art
  • Evanston

Chicago's sole chalk festival returns to Rogers Park for the first time since 2019 this August, transforming Howard Street into a lovely, chalk art-covered canvas over the course of a single day. Head east of the Howard Red Line stop between Paulina and Ashland to tour 3-D chalk designs by artists like Amanda-lee Harris, Zach Herndon and Jessi Queen and try food from local vendors, or get in on the action yourself by purchasing a 4x4 square of sidewalk to design for $25—don't worry, chalk is included.

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