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A Guide To Summer Events in Chicago

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Ah, summer. The time when we can finally pack away the parkas — for a couple months, anyway — and pat ourselves on the back for surviving another Chicago winter.

The city comes alive during the summer months, with hundreds of eclectic events vying for your attention. Whether you prefer live music, visual arts, food or other forms of entertainment, you can find Chicago summer events to fit your style.

June

Summer is gaining ground. You’re finally able to bust out those sundresses and shorts, and you want to flaunt them. Check out the June event lineup to make your summer debut.

Food & Drink

  • Caffeine Crawl: Friday, June 3 – Sunday, June 5

Start June off on a caffeinated note with the second annual Caffeine Crawl Chicago. The concept is the same as a pub crawl but focuses on local cafes, tea shops and bakeries instead of bars. Twenty spots make the list, with 11 different routes accessible by walking, driving or taking public transit.

All 11 routes are already planned — each one is scheduled on a specific date and at a specific starting time. Don’t be late, or you’ll have to find your caffeine rush on your own. The stops vary on each of the 11 routes. A ticket is required and costs $34. This gets you in the door at each stop and includes a small sample and educational presentation. Kids are welcome, but they need their own tickets.

 

  • Ribfest Chicago: Friday, June 10 – Sunday, June 12

Want to attend a Chicago event that has been featured on Food Network and USA Today? Ribfest Chicago is that event. The 2016 event marks the 18th summer for this festival. What started as a small gathering in a parking lot has grown to a five-block event with over 30 vendors. Don’t like ribs? Many of the vendors offer non-rib options, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.

If you’ve never been to Ribfest, here’s what you’ll do: eat ribs, listen to great music and people watch. The event features a full line-up of music on all three days. Pop in Friday night to get a prime seat for Ribmania, where competitive eaters go head-to-head in a rib-eating contest. You can also help crown the People’s Choice Award for best ribs out of the 15 rib vendors by filling out a ballot.

Here are the essentials you need to know before heading to Ribfest Chicago. Gate admission is a suggested $5 donation. This money goes back into the community, including schools, nonprofit organizations and greening efforts.

Food is purchased with tickets. No vendors will accept cash or cards. The number of tickets necessary for items varies.

Parking is limited, but public transportation is a great way to get to Ribfest. RallyBus is a new option this year for people attending from the suburbs.

Dogs are not prohibited, but it is recommended that you leave Fido at home away from the crowds, hot grills and bones. This is a family-friendly event and includes a kids’ area, so you don’t need to line up a babysitter.

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  • Lombard Ale Festival: Saturday, June 11

Support your love of craft beer while you support local nonprofit groups at this summer’s third annual Lombard Ale Festival. The festival serves up over 80 craft beers from more than 60 American craft breweries. If you can’t find a beer you love at this festival, you don’t like beer.

While the festival focuses on beer, it also serves up food from local restaurants and food trucks. While you’re there, check out the live music. Beer, food and music — it’s the classic summer combination.

General admission tickets cost $40. That ticket gets you in the door with a commemorative festival glass and 18 drink tickets, each exchangeable for a 3-ounce beer sample. Buy up to 10 extra tickets if you want to try more beer options. The $70 VIP tickets get you in the door an hour earlier for a private sampling. You also get a VIP food voucher, commemorative t-shirt, commemorative glass and a stylish VIP access lanyard. Designated driver tickets are available at a discounted rate, but you won’t be able to sample any beer.

You must be 21 or older to enter, and you must show a valid government-issued ID verifying your age. Leave Fido at home. Pups are not allowed inside the Lombard Ale Festival.

  • Brew to Be Wild: Friday, June 17 – Saturday, June 18

Get wild over craft beer at the second annual Brew to Be Wild event at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This adults-only event serves up a chance for you to wander the zoo while sipping on over 75 specialty craft brews from more than 35 breweries. Part of the proceeds go back to the zoo to help with operating costs.

While you’re there, check out animals, play lawn games and listen to music from DJs. Food is also available.

Here’s what you need to know. This is a 21 and over event. General admission costs $49 and includes 20 3-ounce samples, plus a souvenir tasting glass. VIP and designated driver options are also available.

  • Chicago Food Truck Festival: Saturday, June 25 – Sunday, June 26

We may be a little biased, but this event is one you don’t want to miss — and it’s not just because we’ll be there ready to serve you. It’s because you get to experience all the best Chicago food trucks in one place. Your biggest problem will be deciding how to narrow down your options. We suggest wearing elastic-waist pants and indulging.

This festival started in 2014, and now in its 3rd year, it’s one you won’t want to miss. There were over 50 trucks at last year’s event, and this year is bound to be even bigger. With that much variety, everyone in your group is sure to find multiple options.

The best part? General admission is free. That leaves you with more moolah to spend on all of the amazing food. If you don’t like crowds, considering shelling out $10 for a VIP ticket, which gets you in the door an hour early and lands you two drink tickets.

Even though the event is free, you still need a ticket — which you can find online. You can also order VIP tickets and tickets for drinks, including sangria, wine and beer.

This is a family-friendly event, but pets are not allowed. Limited seating is available, but you are allowed to bring your own chair if you want to ensure a seat. Food trucks will sell smaller taste portions, which means more room in your tummy to try more food. The event includes live music and outdoor games to keep you entertained while you wait for all of the food to digest.

Arts & Entertainment

  • Old Town Art Fair: Saturday, June 11 – Sunday, June 12

Experience the #1 art fair according to ArtFairCalendar.com when you stop by the Old Town Art Fair. An estimated 30,000 art lovers are expected to attend the event, where they can see the work of 250 nationally acclaimed artists. The art spans many mediums, including mixed media, drawing, photography, painting, ceramics, fiber, glass and jewelry.

Admission is a donation of $10. Kids are welcome to attend and are free with a paying adult. Proceeds go to local youth groups and neighborhood projects.

Other activities include a garden walk, live music from local talent, food court and a children’s craft area.

  • Zombie March: Saturday, June 18

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Want to be part of the entertainment? Mark June 18th on your calendar, and show up at the Millennium Park bean in your best zombie gear. This is your chance to act like a zombie. The march starts at the bean and stumbles through the area until you make your way back to Millennium Park.

Come dressed as a zombie so you look the part as you wander zombie-like through the area. Don’t touch people who aren’t part of the march, though. Not everyone gets as excited as you about zombies.

 

  • Zoo Pride Chicago: Thursday, June 25

Head to the Brookfield Zoo to show your Pride for the LGBTQ community. The zoo is open regular hours during the day, with the extra touch of rainbow flags throughout the zoo.

Things really start to get wild from 7 to 10pm, when the zoo hosts a special LGBTQ cocktail party. With your $60 ticket, you get to enjoy the cocktail party, with open bar, as well as limited animal exhibits. You can also get up close and personal with some animals during a special program. The evening event is for the 21 and over crowd.

Music

  • Spring Awakening: Friday, June 10 – Sunday, June 12

Awaken your love of electronic music with the 5th annual Spring Awakening Music Festival this June. What started as a concert series has since blossomed in to a three-day music festival. Initially held at Soldier Field, the festival had to move venues this year due to a soccer tournament. The event is now scheduled to take place at Addams/Medill Park.

What will you hear at this festival? Electronic dance music from the likes of Above & Beyond, Kaskade, Chainsmokers, Deadmau5 and Dillon Francis. Not ready to end your night? You’ll find several after parties to keep your electronic groove going.

The festival is 18 and older with an ID required, and once you’re in, you’re in — no re-entry allowed. Be prepared to be searched when you enter, too. If you don’t want security rifling through your bag, leave it at home to get through the security checkpoint faster.

  • Jazzin’ at the Shedd: Wednesday evenings from June 22 to September 14

Prefer jazz to electronic music? The Shedd Aquarium has one of the best Chicago events to match your tastes. Every Wednesday evening from June 22 to September 14, the smooth sounds of live jazz take over the aquarium. You can enjoy the indoor aquarium exhibits and outdoor terraces, plus a stingray touch experience for an extra fee. This weekly event even includes fireworks.

Tickets cost $18 if you buy them online or $20 at the door. The Stingray Touch costs an additional $3.

  • Make Music Chicago: Tuesday, June 21

Want to make music instead of listen to it? Or do you prefer local, real people making music? Don’t miss Make Music Chicago. This day of music presents more than 200 performances at more than 90 venues throughout the city. Any musician, whether experienced or not, can register as an artist to connect with a venue to perform.

If you don’t want to take a seat in the spotlight, you can still share your musical talent via play-alongs and sing-alongs throughout the city. You’ll also find DJs in Midway Plaisance, a hip-hop festival at 2 North Riverside Plaza, folk music in Welles Park, bagpipers on the Riverwalk and fiddlers in Lincoln Park Zoo, just to name a few.

  • LakeShake Festival: Friday, June 17 – Sunday, June 19

For the country music lovers, LakeShake Festival should definitely make it on your list of June Chicago music events. Just a few of the acts include Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride and Jason Aldean. In addition to live country music by the lake, the festival includes games, a beer garden, henna, a market and vertigo swings.

One-day tickets cost $99.50. Three-day tickets cost $225. This is an all-ages festival, so even your kids can attend. You can leave and re-enter twice per day.

July

The mercury is rising, and so is the summer fun in Chicago. The food, art and music events keep coming in July. Which events will you add to your calendar?

Food & Drink

  • Taste of Chicago: Wednesday, July 6 – Sunday, July 10

Since 1980, the Taste of Chicago has been serving up diverse food options at one of the most popular Chicago food events. The five-day event takes place in Grant Park and offers free admission.

Many local restaurants serve up their dishes throughout the festival. Love the idea of pop-up restaurants but don’t know where to find them? Taste of Chicago has them — so don’t miss out on the restaurants that only last a few days. If you prefer the food truck trend, you’ll find those at the Taste, too.

But food isn’t all you’ll find. Buy tickets for performances at the Petrillo Music Shell with artists including the Roots, Billy Idol and the Isley Brothers. The Bud Light stage features additional performances from Chicago-area artists. If you want an upscale dining experience, buy a ticket for the Celebrity Chef du Jour three-course meal.

Food and drinks are paid for with tickets. You can get strips of 12 tickets for $8.50. Vendors also offer “Taste of” portion sizes for $2.50 or less, so you can sample lots of tasty foods. The event is family friendly.

  • Roscoe Village Burger Fest: Saturday, July 9 – Sunday, July 10

Nothing says summer like a sizzling burger on the grill. This festival centers around the beloved burger. Whether you prefer beef, veggie or turkey, you’ll find several of the city’s finest burger vendors waiting to convince you theirs is the best.

What would a summer festival be without music, though? It just wouldn’t be quite right, so Roscoe Village Burger Fest offers up two stages with a full line-up of musical acts. The Kids’ Zone area keeps the younger attendees busy, and you can peruse art and craft vendors. Vote for your favorite burger before you leave to help crown this year’s People’s Choice Award.

  • The Big Greek Food Fest of Niles: Friday, July 15 – Sunday, July 17

Experience the tastes, sights and sounds of Greece without leaving Illinois at the Big Greek Food Fest of Niles. This festival serves up authentic Greek food, from gyros to souvlaki. Finish on a sweet note with baklava or another Greek pastry.

Food isn’t the only way to experience Greece at this festival, however. Take in live Greek music, Greek folk dancers and Greek cooking demonstrations. Shop the jewelry and novelty tent, or watch a film about Greece. You’ll even find a Kids’ Corner with child-friendly activities.

Admission is free until 5pm. It’s only $2 after that, with kids under 12 getting in for free.

  • Chicago Craft Beer Festival: Saturday, July 23 – Sunday, July 24

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Sip your favorite craft brew at the 5th annual Chicago Craft Beer Festival. Brewers from Chicago and beyond share their best specialty, seasonal and small-batch brews. If you want to actually taste those brews, get tickets early. Organizers are capping the tasting session tickets to 2,500 per day.

Admission is $35, and that gets you 15 tickets, each good for a 3-ounce sample. This is a 21 and over event. The beer festival coincides with the Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk, which is held in the same area, so you can double up on fun.

Arts & Entertainment

  • Millennium Art Festival: Friday, July 8 – Sunday, July 10

Explore a number of mediums at one of the top 50 art and design shows, according to Sunshine Artist magazine. This year marks the 7th anniversary of this annual Chicago art festival. You’ll find paintings, photography, ceramics and even furniture filling the urban streets. Live performances and food keep the fun going. Channel your inner artist by adding to the freestanding graffiti wall. Admission is free.

  • Ethnic Arts Festival: Saturday, July 16 – Sunday, July 17

Celebrate global diversity at the 31st annual Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival. This event is free to the public and includes art, food, dance and music from many countries. You can also see spoken word performances at the festival.

  • Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival: Sunday, July 24 – Sunday, July 31

Soak in a week’s worth of independent films at the end of July when Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival takes over the AMC Randhurst 12 in Mount Prospect. The not-for-profit organization screens each movie in one theater over the course of the week. Judges watch the movies right along with the audience for the first time. The event also includes Q&A sessions and panels with some of the filmmakers.

Buy a pass ahead of time for $75 to cover all screenings during the festival plus spotlight events, such as the Blue Carpet Opening Night.

Music

  • Lollapalooza: Thursday, July 28 – Sunday, July 31

When you think of Chicago music festivals, Lollapalooza is likely one of the first things that comes to mind. This music festival has been around since 1991. It features eight stages with over 170 bands from around the world. And they don’t just focus on music. The organizers strategically choose favorite restaurants to serve up festival fare that isn’t your typical carnival-style food.

Leave your bag at home, and you can jump in the express line for faster entry. Bring a bag, and you’ll have to wait to have it inspected. You can reenter up to three times per day.

Kidzapalooza offers a safe, child-friendly area in Grant Park so the whole family can enjoy the festival, including kid-friendly activities and music.

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  • West Fest: Friday, July 8 – Sunday, July 10

Enjoy a local slant on the music festival with West Fest. This locally planned and managed festival started in 2004 and continues to grow each year. In 2015, the event featured three stages with more than 100 vendors. More than 40,000 people attended. The event includes a DJ stage, which will feature location, national and international DJs.

Have kids? Head to West Fest Kid Fest, which is within the festival site, for pony rides, family-friendly music, games and more.

Have pets? Head to the Pet Fest area, where you’ll find mobile grooming, obstacle courses, bathing pools and more for your furry friend.

A requested donation of $5 gets you in the gate so you can enjoy all of the fun. Proceeds go to the Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy and West Town Chamber of Commerce. Pet Fest proceeds go to local animal shelters.

August

Just like July, the heat is on in August. Stay cool with one of these fan-favorite events.

Food & Drink

  • Chicago Hot Dog Fest: Friday, August 5 – Sunday, August 7

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For the third year in a row, you can celebrate Chicago’s love of the hot dog at this summer festival. Located in Lincoln Park, this three-day event serves up hot dogs from a number of vendors. The 2016 festival also promises to offer a robust musical lineup and a kids’ area with family-friendly activities.

  • Taste of Lincoln Avenue: Saturday, August 6 – Sunday, August 7

More than 50,000 people attend the annual Taste of Lincoln Avenue, which serves as a fundraiser for the Wrightwood Neighbors Association. It started way back in 1984, making it one of the older festivals in the area. The fun happens right along Lincoln Avenue both days of the festival.

Taste of Lincoln Avenue sprinkles in a bit of everything: food, craft vendors, five stages and a Kids’ Carnival. The carnival area features a giant slide, pony rides, face painting, rides and games. Admission is $10 for a full day, with additional costs to buy tickets for activities in the Kids’ Carnival area.

  • Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Fest: Saturday, August 29

Enjoy beer, bourbon and whiskey — over 35 to choose from — with a side of barbecue at this summer event. This festival is held indoors, so you don’t have to worry about melting in the Chicago heat or getting rained out.

This is a 21 and over event. Your admission grants you 20 samples, which are ¼-ounce for bourbon and whiskey and 10 ounces for beer.

Arts & Entertainment

  • Kite Festival: Saturday, August 13 – Sunday, August 14

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Discover the beauty of kites at the Kite Festival at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Watch as experts perform amazing kite-flying techniques and stunts. Take a stab at creating your own kite during one of the kite-making workshops.

  • Midnight Circus in the Parks: Saturday, August 27 – Sunday, August 28

Midnight Circus started as an open-air circus in a neighborhood park and has grown into a nationally-renowned tented circus tour. The circus visits many area parks in August, September and October, starting in Ogden Park the last weekend of August.

Midnight Circus started 10 years ago when a group of performers found out the playground at their local park was being downsized. They held the circus as a fundraiser and continue to raise money for the community. So far, the organization has raised almost $800,000 for park improvements.

  • Port Clinton Art Festival: Saturday, August 27 – Sunday, August 28

Highland Park welcomes artists and art fans to the annual Port Clinton Art Festival. This popular art show is celebrating its 33rd year. It draws around 250,000 people each year, with more than 260 artists showing their work at the festival. Young artists under 18 have their own division.

This is a family-friendly event with interactive art demonstrations, kids’ art activities and a scavenger hunt designed for kids.

This event is free to attend and offers free parking.

Music

  • Reggae Fest Chicago: Saturday, August 13

Love reggae? This festival has your name all over it. This one-day musical event takes place rain or shine. Bring the whole family to enjoy a day of reggae. Children 10 and under get in free. Adults will need a ticket, with general admission starting at $37.50. VIP admission is also available and offers a closer seat, specialty bar and perks like VIP-only porta-potties.

The event features two stages with eclectic genres, including ska, roots reggae, reggaeton and world music. Some of the artists who will perform include Toots & the Maytals, Iration, Lee “Scratch” Perry and HEPCAT.

Fuel yourself with the food truck vendors and the many drink options, including island-themed cocktails. You can also buy handmade products at the festival.

  • The Fest for Beatles Fans: Friday, August 12 – Sunday, August 14

Beatles fans descend upon the Hyatt Regency O’Hare each year to celebrate the music they love. Dress up like your favorite Beatle to enter the look-alike contest. Show off your classic moves at the dance party or take in a guest speaker, games and exhibits. This event is on year number 40 and is sure to be a favorite.

September

Ah, September. School is back in session. The soaring summer temperatures are starting to let up. There’s nothing like a perfect September day to explore the city.

Check out these September food, art and music events as your last summer hurrah.

Food & Drink

  • Windy City Wine Festival: Friday, September 9 – Saturday, September 10

We’ve covered multiple beer festivals, but the Windy City Wine Festival is a solid choice for those who prefer to sip vino. The festival serves up over 300 wines, with experts on hand for seminars and cooking demonstrations.

Enjoy wine tastings, music and seminars. Your $35 ticket gets you 12 tastings, a pint of beer, discounts on wine and access to the entertainment.

  • Summer WingFest: Saturday, September 5

Previously held in February, this festival dedicated to wings is moving to Labor Day weekend for its 17th year. The expanded indoor/outdoor space means an increase in food vendors, beer and music. The festival includes market vendors and carnival games to round out the line-up.

This festival is expected to sell out, so grab your $40 tickets early if you want to attend. Your admission earns you unlimited wings and all of the fun entertainment on the schedule.

  • Great American Lobster Fest: Friday, September 2 – Saturday, September 3

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Experience the flavors of the East Coast without leaving Chicago at the Great American Lobster Fest. For the 3rd year, this seafood festival — the largest lobster and seafood festival in the Midwest — takes over the Navy Pier. Live lobster gets flown in from the East Coast for the freshest flavors.

Lobster isn’t the only thing highlighting this festival. You’ll also enjoy live music, family-friendly activities and craft shopping. Not a seafood fan? You’ll have land food options as well.

Customize your experience by choosing from a variety of ticket options, including a VIP experience. Outdoor areas are open to the public for free and include food vendors. Indoor performances require a ticket.

  • Sam Adams Lakeview Taco Fest: Saturday, September 17 – Sunday, September 18

It seems that Chicago has a dedicated festival for almost every type of food, so it only makes sense to see a taco festival on the schedule. This marks the 4th year for the festival. Choose from a wide range of taco vendors serving up all sort of tacos. You can even opt for a special taco and beer pairing.

Vote for your favorite taco in the Best Taco competition.   Two stages provide entertainment, with Mexican wrestlers already on the agenda.

Arts & Entertainment

  • Ravenswood ArtWalk: Saturday, September 10 – Sunday, September 11

Ravenswood ArtWalk started in 2002 and has steadily grown to include over 300 artists in 40 locations. The goal is to celebrate art and industry, with a particular focus on the creative industry in Ravenswood. During the event, Ravenswood Avenue gets transformed with tents full of artists’ work. You’ll also find several studios and shops featuring art, as well as live musical performances and demonstrations. A beer garden, food truck area and children’s activities make the ArtWalk a great place to spend the day.

  • Andersonville City Made Fest: Saturday, September 17 – Sunday, September 18

Want to support local talent? Head to Andersonville for the City Made Fest. Here you’ll find musicians, craft beers, food and an artisan marketplace, all exclusively featuring Chicago talent. Proceeds benefit the Eco-Andersonville programs, so you can help out the city while supporting your local artists.

  • Soul Love Fest: Saturday, September 17 – Sunday, September 18

Leave the city behind, and spend a weekend at Arranmore Farm and Polo Club for this two-day retreat designed for yogis. The goal of the retreat is to reconnect with yourself and to learn to listen to your heart. The event features over 100 workshops, classes and outdoor activities, plus vendors.

This is an 18 and over event. A two-day pass will run you about $150.

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Music

  • Chicago Jazz Festival: Thursday, September 1 – Sunday, September 4

Head to Millennium Park on Labor Day weekend to check out the free Chicago Jazz Festival. This popular festival started back in 1979 and continues its mission of highlighting jazz talent from Chicago and beyond. Each day of the festival, several jazz musicians take the stage, and all performances are free. You’ll find a selection of food available at the concession tent during the festival.

  • North Coast Music Festival: Friday, September 2 – Sunday, September 4

Unlike most music festivals that focus on only one type of music, the North Coast Music Festival brings together a wide range of musical genres from folk and rock to hip hop and DJs. The festival started in 2010 as an annual Labor Day music fest in Union Park, and that tradition continues in 2016.

Performers at this year’s event include Odesza, Bassnectar, Zedd and Grouplove to name a few. With such a wide range in musical styles, you’re sure to find at least one performance you love. Tickets for the event run about $159 for all three days, with VIP options available.

  • Riot Fest: Friday, September 16 – Sunday, September 18

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For the 12th year, Riot Fest Chicago helps wind down the summer music festival season with some of your favorite rock bands. Some of the highlights of the line-up include Morrissey, Rob Zombie, Death Cab for Cutie, NAS, Deftones, Jimmy Eat World and Bad Religion, but the options include many more performances you’ll want to see.

The festival takes place in Douglas Park, with three-day tickets running around $170.

Experience Chicago in Summer

Which Chicago summer events are you most excited to attend? While you’re in town exploring the summer food, art and music scenes, stop by Giordano’s for the full Chicago experience with one of our classic Chicago deep dish pizzas. You can order your pizza online, and we ship frozen pizza packs in case you long for a taste of Chicago after you leave.