Be sure to make time for these free-admission Chicago lakefront and citywide summer festivals.
Chicago Gospel Music Festival
June 3-4, 2016
Settle in for some powerful performances at the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. The free admission festival celebrates the genre's foundational roots in Chicago and will bring together local and national artists to the stunning downtown stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. 2016 headliners include Percy Gray, Jr. & Joshua's Troop, New Direction, Chicago Mass Choir, and Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir.
Chicago Blues Festival
June 10-12, 2016
The largest free blues festival in the world takes place across five stages at Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park. More than half a million fans gather at this annual event where blues legends showcase their musical talents. The largest of Chicago's music festivals puts the city on stage as the "Blues Capital of the World." This year's headliners include Shemekia Copeland, Fred Wesley and the New J.B.s, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, and Irma Thomas.
Grant Park Music Festival
June 16-August 19, 2016
Head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for the nation's only free, outdoor classical music series of its kind. The Grammy-nominated Grant Park Orchestra, along with the 100-plus-member Grant Park Chorus and special guest performers and conductors, bring the sounds of Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and more to Millennium Park. Spread out on the Great Lawn and enjoy.
Chicago Jazz Festival
September 1-4, 2016
The longest running of the city's lakefront music festivals, Chicago Jazz Festival has been a Labor Day weekend tradition for over 30 years. Known for its artistic creativity, the festival promotes awareness and appreciation for all forms of jazz through free live musical performances at two stunning downtown venues: the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park. This year's lineup includes trumpeter, composer and bandleader Orbert Davis; late bass legend Charlie Haden's politically-charged Liberation Music Orchestra; The Bad Plus; and an all-star celebration of Cuban percussionist Candido Camero's 95th birthday.
World Music Festival
September 9-25, 2016
This city-wide, multi-venue, 11-day festival is celebrating 18 years. Since 1999, this free fest has attracted over 600,000 concert-goers and has presented more than 600 artists and ensembles from over 80 countries. Free performances take you into Chicago's top live clubs, while marquee names also take to the gorgeous, open-air stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.
June 24-September 11, 2016
Visit Grant Park's Spirit of Music Garden for free dancing lessons and free live music on an alfresco stage. Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, professional instructors lead dancers of all ages and skill levels through one-hour dance lessons in styles like samba, cha-cha and tango, followed by two-hours of live music and dancing. It's the perfect way to learn some new moves while enjoying a summer evening.
More Ideas: Free Neighborhood Festivals
For a lively weekend, head to one of the hundred street festivals that pop up in the neighborhoods. Celebrating everything from LGBTQ pride to ethnic heritage to various musical genres, these outdoor parties offer food, drink, shopping and entertainment — generally for just a small donation of $5-10 to enter. Get the full festival lineup.