In the summer, the city’s downtown and lakefront are filled with the sound of music, as revelers dance, mingle, and celebrate the city’s astounding musical legacy through a series of free festivals. Here, we highlight six of the summer’s biggest free music festivals in Chicago, bringing together the very best in gospel, blues, jazz, classical, and world music.
Chicago Gospel Music Festival
Celebrating the genre’s deep Chicago roots with traditional choirs and contemporary urban gospel music, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival kicks off the summer festival season on an exuberant note. The line-up features local and national artists in performances at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park.
Chicago Blues Festival
The Chicago Blues Festival in Millennium Park is the largest free blues festival in the world. Over four days each June, more than 500,000 blues fans and a lineup of renowned musicians prove that Chicago is indeed the “Blues Capital of the World.” Past performers include Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, B.B. King, the late Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, and the late Koko Taylor.
Grant Park Music Festival
Head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for the nation’s only free, outdoor classical music series of its kind — the Grant Park Music Festival. 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 all summer long. Spread out on the Great Lawn and enjoy.
Chicago Jazz Festival
The longest-running of the city’s lakefront music festivals, the Chicago Jazz Festival is also one of the most popular. Known for its artistic creativity, the Labor Day weekend 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.
World Music Festival
The annual World Music Festival Chicago in late summer/early fall brings music from all over the globe to Chicago for this popular multi-day festival. The city-wide, multi-venue celebration features over 30 artists from 22 countries at venues around Chicago including the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, and Navy Pier.