One of the best times to experience summer in Chicago is the Fourth of July. The whole city takes on a festive vibe, particularly when there’s a long weekend in store. And with the holiday landing on a Sunday this year, it’s the perfect excuse to spend the whole weekend enjoying everything the city has to offer. Explore river and lake cruises, kayak and boat rentals, outdoor dining, and more things to do in Chicago during the Fourth of July.

See the fireworks

The 2021 fireworks display will take place on July 3 at 9:30 p.m. Head to the lakefront from Grand Avenue and to 55th Street to see the spectacular waterfront show.

Traditionally, the Fourth of July fireworks show is held at Navy Pier each year. Check back for 2022 details!

Take a Fourth of July boat cruise

Seadog cruise
Seadog Cruise

Nothing says “holiday weekend” like a leisurely boat cruise. In Chicago, you can gaze up at skyscrapers on the river or admire the skyline from the blue waters of Lake Michigan. Whether you’re looking to learn a little history or drink and dance the night away, there’s a Chicago cruise for you this Fourth of July.

City Experiences lake cruises: Get out on the water with these upscale cruises. Choose from premier brunch, lunch, and dinner Fourth of July cruises, all with stunning skyline views.

Shoreline Sightseeing lake and river cruises: Learn all about Chicago’s iconic architecture on a Shoreline Sightseeing cruise. The lake tours departs from Navy Pier, river tours depart from Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue.

Chicago Seadog lake and river cruises: Get your adrenaline pumping on a exhilarating lakefront cruise. Seadog offers high speed boat rides that take you along the gorgeous Chicago skyline, departing from Navy Pier.

Chicago’s First Lady river cruises: Hear the fascinating stories behind the city’s most famous buildings on these top-rated architecture cruises led by expert Chicago Architecture Center docents. Choose from a daytime or evening cruise.

Island Party Boat: It’s always a party on these tiki-themed boats. The popular Tiki Bar river cruise features tropical cocktails and island tunes. And don’t miss bottomless mimosa cruises on Sundays.

Wendella Boats: Wendella offers a variety of flexible cruise options, including a narrated architecture tour of the lake, river, or both, with 45 or 90 minute options.

Explore the Chicago Riverwalk

Where else can you find an urban canyon filled with delicious food, cocktails, public art, architecture, and stunning views? The Chicago Riverwalk is one of the city’s top destinations, whether you’re looking for an unforgettable meal or a scenic stroll. Check out the waterfront restaurants and bars, and come back after dark for Art on theMART, the world’s largest video art projection.

Go to the beach

Volleyball at North Avenue Beach
Photo by Adam Alexander

It’s a long weekend, so make sure to save some time to kick back and relax on one of Chicago’s scenic beaches. Grab some friends and play a round of beach volleyball, get a tropical drink at a waterfront bar, or just hang out in the sand and enjoy the city views.

And there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the vast waters of Lake Michigan. You can rent a variety of equipment right on the beach, including jet skis, kayaks, and paddle boards. There’s also banana boat rides, paddle board yoga, water jetpacks, and more. Plus, the skyline view from the lake is spectacular.

Visit a patio or rooftop

Aba Rooftop Patio
Photo by Jeff Marini

Chicago’s many patios and rooftops offer acclaimed food and drink with a side of killer views. Enjoy cocktails with sweeping river views at LH Rooftop, fun vibes and table games at Utopian Tailgate, street tacos and pitchers of margaritas at Big Star, and cozy vibes and top-notch cuisine at The Duck Inn. Explore Chicago restaurants with outdoor seating.

Kayak the river

The Chicago River is buzzing with activity during the summer. Rent a kayak with Urban Kayaks and paddle through the heart of the city, past the bustling Riverwalk and some of the city’s most iconic buildings.

Explore Navy Pier

Chicago water taxi parked at Navy Pier

One of the city’s most popular attractions is welcoming visitors and locals back to the Pier. And there’s something for all ages — kids will love the carnival rides, adults won’t want to miss the beer garden with live music. Check out things to do at Navy Pier:

Listen to patriotic classics

The Grant Park Music Festival‘s Independence Day Salute is a 4th of July tradition. Catch their live concerts in the soaring outdoor pavilion in Millennium Park on July 2 and 3, 2021. The event is free, but reservations are required for the Seating Bowl and the Great Lawn.

Walk or bike the lakefront

Fullerton Beach Skyline
Photo by Adam Alexander

Chicago’s gorgeous Lakefront Trail stretches almost 20 miles along Lake Michigan, offering stunning skyline views and connecting you to an array of sandy beaches and seven unique neighborhoods.

Rent a boat

riverwalk-private-yacht

Be captain for a day with your very own boat rental. It’s the perfect way to get out on the water, while practicing safe social distancing.

Charter a private yacht with Free Spirit Yacht Cruises for a luxurious Fourth of July experience. Island Party Boats offers boat rentals that include a captain, booze, and even a waterslide. Or cruise along the river in an affordable and eco-friendly electric boat from Chicago Electric Boat Company.