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 Saturday 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.

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.

Odyssey Fourth of July cruises: Get out on the water with Odyssey Cruises. They offer a little something for everyone, including seated dinners with premium open bars, an architecture brunch cruise, skyline lunch cruises, and more.

Shoreline Sightseeing Fourth of July 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.

Seadog Cruises: Get your adrenaline pumping on a exhilarating lakefront cruise. Seadog offers high speed boat rides that take you along the gorgeous Chicago skyline, with music and amusing narration.

Chicago’s First Lady 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.

Spirit of Chicago cruises: Looking for a late-night option? The Moonlight Cruise will have you dancing all night long. Spirit of Chicago also offers lunch and dinner lakefront cruises.

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 to fit whatever you’re looking for. Join 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 now open with some remaining restrictions. The Riverwalk restaurants and bars are opening in phases and may require reservations, so make sure to check with specific vendors before heading out.

Visit a patio or rooftop

Utopian Tailgate patio
Utopian Tailgate

Chicago’s many patios and rooftops are open for business. 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 has started a phased reopening, welcoming visitors and locals back to the Pier. While some attractions and amenities remain closed, there’s still plenty to do at Navy Pier:

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 seven unique neighborhoods. The trail will be open for walking, biking, running, and rollerblading from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

Rent a boat


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.

Host an at-home dance party

Summer Dance at Taste of Chicago

SummerDance is a classic Chicago festival, designed to get people dancing in parks across the city. This year, enjoy an at-home version from anywhere.

SummerDance in Place will be hosting a special Fourth of July edition that invites residents to host socially distant dance parties of up to 10 people — in their homes and backyards, and on porches, balconies and sidewalks — that will be connected via a live broadcast.  The July 4 program will include a 30-minute salsa lesson by Latin Street followed by 60 minutes of music by Afinca’o, recorded at Millennium Park.

Chosen Few Virtual House Music Festival

House Music Festival
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the City of Chicago

The Chosen Few Picnic & House Music Festival is a Fourth of July favorite. With no in-person event this year, the Chosen Few are taking the fest online. Enjoy their free virtual event on July 4 featuring live-streamed performances and DJ sets from the Chosen Few DJs and more all day long.

Listen to patriotic classics

The Grant Park Music Festival‘s Independence Day Salute is a 4th of July tradition. Since they can’t perform live this year, they’ll be broadcasting a virtual evening of all-American favorites featuring the Grant Park Orchestra and conductor Christopher Bell. Hear America the Beautiful, 1812 Overture, Stars and Stripes Forever, and more classics. Tune in on YouTube at 6 p.m. on July 4.