Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of summer, and Chicago knows how to celebrate. Each year, the city comes to life with fireworks displays, sunset kayak tours, rooftop bars, waterfront restaurants, and so much more. Here’s our roundup of things to do and see during Memorial Day weekend 2021 in Chicago.

Hit the beach

Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz

Chicago beaches officially open on Memorial Day weekend, so make sure to pack your swimsuit. Swim, tan, play volleyball, or head to a nearby beach bar to enjoy a cold drink with your toes in the sand. Check out our beach guide on the best places to soak up the sun.

See the fireworks at Navy Pier

Navy Pier Shoreline Boats

One of the city’s top attractions is Navy Pier, a waterfront stretch of rides, restaurants, and entertainment and more. Take a spin on the iconic Centennial Wheel and grab a drink at Offshore, the largest rooftop bar in the world. And don’t miss the Memorial Day fireworks show, which will light up the lakefront on Saturday night.

Kayak on the Chicago River

The Chicago River is buzzing with activity during the summer. Rent a kayak and paddle through the heart of the city, where you’ll enjoy up-close views of the bustling Chicago Riverwalk and some of the city’s most iconic buildings. You can also join a sunset or twilight tour, fireworks tour, happy hour paddle, historic Chicago tour, and more.

Eat outside

Friends dine on the patio at Virtue in Hyde Park
Virtue in Hyde Park

Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to dine outdoors in Chicago, whether you want to sip wine on a waterfront patio or enjoy craft cocktails on a scenic rooftop.

Or just stroll through any neighborhood in Chicago, and you’ll have plenty of stellar alfresco spots to choose from.

Cruise along on a boat tour

Take a day-time river cruise to learn about the city’s groundbreaking architecture. Or set sail on the lake at night for dinner, dancing, and dazzling views of the city. On Memorial Day weekend, there’s plenty of cruises and boat tours to choose from on the river and lake. Here’s just a few:

Check out more Chicago boat tours and cruises.

Catch a baseball game

There’s no better place to spend a summer afternoon than the ballpark. Chicago’s iconic MLB teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox will both be playing home games during Memorial Day weekend. The Cubs will play at historic Wrigley Field in Lakeview on Friday, May 28 – Monday, May 31. The Sox will be at Guaranteed Rate in Bridgeport on Friday, May 28 – Sunday, May 30. Learn more about new ticketing and safety procedures.

Explore a Chicago museum

On Memorial Day weekend, visit the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, where you can explore the past, present, and future of the military. Learn about the United States’ most esteemed award for valor in combat with the permanent exhibit Medal of Honor.

Explore more Chicago museums and exhibits.

Explore the Lakefront Trail

The 18-mile Lakefront Trail hugs Lake Michigan and is a popular place for walkers, bikers, and hikers all year long. The scenic path connects to boat harbors, nature sanctuaries, boardwalks, and Chicago’s beaches, which open Memorial Day weekend.

Shop Memorial Day Sales

Don’t forget to take advantage of Chicago’s famous shopping scene as stores promote Memorial Day sales. From the big names that line The Magnificent Mile to the trendy boutiques and locally owned shops in our neighborhoods, start your summer with a fresh new wardrobe.

Get on the lake

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.

Bike around the city

Book a guided bicycle tour with Bobby’s Bike Hike, which offers fun options like a lakefront neighborhoods tour, a night tour, and a bites and brews tour. Or make your way just west of downtown to The 606, a 2.7-mile elevated trail that cuts through some of Chicago’s most hip and eclectic neighborhoods.

Wander around the “city in a garden”

Millennium Park Lurie Garden

Take advantage of the seasonal tours of Lurie Garden, an urban oasis in Millennium Park. Explore the free Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory, home to hundreds of rare, native, and foreign plants. Jackson Park is also particularly beautiful this time of year, including the Osaka Garden.