You don’t need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of fun things to do all around the city. Here are 10 of our favorite free events and activities this month in Chicago, including exciting neighborhood festivals, cultural celebrations, dance events, live music, free museum days, and so much more. Start planning your budget-friendly Chicago adventures for August 2022.

1. Attend the Bud Billiken Parade

Bud Biliken Parade

The annual Bud Billiken Parade is a long-standing Chicago tradition and the largest African American parade in the United States. Every summer since 1929, the joyous procession of bands, floats, dancers, and more kicks off the start of the school year and celebrates the culture of Chicago’s historic south side neighborhoods. This year’s parade on Aug. 13 stretches two miles through Bronzeville and into Washington Park.

2. Catch the Air & Water Show

Air and Water Show

The Chicago Air and Water Show is one of the city’s most spectacular and beloved summer events. A longstanding tradition for more than 60 years, this Lake Michigan spectacle has grown into the largest free show of its kind in the country. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with practice flyovers on Aug. 19. Check out a few our of favorite places to watch the show.

3. Party at Market Days

Northalsted Market Days
Northalsted Market Days, photo by Steven Koch

One of the largest street festivals in the country, Northalsted Market Days is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The festival, which draws more than 100,000 people, boasts all-day lineups of live music on multiple stages, unique vendors, and DJs and dancing in the historic Northalsted neighborhood, the country’s oldest official LGBTQ+ neighborhood. Admission is free, but the $15 suggested donation supports local non-profits.

4. Catch movies, music, and more in Millennium Park

Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion
Abel Arciniega :: @tequilagraphics

Summer means plenty of fun and free events in iconic Millennium Park, from major music festivals to movie screenings under the stars. Check out the lineup of free shows coming to the Pritzker Pavilion this August.

  • Millennium Park Summer Film Series: Every summer in Chicago, visitors and locals flock to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion to watch blockbusters, award-winning movies, family classics, and cult favorites. This month’s films include Dirty Dancing, Knives Out, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings, and more.
  • Millennium Park Summer Workouts: Break a sweat with free yoga, Zuma, and tai chi classes against the skyline backdrop.
  • Millennium Park Music Series: Grab a spot on the grass and enjoy free weekly concerts by local and national artists. August brings Ana Tijoux, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Cimafunk, Black Monument Ensemble, and more.
  • Grant Park Music Festival: This 80-year tradition brings free classical music to Millennium Park all summer long. This month’s highlights include a Mariachi Fiesta, a Choral Spectacular, and Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty.

Check out the full Millennium Park events calendar.

5. Check out a street festival

August in Chicago is packed with neighborhood events, from outdoor markets to art fairs to lively street fests. Check out just a few highlights you’ll find this month:

  • Argyle Night Market: Sample delicious Asian street food, catch live cultural and musical performances and hang out in the new alfresco beer garden every Thursday evening.
  • Bronzeville Summer Nights: Take a stroll through this historic neighborhood to see the area’s community and commerce with live performances on Aug. 12.
  • Maxwell Street Market: Browse an eclectic array of handmade crafts, live music, and street food vendors at this long-running Sunday market.
  • Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest: This arts-centric fest has taken over the streets of Rogers Park for the past 20 years, with artists, craft workers, live music, and more from Aug. 19 – 21.
  • Edison Park Fest: For its 50th anniversary, Edison Park Festival will pull out all the stops with a bike parade, an extreme trampoline show, carnival rides, games, live music, and more from Aug. 12 – 14.
  • Sundays on State: Join this free, interactive block party featuring art, culture, shopping, dining, and more on Aug. 7 and 21.
  • Chalk Howard Street: Artists and art lovers gather to transform Howard Street in Rogers Park into a colorful canvas using chalk art on Aug. 27.

6. Celebrate the Year of Chicago Dance

Chicago is home to an innovative and influential dance scene, and you can get a taste during the Year of Chicago Dance. All summer long, you’ll find free outdoor performances and fun lessons on Navy Pier and throughout Chicago’s neighborhood parks, including:

  • Year of Chicago Dance Showcase: This free event in Millennium Park will feature dance companies from all around the city on Saturday, Aug. 27.
  • Wave Wall Moves: Pop-up dance performances featuring a rotating roster of dance companies at Navy Pier.
  • Chicago SummerDance: Learn some new moves with live music and dance classes held in Chicago parks, celebrating a diverse variety of genres.
  • Mural Dances: Parks across the city will host these free performances, where local dancers and musicians create and perform projects inspired by Chicago’s vibrant neighborhood murals.

Find more events and performances during the Year of Chicago Dance.

7. See the fireworks

NYE Fireworks at Navy Pier

The Navy Pier fireworks display is one of the most iconic parts of a Chicago summer. The dazzling free show will light up the sky on Wednesdays and Saturdays this August. You catch the show on the Pier, at Offshore Rooftop, on a boat cruise, or along the lakefront.

8. Enjoy a free museum day

Clayton Hauck for Choose Chicago

Spend an afternoon wandering through a Chicago museum, where you can dive into fascinating local history, provocative contemporary art, and galaxies far far away. Here are the upcoming free museum days in Chicago this month:

You can also check out one of the city’s always-free museums, like the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Hyde Park Art Center. And check out free museum days throughout the year.

9. Hear live jazz at a museum

Tuesdays on the Terrace at the MOCAC
Tuesdays on the Terrace

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s popular Tuesdays on the Terrace series is back, with free weekly concerts on the museum’s lawn. The shows highlight artists from Chicago’s internationally renowned jazz community. Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnics; light refreshments and a full bar with cold beverages, wine, and cocktails are available for sale.

10. Discover a new neighborhood

Chicago Greeter is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and marking the occasion with free pop-up InstaGreeter tours all summer long! Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there’s always something new to discover in Chicago. Get to know a new neighborhood on a free Chicago Greeter tour, led by a friendly local who will show you each neighborhood’s landmarks, hot spots, and hidden gems.

Looking for more? Check out our guide on free things to do in Chicago all year long.