Summer is in full-swing in Chicago, and if you’re tired of going to BBQs and the beach, there are a ton of other free events and activities our fine city has to offer, including film screenings, art festivals, music events and one of the country’s biggest food festivals!
Fourth of July Fireworks
Head down to the lakefront or Millennium Park early, as large crowds are expected for this dazzling fireworks display over Lake Michigan for Fourth of July. Navy Pier is also celebrating its 101st birthday on July 15th. Featured events include music and live performances, as well as a community picnic.
Taste of Chicago
July 5 to July 9
Taste of Chicago has been the nation’s premier outdoor food festival since 1980. Head on over to Grant Park for the 5-day event, featuring tons of dining options (including a beer hall, wine garden and cocktail lounge), musical performances, and activities for the whole family. Entrance is free, but food tickets are available for purchase.
Millennium Art Festival
July 7 to 9
The three-day art and design show on Michigan Avenue will feature various styles of painting, ceramics, photography and furniture. You can also expect live performances, interactive stations and tasty treats at the event, which will be celebrating its eighth year. The event has been named one of the “Top 50 Art and Design Shows” by Sunshine Magazine. Visit the Millennium Art Festival website for the complete list of exhibitors.
Millennium Park Summer Film Series
July 11, July 18 & July 25
Film lovers congregate once more as the Millennium Park Summer Film Series returns to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. During this series, attendees are treated to free screenings of films both old and new, every Tuesday. Catch 1983 Spanish classic El Norte on July 11, followed by Oscar-winning film La La Land on July 18, and 1976 satire Network on July 25. Each movie starts at 6:30 p.m., and every spot is a good one thanks to the park’s 40-foot LED screen. The series takes place from June to September. Check the Millennium Park Summer Film series website for the complete schedule.
On Wednesdays in the summer at 7 p.m., you can also catch free films such as Rookie of the Year (July 12), and the original Ghostbusters (July 26) at the Park at Wrigley. Additionally, Chicago Park District’s Movies at the Park offers their own free film screenings throughout Chicago’s public parks.
Thursdays through Sundays in July
Have some fun and work up a sweat at Chicago SummerDance. Thursday through Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, dance to the sounds of several live bands and DJs at eight Chicago neighborhood parks. Don't know how to dance? There will be lessons by professional dance instructors at the start of each session. Work your butt off, and you may just earn a spot on the first SummerDance-Off contest!
Ashore Thing at Navy Pier
Watch hundreds of sailboats race to Mackinac at Ashore Thing, while sipping on wine and cocktails at the cash bar. Hosted by BMO Harris Bank, the Navy Pier event celebrates the longest annual freshwater sailing race in the world, "The Mac", and its parade of boats.
Chinatown Summer Fair
Catch the celebration of Chinese culture at Wentworth Avenue, now in its 39th year. Festivities start at 10 a.m., and feature Chinese cuisine, artisans, martial arts and activities for families, as well as the annual Dragon and Lion Dance Procession. Visit the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce for more information.
The Art Institute of Chicago hosts its 22nd Annual Kaleidoscope Family Day on July 22, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kids and teens can create collaborative art projects with their parents, and have a chance to view drawing exhibitions by Chicago artist Cauleen Smith and cartoonist Saul Seinberg. Museum admission is free during this event.
Disability Pride Parade
The 14th Annual Disability Pride Parade makes its way from Plymouth Court to Daley Plaza at 11 a.m. to raise awareness for people with disabilities. Post-parade festivities start at noon at Daley Plaza. Register to join the parade, or donate to the cause at the Disability Pride Parade website.
Fiesta del Sol
July 27 to 30
An annual fundraising event hosted by the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council (PNCC), Fiesta del Sol is one of the largest Latino festivals in the Midwest. The family-friendly fest draws a crowd of over 1 million during the four-day event every year, and features live entertainment, carnival rides, soccer games, a children’s area and a variety of food. For more information, visit the Fiesta del Sol website.
Where will we find you in July? Will you be taking advantage of any of these free things to do in Chicago? Let us know in the comments below! Find more free summer festivals here, and browse more budget bets on the blog.