Whether it's the biggest fireworks show around (Navy Pier has you covered!), mesmerizing portraits at the Art Institute, or seeing jazz legends up on stage at the Chicago Jazz Festival, there's something for everyone in Chicago. Here are some of the top things to see and do over Labor Day weekend.

Shows & festivals


Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 2019
Millennium Park & Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Jazz Festival

The 41st rendition of Chicago's oldest free festival will include a special tribute to Nat King Cole by his brother Freddy Cole and a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Jazz Institute of Chicago. The all-ages, multi-venue festival is the perfect way to wrap up the summer in Chicago. Check out the full schedule.


North Coast Music Festival

Aug. 30 – 31, 2019
Huntington Bank Pavilion 

The North Coast Music Festival brings an array of electronic artists to Chicago's Northerly Island. This year's headliners include Bassnectar, Major Lazer, and Flux Pavilion. Check out ticket options.


Aug. 30 – Sept. 1, 2019
Navy Pier

The Great American Lobster Fest

This is the Midwest's largest Lobster and Seafood Festival, held at stunning Navy Pier. Enjoy live lobster flown in fresh from the East Coast, live music, family-friendly games and activities, unique arts/crafts vendors, land food options, and cold beverages. Check out ticket options.


Aus. 30 – Sept. 2, 2019
Jefferson Park

Enjoy four days of live music at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park. Over 30 bands take to 4 stages, while Polish food and beer are served up. Plus, there are bounce inflatables, a climbing wall, face painting, clowns, a casino, tastings and cooking classes, exhibits, carnival rides and games ... and a whole lot more! Tickets range from $5-$10.


Aus. 30 – Sept. 2, 2019
Washington Park

Chicago African Festival of the Arts

Now in its 30th year, the African Festival of the Arts brings a taste of African culture to Washington Park — think traditional drumming, museum quality and collectible artifacts, and vibrant handwoven fabric and textile. Interactive spaces include: Drum & Afro-folk Village, Children and Family, African Heritage, African Spirituality, Wellness (Health) Village, Books and Authors, Fine Art, Film and Video, Food Court, Seniors and Quilting, and the African Marketplace. Tickets are $15 pre-festival and $20 at the gate.

FREE! Navy Pier Summer Fireworks

Aug. 31, 2019
Navy Pier

Don't miss the last chance to catch Navy Pier's spectacular fireworks this summer. The night sky lights up at 10:15pm, but make it a whole day of fun. Navy Pier is home to 50 acres of scenic boardwalk boasting new restaurants, boat tours and attractions like the soaring Centennial Wheel. 

FREE! Music on the Lake at Navy Pier

September 1-3, 2018
Navy Pier

Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier

Swing by the Miller Lite Beer Garden at Navy Pier for free live music and dancing over Labor Day weekend. The weekend's line-up includes:

Saturday: Local Motive, NuBlu Band and Mike & Joe
Sunday: AfroZep, DJ Papa G and Kofi and the New Roots
Monday: Bitter Jester Music Festival

Or catch Wave Wall Wax, a free weekly showcase of local DJs. On Saturday, DJ Ron Carroll will be performing live on the waterfront from 4 – 6 p.m.

Ravinia Music Festival

August 31-September 3, 2018
​Ravinia Park, Gurnee 

Ravinia Lawn

Ravinia Festival is a local favorite. The sprawling outdoor amphitheatre is the perfect place to set up a picnic and enjoy live musiv, from classical to pop to family-friendly shows. Expect a great line up of musical acts this Labor Day weekend, including:

Friday: Jori Vinikaur, OAR & American Authors
Saturday: Miguel Zenon / Dan Tepfer Duo, Queen Latifah and Common
Sunday: Steely Dan
Monday: Mames Babegenush Kids Concert, Steely Dan

Museum exhibits

Manet and Modern Beauty

Manet at the Art Institute

Through Sept. 8, 2019
Art Institute of Chicago

One of the country's oldest and largest art museums, known for their formidable collection of Impressionist art, presents a groundbreaking exhibition on one of the movement's most influential figures. The exhibit showcases the works of Édouard Manet, a leader in the transition from realism to Impressionism, focusing on the transformation of the artist's style in the later years of his career.

Figures of Speech

Virgil Abloh exhibit at the MCA Chicago

Through Sept. 22
Museum of Contemporary Art

This is the first ever exhibit dedicated to the work of Virgil Abloh, a multimedia, multi-genre artist, architect, DJ, and Chicago native. He was Kanye West’s top creative collaborator, designing album covers and merchandise, and he started his own fashion brand Off-White. His trajectory continues, though: Last year, he was named Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. The exhibition covers the many aspects of his multi-disciplinary career and how they intersect.

Hamilton: The Exhibition

Hamilton: The Exhibition

Through Sept. 8
Northerly Island

Hamilton: The Exhibition takes visitors deeper into Alexander Hamilton’s life as it chronicles the American Revolution and the creation of the United States of America, with an audio guide by Lin Manuel-Miranda.

Must-See Shows

Grinning From Fear to Fear

Thursdays at 8 p.m.
Fridays & Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Sundays at 7 p.m.
The Second City 

The Second City

The legendary theatre's 43rd revue tackles everything from serial killers to big pharma. The two-hour show in the e.t.c. Theater is a hilarious and edgy take on current events that showcases why The Second City is still one of the best places in the world for live comedy. Check for half-price tickets at Hot Tix!

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