Maybe it's the joy of surviving yet another long winter, or maybe people in Chicago just love an excuse for food and fun… Regardless, once the weather gets warm, the Windy City heats up with tons of summer festivals. Music, food, art, ethnic heritage — you name it, it's here, making Chicago a great choice for a summer vacation.
Most of the biggies highlighted here are downtown in and around Grant Park, so you can book a Chicago hotel in the Loop/Millennium Park/Grant Park area and walk. If you want to experience summer in Chicago like a local, though, hop on the El and try one of the many neighborhood fests. Retro on Roscoe is a fun event in a cute Northside neighborhood, Lakeview Music Fest features food and music in the shadow of Wrigley Field, and there are many others.
57th Street Art Fair June 5-6: Painting, sculpture, photography, jewelery, ceramics and much more. Billed as Chicago's oldest juried art fair, this one happens in President Obama's old neighborhood (Hyde Park). FREE.
Chicago Gospel Music Festival June 6-7: The first of many multi-day concert events held in Grant Park throughout the summer, this one features more than 50 acts on three stages. FREE.
Chicago Blues Festival June 12-14: Same idea as Gospel Fest, with a different genre. Eddie C. Campbell, Bettye LaVette and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are the headliners. FREE.
Chicago Pride Fest June 26-27: Two-day celebration leading up to Chicago's Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade on Sunday, June 28. Fest takes place in the Wrigleyville/Lakeview neighborhood around Halsted and Addison. The parade kicks off from Halsted and Belmont at noon Sunday. Both the fest and parade are FREE.
Taste of Chicago June 26-July 5: The mother of all Chicago festivals, with food from some of the city's most iconic restaurants and millions of people. You can count on pizza, ribs, cheesecake and ice cream, plus a variety of ethnic specialties. The event also features an impressive concert lineup, including Counting Crows June 27, Barenaked Ladies June 30 and Ne-Yo July 1. TIP: Chicago's Fourth of July fireworks actually take place July 3, so Grant Park and the Taste can be especially crowded that day. Admission is FREE but food tickets are 12 for $8.
Venetian Night July 25: This nighttime parade on water is a family-friendly summer vacation favorite. Brightly decorated boats sail along Lake Michigan (from the Shedd Aquarium to the Chicago Yacht Club), and a fireworks display caps of the event. Family friendly. FREE.
Northalsted Market Days August 1-2: The largest two-day street fair in the country, this vibrant festival features arts & crafts vendors, food and music. Performers include En Vogue and Village People. Wrigleyville/Lakeview neighborhood on Halsted between Belmont and Addison. $6.
Chicago Air & Water Show August 15-16: The largest spectator event in the U.S. draws millions to the lakefront to watch the likes of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and much more. Best viewing is between Oak Street and North Avenue beaches. (Chicago hotels in the Gold Coast neighborhood are an easy walk to Oak Street Beach.) Tip: You can often see (and hear) the planes practicing the day before the festival. Family-friendly. FREE.
!Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival August 28-30: Salsa, merengue and more in Grant Park. FREE.
Chicago Jazz Festival September 4-6: Another Grant Park festival and traditional Labor Day weekend favorite. This year's acts include "New Apartment Jam" with Von Freeman and the Dave Holland Big Band. FREE.
This is just a tiny sample of what you can experience on a summer vacation in Chicago. There's also Rib Fest, Chinatown Summer Fair, Old Town Art Fair, Taste of Greece, Windy City Wine Festival and so much more. You can search the full lineup of neighborhood festivals on the Explore Chicago tourism Web site.
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