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Activities to enjoy in summer

Are you going on a trip to Chicago? You have a lot of ground to cover. This guide shows the best of our city, from the impressive waterfront to the bustling neighborhoods and theater district.

There is nothing like summer in Chicago. Throughout the season, you can play beach volleyball on the shores of Lake Michigan, kayak through a skyscraper canyon, sip cocktails at rooftop bars with skyline views, and much more. Here we show you everything you can do to make the most of the summer.

Navy Pier

After a winter break, Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier returns just in time for summer. Located on scenic Lake Michigan, Navy Pier offers stunning views, waterfront dining options, and a variety of activities for the whole family. Without a doubt, it is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Here are some open ones:

  • The Centennial Wheel
  • Pepsi Wave Swinger
  • Carousel
  • Tour boats and cruises
  • Select restaurants
  • Polk Brothers Park
  • North and South Docks
  • Pier Park
  • East End Plaza
  • Parking garages

Summer Fireworks Displays

This famous show is a much loved part of the Chicago summer season. This year, the city will look even more dazzling. Fireworks will light up the sky twice a week for a ten-minute show starting at 9:30 pm on Wednesdays and 10:15 pm on Saturdays.

Free Summer Events

There are a number of free events on the pier. Whether it’s an open-air live concert or a yoga class overlooking the sea, this summer there is something for everyone.

  • Neighborhood Artisan Markets, May 28 – Sept. 5 on select weekends
  • Wave Wall Moves dance series, May 29 – Sept. 4 on Saturdays
  • Wave Wall Wax DJ sets, May 29 – Sept. 4 on Saturdays
  • Live on the Lake! concerts, May 29 – Sept. 4 on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Pier Fitness classes, June 1 – Aug. 31 on Tuesdays
  • Skyline Sessions concerts, June 3 – 25 on Thursdays and Fridays
  • Wiggleworms, June 6 – Aug. 27 on Fridays
  • Navy Pier Pride, June 26
  • Water Flicks movie screenings, July 8 – Aug. 30 on Mondays and Thursday
  • Fresh Fest!, July 8 and 9
  • WaterColors jazz concerts, July 2 – Aug. 27 on Fridays
  • Rhythm World dance festival, July 28
  • LatiNxt music festival, Aug. 6 – 7
  • Noche Caribeña, Aug. 14

Go to the Beach

Chicago is blessed with miles of sand like Foster Beach, cool off at the trendy Shore Club Chicago, North Avenue Beach, or just enjoy the view at Oak Street Beach. If you like thrills, you can rent a jet ski, kayak, paddle board or fly board from Chicago Water Sport Rentals at 31st Street Harbor.

Boat Cruise

Every summer Chicago’s many cruise ships set sail on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. There are many cruise options, from those that include dinner to educational tours of architecture and exciting high-speed attractions.

Hop into one of the Architecture Foundation Center to hear the fascinating stories behind the city’s iconic architecture and historic buildings from expert tour guides. Or get your heart pumping on a fast-paced Seadog cruise. Island Party Hut brings in the tiki vibes, while Odyssey offers a more refined dining experience in exclusive glass.

Jam out, outside

Festival season is back in Chicago, from parties with local bands to a sprawling outdoor festival featuring top leading artists. Here are some:

See a Museum Exhibit

This summer brings a list of amazing exhibits to Chicago. Delve into a moving Van Gogh painting, explore the works of Frida Kahlo, go face-to-face with the Obamas, meet Marvel superheroes, and more in these exciting limited-time exhibits:

Join a Tour

A tour is one of the best ways to make the most of your Chicago visit. Learn about the city’s iconic architecture with Free Tours by Foot, Inside Chicago Walking Tours, and Chicago Detours walking tours. Or see the city on two wheels via a bike or Segway tour with Bike and Roll Chicago or Bobby’s Bike Hike. You can also explore Chicago’s unique neighborhoods with a friendly local for free through  Chicago Greeter Tours.

Fall in love with Public Art

Public art in Chicago is splashed on surfaces all around the city: it covers train stations, rises tall on downtown skyscrapers, and pops up on sidewalks, in office lobbies, and along the lakefront. Discover works of public art in the Loop by masters such as Picasso and Chagall, check out neighborhood street art, or see international street artists make their mark on districts like the Wabash Arts Corridor. 

Hear Music at a Museum

Head to the Shedd Aquarium for Jazzin’ at the Shedd every Wednesday night this August. The evening features live tunes from a top Chicago jazz ensemble, sweeping views of the city skyline, and open access to the Shedd’s many immersive exhibits.

Throughout the summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts Tuesdays on the Terrace, an evening of free music on the MCA’s scenic terrace  with internationally renowned Jazz artists.

Catch a movie under the stars

The Millennium Park free summer film series is screened under the stars at the iconic Jay Pritzker Pavilion on Tuesdays from June through August. Guests take a seat at the Pavilion or lounge on the Great Lawn with a picnic as both old favorite and new blockbusters are presented on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen

The Bean (Cloud Gate) en Chicago

Cloud Gate,  The Bean, is one of Chicago’s most popular sights. The monumental work of art anchors the city’s downtown park, reflecting the city’s famous skyline and the surrounding green space.

It is located on McCormick Tribune Plaza, directly behind the Park Grill Restaurant at 11 N. Michigan Ave. If you walk down Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe, it is not to be missed.

Stroll the Magnificent Mile

It’s a 13-block stretch of Michigan Avenue, nicknamed the Mag Mile, is home to hundreds of stores, from high-end designers, to major brands. (Banana Republic, Disney Store, Nike).

Take a break from shopping at popular area attractions like the free art gallery inside the Historic Water Tower, the Lookingglass Theater, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Driehaus Museum and the 360 CHICAGO platform.

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