It’s July, which can only mean one thing– summer is here! Events and celebrations are taking place all over Chicago, from numerous live music events and interactive workshops to unmissable exhibitions and natural escapes; here are some of the best things to do this July in the Windy City.
One of our foremost suggestions for a fun day out this July is Sundays on State.
In 2021, with the pandemic still lingering Chicago Loop Alliance announced an exciting project to “bring people safely back to the Loop.”
The project was an ambitious free weekly summer street festival that closed off State Street from Lake to Madison on Sundays throughout the summer. Called ‘Sundays on State,’ the event aimed to revive the Loop’s economy with a wide range of attractions and activities that would give pedestrians “a chance to experience arts and culture, active recreation, retail, restaurants, and bars against the backdrop of State Street’s iconic architecture.”
Dubbed a trial in its first year, it returned last year with an extended footprint of 250 artists, businesses, workshops, and more. Now, for its third year, Sundays on State will return, offering two days of free fun on State Street, the first of which takes place on Sunday, July 16 from 11 am until 6 pm!
London House Chicago, a luxury hotel known for its unmatched sweeping views of the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago River, has revived its summer “Luminescence” experience on its famed 22nd-floor terrace.
The award-winning rooftop hosted its inaugural edition of the summer experience last year featuring a never-before-seen vibrant array of multi-colored, floral-themed LED lights sprawled across walls and hanging over the iconic rooftop.
Guests can now enjoy a “kaleidoscope of colors” and “mesmerizing ambiance” every day of July!
Dining in the Dark experiences have returned to Chicago, and they’re selling out quickly! Engage your taste buds at a unique night out as you indulge in a delicious three-course meal at the exclusive ‘Dining in The Dark’ dinner parties.
Take your date night to the next level or enjoy a surreal experience with friends, tempting your senses with dark surroundings to focus on more important things like the exquisite food and wine pairing you’re about to have at Hubbard Inn.
Diners can choose vegan, seafood, or red meat options, enjoying a starter, main entree, and dessert.
A new exhibition at the Morton Arboretum has opened, featuring a collection of brand-new towering arbor-inspired sculptures. Titled “Of the Earth,” the exhibition features five exclusive new works from Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska and replaces those on display for Human + Nature.
Opened on May 26, “Of the Earth” is the largest exhibition of artist Olga Ziemska’s work and created exclusively for Arboretum visitors.
According to an official Morton Arboretum release, Ziemska’s sculptures have been predominantly created from reclaimed tree branches and other natural materials gathered from various locations throughout the Arboretum’s grounds.
Whether you choose to grab a hotdog à la Legally Blonde, hang out at a brewery, enjoy a boat party or something else entirely, there’s plenty of Chicago activities to do during Independence Day this year.
The annual patriotic holiday is about togetherness, backyard BBQ, and epic fireworks displays. After the summer sun goes and sets, tradition calls for an otherworldly display, and Chicago does not disappoint!
If you can’t get enough of fireworks, Navy Pier’s summer programming includes weekly firework shows over Lake Michigan.
The dazzling displays will continue throughout summer with shows every Wednesday at 9 pm and every Saturday at 10 pm. You can find a spot anywhere on the pier or nearby to take in a completely free dazzling display.
Another option, if you want to make it a really special Wednesday or Saturday night, is to watch the fireworks from the waters of Lake Michigan with a Chicago Lakefront Fireworks Cruise. With the mesmerizing Chicago skyline in the backdrop, you’ll be spellbound as fireworks illuminate the night sky.
Alternatively, Chicago Booze Cruises, taking place on many other days of the week, offers live DJs, unobstructed views of the skyline, and the chance to make memories as the sun sets on Lake Michigan.
Whether you’re down by Chicago Riverwalk flanked on either side by the city’s famous highrise architecture or taking in the skyline from the protected waters of Monroe Harbour, kayaking in Chicago is a magical and truly unforgettable activity.
A truly unique evening can be had by combining kayaking with the Art on the MART projections.
Holding the title of the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, Art on theMART attracts thousands to the Riverwalk every week by firing up 34 digital projectors and showcasing work from both renowned artists and local talent on the 2.5-acre river façade of the Merchandise Mart.
The summer program will begin on July 6, featuring mesmerizing projections by the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project as well as the continued Building Light projections every night through mid-September.
With spring, summer, and fall programs providing various different projections throughout the year, the Merchandise Mart also embraces the most important days in the calendar with unique temporary displays.
For the first five days of July, the iconic building will be turning red, white, and blue to celebrate Independence Day.
Along with the sounds of classic Americana and songs played along the Riverwalk from 9 pm, national pride will be emanating from the Chicago Riverwalk for an hour and a half.
If you’ve enjoyed the magic of the Merchandise Mart and are in search of more enchanting experiences, you might want to think about stepping into the Hogwarts™ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for some magical potions classes and so much more.
Harry Potter™: Magic at Play in Chicago recently extended its stay until Labor Day, so you have the entire summer to explore this experience. The boat ride to Hogwarts™, stepping into the Great Hall, and sipping on an endless supply of Butterbeer are just a few things you’ll enjoy at this limited-time adventure on the Magnificent Mile!
Chicago’s sublime Candlelight Concert series is providing an array of breathtaking spectacles in the Windy City. Talented musicians will be performing at extraordinary venues all over Chicago offering guests the chance to marvel at the enchanting combination of flickering candles and melodic sounds.
Here are some of our favorite Candlelight concerts taking place this month:
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift at Stan Mansion on July 5
- Candlelight: Featuring Mozart, Bach, And Timeless Composers at Chopin Theatre on July 14
- Candlelight: Hip Hop Classics on Piano at Chopin Theatre on July 15
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Coldplay at Wicker Park Lutheran Church on July 22
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, and More Chicago Greats at Salvage One on July 27
- Candlelight: From Bach to The Beatles at Free Church on July 30
Suppose you can’t decide on a concert but want to ensure you attend one or need to buy a gift for somebody special. In that case, Candlelight gift cards are easy to use and valid for any Candlelight event in the U.S., making it a unique gift for friends and family.
Concerts Under the Stars is another terrific outdoor musical experience taking place this month with concerts such as:
- ABBA Under The Stars at AIRE on July 16
- Amy Winehouse Under The Stars at AIRE on July 23
- Lizzo, Beyoncé & More Under the Stars at AIRE on July 30
Every Tuesday through summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosts Tuesdays on the Terrace—a free musical event series for Illinois residents. It offers Chicagoans a chance to turn the average underwhelming Tuesday into a jubilant evening at the MCA’s Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden, experiencing free music that highlights artists from Chicago’s internationally renowned jazz community.
Tuesdays on the Terrace have shows running from 5:30 pm until 8 pm every Tuesday through to the end of summer.
Another free musical experience comes in the form of Grant Park’s free summer orchestra series, which this year has an emphasis on Broadway, Beethoven Symphony, and Cirque-style collaborations.
Grab a free seat on the Great Lawn as the musicians take to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage. It’s a lovely way to take in the music and lounge in the grassy area! Bring a picnic blanket or lawn chairs to set up camp and enjoy the stunning show.
London House Chicago is far from the only place to find a kaleidoscope of color this month. Though not strictly Chicago, The Umbrella Sky Project art installation has taken over Elmhurst, filling the sky with bright floating umbrellas.
The prismatic art installations are only staying up for summer, so it is worth getting out there when you can and taking in the canopy of color!
Last year, a new event inaugurated itself into Chicago folklore and is set to return again later this month for its 2nd annual celebration! The 2nd annual Summer Float Party will see hundreds of people take to the Chicago River on floats from River Park in Lincoln Park to North Center’s Clark Park for a festive, free-spirited late summer event aiming to support the Friends of the Chicago River.
The charitable endeavor organized by Friends of the Chicago River, a nonprofit that, since 1979, “has been working to improve the health of the Chicago River system for the benefit of people, plants, and animals,” will take place on Sunday, July 23rd rain or shine.
Some days you just need some one-on-one time with a pasture full of adorable goats, you know? Experience the pinnacle of wholesomeness by hanging out with the billy kids over at GlennArt Farm, and afterward, double down on those warm fuzzy feelings with a few flights of delicious craft beers on the rooftop of One Lake Brewing with this exclusive Brews n ‘Baahhs’ experience.
If there’s one way to relax and let your mind unwind, it’s with a pasture full of adorable billy kids followed up by a selection of craft beer.
On weekends July 8-9 and 15-16, the quaint farm offers visitors a chance to escape the concrete jungle and grab the best peach cobbler out there.
You can also find respite from our The Green at 320 in a hidden rooftop oasis, bringing all the summer vibes with a packed schedule filled with live readings, farmers’ markets, and more. It’s the perfect place to bring a picnic blanket, snacks, or takeout from your favorite Chicago restaurant.
This beloved festival is back from Friday, July 7 to Sunday, July 9, bringing an array of epic burgers to festival goers. The food and music extravaganza will feature dozens of acclaimed Chicago restaurants, all attempting to outdo each other by offering the best burger.
At the intersection of Belmont and Damen (2000 W. Belmont), the beloved burger bash also includes two stages with a bunch of amazing live performances, a kid-friendly zone, and a series of local merchants!
Starting on Friday from 5-10 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm, you get to vote on the best burger award winner!
Down in the basement of West Loop’s Porkchop visitors will find a top-tier speakeasy experience in the form of “Grand Cabaret After Dark” where a roster of rip-roaring revelry awaits.
There is always something happening at the West Loop speakeasy throughout the weekend. Featuring live music of classic and contemporary jazz, bluegrass, and country by the Chris Ussery Trio, you’ll be able to sink into your seat as the music swirls around you on Saturdays at Grand Cabaret After Dark and then soothe your Sunday scaries with Boozy BBQ Drag Brunches on Sundays.
Of course, Grand Cabaret After Dark is far from the only speakeasy experience in Chicago. Let us deliver you to the dark side! With comedy and allure, loving detail, and hilarious parody, The Empire Strips Back drops classic Star Wars characters into the world of burlesque.
Be prepared for some seriously sultry Stormtroopers, a dangerously enticing Boba Fett, some tantalizing Twi’leks, a delightfully luke-warm Taun Taun, a lady-like Skywalker, the Droids you are looking for, and much, much more!
Talking of blockbuster movies, we’ve just come out of awards season with many fantastic movies from across the planet highlighted over the last several weeks. There are so many to see now, and there’s no place to experience them than at AMC Theatres®.
Whether it’s a rainy afternoon or a special date night, all the best critically-acclaimed creations, comedies, action flicks, and everything in between can be enjoyed at a discount in Chicago and nationally with an AMC black ticket.
One of Chicago’s most impressive qualities is its collection of world-class museums and the array of exhibits they offer. This year a whole host of new extraordinary art exhibits are coming to the Windy City.
Art, science, and human connection have a truly transformative power, and now, after the tumultuous and unprecedented years that we’ve just endured, it’s time to remember that.
One of the planet’s oldest and largest art museums, the Art Institute of Chicago is undoubtedly one of the city’s most renowned museums. Since its founding in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago has flourished into one of the most recognized art museums in the world.
The museum is permanently home to over 300,000 works of art, including such masterpieces as American Gothic by Grant Wood, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, The Bedroom, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh and The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso.
According to the Art Institute of Chicago website, “admission will be free for Illinois residents on Thursday evenings, 5–8 p.m., May 18–August 31, 2023.”
Another of Chicago’s famed attractions, The Adler Planetarium, underwent a huge revamp during a two-year Covid-19-induced hiatus and now boasts a brand new telescope in the Doane Observatory, which holds the title of the largest public telescope in the state.
As well as a new observation park, the planetarium has a shiny new roof giving the 80-year-old dome an iconic new glow. However, The best news is that upon its reopening, the planetarium announced that Illinois residents would be able to enter for free every Wednesday evening from 4-10 pm for the foreseeable future, provided they bring proof of residency.
Maxwell Street Market, Chicago’s longest-running open-air market, first debuted back in 1912, has returned for its 111th summer stretch with handmade crafts and undetected treasures.
Open every Sunday at 800 South Des Plaines Street from 9 am to 3 pm through to Sunday, October 29; shoppers can expect a Sunday of spirited live music and sensational street food as well as an eclectic array of bric-à-brac.
If you love architecture and snapping photos, a Chicago walking tour offers a great combination. However, this tour is ideal if it’s all about capturing those Instagrammable moments and you don’t want to hold up the crowd.
A local host will take you along a scenic tour of Chicago’s most famous spots with timely breaks to snap away, so get ready to take in all the architectural feats, hidden gems, and picturesque landmarks you can imagine. The half-day tour is sure to inspire a caption or two and is jam-packed with endless breathtaking views, exciting, fun facts, and memorable moments.
If you’re in need of an instant mood boost, searching for a group Sunday Funday activity, or looking to cure a hangover from the night before, brunch is the solution to all problems.
Luckily Chicago has an abundance of seriously good morning eats, and here we’ve compiled the best of the bunch!
Whether you’re treating yourself to brunch in Chicago, kicking back on a Chicago patio, or enjoying drinks out at one of Chicago’s many bars and restaurants, you can be sure a finely-crafted cocktail is only seconds away.
From top-notch margaritas to more innovative cocktail concoctions and everything in between, the Windy City and its abundance of revered mixologists have the answers to whatever it is you’re after.
We’ve recently filtered through the noise to round up the best cocktail bars in Chicago based on our experiences at Secret Chicago, our reader’s most popular choices, and a scrupulous assessment of settings and drink quality.
If craft beers are more up your street than a fruity cocktail, worry not, for Chicago has an abundance of internationally-acclaimed breweries.
Frequently recognized as one of the best beer cities in the country, our seasoned and inventive beer scene has produced so many fantastic breweries and taprooms in Chicago that we’re spoilt for choice.
There are now over 200 breweries, big and small, across Chicagoland, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a finely-crafted beer in a range of different environments, whatever the weather.
To make sure you’re checking out the best of the best, we’ve here rounded up the 10 best breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms in Chicago. Cheers!
On that topic, another brilliant Chicago experience comes in the form of a live Drunk Shakespeare show.
On a stage in a hidden speakeasy behind the Chicago Theater, guests will find a glam cocktail bar and library with over 10,000 books. Five classically-trained actors meet as members of “The Drunk Shakespeare Society.” One of them has had at least five shots of whiskey, and then they (quite over-confidently) attempt to perform a major role in a Shakespearean play!
Hilarity and mayhem ensue while the four sober actors try and keep the script on track. Every show is different depending on who is drinking… and what they’re drinking!
If you’re looking for a chuckle, there’s no place better for that than at a Chicago comedy show. Famous for its production of funny guys and girls. Chicago has some of the best places to see a comedy show in the country.
At Laugh Factory Chicago, some of today’s biggest names and local comedians are delivering something for every taste and style throughout the year.
Chicago’s street art and graffiti scene has continued to thrive in Chicago over the last decade. New pieces pop up all over the city every week, some of which are so esteemed that they’ve embedded themselves in the very fabric of Chicago and are now part and parcel of the Windy City’s identity.
Today murals do more than just provide an extraordinary spectacle for our eyes. They pay homage to icons, fight for racial equality, celebrate different heritages, and honor the essential workers of our societies during turbulent times. Hunting down the must-see street art murals in Chicago is a rewarding experience any time of the year.
We’ve rounded up our top 25 most amazing murals in Chicago so you can navigate your way around the best of the best and learn about its history and the inspiration behind some of Chicago’s famous murals.
Alternatively, you can also jump on an Offbeat Street Art Tour of Chicago and be guided by a seasoned street art enthusiast!
If perusing Chicago’s incredible street art has your creative juices flowing there’s no better place to let your inner artist run wild than at Chicago’s incredible BYOB Urban Art Workshops.
Taking place weekly within Studio W.I.P. at The Chicago Kedzie Plaza, there’s no pressure and no presumptions, just creativity and fun flowing in all forms. Trained professional artists will teach you the tricks of the trade as unleash your inner artist on a mural with your favorite drink in one hand and a spray can in the other.
For foodies who prefer to sample tasty delicacies over perusing extraordinary street art, there is a range of fantastic food tours for all manner of foodies.
Taste all of Chicago’s classic eats on a four-hour guided bicycle tour courtesy of America’s longest-running city bicycle tour company with Bikes, Bites, and Brews: Chicago’s Signature Dishes Bike Tour. The journey is 14 miles in total (traversed at a nice leisurely pace) and includes a slice of deep-dish pizza, a gourmet brownie, a Chicago-style hot dog, and a few samples of Chicago’s legendary craft beer!
Despite having a kaleidoscopic food scene offering all manner of savory and sweet treats, nothing in Chicago has truly celebrated donuts in all their glory until now. The Underground Donut Tour is Chicago’s first-ever donut tour and was born to give those who truly enjoy donuts the perfect excuse to sample the Windy City’s very best. Tours include such favorites as Do-Rite Donuts, Firecakes, Stans, and Doughnut Vault as well as some lesser-known spots.
Much to the excitement of soccer fans all around the city, an exciting new soccer venue opened in Chicago last year taking the city’s soccer scene to new heights.
Located atop the NEWCITY parking structure in Lincoln Park, the Skyline Pitch opened as “Chicago’s 1st rooftop soccer venue for guests of all ages to train, play, and celebrate the game of futsal and soccer with an unmatched view of the beautiful Chicago skyline.”
First thought to be a temporary fixture, the skyline pitch and its variety of leagues have returned for a spring and summer season now running through to October.
Recent years have reminded us that we should be active, try new things, and make the most of the adventures and experiences available to us, and one thing that always finds itself on bucket lists worldwide is skydiving.
Now, we’re not saying jump out of a plane in the freezing skies above Chicago, but we are saying give it a go in one of Chicago’s indoor centers to get a taste of what it is like and why it is such a popular ‘do before you die’ activity.
With a state-of-the-art iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Lincoln Park and another iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Rosemont, Chicago is home to two conveniently located cutting-edge centers where kids and adults can get the same sensation you’d get 12,000 feet up in the sky.
If the experience has you wanting more, you can always test your vertigo above Chicago’s skyscrapers at one of the world’s largest skydiving resorts in Skydive Chicago and boast that you’ve jumped out of a plane above the Windy City.
Heading out into the wilderness is another way you can enjoy a fulfilling experience without paying more than the cost of travel. If you’re one who enjoys being surrounded by nature, then heading out to the quiet of Illinois’ natural beauty is a great spring experience.
Though our state may not boast wonders with the universal magnitude of the Grand Canyon nor the grandiose reputation of Niagra Falls, Illinois is teeming with diverse ecological landscapes that transform into incredible spectacles this time of the year. From monolithic marvels to cascading waterfalls, here are seven natural wonders of Illinois that you can visit while they’re about to peak:
- Garden Of The Gods: Saline County
- Wildcat Canyon In Starved Rock State Park: La Salle County
- Cache River State Natural Area: Johnson County
- Cave-In-Rock: Hardin County
- The Pomona Natural Bridge: Jackson County
- Cascade Falls In Matthiessen State Park: La Salle County
- Bork Falls In Ferne Clyffe State Park: Johnson County
For an even more prolonged experience in nature. Getaway House is a chain of tiny cabin hideaways helping people in big, bustling cities like Chicago, DC, LA and NYC, disconnect from their busy city lives with restorative stays in the middle of nature.
One of the aforementioned spots, Starved Rock State Park, has just opened a selection of minimalistic cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing guests to wake up fully immersed in the wilderness. Located in lush landscapes and with minimalistic yet comfortable designs, they offer the perfect escape for those wanting to disconnect from busy city lives with restorative stays in the middle of nature.
Or course, you don’t have to leave the Windy City to find natural escapes. Chicago is certainly no far friend from nature, there are many places you can get back in touch with Mother Nature right here in the city, and there is no better time than spring.
The Lakefront, lush parks, and incredible hiking trails offer great natural experiences, but Chicago also has numerous secret gardens hidden across the city.