Summer has officially arrived in Chicago and the city is alive and kicking.
It’s July and that 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.
Hop on your bikes, mouthbreathers! The mysterious world of Hawkins is coming to life this summer! After an acclaimed debut in NYC and LA, Netflix’s the first official Stranger Things pop-up store finally landed in the Chicago area! An interactive experience inspired by the cult TV sensation is waiting to be discovered, and who better to explore it than you?
Music lovers, casual fans, and superfans of legendary musician Prince can rejoice in the dynamic, multisensory, first-of-its-kind immersive experience, making its worldwide debut in Chicago through October 9.
Superfly and The Prince Estate are collaborating to present Prince: The Immersive Experience, a multi-faceted musical universe revolving around the iconic artist, inviting guests to be completely immersed in the exhilarating, singular talent of a superstar who brought us hits like “When Doves Cry,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Purple Rain.”
The Musée du Louvre™ in Paris is undeniably one of the most iconic and recognizable art museums worldwide, drawing over 7 million visitors a year to its famous rhombus-shaped glass museum.
Louvre™ Fantastique: The Exhibition is coming to the Chicago area on July 15th for a 360° experience, showcasing over 70 reimagined masterpieces that are famously on display at the Louvre™.
You can also now be among the first to experience the Louvre Fantastique exhibit in a true celebration of art, food & drink with this unique Opening Night Soirée VIP preview experience!
London House Chicago, a luxury hotel known for its unmatched sweeping views of the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago River, has launched an inaugural illuminated experience up on its award-winning rooftop.
Located on the famed 22nd-floor terrace at 85 East Wacker Drive, “Luminescence” now offers guests an illuminated botanical urban paradise up in the sky.
A vibrant array of multi-colored, floral-themed LED lights sprawl across walls and hang over the iconic rooftop giving it a never-before-seen look.
Throughout summer there will be Navy Pier firework displays every Saturday at 10 pm and every Wednesday at 9 pm through Labor Day weekend.
Onlookers can find a spot anywhere on the pier to take in the dazzling display completely free of charge. According to the Navy Pier website, there will be accompanying soundtracks featuring dramatic and popular music.
If you’re wanting to push the boat out and guarantee an unforgettable summer soirée booze cruises on Lake Michigan promise an exhilarating experience.
Float down the Chicago River and enjoy a live DJ set whilst taking in breathtaking views of the sun setting over Chicago’s architecture before being treated to unobstructed views of Navy Pier’s week fireworks shows with a Firework Booze Cruise! Or enjoy the ultimate Sunday funday with both Sunset Thursday Booze Cruises and Sunday Funday Booze Cruises.
Another unforgettable activity on the water can be enjoyed courtesy of Urban Kayaks. Kayaks and paddleboards can be rented from various operators at both Monroe Harbor and Chicago Riverwalk locations but it is the river where the most unique experience can be found.
Flanked on either side by Chicago’s famous highrise architecture, you can venture through the city’s heart via skyscraper canyons and under historic bridges. An evening kayak makes for a truly memorable night navigating the waters while the sun sets and the hustle and bustle of the riverwalk activity takes off around you.
A truly unique evening can be had 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 and Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago every week from spring through fall by transforming the 2.5-acre river façade of the Merchandise Mart.
Taking place nightly at 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm, 34 digital projectors will be displaying the new summer schedule throughout July. This includes Billiken by Shkunna Stewart and Wills Glasspiegel, explore by Jonas Denzel, and a continuation of Nick Cave’s Ba Boom Boom Pa Pop Pop.
If Art on the MART 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.
Grab your tickets to a Spray Paint ‘n’ Sip Urban Art Workshop here.
Chicago’s sublime Candlelight Concert series offers breathtaking spectacles throughout the year but this June there are some extra special concerts taking place in extraordinary venues all over the city. Flickering candles and melodic sounds combine phenomenally to create magnetic atmospheres in some of Chicago’s most unique spaces with surreal acoustics. Here are some of our favorite festive concerts taking place this month:
- Candlelight: “Mambo Italiano,” “La Dolce Vita” and More Italian Favorites at Stan Mansion
- Candlelight: Featuring Vivaldi’s Four Seasons & More at Wicker Park Lutheran Church
- Candlelight: Tribute to Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and the Divas of Soul at The Robeson Theater at the South Shore Cultural Center
- Candlelight Open Air: Favorite Anime Themes at Artifact Events
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift at Stan Mansion
- Candlelight Ballet: Featuring Tchaikovsky and More at Oak Park’s Free Church
When it comes to live music, few places offer a better jazz experience than Chicago. There are so many wonderful places to see live jazz in its rawest form here in the Windy City. Alongside esteemed venues like South Loop’s The Jazz Showcase, and Uptown’s Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Le Piano has emerged as a phenomenal new jazz hideout.
In the middle of Le Piano sits a magnificent grand piano where some of Chicago’s most talented pianists and jazz performers come to play. Here you will find a mind-blowing musical experience merging dinner and intimate performances. Immersive Live Jazz & Dinner for Two and Immersive Live Jazz & Cocktails both ensure memorable nights of dining, drinking, and the magic of jazz in a truly vivacious venue.
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Another brilliant experience comes in the form of a live Drunk Shakespeare show. Taking place on a stage in a hidden speakeasy located 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 5 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!
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We could all do with a chuckle with the tumultuous years we’ve had and luckily there’s no place better for that than at a Chicago comedy show. At Laugh Factory Chicago some of today’s biggest names and local comedians are delivering something for every taste and style throughout July.
If magic is your thing prepare to have your mind blown at Trickery & Distillery! From actor and producer Jonathan Sadowski and world-renowned card magician Jason Ladanye comes a one-of-a-kind live theater show. Stroll through the luxurious space, enjoy the sounds of live blues and sip on some delicious craft cocktails before a strolling magician performs close-up magic for you and your friends.
After an hour of socializing and entertainment, take your seat around a card table where the lights will dim and Jason Ladanye will share how he learned to become the best card cheat around. Get your tickets for an unforgettable evening of jaw-dropping magic!
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.
If craft beer floats your boat another fun tasting experience this month comes in the form of a beer flight at Pilot Project Brewing. Pilot Project Brewing is a brewery incubator, tasting room & cafe located on Milwaukee Ave in Logan Square, Chicago. Pilot Project was launched as a collaborative and artistically curious space to help support talented brewers in an industry with exceptionally high barriers.
Modeled after the music industry, Pilot serves as a launchpad for start-up breweries, offering assistance with fine-tuning recipes, production, business development, marketing, distribution, and more. They are Chicago’s incubator dedicated to the art of brewing and a community inspired by the craft. Pick from 24 taps to make your perfect flight of beer and taste and compare with your besties
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Get ready to laugh at this action-packed drinking game show event. The fast-paced sketch show is set at the fictional Franks Bar and includes a dedicated “bar staff” and an exciting narrative storyline that highlights the pitfalls of drinking culture. This long-running interactive game show is the perfect place to gather with friends for an unforgettable, humor-focused evening.
Logan Square’s Midlane E-Sports is Chicago’s newest Esports venue providing both the group gratification of days gone by and the luxuries of modern technology. With high-end gaming computers, the latest consoles, tournaments, viewing parties, social gatherings, and a full-service bar it is the perfect gaming hideout for gamers of all genres.
Fancy a game? Call up your favorite gamer friends and head on down to Midlane Esports for a night of gaming fun and drinks specials. Whether you are a casual gamer or want to compete in tournaments – there is something for everybody!
If you really want a buzz we suggest you head down to West Loop’s Grand Cabaret After Dark this month for a roster of rip-roaring revelry. On Fridays, STRIPPED provides a decadent and debaucherous night of burlesque while on Saturdays you’ll find vintage evenings of cabaret, jazz, and magic in Chicago’s newest speakeasy followed by Boozy BBQ Drag Brunches on Sundays. All promise a mesmerizing experience in one of Chicago’s most exciting new venues.
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Grand Cabaret is far from Chicago’s only speakeasy burlesque experience. Catch some of Chicago’s finest burlesque, belly dance, drag, and variety entertainers plus screenings of incredible digital content at The Newport Theatre’s Newport Peek-Easy Burlesque Show. Specialty cocktails, intimate tables, and a true speakeasy feel make this a night like no other!
Get your theater fix (with a twist) at this fantastic new burlesque and variety cabaret show. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, Redline VR hosts the incomparable Crescent Moon Nerdlesque, a unique and nerdy cosplay group that’s sure to keep you engaged in the act. Each month features a new and exciting storyline so write down the date, grab your friends and prepare to be amazed at this month’s unique showing.
Circus Vazquez is back with brand new shows in Chicago. Prepare for outstanding performances from the new generation Vazquez family, David Larible who is known as the world’s greatest clown, amongst many others from around the world that will blow your mind. Classic circus vendor items are available for purchase such as popcorn, cotton candy, nachos, funnel cakes, churros, snow cones, and more! Get the family together and share an unforgettable experience.
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One of our highlights of last summer was the introduction of State Street block parties. 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 weekly summer street festival that saw closed off State Street from Lake to Madison on Sundays throughout 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 as a trial last year, it is now coming back with an extended footprint, 250 artists, businesses, workshops, and more after a hugely successful inaugural year.
When you think of the summer months you usually imagine sun, beaches, patios, and ice cream. The latter is synonymous with summer all around the world and luckily Chicagoans are about to be treated to a museum dedicated entirely to ice cream.
The Museum of Ice Cream, a fabulous wonderland for all things colorful, will open its doors in the Windy City on Saturday, July 16th. Described on the Museum of Ice Cream website as “a Willy Wonka factory come to life that you won’t want to leave”, the exciting new museum will feature 14 magical and interactive installations reimagined just for Chicago.
The new Michigan Avenue location, the fourth Museum of Ice Cream on the planet, will span over 13,500 square feet of The Shops of Tribune Tower where the Chicago Tribune formerly resided. Guests will be invited on 60 to 90-minute tours through the many ice cream-themed features with breaks to sample various sweet treats between enjoying the installations.
As well as boasting an extraordinary live entertainment scene, Chicago is famous for its plethora of world-renowned museums. One place where you can embrace your whimsical, artistic nature is at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. This unique, grand structure houses exciting temporary and permanent exhibitions that are sure to leave you awe-struck. Make it a whole family day and prepare for an unforgettable experience in contemporary art. Or, gather a group of friends and explore the fascinating collections and multiple artistic disciplines available for viewing. Filled with endlessly intriguing paintings, sculptures, and photos, this museum is always one for the books.
More information and tickets can be found here or opt for a reduced entrance if you’re a senior resident, teacher, or student.
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.
Two sets of live music take place every Tuesday evening from 5:30 pm and run until 8 pm through August 31.
Another of Chicago’s famed attractions, The Adler Planetarium, reopened recently after a two-year hiatus. The planetarium now boasts a brand new telescope in the Doane Observatory which holds the title of the largest public telescope in the Chicago area.
As well as a new observation park, guests will notice the planetarium’s shiny new dome roof which has been restored with brand-new copper tiles giving the 80-year-old dome an iconic new glow. The best news, however, is that Illinois residents can now enter for free every Wednesday evening from 4-10 pm provided they bring proof of residency.
Take a day-cation to the Lincoln Park Zoo for an unforgettable scavenger hunting adventure. Let’s Roam is the #1 app-led scavenger hunting company and provides a can’t-miss reason to explore the infamous Chicago zoo. This family-fun activity is perfect for all ages at an ultra-exciting location. Play in teams or compete on your own for a fun interactive day filled with trivia questions, riddles, and competition-based challenges.
The consequence of a thriving artistic community is not just a plethora of museums and attractions. Today the street art and graffiti scene in Chicago is alive and kicking more than ever before with new pieces popping up all over the city every week. Some of these 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.
With more formality and respect from the local community street art has thrived in Chicago over the last decade and with the events of the last two years many, many, astounding new murals have gone up of late. 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 many masterpieces in our great city is a rewarding experience any time of the year. Many of these wonderful murals reside in West Town in the mile-long street art corridor in Chicago’s Fulton Market meatpacking district known as the B_Line. With the West Town Street Art Walking Tour run by Tours By Native you can enjoy an immersive tour that will engage the senses like never before!
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!
Alternatively, you can sign up for the ultimate foodie adventure in Chicago’s historic River North with Lonely Planet Experiences: River North Historical Food Tour. Join a local expert and uncover hidden gems and the best spots for some of the city’s best-loved dishes. This tour will leave you filled with delicious local foods as well as some insider knowledge of the city’s culinary history and culture.
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.
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Learning to make sushi from the comfort of your own home is another fulfilling activity you can do this summer. In this hands-on and interactive cooking class, a highly-experienced chef will teach you step-by-step how to make sushi rolls from scratch.
You will learn the basics of cooking and preparing the perfect sushi rice, practice knife skills to prepare the ingredients, and make a special dipping sauce. Then, of course, comes the most fun part: laying the seaweed papers and all ingredients onto the bamboo mat and rolling! Using fresh sushi-grade tuna, salmon, vegetables such as cucumber and avocado, and some secret ingredients presented by the chef, you will be surprised how easily you can recreate these recipes at home once you master the skills. It’s super easy and fun as a family activity, couple’s date night, or as a way to spend quality time with friends!
Another architectural journey awaits you on this next walking tour. Only this time, it’s all about capturing those Instagrammable moments. A local host will take you along a scenic tour of Chicago’s most famous spots so get ready to take in all the architectural feats, hidden gems and snappable 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.
44-46. Watch an outdoor movie
With the weather allowing outdoor fun to thrive, another fantastic summer plan comes in the form of catching an outdoor movie showing. Every Tuesday from July 12 through August 30, movies are shown on Millennium Park’s state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen. Guests may take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or lounge on the Great Lawn and catch movies like Encanto and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
There are also free movies on Mondays from July 18 through August 29 at Navy Pier with a focus on families, and free movie showing at Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville on select Wednesdays through the end of September.
This year Chicago’s beloved Morton Arboretum will celebrate its 100-year anniversary. To celebrate such an occasion, the 1,700-acre tree museum and research center is kicking off a yearlong centennial celebration building up to its 100th birthday. Already an incredible place to visit any season of any year, the Arboretum is currently home to 8 enormous arbor-inspired sculptures by renowned multi-disciplinary South African artist Daniel Popper.
After opening in May of 2021, the Morton Arboretum’s arbor-inspired exhibition ‘Human + Nature‘ has been a huge success. The arboretum has now added three brand-new sculptures to the mix which will now be on show through May 2023.
As well as being the largest exhibition of Popper’s work to date, the sculptures were crafted especially for Arboretum visitors. They feature a merge of technology and nature highlighting the deep roots between humans and trees.
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 spring spectacles this time of the year.
From monolithic marvels to cascading waterfalls, here are 7 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
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. The Lakefront, lush parks, and incredible hiking trails offer great natural experiences but Chicago also has numerous secret gardens hidden across the city. Read our full article on 10 of the best spots around the city to stop and smell the roses here.
To spice up any park or garden experience in the city you can book an exciting mystery picnic experience. This self-guided food adventure is the perfect way to explore Chicago’s best neighborhoods and avoid the crowds! Starting with a picnic basket, have fun solving personally curated clues and riddles sent to your smartphone that’ll take you on a journey to collect your special gourmet picnic food bit by bit.
Each clue you solve will lead you closer to your next picnic food pickup and even closer to your final stunning secret picnic spot. You can expect a 3-4 hour all-inclusive stress-free date with this fantastic picnic experience.
Grab tickets and select the date here and everything will be planned for you.
The world’s biggest bounce house (The Big Bounce America)is currently bouncing its way across North America on a multi-city tour and will spring up just a hop, skip, and a jump away from downtown Chicago in suburban Rolling Meadows’ Busse Park.
Covering an area of just over 13,000 square feet and towering at 32 feet from the ground, the behemoth Guinness World Records-certified World’s Biggest Bounce House will offer children of all ages a weekend to remember from Friday, July 22nd, to Sunday, July 24th.
With candy-colored turrets, basketball hoops, ball pits, climbing towers, giant slides, and a DJ the crazy inflatable landscape promises a spectacular summer experience for all the family.
The largest waterpark in Illinois, Raging Waves, opened for the summer in June and is celebrating its 15-year anniversary. The public can once again enjoy 32 water slides, 43 private cabanas, the enormous wave pool, the relaxing lazy river, and much more.
For those thrill-seekers looking for their fill of adrenaline, Raging Waves is now also home to the first Proslide RallyRACER™ in Illinois and one of three in the world. The six-lane mat racing water slide, named Aussie Mat Dash, invites up to 5 friends or family members to rocket down slides next to each other and see who is the fastest of the pack.
If you’re the outdoorsy type who likes a thrill you’re probably the type who would be interested in testing your skydiving skills in one of Chicago’s state-of-the-art indoor skydiving centers. With an iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Lincoln Park and another iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Rosemont, there are two conveniently located cutting-edge centers to choose from. Kids and adults can both experience the same sensation you’d get 12,000 feet up in the sky and if you feel you have what it takes, you can test your vertigo above Chicago’s iconic skyline at Skydive Chicago, one of the world’s largest skydiving resorts.
Chicago doesn’t play around when it comes to patio season. Come rain or shine, if a patio is opened somewhere in the Windy City, guaranteed Chicagoans are out there clinking drinks. One of the best in the city has to be Recess’s gigantic patio bar.
Nestled within 30 shipping containers on a West Loop corner, Recess is home to a cozy amalgamation of bars, food stands, and cabana houses within a 14,500 -square-foot space that holds the title of the largest patio in Chicago. The stacked shipping containers give it an awesome reclaimed industrial vibe while the fusion of plant life and vibrant murals make it a brilliant summer hideout. There are few better places to grab a drink this summer!
A sign of the summer months is also evident in the return of Chicago’s weekly farmer’s markets. The open-air stalls are always bustling with local vendors and filled to the brim with produce, sweet treats, artisan cheesemakers, and candles alike.
Head over to one of the many markets near you for a special day spent with friends. These markets are a real Chicago highlight, and keep going all through summer and often well into the fall season.
[Featured image from Shutterstock]