September is here and the summer weather is about to transition into autumn cheer. For now, though, there are still plenty more days of summer, and on the back of the recent record-breaking highs the weather is certainly still allowing us to frolic in September sunshine.
Patios are alive and kicking, museums are announcing free days and all that fall fun is beginning to announce itself. On top of that, there are unmissable one-off events like Labor Day celebrations and the Autumn Equinox.
Here are the best things to do in Chicago this September!
Despite the end of summer on the horizon, it’s still very much the perfect weather to kick back on a patio. 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.
We’ve rounded up the very best patios and beer gardens in and around Chicago to give you an essential range of options but if there is one that’s ideal for soaking up the last of the summer sun it 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!
Chicago’s largest fall festival is just a few weeks away bringing back pumpkins, games, bars, food trucks, and a huge corn maze to Goose Island.
Spanning more than 2 acres of land down in Goose Island guests will once again find Chicago’s largest corn maze, carnival games, photo opportunities, axe throwing, various bars, food trucks, and over ten thousand pumpkins all within the over-the-top outdoor pop-up.
Jack’s Pumpkin Patch Pop-Up opens September 21.
If you’re serious about your corn maze exploration, the largest corn maze in the world opens not too far from Chicago on Saturday, September 9. Every year Richardson Adventure Farm opens a themed 28-acre corn maze to the public in fall with a different theme.
This year the maze pays tribute to the legendary movie Jurassic Park, which hit screens 30 years ago but despite being the headline attraction that’s not all there is down at Richardson Adventure Farm. There is also a 50-foot observation tower, a recently upgraded train ride, giant slides, pedal karts, zorbing, a zip line, and a petting zoo.
An additional 13-acre sunflower maze with many varieties of the popular fall flower and a huge pumpkin patch offers terrific photo opportunities and the fall’s finest creations while a wine-sampling bar, a craft beer tent, and food trucks ensure families are well-fueled to enjoy all the adventurous activities.
Though it isn’t until later in the month, of all the events to look forward to in September, one of our favorites is certainly the autumn equinox and the resulting Chicagohenge.
The bi-annual event occurs for the spring and fall equinoxes. Dubbed ‘Chicagohenge’ after the famous prehistoric boulder formation in England, the astrological phenomenon sees the magic of nature and Chicago’s glorious architecture collaborate harmoniously to put on a breathtaking spectacle that people from all over come to witness.
Because Chicago was built on a grid system with streets lining up near perfectly on compass north to south and east to west, the sun lines up directly with Chicago’s east-west facing streets and beams down the heart of the city splashing through Chicago’s artificial valleys.
There is loads going on for Labor Day this year and you can find plenty of options in our roundup of the most amazing things to this Labor Day weekend in Chicago. Our pick of the bunch, however, (if you’re willing to push the boat out a little with regards to expenses) has to be the Labor Day Sunset Cruise taking place on Lake Michigan.
Taking off at 5:30 pm from the Summer Of George, guests will float down the Chicago River while enjoying a live DJ set before taking in breathtaking views of Chicago’s skyline and the setting sun while sailing out onto Lake Michigan. In addition to the Labor Day Sunset Cruise, there are plenty of other cruises taking place throughout the month if you can’t make it on September 4th.
Another option, if you want to make it a really special Saturday night, is to watch the final Navy Pier firework show of the summer from the waters of Lake Michigan with a Chicago Lakefront Fireworks Cruise.
The pier’s firework displays are completely free and have been taking place 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.
Of course, if you’re not kicking back down at the lakefront, there is a good chance you’ll spend some of your summer enjoying the vibrancy of the Chicago Riverwalk. But rather than sit on the side, why not take it in from the river itself?
Another unforgettable activity on the water can be enjoyed in the center of Chicago from the comfort of a kayak thanks to Urban Kayaks. 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 summer 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 began in July and features mesmerizing projections by the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project as well as the continued Building Light projections every night through to September 13 when brand-new projections will begin for the fall schedule.
Free admission days are somewhat of a rarity during the summer months when Chicago’s tourism industry is thriving. Luckily though, as we enter the fall months many of our marvelous museums and attractions begin bringing back frequent free admission days.
While not free, another standout museum from Chicago’s plethora of world-renowned museums is the Museum of Contemporary Art. This unique, grand structure houses exciting temporary and permanent exhibitions that are sure to leave you awestruck.
Make it a whole family day and prepare for an unforgettable experience in contemporary art or gather a group of friends and embrace your whimsical, artistic nature as you explore the fascinating collections. 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.
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.
Chicagoans can step into a world of mystery and suspense now that CLUE: A Walking Mystery has opened downtown, bringing the classic board game to life for a limited time. The perplexing experience of solving the ultimate whodunit murder mystery, inspired by the beloved Hasbro game, is now open in the Windy City!
This incredible CLUE: A Walking Mystery experience transports guests into a thrilling adventure where they become detectives, navigating through a real-life setting to solve the perplexing homicide of Mr. Boddy. This interactive production blends storytelling, problem-solving, and teamwork, to create an experience you won’t soon forget!
Comprising rooftops with city views over sweeping skylines, the materials for a perfect viewing experience like state-of-the-art wireless headphones and adjustable deck chairs, plus, of course, a huge screen showing iconic movies, Rooftop Cinema Club provides what it calls the “ultimate open-air cinema experience” a food menu and a full bar to keep you fueled throughout the experience.
Already operating across the country in places like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, the London-based company branched out to Chicago last year, premiering up on the fifth-floor terrace of the Emily Hotel in the heart of Chicago’s former warehouse district of Fulton Market.
The top-rated boutique hotel is now showing 2-5 movies a day for its one-of-a-kind outdoor cinema experience and features a weekly lineup of cult classics, timeless comedies, and recent releases projected onto its state-of-the-art LED screen.
Chicago is a food lover’s dream, boasting numerous outstanding restaurants that take dining experiences to the next level. One spot stands out among this vibrant food scene, offering Chicagoans a truly elevated sports bar experience!
With its exceptional chef-driven, all-American menu, Old Town Pour House focuses on the classics with a twist. But that’s not all! The restaurant was named ‘America’s Best 100 Beer Bars’ by Draft Magazine and has a decadent Rock N’ Roll weekend brunch, trivia nights, happy hour, and so much more.
A new exhibition at the Morton Arboretum has opened, featuring a collection of towering arbor-inspired sculptures. Titled “Of the Earth,” the exhibition features five exclusive new works from Polish-American artist Olga Ziemska and replaced those on display for Human + Nature.
The largest exhibition of artist Olga Ziemska’s work to date, “Of the Earth” is has been 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.
18. Go apple picking
While we’ll miss the blooming gardens of summer we’re also excited for the changing leaves and orchards to harvest the fruits of fall. The peak season for apple pick starts rolling from September through October.
If you want to take measures into your own hands, head to our article on the best places to pick apples in Chicago to find out where to get your pick of the season’s best apple batch!
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 ABBA at Stan Mansion on Thursday, September 7
Candlelight: A Tribute to Juan Gabriel at Salvage One on Thursday, September 14
Candlelight Aurora: A Tribute to Taylor Swift at New England Congregational Church on Saturday, September 16
Candlelight: The Best of Hans Zimmer at Music Box Theatre on Wednesday, September 20
Candlelight: A Tribute to Adele at Stan Mansion on Thursday, September 21
Can’t decide on a concert but want to ensure you attend one or need to buy a gift for somebody special? 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 summer with concerts such as Beyoncé, Rihanna & More Under the Stars and Sinatra Under The Stars both taking place at the stunning AIRE rooftop.
Whether you like to twirl to country music while devouring barbecue or sip on a refreshing cocktail on center stage as a soul band, there’s no shortage of amazing bars and restaurants with live music in Chicago.
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 embark on a surreal experience with friends by sitting down for a meal blindfolded to focus on more important things like the exquisite food and wine that make up a secret menu.Grab tickets to Dining in the Dark with Wine Service: A Unique Blindfolded Dining Experience.
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!
Fancy a normal movie experience indoors? There’s no place to experience them than at the ever-reliable 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.
Maxwell Street Market, Chicago’s longest-running open-air market, which 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 the topic of booze, 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.
From the biggest patio in the city to the biggest adventure park in the country, this summer take a short drive down to Lemont, where The Forge: Lemont Quarries offers an all-around day of fun.
From mountain biking and climbing walls to yoga to a tactical laser tag course, the 300-acre park is packed with everything you can think of with something for everyone!
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.
Another place you’ll find thrills this summer is over at the largest waterpark in Illinois. Raging Waves is once again offering 32 water slides, 43 private cabanas, an enormous wave pool, a 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 water parks aren’t your vibe the beach just might be. We may be miles away from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some top-notch beaches. For obvious reasons, places like North Avenue Beach, Oak Street Beach, and Ohio Street Beach[/trackLink] have become some of the most popular places to be during the summer months as Chicago heats up.
Whether playing volleyball, renting paddleboards, or having a lazy day on the sand, you just can’t beat a day kicking back and looking out over Lake Michigan.
There are also plenty of great beachy hangouts like Shore Club Chicago, The Waterfront, Castaways, Cafe Olivia, and many more.
Although Lake Michigan is practically in everyone’s backyard, we sometimes need an escape from the unpredictable boundless waves for something more serene, and that’s when we can look to higher ground.
From luxurious hotels to member only-clubs, Chicago is beaming with rooftop pools, and finding the right one can be tricky, but luckily we’ve put together a guide to our favorite hotels in Chicago with rooftop pools.
Another place to kick back and enjoy some downtime is at one of Chicago’s many tranquil parks and gardens.
There are many places you can get back in touch with Mother Nature right here in the city, and many offer relaxing refuges from the hustle and bustle of the big city,
Though it might not strictly be a “thing to do in Chicago”, there are plenty of stunning natural spectacles in Illinois that provide brilliant day breaks from our urban jungle. If you’re one who enjoys being surrounded by nature, then heading out to the quiet of Illinois’ natural beauty is a great year-round 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
If it is waterfalls in particular that you’re keen to hunt out in your escape from the sweltering city, you’ve come to the right place.
There is something so refreshing for the mind, body, and soul about witnessing the calm chaos of water cascade down into a misty pool below. But whilst states like Oregon and Washington have over 200 waterfalls, the supply of verdant natural spectacles in Illinois is somewhat limited.
Finding a waterfall close to the urban jungle that is Chicago can be a little difficult and so we’ve rounded up some of the best waterfalls near the Windy City where you can escape and admire nature’s magic!
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.
[Featured Image from Unsplash]