Somehow, we’re already at the beginning of a new month, which means there are a plethora of new things to do in Chicago.
Whether you’re a foodie looking for an undiscovered spot, an outdoorsy type with a hankering for fresh air, or a creative looking to experience something new — Secret Chicago has you covered.
From new restaurants and food festivals to unmissable exhibitions and unique live performances, these ideas will definitely get the ball rolling.
Scroll down through this comprehensive list of awesome things to do in Chicago and start planning your month!
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 was condensed to just two street parties over the summer. While the first was on July 16, the second, and final ‘Sundays on State’ street party of the summer, will take place on Sunday, August 13, from 11 am until 6 pm!
A few days before the second State Street part one of Chicago’s most beloved family events takes place on August 10. Every summer, tens of thousands of yellow ducks splash into the Chicago River in a lip-biting race for the Chicago Ducky Derby all to raise money for Special Olympics.
Chicagoans flock to the downtown area and line up on bridges and along the riverwalk to watch the spectacle with many adopting a duck or five in the hope of winning big and supporting the Special Olympics in the process.
Each year the event raises upwards of $300,000 for over 20,000 athletes and more than 10,000 young athletes. In 2022, over 75,000 ducks were adopted and the highest amount of money raised in the tradition’s 17 years.
Now in its 18th year, the Chicago Ducky Derby will take place on the second Thursday of August.
Of all Chicago’s exciting annual summer events, the beloved Air and Water Show is undoubtedly one of the headline acts. The largest free show of its kind in the entire country is coming back for another full-throttle experience above Lake Michigan and this year the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will be making their first appearance in Chicago since 2018.
Having once again returned to full-scale shows last year, the 2023 Chicago Air & Water show is expected to attract over 2 million spectators flocking to watch the aerial daredevil feats.
Spectators can once again line up along North Avenue Beach and the Lakefront from Fullerton to Oak Street and enjoy a variety of military and civilian performances absolutely free from 10 am until 2 pm on Saturday, August 19th, and Sunday, August 20th
With Chicago’s Air & Water Show already providing reason enough to keep the third weekend in August free, another cherished annual event adds even more reason to spend that weekend on the lakefront.
Returning for its eighth year, the Midwest’s largest lobster and seafood festival, Great American Lobster Fest, will take place the same weekend as the air and water show on Saturday, August 19, and Sunday, August 20.
The family-friendly festival on Navy Pier features live music and more importantly a vast array of seafood including lobsters flown in fresh from the cold waters of the East Coast.
That action-packed Saturday also happens to be one of the days a weekly Navy Pier firework display will light up Lake Michigan. The pier’s firework displays are completely free and will be 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.
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, the Sunday Funday Party Cruise! provides the perfect remedy for the Sunday scaries and Chicago Booze Cruises throughout the week offer midweek plans made up of live DJs, unobstructed views of the skyline, and the chance to make memories as the sun sets on Lake Michigan.
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.
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 mid-September.
Watch the Art on theMART projections“]Read more about the Art on TheMART summer projections.[/trackLink]
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 summer!
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!Read more about the Umbrella Sky Project.
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.
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 Radiohead at Stan Mansion on August 4
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Pink Floyd at Wicker Park Lutheran Church on August 12
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Ludovico Einaudi at Chopin Theatre on August 18
- Candlelight: The Best of The Beatles at Chopin Theatre on August 19
- Candlelight: Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop Favorites at Wicker Park Lutheran Church on August 26
- Candlelight Open Air: Rock Classics on Strings at Artifact Events Courtyard (outside) on August 31
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.
Chicago summers get pretty busy—between concerts, food, and neighborhood festivals, it’s almost impossible to keep up with what’s happening in the city. We’ve created this list, so you’ll never miss out on whatever you are drawn to—country music, house music, vintage shopping…it goes on.
There is nothing better than opening the door to your local vintage store, sifting through a plethora of clothing, and finally coming across a beautiful jacket, a patent leather purse, or a set of antique painted plates—all at an affordable price.
We firmly believe that Chicago has one of the greatest music scenes—the Smashing Pumpkins, Styx, Jennifer Hudson, Chance the Rapper, and many other artists were discovered here. Whether you’re into R&B, Rap, Indie Rock, or Pop, there is a stream of festivals and artists coming to perform in Chicago from intimate dive bars to Wrigley Field.
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.
Concerts Under the Stars is another terrific outdoor musical experience taking place this summer with concerts such as ABBA Under The Stars at AIRE on August 27. You’ll enjoy a night of ABBA accompanied by stunning views from the rooftop of the AIRE in Chicago.
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.
Retro on Roscoe Street will be spread out across six blocks of Roscoe Village featuring amazing local food, antique vendors, family-friendly activities, and of course, live music across three stages guaranteed to keep the party moving.
Retro on Roscoe takes place from Friday, August 11 until Sunday, August 13. Admission is a $15 suggested donation.
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, those enthusiastically embracing the Barbie delirium can now find the perfect summer viewing experience over at the 100-foot-wide McHenry Outdoor Theater through August 4th.
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.
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 pm until 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, 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.
39. Attend Chicago’s Pizza City Fest
Join 40 esteemed pizza makers and savor some delicious ‘festival-sized’ slices and drinks on Saturday, August 26, and Sunday, August 27. This Chicago festival is dedicated to celebrating pizza, so check out the pizza-themed merch, meet renowned authors at book signings, and gain knowledge from the demos and seminars.
📍Location: The Fairgrounds at Salt Shed Chicago
From the largest park in the country to the largest patio in the city, Chicago doesn’t play around when it comes to patio season. Come rain or shine, if a patio is open 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!
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 Shutterstock]