Summer in Chicago is when you can really feel the vibrant energy that makes up the city. Sure, you can sense this pulse out on the city’s lakefront, but it’s Chicago’s festivals that really showcase the best food, music and art that each neighborhood has to offer.
Every weekend throughout the summer there is something going on, from nationally acclaimed events to casual street fests. Here are eight festivals you shouldn’t miss.
Windy City Smokeout
Country music, BBQ and craft beer meld together for July’s three-day Windy City Smokeout. BBQ pitmasters from famed places around the country — like the Salt Lick in Austin and Martin’s BBQ in Nashville — set up their smokers and dish out everything from succulent whole hog to fall-off-the-bone ribs and plenty of signature sauces to go around.
Wash that goodness down with beer from more than 25 different breweries before heading toward the stage to jam out to country music superstars like Brett Eldredge and Grammy-nominated Brothers Osborne.
Roscoe Village Burger Fest
Burger lovers and young families fill the streets of Roscoe Village in July when chefs from local restaurants sling burgers, competing for title of Best Burger.
Kids can run amok at this Burger Fest, with outdoor rock climbing, yoga, jousting and hoops for the older kids and plenty of crafts, face painting and tattoos for the younger ones.
Favorite 80s cover band Sixteen Candles is a frequent performer, with appearances by other bands that’ll make you want to dance in the streets.
Mamby on the Beach
For two days in June, Oakwood Beach turns into the stomping grounds for Mamby on the Beach, a weekend of indie music, wellness and killer views of Lake Michigan. Acts like Common, Cold War Kids, Russ and Spoon headline the event.
There’s plenty to do between sets, like join a giant water balloon fight, play beach volleyball, do yoga or zone out during a sound bath. Take a moment to see what the future holds with a tarot reading, doll up at the braid bar and barber station, or get dazzled with henna tattoos.
The end of summer brings the mega Chicago Gourmet food festival to Millennium Park, with tastings from some of the best local and national chefs, celebrity chef demos and plenty of wine pours.
The Grand Cru event showcases the best of wine alongside tastings from a curated group of chefs. Each year the event has a different theme with a ton of ancillary events, including the fan-favorite Hamburger Hop.
Chicago Pride Fest
Every June, close to 100,000 people flock to Boystown to celebrate the LGBTQ community. The parade gets people dancing in the streets watching the lively floats pass by, but the Chicago Pride Fest doesn’t stop there. Three stages of music, drag shows and tons of vendors round out one of the most festive weekends of the summer.
Wells Street Art Festival
The main drag of Old Town showcases stellar artists from all over the country displaying everything from photography to jewelry at the Wells Street Art Festival each June.
Local restaurants serve up food, and live acts like the Jesse White Tumblers perform. Around the corner, the Old Town Art Fair always happens on the same weekend, where you can check out more art and a lovely garden walk.
Chicago Blues Festival
Chicagoans know how to sing the blues, and they also know how to throw a great party celebrating the music genre. Every June, the free Chicago Blues Festival fills Millennium Park with great blues artists gracing four stages throughout the park. Since 1984, this event has been a marquee in Chicago’s festival season.
For more than 20 years, early June’s RibFest serves up around 50,000 pounds of BBQ in just 25 hours. Attendees salivate over more than a dozen varieties of ribs and other goodies, all of which are judged by a panel of local celebrities. There’s tons of music to listen to and a kids stage with performers geared toward the youngest fest-goers.