After the gloomy, bone-chilling winter, Chicago absolutely comes to life during the short summer. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, get ready to revel in all the fun, free things to do Chicago. A barrage of weekly neighborhood festivals keeps everyone entertained and fed from June to September.
Wicker Park Fest
Get a glimpse of Chicago city life by strolling through one the city’s most popular neighborhoods, Wicker Park, at the end of every July. Often called the “Brooklyn of Chicago,” Wicker Park is home to outstanding restaurants, quirky shopping, and a community of artists and creatives. Wicker Park Fest showcases live bands, local food, and kid-friendly activities. It can all be yours for just a short taxi or “L” ride from downtown.
Chicago Air and Water Show
You may have been to similar shows before, but Chicago’s Air and Water Show is unlike any other. In fact, it’s the largest free show of its kind in the United States and one of the best free things to do Chicago. You’ll find more than 2 million Chicagoans and suburbanites lining the shores of North Avenue Beach all weekend, staring skyward to get a glimpse of the daring Blue Angels, helicopters, vintage planes, and more. You can check out this annual show in the middle of August each year. If you plan in advance, you might be able to score a seat at one of Chicago’s rooftop bars, like the J. Parker at Hotel Lincoln.
Chicago Jazz Festival
Chicago is home to a lively jazz scene, and on Labor Day weekend each year, the city celebrates this tradition during a much-loved Jazz Festival in Millennium Park. Get your fill of local and international talent at the weekend-long showcase. There’s nothing better than swaying to live music under the sunset while picnicking in the lawn seats at the Pritzker Pavilion.
Renegade Craft Fair
The first Renegade Craft Fair—now an international event for craft lovers, artists, and shoppers alike—happened here. Come see where it all started in Chicago’s Wicker Park in September of each year. You’ll be more than inspired by the never-ending parade of jewelry, art, clothing, and furniture booths featuring talented vendors from around the world. The shopping sprawls for blocks and blocks along Division Street and onto side streets, so schedule ample time to browse. It’s the perfect place to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts a few months before the holidays.