Fun Things To Do In Chicago During The Summer
Chicago is a unique American city, boasting a storied history, a lively art and music scene and tons of attractions for people of all ages. Whether you're looking for something to do with your whole family or are visiting the city with some of your friends, you might be surprised about some of the things that you can do in Chicago this summer. To help you figure out what you want to do, we've put together the definitive list on what you should check out while you're in the Windy City.
1. Visit the Boardwalk at Navy Pier
Navy Pier is Chicago's lakefront treasure and a perfect place to take the whole family. More than just a run-of-the-mill boardwalk, Navy Pier extends six city blocks to make room for the many restaurants, stores, public art pieces and events that the location houses. Some of the most popular places to visit on the peer are the Centennial Wheel (among other rides), the Crystal Gardens and Pok Bros Park.
If you and the family are looking to relax, you can catch the fireworks show that takes place every Wednesday at 9:30 pm and Saturday at 10:15 pm during the summer. Along with the fireworks, you can watch Chicago Shakespeare Theater put on a theatrical production nightly. Want to grab dinner before or after a show? There are tons of restaurant options ranging from seafood to classic Chicago deep dish pizza.
Even better, there is no admission fee to enter Navy Pier. It's open from 10 am to 10 pm on Sunday through Thursday and 10 am to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
2. Cheer for the Cubs or Whitesox
Chicago is home to two Major League Baseball teams — the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Whitesox — with the Cubs calling Wrigley Field home since 1916. While the Cubs play on the city's North Side, the White Sox play on the South Side at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Even if your family isn't filled with Cubs or Whitesox fans, both venues offer an experience like no other. Engage in the great American past-time and bring the whole family to a game. There are plenty of food offerings at both venues, and Guaranteed Rate Field even offers the Xfinity Kids Zone to keep younger children entertained.
3. Take a Day Trip to the Volo Auto Museum
If you're looking for a fun day trip just outside of the city, take the whole family to the Volo Auto Museum — a family-owned museum, visited by over half a million people a year and a focus of the History Channel TV series "Volo, House of Cars." No matter your age or interest, the 35-acre museum has over 33 unique exhibits that offer a wide variety of entertainment. At the museum, you can see auto showrooms that display everything from iconic classic and muscle cars to vehicles from movies and TV. In addition to the cars, you can find a self-playing orchestra, Disney gallery and mini-theaters along with many pop culture artifacts around the museum.
Located just 50 miles north of Chicago, it's one of the best summer activities near the city. It's very accessible, as you can take a day trip there via a Metra train ride from the city. To make your trip as convenient as possible, the museum provides a pizza parlor on site and a guided train/bus tour. It will be easy to get lost in the exhibits and other entertainment options at the museum, so plan to take a full day to absorb everything the location has to offer.
Not only do you have tons to see and do when you are at the Volo Auto Museum, but there are some other amazing attractions just a short drive away! Go for a ride on some of the most exciting roller coasters in the country at Six Flags Great America. You can also spend time at Great Wolf Lodge which offers indoor water park fun and dry-land experiences for the entire family. In the mood for some shopping? Gunree Mills is the largest outlet and full-price shopping destination in Illinois, and it is just a few miles away from the Volo Auto Museum!
Have Fun With Your Friends
1. Kayak the Chicago River
Get a different view of downtown with your friends by renting a kayak or bringing your own to explore downtown Chicago's waterways. Rental kayaks and guided tours are available through Urban Kayaks and Kayak Chicago, with their tours taking you to the heart of Chicago. If you like kayaking but also love beer, you can have them both with Urban Kayak's "Paddle & Pints" tour, as you go on a 90-minute kayaking trip that closes out at a pub where you can drink beer and have great food.
For a more low-key experience, you can go on a three-hour Sunset Paddle offered by Kayak Chicago, where you can watch the sun go down over the city while hanging out with your friends on the calm water. On a beautiful summer day, nothing will beat exploring Chicago on the water and getting some sun.
2. Drink the Best Craft Brews
If kayaking seems like fun, but a bit too active for your tastes, you can grab a drink at the ever-growing number of local breweries that continue to pop up all around the city. Chicago has become a mecca of craft beer, and the many excellent breweries like Half Acre Brewery Balmoral, Marz Community Brewing and Metropolitan Brewing show why. On top of the beer, many of the breweries offer world-class food, with Band of Bohemia being the first brewpub to receive a Michelin Star.
If you happen to be in Chicago towards the end of July, you might even be able to catch the Chicago Craft Beer and Pizza Festival that takes place July 20 to 21. More than 300 of the nation's 4,000-plus microbreweries are based in Illinois, so you won't want to miss the wide selection of beer that you can try at the festival. Along with offering the chance to taste a sample of more than 70 specialty beers, visitors can also enjoy live music acts in the evening.
3. Attend a Free Concert at Millenium Park
Chicago has a great music scene, and the free concerts at the Millennium Park Summer Music Series only add to it. You can grab a seat with your friends at the Jap Pritzker Pavilion, or you can bring a blanket or chairs to sit out on the Great Lawn to watch the various musical acts. This summer's music series aims to show a broad spectrum of genre-defying musicians, giving audiences a chance to see established and emerging artists.
This summer, the lineup includes Flora Cash, Lydia Loveless and Los Amigos Invisibles, among many others. The venue is also premiering their newly revamped speakers and audio control systems to help concertgoers receive an even more state-of-the-art musical experience. The concerts will take place weekly from June 13 to August 15.
Things to Do on the Weekend
1. Shop at Randolph Street Market Festival
The over 250 vendors at the Randolph Street Market Festival offer a little bit of everything for festival-goers. Art pieces, vintage clothing, housewares, handmade goods, classic furniture and tasty food are all available for your enjoyment. Whether you want to go window shopping to just enjoy the atmosphere or are actually in the market for some vintage furniture, it's almost certain you'll find something unique to look at or buy.
In addition to the incredible shopping you can get done, the festival also offers food and drink options if you need to refuel. If you have young kids, they might not love the idea of going shopping, but they'll love the idea of hunting for treasure in the children's area found in Plumbers Hall, where every child gets a treasure map. With all of the options Randolph Street Market Festival offers, it's well worth the admission price of $12 ($10 if you pay online).
Tickets for the market are available for June 29-30, July 27-28, and August 24-25 this summer.
2. Hit the Beach
Wondering what you should do on a hot weekend in Chicago? If you aren't from the area, you might not know that Chicago offers several lakefront beaches (26, to be exact) that are perfect for hot summer days. There are beaches for all types, from a bustling North Avenue Beach to the more relaxed South Shore Beach.
If you have a dog and don't want to leave them behind, go to the dog-friendly Montrose Beach. For a more traditional beach feel, check out Oak Street Beach, where you can swim, sunbathe, play beach volleyball and take in the view. These beaches are only a small sample size of what Chicago has to offer, with museums, cultural centers, and cabanas to be found at other locations. Put on your swimsuit, don't forget your sunscreen, and give the beaches a try!
3. Go on an Architecture Tour Along the Chicago River
Chicago is a city of architectural feats. From the Willis Tower (otherwise known as the Sears Tower to longtime residents) to the Civic Opera House, Chicago's buildings are awe-inspiring and filled with history. If you want to learn more about the city and admire the architectural achievements that went into building it, you should consider scheduling an architecture tour on the weekend.
Wendella Boats provides a 75-minute Chicago River Architecture Tour. On the tour boat, a guide narrates the story of the 130-year history of Chicago's skyline, while bartenders and staff keep guests as comfortable and entertained as possible. Chicago's First Lady also offers their Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise. This 90-minute cruise is the only river cruise partnered with the Chicago Architecture Center, and it's staffed by passionate volunteers.
Summer Night Activities
1. Go to a Movie at the Park
Over the summer, multiple parks offer free movie showings during the week and on weekends. There's something nostalgic and freeing about seeing a movie outside, and many of Chicago's parks have capitalized on this desire. The Chicago Park District’s summer lineup of films include classics like "Jaws" and "Ghostbusters," kid favorites like "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" and "Ralph Breaks the Internet" and blockbusters like "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Isle of Dogs."
One of the best parts of catching an outdoor movie is the ability to bring your own food. Pack a blanket and a picnic basket filled with food and drinks to get the most out of your movie experience. Save money and get outside to catch up on all the films you missed by going to a movie at a park this summer.
2. Grab a Drink at Rooftop Bar
If you're planning a night out on the city, consider beginning or ending (or both!) your night at one of the stellar rooftop bars around the city. Not only will you be treated with sophisticated cocktails and a variety of options, but you are also almost guaranteed a breathtaking skyline view.
Another great feature of the rooftop bars is the variety. If you want an intimate spot perfect for a romantic night out, Homestead on the Roof is sure to set the mood and impress. If you're craving some Peruvian street food and Argentine cocktails, Boleo has your back. If you want a place you can hang out with your friends and relax, Streeterville Social is designed for you. Wherever you end up, you'll find a variety of rooftop bars that will fit anyone's style.
3. See a Live Show
Along with all of the other attractions Chicago has to offer, seeing a live show on the weekend is one of the best ways that you could spend your time. Goodman Theater is the largest and oldest not-for-profit theater in Chicago and aims to make programs that contribute to the quality of life in the city. The Chicago Theater delivers high-quality shows across many genres (plays, musicals, comedy acts, classical & opera, etc.). Finally, Broadway in Chicago lets you see, well, Broadway shows in Chicago! The venue rotates theaters and has a variety of shows.
If you want to go to a smaller venue, you should go to one of the five major comedy clubs in the city (Zanies, Laugh Factory, Jokes and Notes, Up Comedy Club and Improv Comedy Club). Along with going to see some standup, comedy fans should also get tickets to an improv show at Second City. The venue helped launch the careers of Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert (to name a few). Not only can you see improv comedy on stage, but you can also sign up for classes to flex your comedic chops if you are a resident of Chicago and love improv.
Ready to Visit The Chicago Area?
Hopefully, our suggestions will be helpful as you decide on what to do in Illinois and Chicago this summer. The Volo Auto Museum has called Illinois home since the 1960s, and we hope you can see how special the area is.
Our museum is always improving as we try to add new displays and improve on the old ones. As a family-owned business, we know the importance of taking everyone into account — so we've designed our museum to be fun for the whole family, no matter the age. Whether or not you love cars, you'll have a great time at the Volo Auto Museum. Have fun exploring Chicago this summer!