Time to get excited about the season! Summer is always fun in Chicago, and now that Memorial Day is behind us, we’re in full swing!
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events is responsible for presenting many of the summer’s most exciting free programming here, so we thought we’d give you a peek at what’s coming.
Chicago Gospel Music Festival, 6/2-6/3: The 32nd annual free music festival features local and national artists in the city where the genre was born. Traditional choirs, contemporary urban music, and family-friendly activities will be featured. takes place at Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center.
The 34th Annual Chicago Blues Festival, 6/9-6/11: This is the largest music festival in Chicago, and the largest free blues festival in the world! Performers this year include Billy Branch & The Son of Blues, William Bell, Gary Clark Jr., and many more. Sited at Millennium Park.
Millennium Park Summer Music Series, 6/12-8/21: Enjoy a diverse lineup of music Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Performers include Otis Taylor with Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native on 6/12, No BS! Brass Band with Dayme Arocena on 6/12, a Juneteenth Celebration with Gregory Porter and the Tomeka Reid Quartet on 6/19, Hurray for Riff Raff and Matthew Santos on 6/22, Jaga Jazzist and AfrotoniX on 6/26, Lady Wray with Zeshan B & The Transistors on 6/29, Natalie Prass and Angelica Garcia on 7/10, Toto La Momposina and Xenia Rubinos on 7/13, Big Thief and Overcoats on 7/17, Drive-By Truckers and Honeysuckle on 7/20, Amadou & Mariam and Frank Waln on 7/24, Gaby Moreno and Centavrvs on 8/7, Toussou N’Dour and Bassel & The Supernaturals on 8/10, and Joshua Nelson and Tone Ross & Inspired on 8/17. Performer is TBA on 8/21.
Millennium Park Summer Film Series, 6/13-9/5: Tuesday evenings, come downtown to Millennium Park’s Great Lawn to view free movies at 6:30 p.m. Bring blankets and a picnic! The schedule includes “The Blues Brothers” on 6/13, “Caddyshack” on 6/20, “Julie and Julia” on 6/27, “El Norte” on 7/11, “La La Land” on 7/18, “Network” on 7/25, “Bend It Like Beckham” on 8/1, a double feature of “Ghost” and “The Shining” on 8/8, “Hidden Figures” on 8/15, “Five Heartbeats” on 8/22, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” at 11 a.m. on 8/24, “The Princess Bride” on 8/29, and “Wayne’s World” on 9/5.
Grant Park Music Festival, 6/14-6/19: This classical music festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (and an occasional other location) takes place Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. It features the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. If you can’t make the performance, the orchestra and chorus often rehearse during the day, Tuesdays-Fridays. Pre-concert lectures take place in the Family Fun Tent at Millennium Park. Performances include Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto on 6/14, A Sea Symphony on 6/16-6/17, Beethoven Symphony No. 4 on 6/21, Stravinsky Firebird on 6/23-6/24, Missa Latina on 6/28, Canada’s 150th Birthday Celebration with the Canadian Brass on 7/1, an Independence Day Salute on 7/4, Star Wars and More: The Music of John Williams on 7/7-7/8, Haydn London Symphony on 7/12, Grant Park Chorus: Rachmaninov Vespers on 7/13 and 7/18, Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 on 7/14-7/15, Saint-Saens Violin Concerto on 7/19, A Broadway Romance on 7/21-7/22, Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 on 7/26, Mozart Linz Symphony on 7/28-7/29, The Spanish Guitar on 8/2, Debussy La Mer on 8/4-8/5, An Evening with Mariachi Cobre on 8/9, Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony + A World Premier on 8/11-8/12, Haydn Cello Concerto on 8/16, and Beethoven Symphony No. 9 on 8/18-8/19.
Chicago Summerdance, 6/23-9/10: Over the course of the summer, 48 different live bands and DJs will come to Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden Fridays-Sundays from 6/23-9/10, and Sundays and Thursdays as well from 7/13-9/14. Enjoy free dance lessons on an open-air dance floor, then dance the night away! Salsa, Kizomba, Bachata, Argentine Tango, and many more styles can be seen and experienced. SummerDance will also come to eight neighborhood Chicago parks this summer.
3rd Annual Mariachi Festival, 6/25: Features mariachi bands from Los Angeles, Texas, and Chicago, along with student ensembles from the Mariachi Heritage Foundation. Begins at 2 p.m. at Millennium Park.
Taste of Chicago, 7/5-7/9: Can you believe the Taste of Chicago is now in its 37th year? As always, it is free, but if you want to eat, you’ll have to buy tickets that will allow you to purchase tasting sizes or full size entrees. The restaurant lineup includes 35 five-day restaurants this year, but also features 16 pop-ups (11 new ones) and 16 food trucks (six are new). The Celebrity Chef du Jour dining experience is available again. Musical performers include Alessia Cara, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Passion Pit, and the O’Jays, along with a second stage. Tickets can be purchased for seats, but music can also be experienced for free.
Chicago Air And Water Show, 8/20-8/21: This summertime tradition has been going on for 58 years! The free event is one of the biggest of the summer, and you may have to arrive really early to get the best spots on the lakefront to view demonstrations by military and civilian aircrafts, boats, and diving and parachute teams.
2017 Fifth Star Honors, 8/28: Four Chicago artists and institutions are recognized during this free-admission awards show and concert at 7 p.m. The fun takes place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. This year’s honorees are hip-hop artist/actor Common, architect Jeanne Gang, artist Kerry James Marshall, and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Youth artists will be recognized on the Rising Star honor Roll.
World Music Festival Chicago, 9/8-9/24: The 19th annual free music festival takes place city-wide, in many venues over 11 days. It’s a bit early for the lineup, but expect dozens of artists from many different countries to perform at the Chicago Cultural Center and beyond.