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Top Things To Do in Chicago in July

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July is a fantastic month to come and explore the Windy City! The summer traditions are in full swing, and the summer weather makes it a beautiful time to explore Chicago. 

This month hosts its own set of traditions, with favorite festivals to cater to all different interests, such as Windy City Smokeout, Pitchfork Music Festival, and the Taste of Chicago.  The beaches are open, allowing a dip in the lake to cool off from the warmest month, and the free concerts in the park are well into their summer calendar.

Below you will find the Top 10 things to Do in Chicago this July, as well as a list of night time activities, family-friendly activities, and free options explore! 

 Check out our Top 10 Things to do in Chicago in Summer

Top 10 Things to do in July:

Summer in Chicago is truly the best time of the year!  The month of July provides the city with various events and over 20 festivals, covering different neighborhoods, themes, cultures, and music genres.  Below we have included some of our favorite traditions, but for a more complete calendar for Chicago in July, look here.

Windy City RibFest in Uptown
4800 N. Broadway St.
June 29- July 1

Explore the historic neighborhood of Uptown while local and national ribbers work to impress you with their saucy slabs of meat. This festival also includes eclectic music performances, arts, crafts, and family friendly events!

Fourth of July Festivities
July 4-7 

July in ChicagoCelebrate the 4th of July in Chicago as the city honors this country with a day full of American classics, concerts, and firework shows shooting off from Navy Pier on the 4th and the 7th. 

The annual tradition of a holiday concert continues as a part of the Grant Park Music Festival with Independence Day Salute, held in Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park beginning at 6:30.  After the concert you can catch one of Navy Pier’s best firework displays of the summer, with patriotic music in the background.

Our Riverwalk and History Tour will bring you a short walk to Navy Pier, just in time for the fireworks!

West Fest
Chicago Ave., From Damen to Wood 
July 6-8 

This truly local street fest features local talent, highlighting restaurants, artists, crafters, and a great set of live music. Wander through the West Town Neighborhood and experience this annual tradition. 

Taste of Chicago
Grant Park: Jackson and Columbus
July 11-15

Join in the fun by attending the world’s largest food festival! Sample your way through Chicago’s food scene as you enjoy music and family friendly activities during this 5 day festival. A Chicago tradition since 1980, this is one you will not want to miss! Learn more about Grant park where this famous festival is hosted on our Birthplace of the Skyscrapper Architecture Tour.

Windy City Smokeout
560 W Grand Ave.
July 13-15 

Beer, BBQ, and bands, what else do you need for a weekend in July?  The Windy City Smokeout features over twenty of the world’s best pitmasters serving up some of the best BBQ, an award winning line up of country artists, and ice cold beer from local and national breweries.

Chinatown Summer Fair
2200 S. Wentworth Ave.
July 15th 

This fair returns to Chinatown for its 40th year.  In honor Far East culture, this celebration features a Dragon & Lion Dance Procession, artisans, amazing food, and activities that are perfect for the whole family!

Pitchfork Music Festival
Union Park: 1501 W. Randolph Street
July 20-22

With over 40 bands performing for crowds of 50,000 people during this three day festival, Pitchfork Music Festival promises to be an energizing event showcasing the best in new and rising music as it returns for another year. Beyond the music, this festival hosts local vendors, supporting Chicago artists and food culture.

Tacos and Tamales Festival
16th Street and Peoria 
July 20-22

Explore the historic neighborhood of Pilsen, with its strong Mexican roots and culture. Featuring the best and most authentic tacos and tamales in the city, this fest also provides highlights such as local art installations, a beer garden, vendors, and latin music and dance. 

Taste of River North
Ward Park: N. Kingsbury and W. Erie
July 20-22

For the 17th year, this festival will draw in crowds to experience one of Chicago’s most entertaining destination neighborhoods. Nestled in between the Chicago River and the glowing skyline, this festival highlights some of the best of River North, with dynamic chefs and restaurants providing the food, and local bands adding non stop music. Local vendors and family friendly activities enrich the festivities.

July in ChicagoWicker Park Fest
Milwaukee Ave., from North Ave. to Paulina St
July 27-29

Called out as “Chicago’s Best Street Festival of the Summer” by the Chicago Tribune, this tradition continues to draw in crowds from across the city and country. This festival highlights the personality and culture of this neighborhood, with a prosperous music history, vintage shops, dynamic nightlife, and delectable restaurant scene. With over 30 bands performing during this three day festival, in addition to the arts and craft tents, this event is sure to leave you more than entertained.

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Night Time Activities:

Many of our Top Ten activities are perfect for the evening hours, but below are some other suggestions to fill in your evenings during the month of July. Read our post about the Top Ten Things to Do in Chicago at Night for more ideas.

Movies in the Park

For the past 18 years, Chicago’s movies in the park have been lighting up the summer skies. Parks dotted all across the city will be show recent films, and along with some classics. Check out the full schedule here. Millennium Park is one of the most popular destinations for this, showing movies int eh Jay Pritzker Pavilion every Tuesday night! Learn more about Millennium Park and the other fun summer traditions hosted here on our Loop and Millennium Park Tour, offered everyday! 

Catch the Fireworks at Navy Pier 

During the summer season, Navy Pier shoots off firework shows every Wednesday and Saturday night!  Take in the action for Navy Pier itself, or admire the show from afar at Buckingham Fountain, or Museum Campus, where you will find some of the best views of the city. 

Sip a Cocktail at a Speakeasy 

Chicago is fascinated with the 1920’s era of prohibition, and the gangsters and speakeasies that went along with that.  Today you will find many of these hidden bars across the city, with crafty cocktails, an intimate atmosphere, and often live entertainment.  Find some of the best speakeasies with our Guide to Chicago Speakeasies, and learn more about the history of speakeasies on the Lincoln Park and Gangster Tour. 

July in Chicago

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Family Friendly Activities:

Some of our Top Ten are great activities for children, but check out our post about Family Friendly Activities in Chicago for a more complete guide. Below you will find a couple other options to keep your children entertained this month!

Take a City Tour

With the beautiful summer weather, this is the perfect time to explore the city together as a family! All of our pay-what-you-like walking tours are family friendly, and engage guests of all ages with entertaining stories and fascinating history. Learn about the Gangsters of the 20’s on our Lincoln Park and Gangster Tour (which ends at the zoo!) or hear about the buildings that line the river and the way the river shaped our city on the Riverwalk and History Tour. See a full tour calendar here.

Explore the Farmers Market

Now that summer is here, there are farmers markets everyday of the week, all across the city! Check out the City Market in Daley Plaza on our Loop and Millennium Park Tour, with the market open on Thursdays! For a full fame's market schedule, check here.

July in ChicagoGo to a Ball Game 

Baseball season is at its peak during the summer months! What better way to fill an afternoon or summer night than cheering on one of our two hometown teams?  With both the White Sox and the Cubs calling Chicago home, there are many options to catch a game, our tour one of their fields. 

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Free Activities:

There are many free activities to take advantage of in Chicago, during every season of the year. Many of our Top Ten are also free to explore, but below you will find a couple of other free options this month. Check out our comprehensive post about the Top Free Things to Do in Chicago.

Concerts in the Park

The Grant Music Festival provides free concerts in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, multiple nights throughout the week! This classical music will fill the night sky, as you enjoy the live entertainment, city lights, and summer air. 

Exercise Classes in the Park

During the month of July, you will also fund a full calendar of exercise classes in the Park.  Local studios donate their timber offering these free classes under the summer sun, multiple mornings a week. Check out the exercise class schedule here. 

July in ChicagoWonder Along the Riverwalk and Lakefront Trail 

Chicago is blessed with two beautiful waterways, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.  Chicago has a done a great job of enhancing these features, with creation the Riverwalk and the Lakefront Trail. Stroll along the riverwalk, stopping for a glass of wine or some ice cream along the way, or ride a bike along the 18 miles of the Lakefront Trail. 

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About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: September 26th, 2021
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