This post covers the best things to do in Chicago this May, including, free, family-friendly, as well as nighttime activities, all updated for 2023.
Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.
Chicago is in full bloom in May! It is a great time to visit as summer is just around the corner.
Check out the suggestions below for a variety of activities, including sports, theatre, music, and lots of indoor activities to stay warm!
For some of the more popular things to do in Chicago, read the following posts:
(1) Go to a Sporting Event
Chicago is a big sports town no matter what season! If you are visiting and want to feel like a local- be sure to catch a game.
In May, be sure to catch a ball game at Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park if any locals are reading this).
The Chicago Bulls have been performing very well in 2023, so there's a chance you'll be able to catch some playoff games this month.
Click here for a list of all sporting events happening this month.
- Hockey | Blackhawks (October – June) or the minor league team, Wolves
- Baseball | White Sox or Cubs (April - October)
- Soccer | Fire (March – October)
- Basketball | Bulls (October – May)
- Women’s Basketball| The Chicago Sky (May - October)
A day at the ballpark is the perfect family outing. Check out the rest of our family-friendly activities below.
(2) Attend a Concert
If you love music, then Chicago is a great town for you. There are many intimate music venues in Chicago to explore throughout the city or giant concert venues!
Here are just a few of the larger-scale concerts happening in May.
Here are just a few of the larger-scale concerts happening in May of 2023:
- Fucked Up | May 3rd
- Blink-182 | May 6th, 7th
- Metronomy | May 8th
- Plini | May 9th
- Theo Katzman | May 13th
- Tasha Cobbs | May 14th
- Natalie Merchant | May 19th
- Ron Pope | May 20th
- Hippo Campus | May 24th
- Janet Jackson | May 27th
- Sueños Music Festival | May 27th, 28th
- Ben Folds | May 30th
If you're looking for even more live musical performances to enjoy, check this list of concerts in Chicago in May.
(3) Take a Sightseeing Tour
Take advantage of the lovely weather on a pay-what-you-like walking tour in the Windy City.
We have a variety of tour options for all types of travelers!
If you’d prefer a bus tour, we have a great comparison of Chicago’s best. From hop-on-hop-off buses to dedicated tours, you’ll find one to suit you here.
(4) Enjoy the Theatre
Chicago is home to many many regional theatres, small black box spaces, and Broadway Tour houses. There is something for everyone!
To see a full calendar of all shows or to buy tickets for shows, see Stubhub's listings here.
Here are just a few of the many shows happening in May 2023.
- Ragtime | May 4th-6th
- Druski | May 13th
- Blue Man Group | May 20th
- Disney's Aladdin | May 17th-20th
- School of Rock | May 24th-27th
- Blue Man Group | May 30th
To see a full calendar of all shows and get a real taste of Chicago theatre, check out the not-for-profit League of Chicago Theatres.
Check out our self-guided theatre tour to admire the exterior of some of the oldest movie palaces in the downtown Loop.
(5) See a Comedy or Improv Show
Chicago is well known for comedy and improv. Just ask Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, or Steve Carell.
For stand-up comedy, here are a few options in May 2023:
- Rob Schneider | May 5th-7th
- Druski | May 13th
- Blue Man Group | May 20th, 21st, 24th-28th, 30th
- Affion Crockett | May 26rh-28th
Here are some venues to catch an evening show.
- Second City
- Comedy Sportz (Family Friendly)
You may be seeing seasoned Chicago improvisers or you might catch a group of students, but who knows? One of them could be the next Chris Farley.
(6) See More for Less with a Chicago City Pass
Many of Chicago’s biggest attractions have entry fees.
While you do pay for a tourist discount pass, it can give you a bulk discount and free admission into some interesting tours and museums, saving you up to 55%.
They can also save you time with skip-the-ticket-line privileges. Each Chicago tourist discount pass includes a variety of fun activities and attractions.
Here are a few examples of what you can visit with a tourist pass, for a discount or for free.
- Shedd Aquarium
- Skydeck Chicago
- The Field Museum
- Museum of Science and Industry
- 360 Chicago Observation Deck
- Adler Planetarium
- Art Institute of Chicago
For more details, make sure to read our full post covering Chicago tourist passes.
(7) Watch the Polish Constitution Day Parade
May 6th, 2023, is the Polish Constitution Day Parade!
Since Chicago has the largest population of Polish outside of Poland- it makes perfect sense.
This parade celebrates the ratification of the Polish Constitution in 1791, the first democratic constitution in Europe.
For well over a century, this parade is a Chicago staple. This is a free event that is family-friendly.
Plus, for the movie-lovers, this is meant to be the parade that Ferris Bueller famously sings Danke Schoen on a float.
(8) Go to a Neighborhood Festival
Once the weather starts to warm up, Chicagoans love to celebrate! There are many festivals in May. Here are two we think are among the best.
The annual Mole de Mayo is on May 27th-29th, 2023. Head to historic Pilsen to see live Lucha Libre wrestling!
There will also be music, dancing, and plenty of tasty food vendors!
MayFest is currently scheduled for May 20th. This annual festival offers music, entertainment, and lots of food to chomp on.
This event has yet to be 100% confirmed for 2023, but we're hopeful it will take place.
Dates for Bark in the Park is yet to be announced 2023, near Soldier Field.
Bring your dog to this one for dog massages, pawdicure spas, caricature drawings, live music and more. All proceeds go to The Anti-Cruelty Society.
(9) Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
There are many ways to celebrate May 5 in Chicago.
Head to Little Village for the Cinco De Mayo Parade at 12 pm on May 5 with the family!
If you are looking to really let loose, join a Cinco de Mayo themed Cantina Crawl.
If you’re enjoying your time in the Pilsen neighborhood, spend a little longer and take our Pilsen self guided tour!
NOTE: The parade has yet to be confirmed for 2023, but with everything opening back up this spring, chances are it will be happening. At the very least, there will be fun bar crawls to enjoy!
(10) Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest
Local bands, food, and street vendors line Sheffield Avenue at this Memorial Day weekend festival. In 2023, the dates are May 27th and 28th.
No tickets are required to enjoy the festival, but they do ask for a $5 donation at the door.
Learn more about the Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest.
For more suggestions of activities and events in Chicago all year, see our post on things to do in Chicago.
RESCHEDULED: See the Gospel Music Festival
Note: 2023 dates are yet to be announced.
On June 4th, 2022, come to the largest free and outdoor gospel music festival right here in the Windy City!
This event is located in Chicago’s beloved Millennium Park surrounded by sculptures, architecture, and the Lurie Gardens.
This annual music festival will have a variety of artists performing. For more information or to check out the musicians, click here.
THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN MAY
Many of our top ten activities are perfect for the evening hours, such as seeing a sporting event, going to the theater, or attending a concert.
Below are some more ideas.
Read our post about the top 10 things to do in Chicago at night for more ideas.
Navy Pier Fireworks
Navy Pier is the place to be in Chicago if you love fireworks! The summer firework season kicks off in Chicago at the end of May.
The shows happen twice a week on Wednesdays at 9:30 pm and Saturdays at 10:15 pm.
If you really want to make a night of it, book tickets for one of the many boats that offer fireworks cruises. Click here for more details.
Take a Night Tour
Looking to see a different side of Chicago? Take a walk with some spooky history on our evening Ghost Tour.
You can expect to laugh more than you scream as you learn about past hauntings. You will also learn some of the dark history of the White City.
For a lovely view, stroll along our Twilight Chicago Riverwalk & History Tour which ends a 10-minute walk from Navy Pier.
The Pier has fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night in July.
Also, several bus tours operate night versions of their day tours.
Have a Magical Night!
Chicago offers a couple of different places for people who want to partake in some prestidigitation.
If you are looking to be amazed by some of the greatest magicians make sure to check out these places:
Go Out for a Cocktail
Chicago is known for locally brewed craft beers and a unique liquor called Malort.
Another fun option is to check out one of our famous speakeasies – fitting for the mobster history of the Windy City.
The Office is a unique cocktail experience that is indulgent with completely personalized beverages.
Mixing music with cocktails is always fun! Check out Kingston Mines to enjoy the blues or Davenport’s Piano bar for a unique experience.
Looking for a hilarious night with the words of the bard? Check out Chicago’s very own Improvised Shakespeare group.
They play most Thursdays at 8 pm, Fridays at 8 pm & 10:30 pm and Saturdays at 8 pm & 10:30 pm.
Be sure to check out our post on top things to do in Chicago at night for even more suggestions.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN MAY
Chicago offers many free activities throughout the year. Some of the events mentioned above are free too!
Here are a few suggestions during May 2023.
Check out our comprehensive post about the Top Free Things to Do in Chicago.
Check Out the Chicago Cultural Center
This beautiful and historic building is free and open for the public to explore. (See the video above).
Beyond the art that lines the walls, you will find free traveling films, lectures, and performances here. This is also a great place for children’s programming.
They offer their own free tours every Wednesday – Saturday at 1:15 pm
Check out their calendar of events to see what is going on during your visit.
Bach Week 2023
Attend Bach concerts throughout Chicago and Evanston in May. Some have paid tickets but others are free!
There will be concerts on May 12th and 14th at Nichols Concert Hall.
RESCHEDULED: Chicago House Music Conference and Festival
House music was born in Chicago! What better way to celebrate this revolutionary genre of music than to check out the annual Chicago House Music Conference and Festival.
It will feature DJs and live performances showcasing the various sounds and styles of house music.
Admission is free and it will take place at the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park and other venues around Chicago.
Click here for more details about the event.
Attend the Memorial Day Parade
The Chicago Memorial Day Parade is a great free thing to do in May with the family.
Dates for 2023 are yet to be announced.
Head downtown to State Street near Wacker to catch the parade that starts at 12pm. The parade features veterans, active military duty, and marching bands.
There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony in Daley Plaza at 11 am to honor U.S. veterans.
Check out our post on things to do on Memorial Day Weekend.
UNCONFIRMED: Music on the Lake
Starting in May, Navy Pier hosts free Music on the Lake.
There will be a variety of artists that you can enjoy with an incredible view of the skyline.
Be sure to explore Navy Pier while visiting!
NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for May 2023.
Visit a Free or Donation Museum
There are many wonderful museums in the Windy City that are actually free!
The Jane Addams Hull House is an incredible museum that is located in one of the original Hull House homes.
The National Museum of Mexican Art is a donation-based museum for art lovers.
Another option is to go into the bottom of the Watertower for a small but mighty free art museum!
If you are joining us on our Pay-What-You-Like Magnificent Mile walking tour, you will enter this museum with your tour guide.
Under the Picasso
Daley Plaza offers free programming throughout the year Under the Picasso!
There is music, festivals, markets, and interactive events. Check their calendar for updates.
Daley Plaza and the Picasso are also sites to see on our Loop & Millennium Park Tour.
Maxwell Street Market
Enjoy the international flare at the Maxwell Street Market on Sunday mornings between 7:00 am – 3:00 pm. Admission is always free.
The market has been a Chicago tradition for over 100 years. Take in the bargains and culture at this year-round market.
Art on the Mart
Head the Riverwalk at sunset to see an amazing art projection called Art on the Mart.
It is projected onto the side of the Merchandise Mart Building (a building so large, it has its own zip code!)
The Bridgeport Art Center
Located in the Bridgeport building which is a creative home for local artists and designers, there is an outdoor sculpture garden and three curated art galleries.
On the 3rd Friday of each month between 7-10 pm, people are invited to see the painters, sculptors, photographers work.
Go to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory
The Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory are both free and open 365 days out of the year!
Head up to this beautiful park to visit some of the animals, especially the polar bears!
If it starts to get a little chilly you can stop into the Conservatory to warm up and see the beautiful plant life there.
For even more free activities, see our post on the top free things to do in Chicago or check out the city's free event page.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES IN MAY
Throughout this post, we have listed several activities that are great options for the whole family.
Below you will find several great options to keep your children entertained this month, including parks, museums, and theater!
Be sure to check out our post about family-friendly activities in Chicago for a more complete guide.
RESCHEDULED: Bike the Drive
Did you know that Chicago was recently voted the #1 bicycling city in America?
For Bike the Drive, you’ll find one of the best drives in the city – Lakeshore Drive – closed to traffic for over 30 miles of car-free riding.
This is a unique chance to welcome summer and bike with the lanes to yourself (and many other cyclists)
There is a fee to register (from $40-90) but the proceeds go to a great cause, the non-profit Active Transportation Alliance.
NOTE: This event has been rescheduled for September 3rd, 2023.
Go to a Park
Chicago is full of green grass and playgrounds for kids to get out their energy.
One of the best parks is nestled in-between downtown and Lake Michigan, Maggie Daley Park.
As one of our newest parks, it is also one of the best, with lots of different playgrounds for kids of all ages, a rock climbing wall, mini-golf, and tennis courts.
Read all about exploring the outdoors of Chicago on our blog post.
Go to a Museum
Museums are great options for families. Chicago has a lot of museums that are very interactive and great for children, such as The Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Children’s Museum, just to name a few.
With Memorial Day at the end of the month, this is the perfect time to learn about American military history at the Pritzker Military Museum.
Though the Museum is only $5 admission, it is free on Memorial Day and the Saturday before Memorial Day.
Explore the Farmers Market
Now that the weather is warming up, farmers' markets will begin to pop up across the city!
Check out the City Market in Daley Plaza which is open on Thursdays starting in May.
Go to a Family-Friendly Improv Show
ComedySportz is known for being family-friendly! It is a game inspired improv show similar to Who’s Line is it Anyway?
If anyone on the team uses a curse word- they actually lose points! This means that this show is really made for all ages.
See our post on family-friendly activities in Chicago for more ideas.