This post covers the best things to do in Chicago this May updated for 2024.
As a tour guide and resident of Chicago, I can tell you that May is one of the nicest times weather-wise to be in the city.
The average temperature is around 70 °F (21°C) making it comfortable to be outside and taking part in activities.
My follow guides all agree that there's something to do in Chicago for just about every age and interest.
I've detailed some of those things below including, free, family-friendly, and nighttime activities and events.
- Top 10
- Nighttime Activities
- Free Things to Do
- Family Friendly Things to Do
- Things to Do Any Time of Year
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).
If you're in the mood for a dynamic and fast-paced basketball game, you can find that with the Chicago Sky.
If the Chicago Bulls have been performing very well in 2024, there's a chance you'll be able to catch some playoff games this month.
To see Chicago's professional baseball teams in play, check out the Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox.
To catch the most popular sport in the world, purchase soccer tickets for the Chicago Fire.
Check here for even more sporting events in May in Chicago.
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 are a music lover or a fan, be sure to check out a concert while in Chicago.
There are many venues in the Chicago area, from giant spaces to intimate bars.
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra | various May dates
- Legions of Metal Festival | May 3rd & 4th
- Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival | May 24th-26th
- Sueños Festival | May 25th & 26th
Click here to see more Chicago-area concerts happening 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!
- Mama Mia | May 1st-19th
- Blue Man Group | Many dates in May
- Bluey's Big Play | May 3rd, 4th, 5th
Check here for even more events in the Chicago area in March
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.
If you attend one of the shows below you may be seeing seasoned Chicago improvisers or perhaps a group of students. But who knows? One of them could be the next Chris Farley.
Check here for even more comedy shows taking place in Chicago in March.
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 pass, it can give you bulk savings and sometimes free admission to interesting tours and museums, saving you up to 55%.
They can also save you time with skip-the-ticket-line privileges. Each Chicago tourist pass includes a variety of fun activities and attractions.
Here are a few examples of what you can visit for free or for a savings with a tourist pass
- 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 4th, 2024, 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, family-friendly event.
Plus, for film lovers, this is meant to be the parade where Ferris Bueller famously sings Danke Schoen on a float.
8. Head out to a Festival
Once the weather starts to warm up, Chicagoans love to celebrate! There are many festivals in May. Here are just a few of them.
The annual Mole de Mayo takes place in May. 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 17th. This annual festival offers music, entertainment, and lots of food to chomp on.
Art in Wilder Park in Elmhurst is scheduled for May 4th & 5th. There are over 100 artists, a kid court, and a food vendor court.
The following festivals took place last May but haven't announced their 2024 dates yet.
Bark in the Park gives offers dog massages, pawdicure spas, caricature drawings, live music, and more. All proceeds go to The Anti-Cruelty Society.
Manifest Arts Festival has art exhibitions, screenings, readings, and more.
Whisky Fest celebrates all things Whisky. There are tastings, hot and cold buffet food, seminars, and more.
9. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
There are many ways to celebrate May 5 in Chicago.
Sadly the annual Little Village Cinco de Mayo Parade seems to have been made a victim of Covid and hasn't yet returned.
However, there's a Cinco de Mayo Bar Crawl on May 4th at 3pm that starts The Cauldron.
You could join a Cinco de Mayo Booze Cruise on Lake Michigan on May 5th at 1:30 pm.
If you want to head the healthier route, you could join the Cinco de Mayo Fiesta 5K in Highland Park.
Keep an eye out for Chicago's Mexico week. They haven't announced anything yet for 2024 but it has taken place in May for the past two years at Navy Pier.
If you’re enjoying your time in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is rich in Latino culture, spend a little longer and take our Pilsen self-guided tour!
10. Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest
Local bands, food, and street vendors line Sheffield Avenue at this Memorial Day weekend festival.
It takes place May 25th-25th in the Lakewood neighborhood.
No tickets are required to enjoy the festival, but they do ask for a $5 donation at the door.
For more suggestions of activities and events in Chicago all year, see our post on things to do in Chicago.
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.
Also, 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 on Memorial Day.
The shows happen twice a week on Wednesdays at 9:30 pm and Saturdays at 10:15 pm.
If you 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.
Looking for a hilarious night with the words of the bard?
Check out Chicago’s very own Improvised Shakespeare group.
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 for May 2024.
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.
Check out their calendar of events to see what is going on during your visit.
Bach Week 2024
Attend Bach concerts throughout Chicago and Evanston in May. Some have paid tickets but others are free!
There will be concerts on April 26th & 28th and May 5th,
Attend the Memorial Day Parade
The Chicago Memorial Day Parade is a great free thing to do with the family on May 25th.
Head downtown to State Street near Wacker to catch the parade that 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.
Music on the Lake
Starting in May, Navy Pier hosts free concert serrLive 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!
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 9:00 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!)
From April 14th - June 7th the projections run from 8:30-9:30 pm.
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.
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.
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.