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What to do in Chicago in July (2021)

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This post covers the best things to do in Chicago this July, including, free, family-friendly, as well as nighttime activities, all updated for 2021. 

 


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN CHICAGO IN JULY

If you’re looking for the best things to do in July, take a look at our suggestions for the best activities here, which include sports, theatre, and festivals.

For some of the more popular things to do in Chicago, read the following posts:

Some of the things we’ve listed here are included in one of the available tourist attraction discount passes.

Tourist Passes Reviewed


1. Go to a Sporting Event

July is a great month to watch Chicago’s WNBA basketball team The Chicago Sky.

Or if you are a baseball fan, head to one of the ballparks to enjoy a Chicago Hot dog.

Seeing a big game is a great way to spend your afternoon or evening! For more things to do at night, check the section on nighttime activities below.


2. Go to a Concert

Chicago is a great city to see a concert!  You can beat the heat and head indoors to spaces like The Chicago Theatre or the Riviera.

Alternatively, you can enjoy a concert outdoors at Pritzker Pavilion or Ravinia.

For more live music in the area, check this list of concerts in Chicago.


3. Go on a Sightseeing Tour

Take advantage of the great weather and head out on a tour! We offer pay-what-you-like walking tours multiple times each week.

If you’re looking for a bus tour, we have a great comparison of Chicago’s best. From hop-on-hop-off buses to nonstop our nighttime tours, you’ll find one to suit you here.

To go for something more adventurous, try a kayaking tour or an architecture-focused river cruise


4. See a Stand-Up Comedy Show

Although most musicals have been postponed until later in 2021, there are some pretty good comedy shows scheduled for July.

One of the most famous comedians performing in Chicago this month is Andrew Dice Clay. He'll be making an appearance at Arcada Theater on July 16th.

Alternatively, if you're willing to make a trip to Grand Rapids, Tim Allen will be performing at the Devos Performance Hall on July 17th.

You may also want to consider going to the Chicago Improv Comedy Club for Chelcie Lynn (July 15th - 17th) or Samuel J Comroe (July 29th-31st).

To see a full calendar of all shows, click here.  


5. Celebrate the 4th of July

Celebrate the 4th of July in Chicago as the city honors this country with a day full of American classics, concerts, and spectacular firework shows at 9:30 pm shooting off from Navy Pier.

The annual tradition of a concert with patriotic anthems and marches to celebrate the nation’s birthday 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 pm.  

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 on Wednesday and the 4th of July!


6. Taste of Chicago

Join in the fun by attending the world’s largest food festival! In response to the pandemic, this event was made "to-go," which means it will take place in multiple locations.

Click here for more information.

Usually, the event is held at Grant Park. With any luck, it will return to the park in 2022!

Learn more about Grant Park where this famous festival is hosted on our Birthplace of the Skyscraper Architecture Tour.

It was featured on the Food Network in 2014 with Eating America Anthony Anderson.


7. Attend a Food or Music Festival

Chicago loves to celebrate and hold festivals during the summer months and July is no exception. 

Here are just a few. Some of these events are free to enter and others require a ticket.  


8. Chinatown Summer Fair

This fair returns to Chinatown for its 41st year on July 31st, 2o21. 

In honor of Far East culture, this celebration features a Dragon & Lion Dance Procession, artisans, amazing food, and activities that are perfect for the whole family!

See their website, Chinatown Summer Fair, for the details.


9. Water Flicks at Navy Pier

This summer head to Navy Pier to watch a movie on the lawn with the skyline as a backdrop!  

  • July 8th: Boomerang
  • July 12th: 42
  • July 15th: Pretty Woman
  • July 19th: Mighty Ducks
  • July 22nd: Trainwreck
  • July 26th: Caddyshack
  • July 29th: The Big Sick

Bring your own picnic blankets for this movie-filled summer. Check the Navy Pier events page for more details.


10. 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 family-friendly activities and attractions.

Here are a few examples of what you can visit with a tourist pass, for a discount or for free.

For more details, make sure to read our full post covering Chicago tourist passes.

Chicago Travel Tips and Hacks


FREE THINGS TO DO

There are many free activities to take advantage of in Chicago including some we have mentioned above like taking a pay-what-you-like tour, attending a food festival

Check out our comprehensive post about the Top Free Things to Do in Chicago.


Stroll the Riverwalk

With the warmer weather, it is the perfect time to explore the riverwalk.

This beautiful stretch will bring you below the busy streets and right along the river’s edge, lined with restaurants, art, and fountains.

Learn more about the river and the riverwalk itself on our Riverwalk and History Tour.


Check out the Chicago Cultural Center

This beautiful and historic building is free and open for the public to explore. Beyond the art that lines the walls, you will find free traveling films, lectures, and performances here.

Check out their calendar of events to see what is going on during your visit.


Go on a Summertime Walking Tour

The weather is perfect to see some of the most famous Chicago sights on a pay-what-you-wish walking tour with us!

Check out our Birth of the Skyscraper- Architecture tour which weaves you through the streets of downtown seeing the history of the buildings!


Explore the Farmers Market

Now that the weather is warming up, farmers markets will begin to pop up across the city!

From produce to homemade crafts and baked goods, you will definitely find something interesting or delicious.

Markets are open almost every day of the week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Find a list of the city’s markets and their schedules here.


Go to the Game Room at the Chicago Athletic Association

Inside the historic Chicago Athletic Association building you will find much more than a luxury hotel. 

On the second floor, there is a Game Room with shuffleboard, pool tables, foosball, and bocce.

All free to use, find the game master to make a reservation while you enjoy something to sip on. Click here for more details.


Exercise in the Park

During the month of July, you will also usually find 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.


Under the Picasso

You can catch free events all summer long at Daley Plaza by the Picasso Statue.  (This is one of the locations we pass on our Loop & Millennium Park Tour.)

Most often the events include music, dance, public art, and sometimes spoken word!  Look at the upcoming calendar to see what events are scheduled.  


Chicago Summer Dance

All summer long you can enjoy live music or DJ’s spinning at public parks in Chicago. Some of the events even include a dance lesson before folks start to boogie!

NOTE: This event has been postponed and will now take place in August and September.

For even more free activities, see our post on the top free things to do in Chicago.

 


NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES

Many of our top ten activities are perfect for the evening hours, such as seeing a sporting event, going to the theater of attending a concert.

Below are some more ideas. Be sure to read our post about the top things to do in Chicago at night for even more suggestions.

 


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 and the (sometimes funny) reasons behind local ghost stories.

For a lovely view, check out 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.


See an Improv Show

Chicago is well known for comedy and improv. Just ask Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, or Steve Carell. Below are just a few places to catch an evening show.  

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.

NOTE: Some of these locations are already opened back up again following the pandemic, but others might not yet be open by July.


See the Local Music Scene

There are plenty of local musical experiences at night.  If you’re looking for even more opportunities to check out the local music scene, take a look at some of the more popular venues:

NOTE: Some of these venues will be open by July 1st, but some will not be opening back up until September, 2021.


Admire Art at the Mart

While strolling along the Riverwalk in the evening, be sure to walk along the south side of the Chicago River so that you can see a newer art installation called “Art of the Mart”.  

It is a series of non-sponsored projections on the side of a historic Chicago building called the Merchandise Mart. 

Find out more from their website, Art at the Mart.


Go to a Game Bar

Whether you want to try an arcade bar with some pinball and Packman or try a classic board game, Chicago has a bar for you.

Check out our favorite game bars across the city.


Batting Cages

Practice your baseball skills right outside of historic Wrigley Field at the batting cages at Sluggers.

Beyond the batting cages, you can participate in other games such as skeeball, and catch some games on the TVs at this beloved sports bar.

Be sure to check out our post on top things to do in Chicago at night for even more suggestions.

 


FAMILY-FRIENDLY 

Throughout this post, we have listed several activities that are suitable for kids, such as seeing an outdoor movie, going to a sports game, or seeing a musical. 

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 Museum

In July, on days that are on the hotter side, an air-conditioned museum is a good place to be!

Chicago has a lot of museums that are very interactive and ideal for kids such as:


Chalk Howard Street Festival

This street art festival in Roger’s Park will feature internationally-renowned 3D street artists and 2D chalk artists.  

There will be live music and tasty street food and drink at this family-friendly art festival. 

NOTE: This event was taken virtual for 2020, and they have yet to announce whether or not it will be back in-person for 2021.


Go to the Zoo

The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the country, and one of the last few free zoos. Home to over 1,000 animals, this is a great stop during your time in the city.

While you are in the area, you can also explore the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the park itself.


Juice Box Concerts at the Cultural Center

Head to the Cultural Center with your family of little ones every first and third Friday and Saturdays at 11:00 am-11:45 am for an engaging musical event!  

While this will be enjoyable for the whole family, it is geared to kids between the ages of 1-6. See their website for more.

NOTE: This event was canceled for 2020 and has not been announced for 2021.


Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Visit this lovely nature museum and attend one of the many kid-friendly events.  From storytelling to animal encounters to even helping to feed the animals, there is something for every little visitor.  

Check their special event calendar to see what is happening throughout the summer!


Attend Stories, Songs and Circle Games

Lurie Garden presents an interactive and free event for your little ones on July 7th at 11:00 am.  Kiddos between 4-6 will sing like sparrows and play pretend!

For more details or to register, click here.

NOTE: No events have been scheduled yet for July of 2021.


Go to a Baseball Game

We have two baseball teams here, so there are plenty of options for families to go catch a game!

The Cubs play north of downtown at Wrigley Field, and the White Sox play south of the skyscrapers at the Guaranteed Rate Field.

Tour both stadiums, or just enjoy the fresh air while cheering on our Chicago teams!


Play in a Park

Chicago is full of green grass and playgrounds for kids to get out their energy. One of the best parks, Maggie Daley Park, is nestled between downtown and Lake Michigan.

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.

Find out about the many great parks in Chicago by reading our post, Chicago's Beautiful Parks.

See our post about family-friendly activities in Chicago for even more great things to do.

 


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About The Author

Mel

Mel loves to be a tourist in her own city. With a background in performing arts, tourism, and photography, giving tours and being a story-teller comes naturally to her. She loves traveling, food, and theatre. Mel splits her time between Chicago and Los Angeles (#theatrelife) and leads tours and manages both cities!
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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