Visiting Chicago During the Summer: 7 Fun Things to Do

Chicago Skyline

Updated On: November 27, 2023 by   Courtney AugelloCourtney Augello

Chicago Skyline
There are endless things to do in Chicago during the summer.

Chicago is America’s third-largest city, and there is an unlimited amount of things to do, no matter what time of year you visit. But, in the warm summer months, Chicago truly comes to life. 

From the flourishing parks and beaches to the numerous events and concerts the city holds, Chicago during the summer is full of life and adventure. To make the most of the warm weather and good vibes, here’s our list of 7 amazing things to do in Chicago during the summer. 

1: Visit the Chicago Botanic Garden

For a nice stroll through nature, visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden is wonderful in Chicago during the summer.

The Chicago Botanic Garden, founded in 1972, is a living plant museum that covers over 350 acres. The garden is open every day of the year and invites guests to walk through the 28 gardens on display.

Each year, the garden has over 1 million visitors admiring the 4 habitats on display. These habitats are the Skokie River Corridor, Dixon Prarie, McDonald Woods, and Lakes and Shores. Each habitat has multiple collections of plants and flowers, including a Bonsai Collection, English Walled Garden, The Plant Evaluation Gardens, and the Waterfall Garden.

Chicago during the summer
The Chicago Botanic Garden has 28 gardens on display.

In 2009, the Chicago Botanic Garden opened the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center. Here, the garden works to preserve and protect rare plant species. Their mission is to help conserve Chicagoland’s native species and restore the area’s natural beauty.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is also dedicated to sustainability. The on-site WWI and WWII Victory Gardens feature sustainable irrigation, composting of paper and food scraps, and use very few chemical fertilisers. The garden’s mission is to promote sustainability for its visitors by encouraging the use of backyard rain barrels, the protection of native plants, and the removal of invasive plant species.

2: Try New Foods at The Taste of Chicago

The Taste of Chicago is the world’s biggest food festival. The Taste is held annually in Chicago during the summer and showcases the culinary skills and diversity found within the city. 

The first Taste of Chicago event was held in July 1980. Originally, a crowd of about 100,000 people was expected to attend, but when the day came, over 250,000 guests attended the festival. The following year, the festival was extended from one to ten days to account for the large crowds.

By 2005, nearly 4 million people visited the Taste of Chicago each year. The festival was shortened to just 5 days, but additional attractions, such as live music, were introduced. The Taste of Chicago has featured numerous popular musicians throughout the years, including Stevie Wonder, Weezer, and Counting Crows.

Things to do in Chicago - Grant park
Festivals in Chicago attract millions of people each year.

If you want to tour Chicago’s finest eats and explore the city’s cultures, the Taste of Chicago is an event you must attend in Chicago during the summer.

3: Stroll Through Chicago’s Park District

Chicago’s Park District is home to over 600 parks; access to these areas is free for all visitors. Spending time in these lush green areas is a great way to relax in Chicago during summer.

The park district dates back all the way to the 1830s when Chicago’s government adopted the slogan “Urbs in horto,” which is Latin for “city in a garden”. The goal was to create an urban city with natural beauty and a flourishing oasis for its people to relax in.

By the 1850s, over 60 acres of land had been set aside for parks in the city. It was on this land that Lincoln Park and its zoo were created. Over the next 80 years, more than 20 individual parks would be founded throughout Chicago.

In the 1930s, Chicago’s park districts struggled to stay beautiful and maintained due to the Great Depression. Because of this, the Chicago Park District was formed in 1934 to streamline park operations and enable the city to access government funding.

Today, more than 8,000 acres of Chicagoland are parks. This includes over 30 beaches, 50 nature areas, and 2 conservatories in the city. In Chicago, during the summer months, these areas are used for concerts, events, and recreational activities.

Lollapalooza is an exciting summer event in Chicago.

5: Join the Crowd at Lollapalooza

One of the most popular events in Chicago during the summer is Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza is a four-day festival hosted in Grant Park, near the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The festival is popular worldwide and is one of the longest-running events in the United States.

The festival was inspired by England’s Reading Festival and originally toured throughout more than 20 cities in the United States but became a Chicago-only show in the late 1990s. Today, people come from all over the world to attend the festival and enjoy the Windy City.

Although Lollapalooza was originally made up of alternative and underground artists, today’s festival has many chart-toppers headlining. These artists include Metallica, Green Day, and The 1975, among others.

Lollapalooza is a must for music lovers visiting Chicago during the summer. With 4-days of music and nearly 200 artists making appearances, there’s bound to be something for everyone to enjoy.

6: Cool Off in the Crown Fountain

The heat and humidity hit hard in Chicago during the summer months. In order to escape the warm temperatures, many locals and tourists will take a break at the famous Crown Fountain.

Crown Fountain
Crown Fountain opened in 2004.

The Crown Fountain is an interactive art piece located in Millenium Park. The fountain opened in 2004 and features a granite pool between two 15-metre tall glass brick towers. These towers use LEDs to project digital videos of Chicagoans’ faces and local scenery. When the faces are displayed, the water is designed to look like it is coming from the person’s mouth into the pool below.

Although the fountain originally gathered negative feedback due to the intrusive height of the towers, today, it is a popular gathering place within the city. Children are often seen frolicking and playing in the fountain, and adults also take joy in cooling off in the waters.

7: Relax at the Millennium Park Summer Film Series

Chicagoans gather at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago during the summer every year to relax, enjoy picnics, and watch movies. The films on screen range from family classics and blockbusters to cult favourites and award-winning films.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion
The Summer Film Series takes place on Tuesday evenings in Chicago.

Admission into the park is free for all guests, and the Summer Film Series takes place on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer months. The pavilion has bowl seating and a vast lawn for guests to enjoy, but the space is first come, first served, so it is important to arrive early.

Guests at the pavilion can bring their own food, drinks, and picnic blankets to make the lawn more comfortable. The large screen in the pavilion allows guests to enjoy the movies even from the far edge of the lawn, and the concert-hall quality sound can be heard throughout the park.

The Summer Film Series is very accessible, with captions on all films and ramps to all park areas. If you’re looking for a relaxing night in the city, watching a film in Millennium park is a fun family event in Chicago during the summer.

Chicago During the Summer is Full of Life & Adventure

There are endless things to do in Chicago during the summer. Whether you’re looking for a calming day or evening or want to feel the thrill of a festival, the Windy City has something available for everyone.

For more fun and excitement, check out our list of 13 Iconic Things to do in Chicago.

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