Chicago hosts free festivals and events throughout the year. From May through September, Summer in Chicago brings the city at its best, from fun on the beaches to rousing music festivals. In May, Chicago Great Places & Spaces showcases the city’s iconic architecture with special tours.
The Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world and the largest event among the city’s music festivals. On the second weekend in June, more than 70 performers will perform on six stages over three days. More than 500,000 blues fans make it clear that Chicago is the “Blues Capital of the World”. Highlights of past concerts have included concerts by Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, BB King, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor. Admission is free.
Every year during the three summer months (mid-June to September) the Ravinia Festival takes place in Highland Park – just a few minutes north of Chicago. More than 100 star-studded events include classical music, jazz and pop. Around 600,000 guests frequent this festival.
According to lawschoolsinusa, Chicago Winter Delights offers a variety of activities every weekend during the winter months of January and February. The Chicago Holiday Season begins with Halloween each October.
The December Christmas tree illumination follows the Thanksgiving Parade and The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. To round off the year, Daley Plaza comes alive with its annual Christkindlmarket, selling seasonal German and other European products such as Christmas tree decorations, wooden toys, nutcrackers and glassware from quaint wooden huts and tents.
Chicago’s festivals appeal to all tastes and interests. Outdoor festivals like Taste of Chicago, Printers Row Book Fair, Gold Coast Art Fair, 57th Street Art Fair and the Air and Water Show have something for everyone.
Visitors will also find everything they are interested in at trade fairs and exhibitions such as the Chicago Boat Show, the RV and Outdoors Show, the Chicago Auto Show and the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. In March, the city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a huge parade.
After-sun entertainment: Theater, opera, ballet, blues and all that jazz
There’s always something going on after the sun goes down in Chicago, the “Blues Capital”. Catch legendary or yet-to-be blues artists at venues like Eddy Clearwater’s Reservation Blues, Kingston Mines, Blue Chicago, or Buddy Guy’s Legends.
For some good jazz, head to Jazz Showcase and Andy’s Jazz Club. A sophisticated night bar with musical entertainment is offered at Pops for Champagne. In addition, Chicago can offer numerous bars where funk, reggae or rock music is played. On Sundays there is an unforgettable gospel brunch in the House of Blues – which also hosts numerous concerts during the week.
Chicago is also not short of internationally renowned local theaters such as Steppenwolf, Second City, Lookingglass and Goodman. Actors like John Malkovich, John Mahoney and David Schwimmer, who everyone knows today, emerged from these. If you’d rather catch a Broadway show or musical instead, check out the loop’s restored Theater District.
Catch the internationally acclaimed lyric opera in the Civic Opera House ‘s magnificent Art Deco auditorium, or catch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Symphony Center, which includes the 1904 Orchestra Hall.
Ballet fans cannot miss the famous Joffrey Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre, the interior of which was designed by Louis Sullivan. And of course, there are regular performances of Shakespearean plays at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.
VUSA Tip: If you want to catch a live theater performance the same day or buy a saver price ticket, head to Hot Tix for half price tickets and tickets for same day performances. Hot Tix is located at 72 East Randolph Street, 163 East Pearson Street (in the Water Works Visitor Center) and 108 N. State (in the Thirty Seven Shops on State block, first floor Guest Services).
Entertainment for the mind: Great impressions in Chicago’s museums
Few cities can boast as many museums and cultural institutions as Chicago. Whatever you are interested in, you will find it here.
For art lovers, Chicago offers a wealth of treasures. The Art Institute of Chicago has the world’s most comprehensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings outside of Paris. There are also Marc Chagall’s extraordinary stained glass windows and classics such as Grant Wood ‘s American Gothic, Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on a La Grande Jatte and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawaks.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, a vast complex of galleries designed by celebrated Berlin architect Josef Paul Kleinhues, houses an extensive collection of contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos by modern masters such as Jasper Johns, Ed Paschke and Andy Warhol. It’s worth visiting the Museum of Contemporary Photography, which explores photography as a visual medium.
Other notable museums include the Mexican Fire Arts Center Museum in Pilsen and the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, the only museum of its kind in the United States. The David and Alfred Smart Museum is also located in the Hyde Park area.