Festival Fever: The 10 Essential Chicago Summer Soirees

From a Windy City Smokeout to Lollapalooza, here's where to be this summer.

Summer in Chicago is reason to celebrate—good weather, good music, good food, good company. From June to September, the city comes to life with a number of festivals each weekend. Here’s our 10 favorites.

JUNE 21-23: Country LakeShake

Returning to Chicago for another year of Nashville hot country rock, LakeShake takes over the Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island for a weekend of cool beer and cowboy hats. Headlining acts this year include Keith Urban and Luke Bryan, but we’re most excited for the almost all-women lineup on Friday anchored by Miranda Lambert and pop country singer Maren Morris.

JUNE 22-23: Chicago Pride Fest

Chicago celebrates Pride Month with a wide variety of activities in Boystown, including the 19th annual Chicago Pride Fest—two days of celebration the weekend before the Chicago Pride Parade (this year on June 30). The theme during this year’s festivities honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the start of the LGBTQ rights movement. During Pride Fest enjoy an array of performers, from drag shows to DJs, as well as this year’s headliner, Leann Rimes. Then line up early on June 30 for the annual Pride Parade, which has grown over the years since the first iteration in 1970 and now draws crowds of over a million people. Pride Fest is a suggested $10 donation, while the Pride Parade is free.

JULY 3-6: Naperville Ribfest

Head just outside the city for one of the area’s biggest summer festivals. Make a quick road trip to the western suburb Naperville for a jam-packed and family-friendly 4th of July weekend full of great food and good music. In addition to incredible amounts of BBQ ribs and a spectacular fireworks show, we’re excited for performances from punk icon Billy Idol and party rap purveyor Flo Rida.

JULY 10-14: Taste of Chicago

The world’s largest free admission outdoor food festival happens right here in Chicago. Featuring a diverse mix of foods from around the world, including 17 food trucks and over 50 restaurants, the annual event takes place over the lakefront in Grant Park. Of course, you’ll find essentials such as deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati's and fried chicken from Harold’s, but also check out authentic Cuban food from 90 Miles and top it off with artisan desserts from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Each evening’s musical acts are just as impressive as the dining options, with De La Soul, Courtney Barnett, India.Arie and more scheduled to perform throughout the week.

JULY 12-14: Windy City Smokeout

Held in the United Center parking lot, this annual bash pits together the three best B’s: barbecue, beer and bands. Twenty of the world’s best pit masters whip up their favorite finger-lickin’ good plates including Chicago’s own Smoque and Bub City. Enjoy it alongside national and craft brews from Against The Grain, Moody Tongue, Goose Island and Bell’s. The music comes courtesy of Chris Young, Jessie James Decker, Cole Swindell and Lanco.

JULY 19-21: Pitchfork Music Festival

Curated by the tastemaker publication of the same name, Pitchfork Music Festival takes over Chicago’s Union Park for three days featuring some of the most daring names in contemporary music. This year’s lineup is as eclectic as ever, with splashes of downtempo electronica [Stereolab], psychedelic soul [Khruangbin] and rowdy party rap [Rico Nasty]. Other artists we’re excited to check out include performances by Swedish R&B sensation Robyn and indie power-pop queen Charli XCX. Don’t forget to take a moment to check out the craft market and record fair, full of new and used vinyl and stylish items from indie designers.

AUGUST 1-4: Lollapalooza

Armed with dozens of bands stretched across Grant Park, from Monroe to Balbo, Chicago’s answer to Coachella returns for another year with the biggest names in music. In addition to headlining acts from Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino and Tame Impala, we’re also excited to check out an eclectic mix of artists performing during this four-day fest. Smino and Saba both represent Chicago’s thriving rap scene, while country pop songstress Kacey Musgraves and pop soul queen Janelle Monae are always a delight to see live. Lolla also plays host to an incredible array of culinary choices from different vendors, curated by celebrity chef Graham Elliot.

AUGUST 23-24: Mamby On The Beach

This annual affair has the coastal vibes of California centered at the sprawling and sandy Montrose Beach. Hear sets of music from Santigold, Sylvan Esso, Brockhampton and Noname and chill out with yoga sessions, beach volleyball and even a massive water balloon fight during this relaxed weekend.

SEPTEMBER 13-15: Riot Fest

Held during the intersection of summer and autumn, Riot Fest is a three-day punk rock carnival in the lovely and expansive Douglas Park on Chicago’s west side. Musically, the fest tends to focus on punk, hip-hop and indie acts. This year, Riot Fest has invited Blink-182, Slayer and Bikini Kill to perform. In between bands, explore the park and grab some funnel cake and take a ride on the Ferris wheel or play carnival games. Families are welcome too.

THROUGH SEPTEMBER 15: Ravinia

Just outside the city limits, in Highland Park, Illinois, is one of the best traditions of the summer. The annual Ravinia Festival presents top touring acts in a gorgeous soundspace. Get seats in the pavilion or buy lawn tickets and pack a picnic with friends. Take the Metra for easy transportation with door to door service from Ogilvie Transportation Center to the park doors. This year's talent includes Kesha, Morrissey and Interpol, Steely Dan and Queen Latifah with Common.

Selena Fragassi
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