Since last year’s not-so-hot temps shortchanged our summer season, we’ve got to make sure this one’s better than ever. Luckily, Chicago always rolls out the red carpet for warm weather, so we’ve lined up the city’s best outdoor festivals, art walks, comedy nights and more to show June just how happy we are to welcome it back to town.
MayFest, June 3-6, Lincoln Square, b/t Lincoln and Leland Thu 5-9:30pm, Fri 5-11pm, Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10pm, free. Who says you can’t celebrate May even after it’s over? Join the party at the 11th annual German festival, where you can fill up on hot pretzels and cold beer while enjoying performances like traditional Maipole dancing and the crowd-pleasing gymnastics of the Jesse White Tumblers. There’s also live music from acts including Old Town School of Folk performers and the rock-meets-polka band Polkaholics.
Beer Hoptacular, June 4-5, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W Lawrence, Fri 6:30-10:30pm, Sat 1-10:30pm, $45–$55. The beer geek’s dream come true, this sample-fest lets you refill your own glass as many times as you want from any of 200 small-batch beers. In between swigs, talk shop with pros from breweries around the world.
Do-Division Street Fest and Sidewalk Sale, June 5–6, Division b/t Ashland and Leavitt, noon-10pm, $5 donation. Ten Wicker Park-area blocks close to traffic to make room for a weekend’s worth of sidewalk shopping, live music, DJs and food and drink from local restaurants - like Crust’s organic, wood-fired pizza, hipster-rific PBR and fruity sangria. The little ones in your crew will love the bounce house and mad science demos on Hoyne Avenue.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Park, June 6, Jefferson Thomas Memorial Park, 4822 N Long, 3-5pm, free. Make your picnic in the park a little classier by timing it with the orchestra’s outdoor performance. Bonus: they’ll play the same tunes as they do in the fancy symphony hall, but you’ll get a lot more legroom.
She & Him, June 7, Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E Randolph, 6:30-9pm, free. Part of Millennium Park’s free Monday series, this show features Zooey Deschanel (of 500 Days of Summer fame) and singer M. Ward crooning along across genres with their pitch-perfect harmonies and soft but edgy sound.
Chicago Blues Festival, June 11-13, Grant Park, 300 S Columbus, 11am-9:30pm, free. Grab your blanket and lawn chair for the largest free outdoor blues show there is. Each year, more than 640,000 blues fans gather for three days and six stages of music, with past performers ranging from Keb Mo to BB King. When you need a break from listening, get hands-on with a Delta Blues harmonica lesson at the Roadhouse Stage.
Ribfest Chicago, June 11-13, 4000 Lincoln, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat-Sun noon-10pm, $5 donation. The name really says it all - it’s a meat-mania, with about 65,000 pounds of BBQ on hand. Grill-masters from around the city’ll ply you with samples, then you can vote for your fave while bopping along to tunes from bands like indie-folksy Califone. Extreme meat-lovers can prove their mettle by participating in Rib Mania, a serious eating contest for serious eaters. Moist towelettes included.
Old Town Art Fair, June 12-13, 1763 North Park, 10am-6pm, $7 donation. Wander tree-lined streets bursting with art from 260 artists, whose paintings, sculptures, photos, ceramics and jewelry are available for both casual browsers and veteran collectors. There’s also a Gallery of Gardens - a walk through 30 urban home gardens - plus locally made foods and drinks. Kids can enjoy face painting and hands-on crafts.
Andersonville’s Midsommarfest, June 12-13, Clark b/t Foster and Bryn Mawr, 11am-10pm, $5 donation. Though the inspiration for the street fair is the Swedish midsummer festival, you won’t want to miss the many non-Swedish treats here, from Olé Olé’s homemade sangria to the Chicago Diner’s veggie dogs smothered in BBQ sauce and fried onions. The well-rounded fest mixes in everything from nonprofit booths and jewelry and clothes shops, to stages featuring tunes like upbeat Afro-Indian beats from Funkadesi and the comical but energizing Too White Crew.
The Printers Row Lit Fest, June 12-13, Dearborn b/t Harrison and Polk, 10am-6pm, free. Get your bookworm fix at the largest free literary event in the Midwest, where you can leaf through new, used and antique tomes by the thousands. There’s also a chance that your favorite living author will be on hand for a reading. Writers on the lineup include: Oprah book-club fave Elizabeth Berg, local star Audrey Niffenegger, comic artist Daniel Clowes and Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich.
Just for Laughs, June 15-19, citywide, showtimes and ticket prices vary. Comedy trumps all for a week, as 100 comedians from around the country descend on the city, performing at 12 venues around the city. Get tickets early for big names like Ellen DeGeneres (June 16), Cedric the Entertainer (June 18) and Aziz Ansari (June 16, 17).
Theater on the Lake: Second City’s 50th Anniversary Revue, June 16-20, Fullerton at Cannon, Wed-Sat 7:30pm, Sun 6:30pm, $17.50. The Chicago Park District’s outdoor theater season kicks off with a celebration of Second City - guaranteed to keep your sides aching for days with sketches written by Bill Murray, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert.
Chicago Summer Dance, June 17-August 29, Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park, 601 S Michigan, Thu-Sat 6-9:30pm, Sun 4-7pm, free. Learn everything from salsa to swing during this 11-week series of group classes and dance. A pro in the featured genre will guide you through the moves in the first hour of each session, then it’s up to your newly found skills, your newly found pals and the band to keep things lively for the rest of the evening.
Chicago Arabesque, June 24-26, Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington, Thu-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat. 11am-7pm, free. There’s plenty of tasty food and drink packed in to Daley Plaza this weekend, whether you’re looking for handmade ice cream, savory spinach pies, or super-strong coffee. In between munching and drinking, check out music and dance, like the traditional dance debkeh-off and browse booths with evil eye jewelry, Dead Sea skin products and artisan handcrafts.
Taste of Chicago, June 25-July 4, Grant Park, 100 E Congress, 11am-9pm, free admission, $8 per strip of food/drink tickets. Fifty restaurants around the city set up shop, whipping up samples of their signature dishes for this popular foodie fest. Stop by the Dominick’s Cooking Corner for demos by chefs around town and TV personalities like Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen winners. Bonus? The big-name music lineup includes Salt ‘n’ Pepa, the Steve Miller Band and Los Lobos.
Chicago Pride Parade, June 27, kicks off at 3190 N Halsted, noon-3pm, free. Colorful floats and wild costumes, marching bands and cheering crowds - just a few of the givens you can expect at the 41st annual LGBTQ Pride parade. Be prepared for extreme crowds - with 450,000 people flooding the streets, it’s going to be quite a party.