During the summer in Chicago, you can get expensive-feeling entertainment for FREE. Here’s a look at just some of the free things you can do on your Chicago vacation:
Music: Blues Fest (June 5-8), Latin Music Fest (August 23-24) and Jazz Fest (August 28-31) are the biggies. And they’re great if you like crowds. But if you just want to relax with some music at the end of the day, The Grant Park Music Festival (in Millennium Park) is your ticket. Free concerts under the Frank Gehry-designed pavilion run Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (times subject to change) from June 11 through August 16. FYI: There are plenty of Chicago hotels close to Millennium Park, including the Hard Rock Hotel and The Hyatt Regency.
Dance: Learn how to polka, belly dance, salsa… You name it, they’ve got it at Chicago SummerDance. From June 12 – August 24 the Spirit of Music Garden (between Harrison Street and Balbo Avenue) in Grant Park is transformed into an outdoor dance floor. Free lessons and live music run 6 – 9:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 – 7 p.m. Sundays. FYI: The Hilton Chicago is one of the closest Chicago hotels to the Spirit of Music Garden.
Movies: The Chicago Outdoor Film Festival is like a drive-in without the cars. Spread out on the lawn at Grant Park, take in views of the lake and skyline, and enjoy the movie. Movies start at dusk Tuesdays, July 15 – August 26. For movies with a foreign flair, check out the International Summer Screenings Program at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Wednesdays, June 4 – September 10. Movies start at 6:30 or 7 p.m.
Events: Chicago’s lakefront shines in the summer, so it’s no surprise that many big events take place on the water. The Chicago Air and Water Show, featuring the spectacular Blue Angels, takes place August 15-17. This year, for the event’s 50th anniversary, the show starts Friday at 3 p.m., with the Blue Angels and Golden Knights Parachute Team, followed by a concert and fireworks show. The best place to watch is at North Avenue Beach.
Venetian Night July 26 is like a festival of lights. Decorated boats parade along the water just north of the Shedd Aquarium. When the parade is over, there’s a fireworks show set to music.
There is so much to see and do — and so much of it is FREE. So book your Chicago vacation now, and enjoy summer in the city.
Polly Fitz is an editor for CheapTickets.