30 things to do in Chicago this summer

30 things to do in Chicago this summer

File: Chicago summer skyline. (Flickr/Jenn Tatum)

Summertime arrived slightly later than expected in Chicago this year; but thankfully for those yearning to don shorts and sundresses, the wait is now over. With the June solstice came a mass unveiling of open patios, 80 degree weather (finally!) and a big Blackhawks win to get the season started on a celebratory note.

So, how do we make the most of the blessed June-September sunshine we have left? Here is a list of 30 delightful Chicago adventures to keep the fun meter running all summer long:

1. Get on a boat.

Take some inspiration from The Lonely Island and tell your friends “I’m on a boat” for real. Rent or charter a sailboat, fall in love with Chicago all over again on the architecture boat tour, or catch a water taxi to Chinatown after work (only $6!)

2. Bike to the breweries.

A guide for daylong cycling trips to brewpubs outside of the city limits—including Three Floyds Brewpub in Munster, Ind. and Lake Bluff Brewing Company in the northern suburb of Lake Bluff—can be found here.

3. Visit some famous houses.

Take a suburban roadtrip to the gorgeous home and studio of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (Oak Park), Cameron’s glass house and garage from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Highland Park) and Kevin McAllister’s iconic residence in Home Alone (Winnetka).

4. Kayak on the river.

Search for available dates and times on the Kayak Chicago website from now until September. You also can go wind-surfing, stand-up paddle boarding or even jet-skiing if you feel so inclined.

5. Challenge a friend to rock climbing.

Race to the top of the city’s best indoor climbing walls, including the Lakeview Athletic Club and The Ledge at Fitness Formula Club in Old Town. Also, big news: the first-ever Chicago gym completely devoted to rock climbing, First Ascent, is set to open in the South Loop this fall.

6. See the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia.

Pavillion seats are only $25 for the world’s greatest orchestra with Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Leon Fleisher and more. Lawn seats are $10 or free to children and students through college.

7. Taste the rainbow cone.

If you haven’t tried the “Original Rainbow Cone” at the historic Rainbow Cone ice cream shop (est. 1926), then you are doing summer wrong.

8. Join Chicago SummerDance.

The largest annual outdoor dancing series in the United States has returned for a 17th year of jumping, jiving and bringing joy to dancers of all ages. The July schedule for this June-September program includes daytime lessons and nights of live music and dancing in the styles of salsa, ballroom, country two-step and more.

9. Watch a movie in the park.

The 195-film lineup for the 13th Annual Chicago Movies in the Park gets an A+ this year. I suggest bringing a blanket, wine and excellent cinephile company to see Jurassic Park (Wicker Park) on July 25 or It Happened One Night (Belmont Harbor) on July 29.

10. Play ball.

Kickball, softball and whirlyball are all the rage this summer. Join a league through the Chicago Sport and Social Club, or get some friends/co-workers together for a friendly game of loser-buys-the-winner-beers.

11. Ride in a rickshaw.

A pedicab is a fun, breezy and oft-neglected form of totally green transportation in Chicago. So why not throw caution to the wind and careen down Michigan Avenue like it’s 1899?

12. Stargaze at the Adler Planetarium.

Clear summer nights are optimal for a romantic (or just super nerdy) evening at Adler After Dark. Astronomy nuts should also bring their picnic baskets and telescopes to Cantigny Park in Wheaton for the Adler’s Persoid Meteor Shower Party on August 11.

13. Plant in a community garden.

Looking for an opportunity to volunteer and make a difference in your neighborhood? For those with green thumbs, a list of over 50 active community gardens can be found here.

14. Dine on a rooftop.

My favorites: The Twisted Spoke in Noble Square, J. Parker in Lincoln Park, Drumbar in Streeterville, NoMI Lounge on the Near North Side and the ROOF of The Wit downtown.

15. Cuddle up at the lakefront for fireworks.

Navy Pier fireworks go off every Wednesday and Saturday night until August 31; but you don’t have to shuffle through a sea of tourists to get a good view. Stretch out on a blanket by the lakeshore and watch the show from across the water instead.

16. Swing dance the night away.

Put on your vintage skirts and suspenders, turn up the Big Band records and head down to Fizz (Mondays), The Green Mill (Thursdays) or Honky Tonk (Sundays) for unforgettable summer nights of swing dancing, live music, contests and more.

17. Practice yoga in the park.

Find your center every Saturday at 8 a.m. with Yoga in Millenium Park, part of a free workout series from the City of Chicago that lasts until September. Other Great Lawn group classes include Tai-Chi at 7 a.m., Pilates at 9 a.m., and Zumba at 10 a.m.

18. Explore Jane Addams Hull House.

The West Side home of writer and humanitarian Jane Addams is spectacularly well-preserved, and inspiring for Chicago history buffs, educators and budding feminists alike. Tours of the museum are free to the public, so you should feel no guiilt in springing for a fancy three-course meal in nearby Greektown after you’ve had your educational fill.

19. Go to a game.

While the Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs and White Sox may be the most popular teams in Chicago sports, they are certainly not the only ones. Check out the Chicago Fire (men’s soccer), the Chicago Sky (WNBA), or the Windy City Rollers (women’s roller derby) for a rollicking good time at just a fraction of the cost.

20. Enjoy a free event at the Chicago Cultural Center.

In addition to an ongoing roster of lunchtime music concerts (Mondays and Wednesdays) and international film screenings (Wednesdays and Saturdays), the CCC will host Jackalope’s production of The Casuals at The Storefront Theater from July 11 to 28.

21. Gather at a neighborhood arts festival.

Check out the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival (June 28-30), Square Roots (July 12-14), Wicker Park Fest (July 28-31) and Northalsted Market Days (August 10-11).

22. Relax at the Osaka Japanese Gardens.

This hidden gem of Hyde Park is right up there with the Garfield Park Conservatory and Chicago’s Botanic Gardens in terms of sheer beauty, history and summertime enchantment.

23. Host a farmer’s market dinner.

Bring back goods from your local farmer’s market (the fresher, the better!) and create a Lula Cafe-style farm dinner right in your kitchen by preparing a lavish meal for family and friends.

24. Sunbathe in Lincoln Park.

Read a book on the lawn of the prettiest park in all of Chicago, then walk on over to the Lincoln Park Zoo and see over 1,200 exotic animals for free.

25. Locate an awesome patio and BYOB.

Try landing an outdoor table at Tango Sur in Lakeview, Cafe Sushi in Old Town or 90 Miles Cuban Cafe in Logan Square to enjoy good eats, prime people-watching and as many tag-a-long beers as your heart desires.

26. Take a class.

Do you have some extra time this summer to learn something new? If so, you’re in luck: Chicago has cooking, guitar, pottery, beer-brewing, gardening and improv classes galore.

27. Have a beach picnic party.

Take in the scenic views (and avoid the obnoxious Castaways crowd) at Hartigan Park and Beach in Rogers Park, 57th Street Beach in Hyde Park or Kathy Osterman Beach in Edgewater.

28. Experience the Chicago Jazz Festival.

This year’s fest will take up three stages in Millenium Park, meaning that the sound will be much better than in years past, and the sets even more intimate.

29. Stroll through Hyde Park.

Spend a day walking around the beautiful University of Chicago campus. Then stop for cultural enlightenment at the Hyde Park Art Center, followed by life-changing Mexicana Milkshakes at Medici on 57th. You will not regret these decisions.

30. Find a pool.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a swimming pool on the roof of their apartment; but fear not, urban-dwellers: the Chicago Parks District has 26 indoor pools and 50 outdoor pools open for the summer. Check their website to find a fun and friendly pool for open swims, family swims or lap swims near you.

Got any Chicago summer staples to add to this list?

Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.