Picture summertime in the Chicago area. The season features the city at its most vibrant, with street festivals every weekend, adventures on the river and the lake, and outdoor cultural performances.
There’s so much to do, even a lifelong Chicagoan can have a hard time narrowing down the options every week.
We’re here to help. When we sat down to brainstorm WBEZ’s 2023 summer guide, we wanted to build a tool that would help Chicagoans explore different parts of the region and experience all it has to offer. Reporters sourced a starting list of events that included longtime summer staples, such as SummerDance and free movies in the parks, then looked far and wide for new offerings, from experimental cultural series to premiere performances.
Working with editors, we whittled that down to a dynamic list of about 250 recommended events — a moving target that will change as the summer progresses.
To make it easy to find what you’re looking for, we added some features that will help you narrow your search. There are four categories of events and happenings: outdoor concerts, arts performances, neighborhood fests and workshops and workouts that are all about getting the most of what the city and region have to offer. Beyond the categories, you can sort the list by events that are family friendly and, in a summer of inflation, set the page to only show options that are free.
Want even more summer planning help? WBEZ is introducing a weekly text message series that sends top picks for the week directly to your phone. To sign up, text SUMMER to 312312 and choose what interests you most: outdoor concerts, family-friendly events or best-of-the-week selections.
We hope this guide delivers to your fingertips everything you need to plan your best summer ever — and maybe even helps you discover something new. If it looks and feels slightly familiar, that’s by design, too. We took inspiration from the hand-painted grocery signs that have become a hallmark of Chicago neighborhood culture — we even commissioned our own from Southwest Signs near Midway Airport, a family-owned business that has been making signs for grocers, small businesses and even local films since 1962.
We hope you will use this guide to explore not just downtown, but also Chicago’s neighborhoods and some nearby suburbs. Summer is now officially in full swing.
Bianca Cseke is a digital producer at WBEZ.