An orange collage illustration
Andjela Padejski / WBEZ

The WBEZ guide to the best free things to do this summer

Music, movies, theatre, festivals, food and more: These top-notch activities won’t cost a dime.

Andjela Padejski / WBEZ
An orange collage illustration
Andjela Padejski / WBEZ

The WBEZ guide to the best free things to do this summer

Music, movies, theatre, festivals, food and more: These top-notch activities won’t cost a dime.

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

Summer traditionally brings a long list of great stuff to do in the Chicago region. But this year, with inflation in the backdrop and COVID making planning a last-minute affair, we’re focused on what’s free. All summer long, WBEZ will be curating this list of recommended concerts, performances, art shows, neighborhood fests and other cultural highlights. Everything on the list is top notch and won’t cost you a dime (though some events have suggested donations).

Don’t see a great event on the list that you think should be here? Tell us about it at free@wbez.org or on social media #WBEZfreesummer. To be considered for inclusion, events must be open to the public.

Thursday, June 30

Opening night of Billiken film screening (film)

Merchandise Mart, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago

Highlights: Billiken is an art film that honors two Chicago traditions: the Bud Billiken Parade dancers and Chicago’s rich history of house music. The film is set to be projected on the Merchandise Mart on its opening night and will screen nightly from June 30 through Sept. 7. The film was created by Wills Glasspiegel and Shkunna Stewart.

Thursday, June 30

ACTIVATE (festival)

1 W. Quincy, Chicago

Highlight: Back for the first time since 2019, ACTIVATE is slated to be a colorful, music-filled night out in the Loop, specifically at the LaSalle Corridor. Expect art, dancing and music at this vibrant festival. Bonus: there will even be a contest to crown the “most colorfully-dressed” guest.

Tip: Find the festival at the intersection of LaSalle and Quincy.

Thursday, June 30

Films on the Lake: The Gleaners and I (film)

1722 N. Ashland Ave, Chicago

Highlight: What could be better than free movies? Films on the Lake is a free movie screening series produced by Villa Albertine and partners with the Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Parks series. All the movies in this screen series center on nature and the natural world. On June 30, Films on the Lake will screen the late French filmmaker Agnès Varda’s treasured film, The Gleaners and I.

Tip: The screening will take place at Walsh (John) Park.

WBEZ free summer guide
When the beaches get busy, head to one of dozens of free cultural events in the Chicago area. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

All summer long

Through June 26

Senju’s Waterfalls for Chicago (art)

The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Highlights: Artist Senju created Waterfall specifically for the Art Institute. Constructed with UV lighting and white light, Senju’s evocative work evokes the thunderous cascade of a waterfall — perhaps the closest many of us will get to actually seeing a waterfall in the city this summer.

Tip: Most exhibits at the Art Institute are free for Chicago residents 13 and under, as well as for Illinois K-12 educators, active duty military members and families, and WIC and LINK cardholders.

Through July 24

Tectonic Reflections: Works by Ruben Aguirre (art)

National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago

Highlights: Inspired by geographical topographies as well as murals, Ruben Aguirre’s art calls back to nature.

Tip: Admission to exhibits at the National Museum of Mexican Art is always free.

Through June 30

Harry Ahn Solo Exhibition: ‘I am not worthless, just homeless’ (art)

Korean Cultural Center of Chicago Gallery, 9930 Capitol Dr., Wheeling

Highlights: Forced to leave North Korea with his family during the Korean War, Harry Ahn draws from his personal experience as a homeless teen in his poignant and moving paintings.

From June 25 through mid-August

Chicago Park District Fishing Program (nature)

The Jetty, 260 W Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606

Highlights: This family-friendly program delivers it all: Chicago Park District educators tell you about the 40 fish species that live in the river, then attendees get to go fishing. Little ones will relish the opportunity to hold a beaver skull.

Tip: On Saturdays and Sundays, the program will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Thursdays and Fridays, it will run from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Jetty is located between Wacker and Wells streets.

Ongoing

We, Women: The Power of We (art)

The Bloomingdale Trail, The 606, 1805 N Ridgeway Ave, Chicago

Highlight: Trek on over to the Bloomingdale Trail and view art from 18 women and gender-nonconforming artists. This national traveling exhibit, which features artwork from the Chicago-based artist Tonika Lewis Johnson, previously set up shop at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York and features mostly artists of color.

Tip: The artwork confronts sometimes difficult themes, including sexual assault.

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Monday, July 4

Independence Day at the Chicago History Museum (museum)

1601 N. Clark St., Chicago Lincoln Park

Highlights: The Chicago History Museum celebrates Independence Day with an outdoor event in the museum’s backyard. Check out the keynote speech from Michelle Duster, the great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells.

Tip: There’s a dance party for kids.

Wednesday, July 6

Shelter Film Screening (film)

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago

Highlights: Adapted from Donal Ryan’s novel The Thing about December, Seán Breathnach’s 2021 drama Shelter follows the reclusive protagonist John Cunliffe (Dónall Ó Héalai), who, after being hospitalized, falls in love with his nurse.

Tip: Part of a free summer film series organized by the Chicago Film Festival, the event starts at 6:30 p.m., and advance registration for tickets is suggested.

Thursday, July 7

Films on the Lake: Tomorrow (film)

3600 North Recreation Drive, Chicago

Highlight: Movies in nature and about nature. Films on the Lake is a free movie screening series produced by Villa Albertine and partnering with the Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Parks series. All the movies in this screen series center on nature and the natural world. Tomorrow, directed by Cyril Dion & Mélanie Laurent, is a documentary examining the future of sustainability and environmental activism.

Tip: The film will screen at Belmont Harbor South Parking Lot at Lake Shore Drive and Belmont Ave.

Friday-Saturday, July 8-9

Rogers Park Music and Arts Fest (neighborhood)

1146 W. Columbia Ave., Chicago

Highlights: All of the musical performances and vendors at this Rogers Park festival have something in common: They must be a current or former resident of all of Rogers Park.

Tip: Free, but donations are accepted.

Friday, July 8

Free Children’s Concert Series at Vogelei Park (music)

650 W. Higgins Rd., Hoffman Estates

Highlights: Set your kids up for a “musical playdate” with the ScribbleMonster band at this Vogelei Park performance.

Saturday, July 9

Rhythm World 32 (dance)

740 East 56th Place, Chicago

Highlight: The DuSable Museum of African American History is hosting a night of tap performances in partnership with the Chicago Human Rhythm Project. Performers include Sean Kaminski, Maria Majors, Anthony Russo, Victoria Jones and Eric Hochberg Trio.

Tip: Registration is required.

Saturday-Sunday, July 9-10

Southport Art Fest (art)

Intersection of W. Waveland and N. Southport avenues, Chicago

Highlights: Those in the market for taking home local art will find plenty to choose from, from paintings, photography and sculptures to jewelry and mixed media work.

Tip: The festival webpage includes links to the participating artists, allowing for advance browsing.

Saturday-Sunday, July 9-10

Bucktown Garden Walk (neighborhood)

A good starting point is the travelers-themed Map Room bar at the intersection of Hoyne and Armitage avenues.

Highlights: Attendees can walk through Bucktown’s 100 gardens, all while live music plays and an artist creates a piece in real time.

Tip: There is a suggested $10 donation. For a self-guided tour, here’s a map.

Saturday-Sunday, July 9-10

Barrio Arts Fest 2022 (neighborhood)

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, 3015 W. Division St., Chicago

Highlights: The Barrio Arts Festival this year honors the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria. It celebrates Puerto Rican arts, culture and tradition and features local vendors, food, artists and workshops at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.

Tuesday, July 12

Chicago’s Poetic History (books)

Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago

Highlights: Meet the minds behind the new Chicago poetry anthology, Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry, the first published work from the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. Scholar Richard Guzman will lead a panel discussion with writers Virginia Bell, Vida Cross, Haki Madhubuti and Yolanda Nieves.

Tip: It’s free, but registration is required.

WBEZ free summer guide Nicole Mitchell
Flautist Nicole Mitchell is a staple on Chicago’s jazz scene. Kristi Sutton/Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art

Tuesday, July 12

MCA Tuesdays on the Terrace: Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Sway (music)

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago

Highlights: The museum’s east-facing Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden sets the stage for weekly jazz performances dominated by talented musicians with local ties. Chicago jazz scene staple Nicole Mitchell and her Black Earth Ensemble are among the highlights (July 12). Look for Yoko Noge (Aug. 2) and the Marques Carroll Quintet (Aug. 16).

Tip: Music starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m. Seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. In the event of inclement weather, the program moves indoors. Attendees can register in advance or get free walk-up tickets.

Wednesday, July 13

Official Launch: Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry(books)

Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th. St., Chicago

Highlights: This is the launch party for an anticipated new volume of poetry called Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry that features about 100 Chicago writers. It’s a chance to hear poetry read by the authors themselves.

Tip: The event is free, but registration is required.

Tuesday and Thursday, July 12 and July 14

Free Admission Days at the Chicago Botanic Garden (garden)

1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe

Highlights: The Chicago Botanic Garden is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022 with art installations and interactive performances immersed in the greenery.

Tip: Parking will still cost you, but the Metra stops nearby.

WBEZ free summer guide Shakespeare in the Parks
The cast of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s ‘Twelfth Night’ performs in a park in 2016. Chuck Osgood / Chicago Sun-Times

July 14-23

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks (theater)

Six parks in the city, starting July 14 at West Pullman Park, 401 W. 123rd St.

Highlights: July 14 kicks off a six-night summer performance tour for the city’s celebrated Shakespeare company. After West Pullman, the free night of performances will touch down at Eckhart Park (July 15), Piotrowski Park (July 16), Columbus Park (July 21), Ogden Park (July 22), and Ping Tom Memorial Park (July 23).

Tip: Performances start each night at 6:30 p.m.

Friday, July 15

Keyierra Collins at the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot (dance)

Love Blooms Here Plaza at Douglas Boulevard and Central Park Avenue

Highlights: Local dancer, choreographer and teacher Keyierra Collins performs live. Collins earned a 3Arts award from the Walder Foundation in 2020.

Tip: Show starts at 4 p.m.

Friday, July 15

Bridgeport Art Center Open Studios (art)

1200 W. 35th St., Chicago

Highlights: The Bridgeport Art Center puts on free studio tours every third Friday of the month. Artists work in mediums like sculpture, fashion, painting, woodworking and more.

Friday-Sunday, July 15-17

Midsommer Flight performs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Lincoln Park (theater)

2045 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago

Highlights: This is the 10th anniversary season of Chicago theater artist Beth Wolf’s performance troupe, which takes a more thoughtful and modern approach to William Shakespeare’s male-centered oeuvre. The goal of performances — which will span multiple parks and dates after this opening weekend — is to elevate BIPOC, LGBTQ and body-diverse actors. Performances usually include a strong musical component, too.

Tip: Reservations are encouraged, but not required; ditto donations. The summer calendar for the 10th anniversary includes performances at Gross Park (July 22-24), Lake Meadows Park (Aug. 5-7), Chicago Women’s Park and Garden (Aug. 12-14) and Touhy Park (Aug. 19-21).

Friday-Sunday, July 15-17

La Grange Craft Fair (art)

On Harris Avenue west of La Grange Road and east of Ashland Avenue

Highlights: It’s a massive event: 175 artisans will present their jewelry, painting, soaps and other products.

Tip: There’s free parking at Lyons Township High School with a shuttle running from the lot to the fair.

Friday-Sunday, July 15-17

Roscoe Village Burger Fest (food)

2000 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

Highlights: 2022 marks the 15th year of the Roscoe Village Burger Fest. Fest goers vote for Chicago’s best burger and have plenty to see in the way of live entertainment. Big Suit plays on Friday, and you can catch School of Rock and iPOP on Saturday on the Damen Stage.

Tip: There is a $10 suggested donation.

July 16-24

Physical Theater Festival (theater)

Nichols Park, 1355 E. 53rd St., Chicago

Highlights: What is the Physical Theater Festival? It’s a festival that puts on performances from all over the world that are contemporary, visual and involve a lot of interesting movement. It opens with a free event on July 16 at Nichols Park, then continues from July 18 through July 24 with performances and workshops at the Den Theater (1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.)

Tip: Associated workshops include juggling and clowning.

Saturday, July 16, ongoing

The Language Between Worlds at Hyde Park Art Center (art)

5020 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago

Highlights: Five artists – Nyame Brown, Bethany Collins, Nicole Marroquin, Chris Pappan and Jessica Vaughn – riff on how we communicate via sounds, cues and coded imagery when it comes to race and racial inequality. The exhibit runs through Oct. 29.

Tip: The art center has a small parking lot, but it can fill up; there are some paid lots nearby.

Sunday, July 17

The Andersonville Vintage Market (market)

Catalpa Avenue between Clark Street and Ashland Avenue

Highlight: Meander through material history and search for treasure at the Andersonville Vintage Market, which is returning for its second edition. Participating vintage stores include Revival a Go-Go, Lottie Dottie Vintage, and Woolly Mammoth Chicago Antiques & Oddities, and around two dozen others.

Tip: The dates of the market are July 17, August 21, and September 18. Pets are welcome and there is a $5 suggested donation.

WBEZ free guide
Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy headlines a free show at Millennium Park on July 21. Photo (left) by Alexa Viscius/Both photos courtesy of City of Chicago DCASE

Thursday, July 21

Millennium Park Summer Music Series: Jeff Tweedy (music)

Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago

Highlight: The famed singer and guitarist who fronts the band Wilco has deep roots in Chicago. He headlines this megawatt free show.

Friday-Sunday, July 22-24

Wicker Park Fest (music)

Milwaukee Ave. & W. North Ave, Chicago

Highlights: L.A.-glam-meets-rock band Cherry Glazerr and singer-songwriter Caroline Rose headline the popular annual music festival, which also features great picks from neighborhood restaurants (our pick: 5411 Empanadas and Kinton Ramen). The fest will include an art showcase from Samuel Schwindt.

Tip: There is a $10 suggested donation at the gate.

Sunday, July 24

Sounds of the Riverwalk (music)

The confluence between Franklin and Lake streets on the Riverwalk

Highlights: The 12-week-long concert series offers the perfect Sunday afternoon soundtrack for exploring the restaurant-lined stretch of the Riverwalk. Chicago-raised pianist and composer Shi An Costello will bring his luxe sounds to the outdoors on July 24). Also Luna Blues Machine (August 21).

Tip: The concerts will begin on select Sundays starting at 1 p.m.

Sunday, July 24

Chicago SummerDance at Maxwell Street Market (dance)

Maxwell Street Market, 800 S. Desplaines St., Chicago

Highlight: Another strong offering in the neighborhood SummerDance series, which takes dance lessons out to area parks. On July 24, participants can learn the salsa and bachata, plus enjoy an open dance session with music by Vintage Wed DJ Papi.

Tip: Lessons start at 11 a.m.

Sunday, July 24

Sundays on State Street (market)

State Street between Lake and Monroe

Highlights: See State Street open up for foot traffic, local vendors, family-friendly activities and entertainment (though details have not been released). Also: Aug. 7, Aug. 21 and Sept. 4.

Tip: The State Street fest runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WBEZ free summer guide
Children play inside an inflatable at the Fiesta Del Sol, which dates back to the 1970s. Chicago Sun-Times

Thursday-Sunday, July 28-31

Fiesta del Sol (neighborhood)

2026 S. Blue Island Ave., Chicago

Highlight: Fiesta del Sol, which began in 1973, offers a plethora of things to do. The Pilsen-based festival centers on celebrating Mexican culture but is also known for its blocks of carnival rides — including a ferris wheel! It’s a great destination, too, for tostadas and tamales.

Tip: Fest entrance is free, but the rides will cost you. A four-day pass for unlimited rides is $45.

Friday, July 29

Movies in the Parks: Joe Versus the Volcano screening at Jonquil Park (film)

Jonquil Park, 1001 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago

Highlight: While Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) also stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, it doesn’t have much else in common with You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. The off-beat dark comedy centers on Joe, who has just received news that he is about to die of an incurable disease, as he accepts an offer to throw himself into a volcano in exchange for money. He embarks on an odyssey, only to discover a few unexpected lessons on the way.

Tip: The screening begins at 8:15 p.m.

WBEZ summer guide Chinatown
Chinatown’s summer festival kicks off with a Lion Dance and samples from area restaurants. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Saturday-Sunday, July 30-31

Chicago Chinatown Summer Fair (neighborhood)

Wentworth Avenue from Cermak Avenue to 24th Place, Chicago

Highlight: The Chicago Chinatown Summer Fair kicks off with a lion dance procession on Saturday, and the fun continues with a dumpling eating contest and a K-Pop dance competition. Plus, there will be food vendors and arts and crafts.

Tip: Several Chinatown restaurants offer samples of their menu during the festival.

Sunday, July 31

Concerts in the Park: Earth Mother(music)

Scoville Park, 800 Lake St., Oak Park

Highlight: On July 31, Earthmother, a local jam band, headlines the Summer Concert Series that takes over Scoville Park every Sunday.

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Tuesday, August 2

MCA Tuesdays on the Terrace: Yoko Noge (music)

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago

Highlights: The museum’s east-facing Anne and John Kern Terrace Garden sets the stage for weekly jazz performances dominated by talented musicians with local ties. Don’t miss local bandleader Yoko Noge (Aug. 2), who will present originals with her talented band of jazz musicians that includes Bill McFarland, George Wells and Philip Castleberry. Later in the month, The Marques Carroll Quintet (Aug. 16) is also an August standout.

Tip: Music starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m. Seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. In the event of inclement weather, the program moves indoors. Attendees can register in advance or get free walk-up tickets.

Saturday, August 6

Concerts in the Park: Sophia Richter at Horner Park (music)

2741 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago

Highlight: Indie singer-songwriter Sophia Richter, who is also the vocalist in the band Neptune’s Core, will perform at Horner Park.

Tip: The concert begins at 7 p.m. and will end at 8 p.m.

Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7

Vintage Days (market)

145 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove

Highlight: Give that antique sofa or pre-loved sweater a new home at Vintage Days. This two-day open-air market is sure to appeal to those who love to discover hidden treasures while also soaking up the sun.

Tip: Visitors can find free parking. The market runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Friday, August 12

Rocks Off Tribute to the Rolling Stones: Beverly Front Porch Concert (music)

Highlight: Jam out to Rocks Off, a Rolling Stones tribute band, who will play the hits outside of the stately Ridge Historical Society building in Beverly.

Tip: The concert begins at 6 p.m. and will go until at least until 8 p.m.

Friday-Sunday, August 12-14

Midsommer Flight performs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (theater)

Chicago Women’s Park and Garden, 1801 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago

Highlights: This is the 10th anniversary season of Chicago theater artist Beth Wolf’s performance troupe, which takes a more thoughtful and modern approach to William Shakespeare’s male-centered oeuvre. The goal of performances — which will span multiple parks and dates after this opening weekend — is to elevate BIPOC, LGBTQ and body-diverse actors. Performances usually include a strong musical component, too.

Tip: Reservations are encouraged, but not required; ditto donations. The troupe also performs at Touhy Park Aug. 19-21.

Saturday, August 13

Bud Billiken Parade (festival)

Begins on Martin Luther King Drive and ends in Washington Park, Chicago

Highlights: It is the largest African-American parade and the second-largest parade in the country, so if you go to any parade this year, this one is should be it. the Bud Billiken Parade was named after Bud Billiken, a fictional character created by Chicago Defender founder Robert S. Abbott.

Tip: The parade, now in its 93rd year, is a joyous celebration of the South Side of Chicago, filled with floats, dancing, music and food.

Thursday, August 18

Movies in the Parks: La La Land Screening at Wicker Park (film)

Wicker (Charles, Joel) Park, 1425 N. Damen Ave, Chicago

Highlight: The Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Parks series has a very long list of very cool options all summer long. On Aug. 18 in Wicker Park, La La Land, a musical love letter to old Hollywood magic, will be screening. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle’s 2016 film centers on a musician and actress trying to keep their dreams alive.

Tip: The Movies in the Parks web page has a searchable function that allows for quick sorting for movie dates in parks near you.

Ensamble Rotary Connection 222 poses for a group picture
Led by the anthem artist Junius Paul, the Stepney family comes together to pay tribute to one of Chicago’s most underrated musicians. Brian Ashby / Courtesy of Chicago DCASE

Thursday, August 18

Charles Stepney: Out of the Shadows at Millennium Park Summer Series (music)

201 E. Randolph St., Chicago

Highlights: This concert is a labor of love for the family of soul man Charles Stepney, who has been called one of the most underrated figures of modern music. Stepney’s daughters have helped revive interest in their father’s music. A new ensemble called Rotary Connection 222, under the direction of bandleader Junius Paul, will pay tribute to a songwriter and musician who contributed to works by Earth, Wind & Fire, Muddy Waters, The Dells and Ramsey Lewis and whose sounds have been widely sampled.

Tip: Don’t miss the opening act. Black Monument Ensemble is a collective of local musicians, artists and dancers paying tribute to Black excellence in Chicago’s creative fields.

Friday, August 19

Bridgeport Art Center Open Studios (art)

The Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St., Chicago

Highlights: The Bridgeport Art Center puts on free studio tours every third Friday of the month. Artists work in mediums like sculpture, fashion, painting, woodworking and more.

Tip: The event coincides with a neighborhood trolley tour of galleries, making for a fun destination out. Plus, the Bridgeport Art Center is less than a quarter-mile away from the Zhou B Art Center, which also holds open studio tours every third Friday.

Friday, August 19

Bronzeville Art District Trolley Tour (art)

47th Street near South King Drive

Highlights: See art in style in a double-decker bus that takes participants on a tour of various art institutions, from the South Side Community Art Center to Blanc Gallery, Faie Afrikan Art and more. Also: July 15, Aug. 19, Sept. 16.

Tip: Advance registration required.

Friday-Sunday, August 19-21

Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest (art)

Glenwood and Morse avenues near the Red Line station

Highlights: Two decades in, this popular Rogers Park arts fest is still going strong, with nearly 150 artists showing their wares up and down Glenwood, plus bands and more. A spate of energetic cocktail spots along Glenwood, including Le Piano jazz bar and Rogers Park Social, can make this event a fun, all-day affair.

Tip: The party happens around the Red Line, so it’s easily accessible by CTA.

Glenwood Arts Fest a large crowd of people surrounded by pop-up tents
The Glenwood Arts Fest has been going strong for decades and attracts a crowd on both sides of the Red Line tracks. Courtesy of Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest

Saturday, August 20

Movies in the Parks: Sleepless in Seattle at Jonquil Park (film)

Jonquil Park, 1001 W. Wrightwood Ave., Chicago

Highlight: The Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Parks series continues on Aug. 20 in Jonquil Park with the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks classic romcom Sleepless in Seattle. It’s sweet, funny and tender and a lot of it happens over the radio. Plus, you’ll catch a glimpse of O’Hare in the film.

Tip: The Movies in the Parks web page has a searchable function that allows for quick sorting for movie dates in parks near you.

Sunday, August 21

Sounds of the Riverwalk (music)

The confluence between Franklin and Lake streets on the Riverwalk

Highlights: The 12-week-long concert series offers the perfect Sunday afternoon soundtrack for exploring the restaurant-lined stretch of the Riverwalk. The final date in the series features the Chicago soul band Luna Blues Machine, fronted by the talented sisters Belinda and Maritza Cervantes.

Tip: The concerts will begin at 1 p.m.

Sunday, August 21

The Andersonville Vintage Market (market)

Catalpa Avenue between Clark Street and Ashland Avenue

Highlight: Meander through material history and search for treasure at the Andersonville Vintage Market, which is returning for its second edition. Participating vintage stores include Revival a Go-Go, Lottie Dottie Vintage, and Woolly Mammoth Chicago Antiques & Oddities, and around two dozen others.

Tip: The market also runs September 18. Pets are welcome and there is a $5 suggested donation.

Wednesday, August 24

Evanston Symphony Orchestra: Lakeside Pops Concert (music)

Wallace Bowl at Gillson Park, 225 Sheridan Road, Wilmette

Highlight: This one-hour program features an eclectic mix of music selections. A part of the Wilmette Sesquicentennial event series, listen to the Flying Theme from E.T., the Imperial March from Stars Wars, plus some tunes from My Fair Lady.

Tip: The concert begins at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 25

Lawndale Pop-Up Spot: Afro-Futurist Book Club (books)

Douglas Park Library, 3353 West 13th St., Chicago

Highlight: Summer reading in a community setting. Join librarian Lazerrick Kennard for a discussion of the book An Unkindness of Ghosts from author River Solomon.

Tip: The book club meets every fourth Thursday.

Thursday, August 25

NEWCITY Sounds of Summer featuring Rod Tuffcurls & The Bench Press (music)

NEWCITY, 1457 North Halsted Street in the Plaza, Chicago

Highlight: The art publication NEWCITY this year organized a 2022 Sounds of Summer concert series. The high-energy cover band Rod Tuffcurls & The Bench Press mark the end of this music series, and it’s sure to be a great swansong.

Tip: The band has some quirky songs in its set list, including a rendition of the Golden Girls theme song and an adaptation of a Wrigley’s gum commercial.

Friday-Sunday, August 26-28

Skokie’s Backlot Bash (music)

5200 Oakton St., Skokie

Highlight: There’s a little something for everyone at the Skokie Backlot Bash. Find bingo games, a dunk tank, live music, movie screenings and even a 5k race.

Tip: Check out headliners including Kid ‘n Play, Vertical Horizon and Too Hype Crew.

A toddler stands on chalk art by the artist Zach Herndon
Chalk Howard Street will return after a three year hiatus, allowing Chicagoans of all ages to see unique works by artists from all over the world. Courtesy Zack Herndon/Chalk Howard Street 2022

Saturday, August 27

Chalk Howard Street (art)

East of the Howard Red Line station between Paulina Street and Ashland Avenue

Highlight: This one-of-a kind chalk art extravaganza has been on hold for three years. It makes a triumphant return with a promised international list of 2D and 3D chalk artists, interactive art for kids and an explosion of colorful street art. This stretch of Rogers Park is full of cool international eateries that will be selling food at the event, rounding out the day.

Tip: Artists start drawing at 11 a.m. and the event goes until about 8 p.m.

Saturday, August 27

Chicago Black Legacy Dance Project: Reclamation (dance)

Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago

Highlight: Chicago designated 2022 the year of Chicago dance, and, wisely, the city has put a particular spotlight on its Black-led troupes, choreographers and dance educators. Eight top-notch groups will take the stage: Ayodele Drum & Dance, The Chicago Multicultural Dance Company, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Forward Momentum Chicago, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, NAJWA Dance Corps, Red Clay Dance Company and the ever hip Joel Hall Dancers & Center led by jazz dance elder statesman Joel Hall.

Tip: This is a don’t miss event even for non-dance aficionados, as it is rare to see this many top-notch performers on one stage for free.

Sunday-Monday, August 28-29

The 39th Port Clinton Art Festival (art)

600 Central Avenue, Highland Park

Highlight: Attendees can check out art works from 260 artists, including watching artists create pieces right in front of your eyes. There will also be live music, such as jazz performances from Brad Cole & Friends, and the Saturday June Band, made up of Highland Park locals.

Tip: Plan on there being sculptures from Scott Hartley, paintings from Rosa Chavez, jewelry from Paul Farmer, and more. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.


Don’t see an event listed that you think belongs on this list? Tell us about it at free@wbez.org.

Isabella DeLeo is a freelancer based in Chicago. Cassie Walker Burke is WBEZ’s external editor.