Things to do in Chicago in the Summer

Summer in Chicago.

Three of my favorite words. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Chicago during the summer, you are missing out!

Chicago is my favorite city and I will argue until I’m blue in the face that it’s one of the best cities in the world, especially during the summer months.

There are so many things to do in Chicago during the summer and there’s such a vibrant energy all around. I love being a part of it.

So what are some of those things that you can do when visiting? Here is a list so you can start planning a trip:

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Summertime in Chicago

  • Book an architectural boat tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation (or Wendella or Shoreline. They’re all good). Rumor has it the architectural boat tours in Chicago are the second most popular tour in the world (after the Vatican).
  • Visit the Bean (formally named Cloudgate) in Millennium Park. It is nicknamed “the Bean” due to its shape. Go early in morning to avoid the big crowds. If you have kids, I also encourage you to check out Maggie Daly Park and its playground nearby.
Cloudgate, aka “the Bean”
  • Go to a concert, movie or show at Millennium Park. Pack a picnic and grab a blanket and hang out in the pavilion area for some free entertainment. The NPR podcast “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” is one of my favorite shows to catch there during the summer along with concerts showcasing the Broadway shows currently showing or coming soon.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion during a taping of the NPR podcast “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.”
  • Head to Cindy’s Rooftop for great views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. You can enjoy the views while having some apps and cocktails.
The view of Millennium Park from the terrace at Cindy’s Rooftop
  • Explore the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is the free zoo on the north side of the city. It’s not as big as the zoo out in Brookfield but for the price, you can’t beat it. Check out my favorites, the zebras and polar bears while you’re there!
  • Catch the fireworks at Navy Pier. They have fireworks shows on Wednesday and Saturday nights. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re downtown around 9:30 on those evenings.
  • Go to a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Ignore what you’re told. Skip the bleachers and sit in the stands where it’s shaded (important for a fair gal like me) and cooler when the lake breeze is blowing. Don’t forget to have a beer and hot dog.
Beautiful Wrigley Field. Go Cubs Go!
  • Hang out along Lake Michigan. One of the most popular destinations for locals and tourists alike during the summer months is the lakefront. There are beaches. There are beach bars scattered about where you can enjoy some drinks while enjoying the views. There’s also a lot of grassy park space for picnics or relaxing on a blanket while reading a good book (pup pictured below not included).
The view of Lake Michigan Stella and I often enjoy
  • Go for a walk or bike ride along the 606. The 606 goes through neighborhoods west of the city, such as Wicker Park. It’s a great walking and bike path that allows you to explore different areas of the city. There are also lots of great restaurants and bars in Wicker Park and Bucktown if you decide to stop along the way. Tip: Don’t have a bike? Look for the blue Divvy bike stations located all over the city where you can easily rent a bike.
  • Have a meal on the patio at the many places available around the city. El fresco dining is definitely one of my favorite summer activities in Chicago and there are hundreds of restaurants that have great patios. If you want a list to choose from, check out Shelley from @chicagoismyboyfriend’s story highlights on Instagram. She lists lots of amazing Chicago patio and rooftop options in that reel.
  • Walk around the city and enjoy all the art and murals along with the beautiful flowers the city plants and maintains. These are the things that I think make Chicago so unique. There is so much care put into the plantings and the art. I try to remember to stop and appreciate it often and encourage you to do the same.
Possibly my favorite mural in the city. It’s 4,000-square-feet and located at the intersection of Lincoln, Ashland and Belmont in the Lakeview neighborhood.
The bright red 53-foot-tall steel stabile “Flamingo” in Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago

So there is my list. If you have visited during the summer and think I missed something, let me know in the comments below.

Looking for more ideas for things to do in Chicago? Check out some of my other Chicago posts here and here.