31 Best Things to Do in Chicago and the Suburbs in July 2024

All that anticipation for summer has led us here, to a sunny, activity-filled July. From 4th of July celebrations to NASCAR races, music festivals and more, it’s going to be a busy, exciting month. To help squeeze the most out of this summer, we rounded up the best things to do in Chicago and the suburbs this July so you can spend these precious days of summer exactly how you want.

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All Month

Tuesdays on the Terrace

Summer Tuesdays come alive on the MCA terrace with free concerts highlighting artists from Chicago’s internationally renowned music community. Enjoy live music while relaxing on the lawn with your own picnic, or savor snacks and drinks available for purchase. Then head inside to catch the MCA’s summer exhibitions. This series runs until August 27. Visit Tuesdays on the Terrace online for more details.

220 E. Chicago Ave.

LEGO® DREAMZZZ: Agents Wanted Event

Join the LEGO DREAMZzz adventure, running now through July 29 at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Meet Mateo & Z-Blob, defend the dream world, enjoy creative activities and a 4D movie. Check out the LEGO® DREAMZZZ website for details, tickets and more.

601 N. Martingale Road, Schaumburg

Teen Performances, Programs and Lunch with After School Matters

Join After School Matters and Chicago teens this summer by stopping by Daley Plaza on July 2, 8, 16, or 22 between 12-1pm for Noontime performances to see our teens DJ, sing and dance OR come to Gallery 37 during our summer programming to enjoy lunch or coffee and a tour.

Navy Pier Fireworks

Photo courtesy of Navy Pier

Every summer, Navy Pier lights up the skyline of Lake Michigan with a glorious display of fireworks. The show gets a little more patriotic come the beginning of July as they prepare for the 4th. But have no doubts that no matter when you catch the fireworks — either on Wednesdays or Sundays — the whole family will be in awe. Check out the Navy Pier website for specifics, and keep reading for details on Independence Day Fireworks.

800 E. Grand Ave.

Movies at the Parks

The beautiful Chicago Parks system is in full use this summer with a number of outdoor events all over the city. But none bring in a more steady crowd than the Movies in the Parks series, a part of the city’s larger Night Out in the Parks initiative. Enjoy family-friendly movies that range from newer releases to kid favorites, all while reclining on the lawn of your local park. Head over to the Chicago Park District online for dates, locations and movie lineups.

Little Bear Ridge Road

Ensemble Member Laurie Metcalf comes home to Steppenwolf to star in Little Bear Ridge Road (formerly Untitled), “a comic, cosmic and intimate world premiere,” penned by MacArthur Fellow Samuel D. Hunter and directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello. “In the outer limits of rural Idaho, the last two estranged members of the Fernsby family tree, a reclusive aunt and her gay nephew, reunite to sort the mess left behind after a troubled father’s passing. They now face an uncomfortable and universal question: how do we deal with other people?” Find out the messy truth by buying tickets to see Little Bear Ridge Road.

Dino’s Alive

Travel back to the Jurassic in a thematic park full of realistic dinosaurs — see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Come face to face with over 80 specimens of life-sized, moving replicas: T-rex, Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Velociraptors and many more. Visit the Dinos Alive! website for details and tickets.

2367 W. Logan Blvd.

Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective

Untitled (Hand), 1971 | Photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Christina Ramberg was an influential member of Chicago’s contemporary art scene in the ’70s and ’80s. While best known for her paintings of fragmented female bodies, throughout her career she vacillated between the depiction of various figural elements while also creating abstracted forms that emphasize structure and surface. View her exhibit at the Art Institute now through August 11 — reserve your chance to see it by visiting Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective online.

111 S. Michigan Ave.

007 Science: Inventing the World of James Bond

Through October 27, The Museum of Science and Industry wants to welcome guests to the first-ever “official exhibition to focus on the science and technology behind the world’s longest-running movie franchise” — 007 Science: Inventing the World of James Bond. From iconic cars and gadgets to props from the James Bond film series, this exhibit has it all. Go behind the scenes to learn how the production team pulled off the marvel that is the James Bond series. All exhibit logistics and tickets can be found online at 007 Science: Inventing the World of James Bond

5700 South Lake Shore Dr.

July 1-7: ART on the MART Independence Day

In order to celebrate U.S. Independence Day in the heart of Chicago, this special display illuminates the 2.5-acre facade of The MART in red, white and blue alongside a curated soundtrack featuring classic American jazz, bandstand hits and marches. The display runs from July 1 through July 7 at 9pm each night, back-to-back with their summer lineup of projections by Cory Arcangel and Yinka Ilori

July 3: Independence Day Fireworks Display

Weekend 101: Memorial Day Weekend 2019
Photo courtesy of Navy Pier

For what promises to be the biggest display in the area, Chicago’s iconic skyline will light up with Navy Pier’s spectacular Independence Day fireworks display. Navy Pier is the ultimate viewing spot to watch a dazzling show against the backdrop of Lake Michigan. More details can be found on the Navy Pier website.

For a complete lineup of all of the 2024 Fourth of July fireworks displays around Chicagoland, check out the Chicago Tribune’s comprehensive lineup.

July 4: 4th on 53rd Parade

For over 30 years, the 4th on 53rd Parade has been “Chicago’s favorite” Independence Day parade — and that continues this year. Over in Hyde Park, the parade kicks off at 11 a.m. and will include marching bands, floats, community groups and kids on decorated bikes. But don’t leave so soon, because following the parade is a free festival from 12-3 p.m., featuring performances, face painting, a petting zoo, a magician and much more. Find the route details on 4th on 53rd Parade site.

July 4: July 4th Weekend Kick-Off Fireworks Booze Cruise!

Want to see the beauty of the fireworks but from the vantage point of the Lake? Not to worry, this booze cruise has you covered. Patrons will enjoy snacks, plenty of drinks as well as dancing to a live DJ while overlooking the skyline and light show. Tickets sell fast every year, grab yours and celebrate the holiday with a little flair this year. More details on what to expect and how to reserve your spot can be found on the Fireworks Cruise site — as well as additional holiday booze cruise experiences..

July 4-7: International Festival of Life

Returning for a lively 31st year, the African/Caribbean International Festival of Life will be just as vibrant and celebratory as ever. Head on down to Washington Park for a day of food, community and music — with a range of genres from R&B to Reggae, and a mix of others. No better way to celebrate than with friends, family and Chicago as the backdrop. More information can be found on the festival’s website.

July 6-7: NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend

Once again, NASCAR is bringing all the horsepower and electrifying speed of the race track to downtown Chicago. While tickets are still available for the race, that’s not the only exciting thing about the weekend. Stick around for the live music festival, including artists like The Chainsmokers, Kieth Urban and more. Anyone with a need for speed — or a need to enjoy some summer fun — need not look further than this two-day fest. Various packages can be purchased for entry into the festival and races, visit the NASCAR Chicago site for details.

July 11-14: Windy City Smokeout

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With names like Thomas Rhett and Carrie Underwood in the lineup, any self-respecting country music lover will be geared up for this year’s Windy City Smoke Out. Not there for the music? Then you must be there for the near-endless supply of barbecue vendors are cooking up this year. No matter what your reasoning, you better grab your tickets fast — details at Windy City Smoke Out.

July 12-14: Square Roots Festival

Lincoln Square is welcoming Chicagoland to head over to their little slice of the city for a weekend-long, music-packed festival fit for the whole family. The fest runs down Lincoln Ave. from Wilson to Montrose and is filled with music stages — even one for kid’s music — food and drink vendors, activities and more. The entry fee is a suggested donation, all of which will be donated to Old Town School of Folk Music and the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

July 12 & 27: Roaring Nights at Brookfield Zoo Chicago

Join the Brookfield Zoo for three unforgettable nights of music, fun and celebration as they mark their 90th anniversary with Roaring Nights. Set against the backdrop of the Zoo’s landscapes and diverse wildlife, immerse yourself in the sounds of these incredible bands this July. More information and tickets at Roaring Nights online.

July 13: Art Institute of Chicago Lecture: Capturing the Electric Pulse — Georgia O’Keeffe and the Stieglitz Circle

Join curator and professor Annie Morse as she examines how O’Keeffe and other modern American artists of her husband Alfred Stieglitz’s circle captured New York’s dynamic cityscape. Find out more on this event by visiting the Art Institute online.

July 13-14: Summer Sidewalk Sales & Tails

This summer in the Lakeview Roscoe Village area, Chicagoans needn’t decide between shopping local and spending time with their furry friend. At the Summer Sidewalk Sales & Tails, guests can visit stores along Roscoe St., Lincoln Ave., Paulina St. & Southport Ave. to shop summer styles on the sidewalk and enjoy amazing discounts — and since it’s outside, four-legged friends are welcome. Check out the participating locations when you visit the Lakeview Roscoe Village website.

July 13-21: Physical Theater Festival Chicago

Physical Theater Festival Chicago is returning this summer from July 13-21, offering 9 solid days of international, contemporary, visual and physical theater. “The festival will showcase award-winning shows from Brazil, France/UK, and Mexico, along with national and local performances, workshops, panels, virtual content from around the world, and a free film screening.” With all of this to offer for a ticket price of $20 or less, sure seems like a great way to get your arts and culture fix this month. Visit Physical Theater Festival Chicago online for more details about locations, tickets and more.

July 17: Margarita Night at Celebrate Highwoods Wednesday Evening Gourmet Market

Celebrate Highwood is proud to announce its themed Margarita Night on July 17, from 4:30-9:30pm during their Wednesday Evening Gourmet Market. Beach balls, flamingos, margaritas, Caribbean cuisine, munchies and more, attendees are encouraged to come dressed in tropical gear to enjoy reggae tunes from Vibration Foundation from 6-9 pm. Check out Margarita Night at Celebrate Highwoods online for more information.

July 18: Fiesta del Sol

For over 50 years, Fiesta del Sol has proudly been the “largest Latino festival of its kind in the country.” Held in Pilsen, and known for its stages full of talented artists, Fiesta del Sol is meant for anyone who loves live music, authentic food and the embrace of a community. The Fiesta del Sol website features a recap of last year’s event for anyone curious before they buy their ticket — though we are pretty sure you’re going to enjoy yourself either way!

July 18-21: Highwood Days & Taco Fest

Celebrate Highwood is thrilled to announce Highwood Days and Taco Fest are back! The Highwood Days Carnival will take place in the Downtown Highwood Metra Station Parking Lot July 18-21. Taco Fest will be located in Everts Park — keep reading for more details about Highwood fest.

111 North Avenue

July 19-21: Pitchfork Music Fest

One of the many music festivals held every summer is Pitchfork Music Fest, which has been dubbed “Chicago’s local music festival” since 2006 — and has relocated this year to Union Park. Jam out to a lineup that includes heavy hitters like Alanis Morissette, 100 Gecs and tons of other musicians across a three-day fest. The festival pulls in roughly 60,000 audience members annually — and they can’t all be wrong about how fun this fest is! Visit the Pitchfork Music Festival website for lineup details, tickets and what else to expect when you go.

July 19-21: Roscoe Village Burger Fest

Returning yet again for its 17th year, the competition to see who makes Chicago’s Best Burger is getting fired up. Over 10 of the best burger joints in the city come together to grill it out and see who really is the best of the best. Lucky Chicagoans get to reap the benefits by coming through, grabbing a delicious burger and voting for who their favorite is, all while enjoying live music. This three-day event is in the heart of Roscoe Village and perfect for kids, too, since there will be a “Kids’ Zone” for activities. Visit Burger Fest for more.

July 20: North Shore Taco 5k Family Run

Highwood sure knows how to draw a crowd with their summer lineup of family-friendly events. And that includes the North Shore Taco 5K Family Fun Run, Walk & Stroll — where all participants will receive a race t-shirt, complimentary taco from award winning La Plancha Loca, and for participants 21 and older, an alcoholic beverage to enjoy at Taco Fest. The event is located at Everts Park, near the Highwood Metra Station. Check out the rest of the schedule for Highwood Days by visiting the Highwood website where you can learn more about race registration, too.

July 20-21: Ravenswood On Tap

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Malt Row in Ravenswood “is one of the most prolific craft brewing communities in the country.” And to celebrate that feat, in its 7th year, the community will host Ravenswood On Tap — a two-day outdoor festival that is all about supporting (and drinking) local. Enjoy beers from Malt Row breweries, KOVAL Distillery cocktails, special tappings, incredible live music, delicious street food, local artists and artisans, axe-throwing and more. Visit Ravenswood on Tap for details.

Ravenswood and Berteau avenues

July 25-28: Lincolnwood Fest

Four whole days of live music — that’s what attendees can count on when they buy a pass to Lincolnwood Fest. And when not jamming out, wander through the rest of the grounds where you’ll find a carnival and countless food vendors waiting to make your trip to the fest all the better. While this space is family-friendly, that doesn’t have to stop parents from partaking in the beer and wine garden on site, too. Find more details at Lincolnwood Fest.

July 27-28: Chinatown Summer Fair

Every year, this fest held in Chinatown garners more than 40,000 people from throughout the region. Donned “a true celebration of Far East beauty and culture,” the fest will also include food, art and music from local vendors. The fest is located on Wentworth Avenue from Cermak Avenue to 24th Place — and will include a lion dance procession, kung fu demonstrations, samplings from Chinatown’s restaurants & unique gift shops, arts & crafts exhibits, street vendors with an array of merchandise and a children’s area. Attendees with questions on what else to expect can find more information on the Chinatown Summer Fair website.

July 30: Summer Night With The J at Gallagher Way

Join JCC Chicago for a movie night at Gallagher Way. Enjoy family fun activities like gaga, relay races, arts and crafts, lawn games and more. Grab a picnic blanket and dinner and find a spot on the lawn to watch the animated sports comedy “Everyone’s Hero” on the big screen. Find out more on the JCC Chicago website.

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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

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