A Guide to Chicago’s Summer Music Scene

Traditionally known for soul music, and in recent years house music, Chicago’s music scene is revolutionary as well as rich and diverse. Most Chicagoans plan their summer season around musical events, festivals, and concerts. There is an activity for everyone in Chicago, from shopping to architectural tours, you will be amazed by what the Windy City has to offer.

Plan your trip ahead of time to enjoy beautiful weather and one of many musical events over the summer. Follow this guide to help you get started.

Chicago city view from the aquarium terrace.

The Shedd Aquarium
A top destination for families in the summer, The Shedd Aquarium’s weekly Jazzin’ at The Shedd event features live jazz music on the outdoor terrace every Wednesday evening. But that’s not all, your ticket also includes admission into the aquarium’s wide variety of exhibits. Jazzin’ at The Shedd is the perfect family-friendly event or date night outing. I recommend sticking around until after sunset to watch the Navy Pier fireworks display from the outdoor terrace. Spend a few extra dollars on your ticket and include the chartered boat ride out on Lake Michigan to view the fireworks.

Navy Pier
Music is said to be an essential part of the Pier’s lifeblood. With that in mind, Navy Pier curates live performances and music from various cultures and genres all year round. I recommend visiting the newest addition to the Pier located towards the very end, The Miller Lite Beer Garden. The Miller Lite Beer Garden is Navy Pier’s lakeside venue for food, brews, and outdoor music performances. The best part is, it’s free to visit every day of the week!

Jay Pritzker Pavilion, metal structure that resembles a lion's mane.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park
Jay Pritzker Pavilion is not only one of the premiere outdoor amphitheaters in Chicago, but a truly breathtaking picture of Chicago’s structural architecture. As the focal point of Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts symphonic concerts, as well as blues, jazz, and other international music performances. Guaranteed seating within the park is available for purchase from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion website. If you are looking to catch a free concert in the park, you can also get comfortable in the park’s lush landscape. It’s free to watch outside of the Pavilion seating area.

Grant Park
Grant Park hosts several of Chicago’s annual food and music festivals, including the Taste of Chicago in July. The Taste is an annual, free outdoor food festival showcasing Chicago’s diverse dining and restaurant community. The festival is also known for lively performances from renowned bands and musicians. Grant Park also hosts the Chicago Blues Music Festival in June and Lollapalooza in August. If you happen to miss these events, Grant Park’s Beer Garden is home to Chicago’s Summerdance events, Chicago’s urban dance space featuring 48 different live bands, DJ’s, and dance lessons beforehand.

Concert audience waiting for the band to start performing.

Margaret T. Burroughs 31st Beach
If you’re looking to ditch your flip flops for a party on the beach, I recommend the 31st Beach during the last weekend in June. 31st Beach is home to the Mamby on the Beach Festival, Chicago’s annual all-inclusive beachfront music and creative arts festival. Besides beachfront photo opportunities, the festival hosts a long line-up of multi-genre musical acts. The festival’s programming also includes a water balloon fight, volleyball games, ongoing yoga sessions, a silent dance party, henna tattooing, and tarot card readings.

The Street Scene
While not an actual venue, S. Michigan Ave. and State St. are known for being frequented by a variety of street performers, especially when the weather is nice. You might even get lucky enough to watch a full-size band perform on the street. Enjoy this open-air entertainment and if you hear something you like be sure and tip the musicians.

There is no shortage of live music throughout Chicago in the summer. Now that warmer weather is upon us and the polar vortex is behind us, I recommend getting some fresh air while enjoying everything that Chicago summers have to offer.

Know Before You Go

  • Chicago’s nickname is “The Windy City.”
  • Make sure to visit Millennium Park so that you can see the world-famous Bean!
  • Avoid visiting in the winter if you aren’t a fan of cold weather! The weather warms up around May.
Women in a black shirt and grey slacks

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Brianna J. Are you interested in traveling to Chicago? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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