Where to Watch the 4th of July Fireworks in Chicago

Navy Pier
Navy Pier
Navy Pier

Fireworks on the Fourth of July is the American tradition, and in Chicago, there are plenty of ways to take part in that celebration of patriotism and general loudness. This year, with the holiday falling on a Thursday, the biggest spectacle in the city starts at 9:30pm at Navy Pier. It’s an additional — albeit humongous — show alongside the twice-weekly fireworks displays that run through Labor Day.

Navy Pier, a destination for tourists, tourists, and more tourists (shoutout to the WBEZ crew, though), is going to be slammed. You could try your luck watching July Fourth fireworks there, but it’s not the only place in town to get a good view of the show. If you are looking for another vantage point, you should also check out a few other parades and awesome events going on around town.

Hywel Evans/Shutterstock
Hywel Evans/Shutterstock
Hywel Evans/Shutterstock

Where to watch fireworks

 Navy Pier
This is a mention for those who just didn’t read the intro at all. Yes, Navy Pier will be the spot per usual to watch Fourth of July fireworks. The show starts at 9:30pm on Thursday, and the pier will be open from 10am to 10pm. Another option for seeing the fireworks this year is to board any of the pier’s fireworks cruises, some of which are mentioned here. If you want to avoid Thursday’s festivities but still want to be patriotic around the pier, fireworks are also planned at 9:30pm on Wednesday after the Navy Band Great Lakes Wind Ensemble Independence Day tribute concert. Wednesday’s free musical performance starts at 7pm at Lake Stage in Polk Bros Performance Lawn.

DuSable Harbor 
A harbor in the heart of the downtown Loop area, DuSable is just south of Navy Pier on North Lake Shore Drive. With this location, you’re going to see tons of yachts and skyscrapers. Right across from the docks is Lakeshore East Park, a near-5-acre space that’s dog- and child-friendly. 

Grant Park 
A sprawling urban park that includes Millennium Park (yes, where “The Bean” is), Maggie Daley Park, and Grant Park, which is full of gardens, open fields, harbors, and, at its center, Buckingham Fountain. Before the fireworks display Thursday night, get to the park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion at 6:30pm for the ticketed Independence Day Salute, featuring the Grant Park Orchestra. An open rehearsal of the show runs from 10:30am to 1pm, Wednesday, July 3.

North Avenue Beach 
Lincoln Park 
Perhaps North Avenue Beach is Chicago’s most popular beach. This destination has a bit of everything: a beach house that looks like an ocean liner; a bar and restaurant named Castaways; kayaks, jet skis, and bikes available to rent; and volleyball courts. Right across the way on the Fourth of July, the Chicago History Museum will host its 60th annual celebration. The event starts at noon and includes musical performances and a children’s costume parade.

Promontory Point
Hyde Park
A man-made peninsula with a promenade in Burnham Park, this is a frequent spot for locals, perfect for those wanting to observe the lights and sounds a bit further away from the hub-bub. 

Ohio Street Beach
Located within walking distance of the pier, Ohio Street Beach is known as an ideal setting for open-water swimming training. Due to its proximity, this beach will fill up quick, but is surrounded by the Addams Memorial Park and Milton Lee Olive Park for those who want to relax in a greener space. 

Montrose Beach 
For the families and friends up north who don’t want to deal with too much of the fuss, Montrose Beach at the northern edge of Lincoln Park will have a good/more widescreen view of the fireworks. 

Oak Street Beach 
Gold Coast 
A larger area than the pier’s nearby Ohio Street Beach, Oak Street Beach is a popular, fashionable summer hotspot with a restaurant and bar, concessions, and volleyball courts. The view is nice and more upclose for the fireworks. 

Northerly Island 
South Loop 
A 91-acre man-made peninsula with an ever-popular pavilion concert stage, Northerly Island will be full of those wanting a good view of the fireworks. The most popular spots in and around Northerly Island include Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Burnham Harbor. 

Skokie 4th Of July Parade
Skokie 4th Of July Parade
Skokie 4th Of July Parade

Events around town 

Tinley Park Fourth of July celebration: Annual celebration that kicks off with an 8am stars and stripes 5K run/fun walk before moving along with opening ceremonies at 4pm with live music and free games. Fireworks start at 9:15pm. Free and family-friendly. McCarthy Park, 16801 S. 80th Ave, Tinley Park.

4th on 53rd: This year marks the 28th anniversary of the Independence Day parade that starts at 11am before heading into a free festival with a picnic and musical performances.

Harper Court Summer Music Series: A free, jazz concert series hosted by Mario Smith in the Hyde Park neighborhood, the Fourth of July show runs from 6pm to 9pm and features the soulful sounds of Byron Stingily with Ten City. Downtown Hyde Park will also host its monthly First Thursday event from 5pm to 8pm. Get more information. 

Fourth of July parade at Independence Park: Annual event with bicycle parade, games and family-friendly fun, starting at 10am. Free. Irving Park. 3945 N. Springfield Ave. 

Skokie 4th of July parade and festival: Annual parade starting at noon at Oakton Community College on Oakton Street, with a free festival including music at 6:30pm and 3D fireworks at dusk. Get more information. 

Evanston 4th of July: The fun in this suburb begins at 9am with playground sports, then a kids’ fun run at 12:45pm, followed by a parade at 2pm at Central Street, a musical performance from the Palatine Concert Band at 7:30pm and fireworks at 9:30pm at Dawes Park Lagoon. Get more information.

Oak Park July Fourth Parade: Annual parade starting at 10am, beginning at Longfellow Park, marching north. Fireworks starts at dusk in the football stadium of Oak Park and River Forest High School. Free. 

Winnemac Park: Unofficial spot for locals to watch and shoot fireworks around dusk. The type of thing everyone and no one knows about. Consider yourself special.

4th of July Celebration in Itasca: A suburb of Chicago, located about 30 miles northwest of the downtown area, Itasca has the largest fireworks display in the area during its annual Independence Day celebration, which starts at 4pm. The event also includes music at 7pm. The fireworks begin between 9:45 and 10pm and last approximately 25 minutes. Free admission. On-site parking is $25 per car. Get more information. 

Or just get to a rooftop bar

Perhaps the best way to celebrate a nation that brands itself as a “City Upon a Hill” is to get to some higher ground. Granted, a rooftop isn’t exactly a hill, nor is a bar a city, but a rooftop bar is surely close enough for ceremonial purposes. We’ve rounded up the best rooftop bars in Chicago here, featuring upscale spots, more PBR-leaning places, and even some that have dancing. Just pick the one that’ll make you feel proudest to be an American.Sign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Matthew Sigur is a Chicago-based journalist who writes about movies, music, and restaurants.


Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.


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