Chicago

How to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Chicago this Year

Here's how to watch fireworks and party on the Fourth of July in Chicago this year.

Gunther Allen/Shutterstock
Gunther Allen/Shutterstock
Gunther Allen/Shutterstock

While pandemic restrictions may have waned and the state of the country is spurring newfound interest in moving to Canada, it’s still America’s 245th birthday-and at this point, we’ll take any excuse to drink sparkling ros√© under a pyrotechnics display. After a comparatively dim year in 2021, Fourth of July fireworks and entertainment are back, ready to light up the sky and send your dogs into an anxious tailspin. Whether your idea of a festive Fourth entails cruising aboard a Bravo-caliber yacht, feasting on fancy hot dogs, or cramming into Navy Pier with Times Square-level crowds, we’ve got your holiday needs covered. Here’s how-and where-to celebrate the Fourth of July in Chicago this year.

Channel your inner Jay-Z and Beyonce aboard a boozy yacht

Saturday, July 2 – Sunday, July 3
DuSable Harbor
You may want to pregame with some Red Bull if you want to stay up late enough to bask in the luxury of a fireworks-themed late-night departure with Chicago Party Boat. Setting sail at 12:30 am on the weekend of the Fourth, booze cruises are on four-story 192-foot luxury yachts, so you can pretend you’re on Below Deck while dancing to DJs and hitting up any of the multiple bars.
Cost: Tickets are $75 per person

Arrive early for the Navy Pier mosh pit

Saturday, July 2
Navy Pier
Every holiday has its own Chicago spectacle: for St. Patrick’s Day, the river turns Ninja Turtle-green. For Thanksgiving, State Street gets its own float-filled parade. For Christmas, Daley Plaza turns into a German holiday village wafting with mulled wine. But the Fourth belongs to Navy Pier. After the grand fireworks display from the pier were shelved last year, the show is back on for 2022, and folks are encouraged to arrive early to smoosh themselves into a prime viewing spot. The explosive show starts at 9:30 pm, and guests can snag diffraction glasses at the pier to “add an exciting layer of visual interest to the fireworks display,” whatever that means.
Cost: Free

Go all red, white, and blue at the Independence Day Salute

Saturday, July 2
Grant Park
Don your finest stars and stripes and convene at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for a pre-holiday musical medley of classic patriotic tunes from the Grant Park Orchestra. Starting at 7:30 pm, the picnic-friendly affair will feature flag-waving tunes like “From Sea to Shining Sea” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Cost: Free

Add a little culture to your holiday at the International Festival of Life

Saturday, July 2 – Monday, July 4
Washington Park
One of the most culturally rich festivals in town is back for the long holiday weekend, as the International Festival of Life spotlights and celebrates Caribbean and African cuisines, music, games, art, and more. Look for DJs and musicians putting on sets of gospel, reggae, R&B, blues, jazz, African, and Latin tunes.
Cost: Tickets start at $25

Pregame at Bridgeview Park District’s 3rd of July Celebration

Sunday, July 3
Commissioners Park, Bridgeview
Get an early jump on the Americana action as the Bridgeview Park District hosts this family-friendly get-together with fireworks, food trucks, glow sticks galore, and‚Ķ a DJ known as Mike “Italian Stallion.” The fireworks show starts at 9:15 pm.
Cost: Free

Rooftop Cinema Club
Rooftop Cinema Club
Rooftop Cinema Club

Celebrate on a rooftop with Jeff Goldblum (basically)

Monday, July 4
The Emily Hotel
An essential Fourth of July rewatch, Independence Day is bound to a hit a little different this year in the wake of Will Smith’s Oscars slap, but it’s still an epic blockbuster that conjures the spirit of survival, heroism, and celebration-as the film culminates in a glorious fireworks display over a smouldering spaceship. Plus, Jeff Goldblum looks like a snack. The rooftop terrace at The Emily Hotel in the West Loop is hosting a screening on July 4, with Rooftop Cinema Club, starting at 8 pm.
Cost: Tickets start at $19.75

Evanston Fourth of July Association, Evanston, Illinois
Evanston Fourth of July Association, Evanston, Illinois
Evanston Fourth of July Association, Evanston, Illinois

Cheers to 100 years of patriotic merriment in Evanston

Monday, July 4
All over Evanston
The city of Evanston has been going hard for the Fourth since 1922, so this year’s festivities are bound to be extra luminous. There’s a whole day of family fun planned on July 4, including morning games, a fun run, and a band concert, all culminating with lakefront fireworks at 9:30 pm. In honour of the centennial, there will also be a public art project, spotlighting works from local artists inspired by themes like “Stitch of Freedom” and “Indivisible.”
Cost: Free

Get weird at the Darien Lions Club Independence Day Parade

Monday, July 4
Darien
Gear up for a day-off well spent at the Darien Lions Club’s 51st annual Independence Day Parade. A bill of 60 or so, let’s say, “colourful,” acts are back for more festivities, including the Hinsdale South High School marching band, the Chicago Bears Drumline, the Honey Bear dancers, the antique car-driving Salt Creek Model A Club, a fleet of BMX stunt riders, and a lion mascot, naturally. The rest is up to you.
Cost: Free

Tinley Park - Park District
Tinley Park – Park District
Tinley Park – Park District

Track down more suburban fireworks shows

Sunday, July 3 – Monday, July 4
Various locations
While Navy Pier is undoubtedly the star attraction of the stars and stripes holiday, there’s plenty of family-friendly explosions happening throughout Chicagoland as well. Make the trip out to see Cook County lit from above by hitting up weekend-long celebrations in Elgin, Lake Forest, Lemont, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, Palos Heights, and Tinley Park.
Cost: Admission prices vary

Photo courtesy of Vander Farmers Wagyu
Photo courtesy of Vander Farmers Wagyu
Photo courtesy of Vander Farmers Wagyu

Beef up your 4th of July dining traditions

All summer long
Your home
Your holiday grilling traditions just got a serious glow up, thanks to Michigan’s Vander Farmers, a sustainable and ethical dairy and Wagyu farm in Sturgis. The all-American hot dog has got nothing on their Summer Wagyu Grill Box, a Fourth-friendly feast of Wagyu steak dogs, two pounds of Wagyu hamburger beef, and two Wagyu NY strip steaks, all shippable nationwide within two days.
Cost: $130

Eat your way through the 4th at Chicago restaurants

Friday, July 1 – Monday, July 4
Various locations
While it may not have the pumpkin spice or peppermint of other food-centric holidays, the Fourth of July is undoubtedly a prime time to gorge on all-American comfort food. We’re talking hot dogs, burgers, steaks, barbecue, apple pie, and more, all of which you can find on special throughout the holiday weekend. Said specials include bacon waffles with Nashville hot chicken bites for brunch at Bub City Chicago, firecracker brats and triple-berry pies at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, steaks and lemon-blueberry butter cake from Mastro’s Steakhouse, barbecue ribs and apple pie at Club Lucky, and cupcakes, cookies, and cakes all in red, white, and blue colors at The Goddess and Grocer.
Cost: Menu prices vary

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Matt is a recent transplant to Oklahoma City after two and a half years of RV living, Matt Kirouac is a travel writer working on a memoir about the epic ups and downs from life on the road as a gay couple-and the lessons learned along the way. Follow him on IG @mattkirouacofficial.

Chicago

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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