Chicago

7 Chicago Music Festivals To Catch This Summer

Dierks Bently, Lil Baby, Phoebe Bridgers, Rancid, and Diplo walk into a stadium…

Photo by Sydney Gawlik
Photo by Sydney Gawlik
Photo by Sydney Gawlik

2020? Let’s never do that again. After missing out on a full year of festivals, Chicago is wasting no time getting back on track for 2021 to help reestablish itself as the summer music festival capital of America. With every major festival from Lollapalooza to Riot Fest now back in action with lineups announced and tickets on sale, here’s your guide to YOLOing your Chicago summer like there’s no tomorrow. Because who the hell knows-maybe there won’t be.

Windy City Smokeout - Country Music & BBQ Festival
Windy City Smokeout – Country Music & BBQ Festival
Windy City Smokeout – Country Music & BBQ Festival

Windy City Smokeout

Where: United Center Parking Lot
When: Thursday, July 8 – Sunday, July 11
The lowdown: What’s better than gorging yourself on succulent smoked meats and crisp craft beer on a hot summer day? Doing so in the presence of country-western greatness, of course. Put a little tang in your twang as Windy City Smokeout takes over United Center’s epic 18-acre parking lot to kick off what promises to be a top notch festival season. Both the food and the tunes are guaranteed to slap, with appearances from musical icons like Dierks Bently, Jon Pardi, Brett Eldredge, and ol’ Mr. Hootie himself, Darius Rucker alongside a bounty of booze and finger lickin’ good pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and a whole lot of sides courtesy of the country’s top pitmasters.
The lineup: Headliners include Brett Eldredge, Morgan Evans, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Kolby Cooper, Hailey Whitters, Cody Johnson, and Jon Pardi. BBQ standouts range from midwest titans like Bub City, Green Street Smoked Meats, and Murphysboro’s 17th Street BBQ to out-of-towners like Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ from South Carolina, Texas’ own Salt Lick BBQ, and North Carolina whole hog legend Sam Jones BBQ, among others.
The rules: Ticket-holders must undergo a screening via Health Pass by CLEAR, a free mobile product that runs through a variety of virus-related questions including a feature where vaccinated folks can securely link out to their vax card while the non-vaccinated must upload proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the prior 72 hours. Masks are also required when entering or exiting the grounds.
The cost: 4-day passes start at $125 per person. Buy yours here.

Photo by Katrina Barber
Photo by Katrina Barber
Photo by Katrina Barber

Lollapalooza

Where: Grant Park
When: Thursday, July 29 – Sunday, August 1
The lowdown: Festival season returns to Chicago in a major way as Lollapalooza loudly shatters the city’s post-COVID silence with another four-day bacchanal in Grant Park. One of the world’s largest music festivals brought in 400,000 people in 2019 and offers a little something for everyone with 170 bands across eight stages from pop and hip-hop to rock and EDM.
The lineup: Headliners include Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus, Tyler the Creator, and Post Malone, with a deep bench of supporting acts including Megan Thee Stallion, Marshmello, Journey, Band of Horses, Young Thug, Modest Mouse, and hometown heros Whitney.
The rules: Attendees must show proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination or for the unvaccinated, a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 24 hours of the day’s events. 
The cost: 4-day passes start at $375 per person. Buy yours here.

The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival
The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival
The Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival

Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival

Where: Douglass Park
When: Friday, August 20 – Sunday, August 22
The lowdown: Chicago’s biggest hip-hop fest touches down in Douglass Park for a three-day bash highlighting young, independent up-and-comers in the rap game. First held in Chicago in 2018, Summer Smash is a newer entrant to Chicago’s crowded summer calendar but quickly made a name for itself as a fan favorite attracting a full 40,000 attendees in 2019.
The lineup: Headliners include A$AP Rocky, Lil Baby, and Lil Uzi Vert, but don’t sleep on the smaller font acts hidden in the 80+-artist lineup like Earl Sweatshirt, City Girls, Lil Yachty, Internet Money, and Babyface Ray.
The rules: Exact COVID requirements haven’t been announced yet, with the festival only stating: “We are working diligently with health officials to ensure all proper safety restrictions will be enforced… Stay tuned for updated health policies and restrictions.”
The cost: 3-day passes start at $275 per person. Buy yours here.

North Coast Music Festival
North Coast Music Festival
North Coast Music Festival

North Coast Music Festival

Where: SeatGeek Stadium
When: Friday, September 3 – Sunday, September 5
The lowdown: Originally a multi-genre fest held in Union Park, this annual Labor Day tradition dating to 2010 has leaned heavily on its EDM roots in recent years while bouncing around from Northerly Island to its new digs at suburban SeatGeek Stadium. For 2021, organizers are planning a main stage inside the stadium with three additional stages in a soccer dome and surrounding fields.
The lineup: Headliners on the 100+-act bill include Kaskade, Griz, and Zeds Dead, with additional acts like Louis the Child, Claude VonStroke, Diesel (a.k.a. Shaquille O’Neal), Bonobo, Green Velvet, NGHTMRE, and more providing backup.
The rules: The festival’s initial COVID safety plan calls for increased hand sanitizing stations, contactless concessions, modified security searches to minimize contact, and “health screenings and mask mandates as directed by local officials.”
The cost: 3-day passes start at $243 per person. Buy yours here.

Pitchfork Music Festival
Pitchfork Music Festival
Pitchfork Music Festival

Pitchfork Music Festival

Where: Union Park
When: Friday, September 10 – Sunday, September 12
The lowdown: Originally launched in 2005 as Intonation Music Fest, this Pitchfork magazine-curated stunner rubs elbows with Lollapalooza as one of the OGs of the Chicago festival scene. The hipster hangout is known for showcasing indie bands so cool you’ve never even heard of them along with a smattering of bigger names across three stages, this year swapping its traditional mid-July date with a new September dance card.
The lineup: The uniquely all-female bill of headliners include Erykah Badu, St. Vincent, Kim Gordon, Angel Olsen, and Phoebe Bridges, with a reliably stout assemblage of backing acts including Animal Collective, Waxahatchee, The Fiery Furnaces, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Danny Brown, Cat Power, and Chicago treasure Jamila Woods.
The rules: All attendees will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have proof of a negative PCR test administered within 24 hours of each day’s events.
The cost: 3-day passes start at $195 per person. Buy yours here.

Riot Fest
Riot Fest
Riot Fest

Riot Fest

Where: Douglass Park
When: Friday, September 17 – Sunday, September 19
The lowdown: Chicago’s annual “punk rock carnival” is about as good as it gets when it comes to large-scale music fests in Chicago. It got its start inside a series of local clubs back in 2005 before expanding to its current outdoor format in 2012 (not to mention being kicked out of its original Humboldt Park home in 2015). Today, the fiercely beloved punk-flavored multi-genre fest has carved out a unique niche that draws more than just the mohawked set.
The lineup: Headliners include The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, and Run the Jewels, with yet another excellent undercard of supporters including the Pixies, Faith No More, Lupe Fiasco, NOFX, Dinosaur Jr., Vic Mensa, Gogol Bordello, Devo, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, and more.
The rules: The festival’s initial safety guidelines call for enhanced sanitation and hand-washing stations plus full compliance with local regulations and mask mandates, including potential vaccination/testing requirements for entry.
The cost: 3-day passes start at $200 per person. Buy yours here.

Spring Awakening Music Festival
Spring Awakening Music Festival
Spring Awakening Music Festival

Spring Awakening: Autumn Equinox

Saturday, October 3 – Sunday, October 4
Addams/Medill Park
The lowdown: For the first time, Chicago’s biggest EDM festival isn’t being held in its usual June slot-hence the new “Autumn Equinox” tag. Originally stationed at Soldier Field, the nine-year-old electronic megafest has found a new home in Addams/Medill Park in recent years and can always be relied upon to showcase an eye-catching spectacle studded with the who’s-who of dance music’s elite. Pack your glow sticks.
The lineup: Acts include Adventure Club, Diplo, Madeon, Dillon Francis, Galantis, Martin Garrix, Matoma, RL Grime, Baauer, Zomboy, AC Slater, and more.
The rules: COVID policy details are scarce, but hopefully we won’t have to worry about that by October (fingers firmly crossed). They do, however, have a COVID-19 waiver posted on their site.
The cost: 2-day passes start at $169 per person. Buy yours here.

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Jay Gentile is an award-winning freelance journalist specializing in travel, food & drink, culture, events and entertainment stories. In addition to Thrillist, you can find his work in The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN Travel, Chicago Tribune, Lonely Planet, VICE, Outside Magazine and more. Follow @thejaygentile

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 rosé 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… 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.

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