Happy first day of summer! Aside from the casual rainy day, the weather in Chicago can definitely be categorized as summer, finally. These past few weeks have been hot and sunny and I’m not complaining! Chicago comes alive in the summer – streets are packed, festivals are up and running and we all try to spend as much quality time with the sun because we know it will be gone before we know it!
Whether you’re jogging down the 606 Trail, catching brunch on a rooftop, or cheering on your favorite band at Lollapalooza, the activities in and around Chicago are endless. So endless, it may seem that most people don’t even know where to start. As someone who has done their own fair share of exploring, I’m sharing my bucket list items for this summer season in Chicago.
One can say that ordering pineapple on a pizza is one of the greatest debates of our generation, but at Dimo’s no topping is too controversial, whether it’s Chicken N’ Waffles, S’mores or Mac pizza. If you’re not as adventurous, you can’t go wrong with the classics like Cheese and Pepperoni. Once you’re done eating, you can explore the Wicker Park area featuring small, luxury boutiques like RSVP Gallery or stop by Stan’s Donuts for dessert.
Parson’s Chicken & Fish
Located in Logan Square and known for drinking, eating and good times, Parson’s has an awesome outdoor patio (with table tennis) that I’ve been dying to go to. The perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon. You can find a few more patio and rooftop options in this list.
DIY Taco Crawl
Tacos are great anytime of the year, but warmer weather makes for an easier commute when it comes to finding the best taquerias. Plan you’re own DIY Taco Crawl with restaurants in your favorite neighborhood. If you’re in the suburbs (or don’t mind heading out there) make sure to check out Cilantro and El Asadero in the Melrose Park/Stone Park area or Gaucntacos in Elmhurst. If an urban setting is more of your thing, El Milagro Tortilleria, El Taconazo El Tio, Paco’s Tacos and Zacotaco are among local favorites. All of these options are authentic, just don’t forget the agua de horchata on the side!
Lincoln Park Zoo is a classic and free Chicago favorite. But at about a 30-minute drive from the city, Brookfield Zoo is home to 2,000+ animals. The Dolphin Show is a crowd favorite, but make sure to check out their colorful butterfly exhibit and their Family Play Zoo. Tickets are available online or on location.
Cubs vs. Sox Crosstown Classic
The rivalry between both baseball teams has been traced back to over 100 years and although times certainly have changed since then, the competition remains the same as both teams face off in one of the most anticipated sporting events of the city. So pull out your jersey, call some friends, head out to the ball game and enjoy some peanuts and crackerjacks. But most importantly, Root Root for the Cubbies!
Millennium Park Summer Film Series
Who doesn’t want to watch a movie on a 40-foot LED screen in the heart of the city? This year’s film series picks include La La Land, Julie and Julia and Hidden Figures, among others. Pick up a bite from nearby restaurants, like Giordano’s or Garrett Popcorn, pack a comfy blanket and some bug spray and head to Millennium Park for a lovely evening taking in the city’s views and the beautiful summer weather.
Picnic in the Park
One of my favorite spots to picnic is Centennial Park located in Evanston. The spot is convenient, just a few steps from Clark Street Beach, the Northwestern Sailing Center, and Downtown Evanston, which is home to one of Andy’s Frozen Custard’s many locations. If you’re looking for a way to walk off your food or simply hang your hammock, head north on the path towards the Northwestern Lakefill and enjoy the view of the city, the painted rocks, and the free guest wi-fi.
Bike Along Lake Shore Drive
Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline are my favorite views in the city, and one of the best ways to take in both views is with a bike ride (or walk, if you prefer) along the Lake Shore Drive path. Rent one of the Divvy bikes, with docking stations located around the city, and enjoy a breezy ride near the water.
Kayak on the River
Nothing beats sailing along the Chicago River, but now you can take on a new perspective by heading over to Urban Kayaks and take a tour of the city like no other. You have a variety of options to choose from and can even register for lessons or have a front row seat for the Navy Pier 4th of July fireworks.
To any Chicago native, Navy Pier is one of those tourist attractions you try your best to avoid all summer long. But the new Centennial Ferris Wheel is a must-try this summer. And if you prefer to stay on the ground, catch one of their summer fireworks shows, either Wednesday at 9:30 pm or Saturday at 10:15 pm, somewhere just outside of the Pier but close to the water.
Festivals & Events
Catch some local city festival favorites this summer including Randolph Street Market Festival, Windy City Ribfest, Roscoe Village Burger Fest, Windy City Wine Festival and Logan Square Arts Festival, among many others you can find online. As for events, if you’re up for spending the day in the sun with a huge crowd, head to North Ave. Beach for the Air & Water Show.
Indiana Dunes or Lake Geneva
If you’re looking for a drive or a weekend getaway, the Indiana Dunes, which are located at the very southern tip of Lake Michigan, or Lake Geneva, in Southeastern Wisconsin, are great options away from the city life. Enjoy the views, head to a winery or plan fun outdoor activities, like hiking the dunes in Indiana or zip lining in Lake Geneva.
What are some items on your Chicago bucket list?