Things to do in Chicago

Chicago Music Festivals

From Riot Fest to Lollapalooza, Chicago's vibrant reputation for music festivals precedes it. 

As nippy winter temperatures warm up, the city comes to life with music, food, festivals, and fun all summer long. No matter what type of tunes you obsess over, you'll find a festival for it.

Chicago’s Music Festival Calendar

While there are some unique festivals at other times of the year, the big, exciting ones begin their rituals in June, offering a lot of things to do in Chicago for music lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike.

Below, we list some of the most unique and thrilling musical performances that everyone talks about, along with their dates. Some of the others we've included may not be at the forefront, but their creativity and jams earn a spot on this list.

Photographer: bbernard

Chicago Blues Festival — From Thursday, June 6th, to Sunday, June 9th

You won’t be singing the blues at the Chicago Blues Festival, unless you’re just singing along. This festival is the biggest free blues festival in the entire world, christening Chicago with the moniker "The Blues Capital of the World".

From Thursday, June 6th, to Sunday, June 9th, more than half a million Blues fans of this spiritual music gather in Chicago and have an absolute blast. Three stages across Millenium Park will host more than 35 shows, featuring big blues music names such as Chicago legend Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, Mr Sipp and more.

  • Admission is free.

Grant Park Music Festival — From June 12th to August 17th

If you’re a lover of classical music, the Grant Park Music Festival series is right where you need to be. For 10 weeks throughout the summer, classical pieces are expertly performed several nights a week in the center of the park. Awe-inspiring guest performers and conductors grace the park, as well as the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and the Grant Park Chorus. Other classical pieces will be played across Chicago.

  • Dates: from June 12th to August 17th.
  • Price: starting from $27.

Square Roots — From July 12th, to July 13th

We know you're probably thinking of math with this festival, but Square Roots is all about luxurious sounds wafting through the crowds. Described as a party in Lincoln Square, this thrilling math-free street fest is home to a lot of live music in Chicago and frothy craft beer.

  • Dates: From July 12th to July 13th.

Global artists treat guests to delectable tastes of their culture's music as they boogie down to the international soundtrack. Guests can also experience the family fun events and craft market when they need a break from the inspired dancing.

Ravinia Festival — From June 7th to September 15th

The Ravinia Festival is a fun-filled summer-long indoor and outdoor festival series in Ravinia Park, just outside Chicago. Styles range from classical to country music, so there's something to play the eardrums of every music lover. for all budgets.

Performance venues for the festival include The Pavilion, The Martin Theatre, Bennett Gordon Hall, and The Lawn. For a change of pace from expensive festival fare, you can order a ready-to-eat picnic from local grocery stores and restaurants to take with you and munch on at the park.

Taste of Chicago — From September 6th to September 8th

If you love food and days of music, you'll love the Taste of Chicago festival, a foodie and music buff extravaganza. September 6th to September 8th. The "taste" part is all about food; it's one of the greatest and most expansive food festivals on the planet. With music on several stages, this free-to-attend event is designed to be fun — and filling — for the whole family.

Chicago Pride Fest — From June 22nd to June 23rd

Raise your pride flag high during the 2-day Chicago Pride Fest that celebrates LGBTQ+ life in Chicago's Northalsted neighborhood. Heart-pounding live music on three stages blends with creative dance exhibitions, edgy guest speakers, and conformity-defying drag performances. With more than 150 vendors of both food and merchandise, there'll be plenty to see, eat, and do. Attendance is free, but a $15 suggested donation for entry would help to pay performers, festival workers, and support local non-profits & community programs.

Photographer: Svet foto

Pride in the Park Chicago — Expected Late June

In the same lakefront area at Grant Park where the incredible Lollapalooza is held each year, you can close out Pride Month and celebrate diversity at one of the most inclusive music festivals, the Pride in the Park Chicago festival.

Along with unforgettable loud music and LGBTQ+ performers, artists, and vendors, you can enjoy unique local cuisine, lighthearted drag performances, and more.

Windy City Smokeout — From July 11th to July 14th

In case you wondered if the Windy City Smokeout is family-friendly, the smoke in the name refers to barbecue. From July 11th to July 14th Pitmasters converge on this aptly named festival to grill up tasty treats, which are paired with craft beers from around the country. If you’re a fan of beer, barbecue, and bands, this festival is a can’t-miss experience.

  • Price: starting from $65.

Pitchfork Music Festival — From July 19th to July 21st

Die-hard music fans already know all about Pitchfork Music Festival. Known for its cheeky reviews of mainstream music, Pitchfork is renowned for curating an eclectic blend of well-known and up-and-coming artists, 40+ bands in every genre imaginable. The 3-day festival attracts over 60,000 fans to Union Park and hosts vendors selling gifts, crafts, food, and too much more to list.

  • Price: starting from $119.

Wicker Park Fest — From July 26th to July 28th

If you’re looking for cutting-edge music from national acts and local talent, the Wicker Park Fest is a riveting 3-day festival starting July 26th, that celebrates the neighborhood’s rich musical heritage. For its 20th anniversary, enjoy the area’s unique character, great food from local restaurants, arts and crafts, and tons more. Attendance is free, but a $10 donation is suggested to support Wicker Park Fest community.

Lollapalooza Chicago — From August 1st to August 4th

With one of the craziest festival names, Lollapalooza, the epitome of extraordinary and unusual, is guaranteed to be a wild ride. As one the biggest Chicago festivals of the year, more than 100,000 Lollapaloozans come from all over to be amazed by some of the biggest acts in the music business.

Set on the lakefront at Grant Park, attendees immerse themselves in a lively party atmosphere. When you’re not jamming to your favorite band, you can fill up on the fantastic festival grub at Chow Town, the food festival nestled inside the music festival.

  • Price: starting $20.

Chicago Jazz Festival — From August 29th to September 1st

If you're jazzed about music, the Chicago Jazz Festival has all that jazz and more. Running since 1979, the festival features jazz music at two venues, Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center. For free, You'll see incredible local, national, and international talent all in one place, with food and drink available.

  • Dates: From August 29th to September 1st, 2024
Photographer: Geoff Goldswain

North Coast Music Festival — From August 30th to September 1st

West Coast? East Coast? It's neither — the North Coast Music Festival takes place annually on Labor Day weekend. This festival features some of the biggest names in electronic music along with large-scale art pieces and interactive installations.

  • Price: starting from $119.80.

ARC Music Festival — From August 30th to September 1st

While the ARC Music Festival might not be as well known as some others, it's an exciting time for fans of house and dance music. This year in Union Park, the music festival will feature more than 50 local and international artists and even Idriss Elba.

  • Price: starting from $199.

Riot Fest — From September 20th to September 22nd

Riot Fest in Douglas Park is your chance to be part of the biggest riot in Chicago — without worrying about getting arrested. Someone had the inspired brainchild of combining loud, live alternative rock music with a carnival, colorful festivities, and local food. Come for the big artists, but stay for the carnival rides (yes, rides!).

  • Price: 3-Day pass starting from $209.98.

World Music Festival Chicago — From September 20th to September 29th

Since 1999, the one-of-kind World Music Festival Chicago has been held annually and features free and ticketed artists from dozens of countries around the world. During 10 consecutive days of amazing music in 2023, this festival brings the music of the world to you, right here in Chicago, with artists that range from traditional to contemporary.

Photographer: Rudy Balasko

Other Festivals

While the chill of fall in Chicago always brings the big outdoor summer music festivals to an end, you can still have fun at festivals and events with live music at other times of the year listed below. We also included some lesser-known festivals during the summer that don’t make the big headlines but are still sure to be lots of fun.

January: Tomorrow Never Knows — From January 17th to january 21st: This event features local indie music and comedians.

February: UChicago Folk Festival — From February 9th to February 10th: Since 1961, people have gathered from all over to hear the best folk music.


  • Sueños Music Festival — From May 25th to May 26th: This event is a favorite for reggae fans and features Latin artists. Price: starting from $310.
  • Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest — From May 24th to May 26th: Celebrate Memorial Day with live music, food, beer, and wine.


  • Summer Smash Festival — From June 14th to June 16th : Come and join in on the biggest hip-hop party of the year. Price: Three Day Pass starting from $385.


  • Southport Art & Music Fest — July 13th and July 14th: Enjoy music along with fine art, jewelry, sculptures, and photography. Admission is free.
  • Fiesta Del Sol — From July 25th to July 28th: The largest Latino festival of its kind, celebrating Latin food, music, and culture. Price: Mega Pass starting from $60.50.


  • Sangria Festival Chicago — From August 17th to August 18th: The name says it all. Enjoy sangria, Latin American food, and music. Price: starting from $25
  • Ribfest Chicago From June 14th to June 16th: If ribs and rock music and whiskey tasting are your thing, you'll have a great time. A $10 suggested donation is requested.


  • Hyde Park Jazz Festival From September 28th to September 29th: If you can't get enough of jazz, come and see this event on the south side. A $10 donation entrance is appreciated.
  • Taste of Polonia Festival From August 30th to September 2nd: Celebrate Polish culture and food with live music performed by dozens of bands. Price: starting from $10.

October: Lincoln Park Wine Festival From October 4th to October 6th: Taste wine and enjoy live music while strolling through the art market.

Beyond the Music: Festival Experiences

While you're probably really stoked about seeing your favorite artist perform live, there are many fun and interesting things to do and see in and around the music festivals in Chicago. You'll have an even bigger blast if you explore some of these:

Food, Art, and Cultural Elements at Festivals

The food is usually amazing, and there are often dozens of vendors with all kinds of scrumptious delicacies at the biggest music festivals to make your taste buds dance, too.

Many festivals, such as Lollapalooza, have trendy extras such as lounge parties, autograph tents, and an art market. Make sure you look around so you don't miss something outside the ordinary.

Family-Friendly Activities and Kid-Centric Festivals

Wondering if music festivals are any place for your own family circus? Many festivals have spaces just for your little acrobats to jump around and burn off their boundless energy. For example, Lollapalooza has its own "Kidzapalooza", and West Fest, just outside of Chicago in West Town, includes a "Kid Fest" that even has pony rides.

In addition, there are many fairs, festivals, and fun activities for kids throughout the year in the Chicago area.

Camping, Glamping, and Other Accommodation Options

Most festival websites list recommendations for nearby hotels, but you might be wondering what else is available off the beaten path. Because Chicago is a big city, you can't really "camp" in a tent at most festivals; however, there are RV campgrounds in the suburbs.

If that still sounds too boring, there have been a few lesser-known festivals near Chicago, such as Campfire Music Festival, that include glamping as a part of the festival experience. New ones pop up every year, so keep your eyes peeled when you're making your plans.

A Guide for Festival-Goers

Before you take the big leap into the exciting world of Chicago festivals, we've got a few suggestions that can help make your experience even more amazing. Much of what is listed below has been compiled from festival-goers who learned this the hard way. Take these tips into account so you can have the most unforgettable time possible.

Tips for Attending Festivals in Chicago

Experienced festival-goers will tell you this for starters:

  • Google the festival and learn as much as you can about it before the festival
  • Use public transportation
  • Try new experiences
  • Pace yourself
  • Indulge in the food
  • Give yourself time to bounce back when it's over

What to Wear

We'd definitely be wearing a costume, but keep in mind that it can get pretty hot, so the following is up to you:

  • Comfortable shoes that you won't mind getting muddy
  • Light clothes for warm weather
  • A cool hat
  • Funky sunglasses
  • A crazy costume

What to Bring

You might be thinking that once you've got your wristband, you're good to go, but hang on a minute. You also want to make sure you have these:

  • Cash (but not large amounts)
  • Water bottle
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra shirt
  • Water. Bottle.
  • Toilet paper, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer
  • Light rain jacket or poncho for crazy changes in weather
  • WATER BOTTLE (seriously)

How to Plan Your Day

All the noise and excitement might make you feel a little overwhelmed, but here's how to make sure you still have fun:

  • Check the festival website for its "Dos and Don'ts" before you go
  • Avoid the mad rush times
  • Create a "must-see" plan from the lineup, but be flexible
  • Make time to explore the festival and check out other unexpected things

Staying Safe and Making the Most of Your Festival Experience

We're confident you'll have a safe trip in Chicago, but you should still think about your safety along with these tips:

  • Stay in groups
  • Have a predetermined meetup spot in case you get sidetracked
  • Chug plenty of fluids the day before the festival
  • Stay hydrated during the event (remember that water bottle!)
  • Stay off your phone and in the moment
  • Have an incredible time!

Support Chicago Music Festivals & Arts

There's nothing quite like the Chicago Musical Festival scene, with all the excitement and sheer immersive sensory experience that comes with it. There's something for everyone, regardless of your age or taste in music.

If you've never been to one, now might be the time to attend an event and support the artists and organizers who go to great lengths to make sure they're once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

More articles about