BEST Things to Do for the 4th of July Weekend in Chicago

Spending 4th of July weekend in Chicago and looking for fun things to do? You are in luck because the Fourth of July weekend is a great time to visit Chicago. Summer is in full swing and there are tons of fun things to do in Chicago on July 4th and even more during the weekend.

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly with any new events and information.

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What to Pack for Chicago for Fourth of July Weekend

For out of town visitors, here are essentials things to pack for Chicago for the 4th of July.

For out of town visitors, please note that the weather in Chicago on the 4th of July is usually hot and humid. Here are some things to pack if you are visiting for the first time:

• Comfortable walking shoes – Chicago is a very walkable city so you will probably do a lot of walking
Reusable water bottle – It is usually hot and humid so it is important to stay hydrated
• Sunglasses
• A hat
• A travel umbrella in case it rains
• Light sweater (and scarf) – For cooler nights, lake cruises and indoor places with too much air conditioning
Waterproof case – For your phone if you plan to go kayaking or spend time in the water
External battery for your phone – To recharge your phone’s battery when you are outdoors
• Mosquito repellent – If you plan to be outside around dusk or at night.
• Sunscreen – A must if you will be spending a lot of time outside in the day
• Bathing suit and other beach essentials (if you are planning to spend time at the beach)

Things to Do in Chicago on July 4th

Below are the top things to do in Chicago the 4th of July weekend 2023.

Watch Fireworks

fireworks in Chicago on the 4th of July weekend

Navy Pier kicks off the Fourth of July weekend with the dazzling Hilton Fireworks display accompanied by holiday-themed music on Saturday, July 2 from 9:30- 9:45 pm. There will not be fireworks on Monday, July 4.

Guests will receive “diffraction glasses” (while supplies last), courtesy of Hilton, to add an exciting layer of visual interest to the fireworks display.

It is best to arrive early to find a great viewing spot along Navy Pier. You don’t have to visit Navy Pier to enjoy the fireworks, you can see them from the lakefront and various restaurants.

One of the best and most relaxing ways to see the fireworks is on a fireworks lake or river cruise.

If you want to watch fireworks on Monday, July 4th, many suburbs in the Chicago area have 4th of July fireworks, parades and other festivities. You can see a full list of suburban fireworks shows here.

Enjoy the Views from 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

360 CHICAGO, the observatory on the 94th floor of 875 North Michigan Avenue (the former John Hancock Building), has one of the best views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. This is a more quiet spot to see fireworks. (Click here to buy a skip the line ticket).

Join a 4th of July Booze Cruise

Want to drink while enjoying being on the water? You can join several 4th of July themed booze cruises including this daytime booze cruise or this sunset booze bruise.

Take an Architecture River Cruise

weekend in chicago bucket list

Chicago has amazing architecture and the best way enjoy it is by going on an architecture river cruise.

Take a Lake Cruise

skyline from lake cruise in Chicago in the summer
If you enjoy being on the water, a lake cruise is also a fun activity. While you don’t get to see the buildings up close like on a architecture river cruise, you do get to enjoy skyline views and enjoy the cool breeze on the water.

If your time is short, you can do a combination river and lake cruise.

Have Fun at Navy Pier

rides at Navy Pier Chicago
Navy Pier is a must do if you are visiting Chicago with toddlers or kids. There are fun attractions at Navy Pier including a large Ferris wheel (click here to purchase a fast pass ticket and skip the long line).

Navy Pier is the starting point for various sightseeing tours and cruises.

Go Kayaking

A fun way to explore the city is to go kayaking in the Chicago River or Lake Michigan. There are several companies that offer kayaking tours in Chicago including Urban Kayaks, Kayak Chicago and Wateriders. They even offer evening tours for those that want to avoid the summer heat and sun.

Please note that you will get a little wet so bring a waterproof case for your phone and water-resistant or quick-drying clothing.

Hang Out on the Riverwalk

best things to do chicago travel blog

The Chicago Riverwalk is one of the best spots in Chicago for boat and people watching. There are also restaurants, bars, shops and spots to sit and relax along the way. You can also hop on a water taxi here.

July 4th is one of the best times of the year to visit Chicago

Where: Along the south bank of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago from Lake Michigan to west of Franklin Street. You can see a map of attractions on the Riverwalk here.

Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart

If you are on or near the Chicago Riverwalk in the evening, you might want to check out Art on theMART, the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART. The programming changes every few months and you can see current projections here.

When: 30-minute program of projections are displayed twice nightly

Where: The Merchandise Mart, 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654. Spectators can watch the show from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

Cost: Free.

Hang out at the Beach

view from North Avenue beach Chicago

Most people don’t think of Chicago as a beach destination but Chicago has many beaches on Lake Michigan.  Oak Street Beach and Ohio Street Beach are conveniently located close to the major tourist attractions. The popular North Avenue Beach, located close to Lincoln Park, has great skyline views and has more of a party vibe.

If you are thinking of swimming or dipping in the water to cool down, you can check swimming conditions here.

Enjoy the Lakefront Trail

walking and relaxing on the Lakefront Trail

If you enjoy being outdoors, head to the Lakefront Trail, a paved path on a 18-mile-long stretch along Lake Michigan. Walking or biking all or part of the trail is a great way to see Chicago skyline, people watch and get some exercise. Here is a map of the trail as well as its access points.

Look for Street Art

Moose Bubblegum Bubble by Jacob Watts one of the most famous street art murals in Chicago

Chicago is full of street art and there are always new murals popping up.  One of the most famous Chicago murals is “Moose Bubblegum Bubble” (pictured above) by Jacob Watts which located at 33 E. Ida B. Wells Drive (formerly 33 E. Congress Parkway). It is part of the Wabash Arts Corridor which is walking distance to Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago and other well known tourist attractions. You can find more detailed mural walks in the Loop here.

Another famous mural is the Greetings From Chicago Mural at 2226 N Milwaukee Ave, in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. You can see this mural and other street art on this street art tour.

Other neighborhoods that have a high concentration of street art include Pilsen as well as West Town.

Walk The 606

The 606 is Chicago’s version of The Highline in NYC, an elevated trail goes through 2.7 miles of the city’s northwest side neighborhoods: Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square.  It is a bit off the beaten tourist path but it great place to walk, run or bike. There are several access points so you can get off the trail to explore the various neighborhoods.

Eat or Drink on a Rooftop

Chicago has several rooftop bars and restaurants with amazing views of Chicago.  Here are some of the best rooftops in Chicago:

Cindy’s (12 S Michigan Ave) – Restaurant and bar on the rooftop of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel located across Millennium Park which offers panoramic instagram worthy views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan.

LH ON 22 (85 East Wacker Drive) – Enjoy classic cocktails and small bites from the outdoor LH terrace of LondonHouse Chicago which offers great views of the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile.

The J. Parker (1816 N Clark St) on the rooftop of the Hotel Lincoln with great views of Lincoln Park.

Kennedy Rooftop (1551 W North Ave) on top of the Hyatt Place Wicker Park, has amazing skyline views.

Watch a Baseball Game

wrigley field Chicago

Chicago is known for their love of sports, including baseball. You don’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy a game – it is fun to just soak in the atmosphere.

Both the Cubs and White Sox have home games happening during the Fourth of July weekend:

Saturday, July 1, 2023- Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Guardians at Wrigley Field
Sunday, July 2, 2023 – Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Guardians at Wrigley Field
Tuesday, July 4, 2023 7:10 PM – Chicago White Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays at Guaranteed Rate Field (with post game fireworks)

Listen to a Music Concert in Millennium Park

concert at Millennium Park Chicago

The Grant Park Music Festival has two outdoor music concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park during the 4th of July weekend.

Britten Spring Symphony – Friday, July 1 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Independence Day Salute – Saturday, July 2 from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

There are both paid and free seat options available.

Push Pin Travel Maps

Take the Water Taxi to Chinatown

The water taxi operates on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer. There are several routes but one of the best places to visit on a water taxi is Chinatown. The water taxi drops you close to Ping Tom Memorial Park, which has great skyline views. You can also find many authentic Chinese restaurants here.

As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago during the Fourth of July weekend. Here are more things to do in Chicago in July.

Planning a trip to Chicago? Check out my Chicago guides and itineraries:



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