BEST Things to Do in Chicago in July 2024 (From a Local!)

Searching for what to do in Chicago in July? Here are the best things to do in Chicago in July 2024 (from a local) – from fun outdoor activities and attractions to the best July 2024 events and festivals.

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I will be updating it regularly with new events and activities.

Chicago in July

July is a popular month to visit Chicago. The weather is usually hot and sunny and locals and visitors are happy to spend time outdoors enjoying the many summer attractions, activities, events and festivals.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission if you make a booking using my links at no extra cost to you.

What to Pack for Chicago in July

For out of town visitors, please note that the weather in Chicago in July can somedays get very hot and humid.

Here are some things to pack if you are visiting Chicago in July for the first time:
• Comfortable walking shoes – Chicago is a very walkable city so you will do a lot of walking
• Reusable water bottle – It can get very hot so it is important to stay hydrated
• Sunglasses
• A hat
• A travel umbrella– It does occasionally rain in July
• Light sweater (and scarf) – For cooler nights and cold air conditioned places
• Waterproof case – For your phone if you plan to go kayaking
• Bathing suit and other beach essentials (if you are planning to spend time at the beach)
• External battery for your phone – it will be hard to find an outlet to recharge your phone’s battery when you are outdoors

If you forget to bring something essential, don’t worry. There are many drugstores located close to the popular tourist attractions if you need to pick something up.

Best Things to Do in Chicago in July 2024

Below are the top things to do in Chicago in July including all of the best July 2024 events and festivals.

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. July is one of the best months for a lake cruise as the cool breeze on the water is refreshing on a hot day. Lake cruises depart from Navy Pier or the Michigan Avenue bridge.

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

Watch Fireworks

You can watch free fireworks all month, not just on the 4th of July weekend. Navy Pier puts on free fireworks shows every Wednesday (9:00-9:10 pm) and Saturday night (10:00-10:10 pm). You don’t have to visit Navy Pier to enjoy the fireworks, you can see them from various spots along the lakefront.

If you enjoy guided tours, you can join a fireworks segway tour.

One of the best and most relaxing ways to see the fireworks is on a fireworks lake or river cruise which will stop on the water for passengers to enjoy the show.

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), restaurants, shops and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Navy Pier is also the starting point for various sightseeing tours and cruises.

Navy Pier regularly hosts various free public events and festivals including free fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night in the summer.

Listen to Concerts Under The Stars

Enjoy music concerts on a rooftop. Concerts Under The Stars taking place this July include:

ABBA Under the Stars at AIRE
Amy Winehouse Under The Stars
Piano Men: A Billy Joel & Elton John Tribute at the Aire Rooftop

You can find the full list of Concerts Under The Stars here.

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.

July 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.

Hours: Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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.

Take a Kayak Tour in the River

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

You can rent kayaks at Ohio Street Beach here.

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

Explore the Lakefront Trail

Chicago lakefront

Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is a paved path on a 18-mile-long stretch along Lake Michigan. In the summer and especially on weekends, the lakefront is packed with locals and visitors walking, running and riding bikes.  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.

Hang out at the Beach

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.

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.

See The Bean at Millennium Park

The Bean at Millenium Park is a must on any Chicago itinerary

If you have seen photos of Chicago on social media, chances are you have seen photos of Cloud Gate (also called The Bean), the famous mirrored sculpture in Millennium Park. Millennium Park is a free attraction and is a portion of the Grant Park. In addition to Cloud Gate, Millennium Park also includes the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Crown Fountain sculpture (more below) and Lurie Garden.

Although the Bean is very very touristy, don’t skip it.  It is one of the most instagrammable places in Chicago and it is a great photo spot.

Tip: The Bean is usually crowded especially in the summer and on weekends so if you want avoid people in your photos visit early in the morning or later in the evening.

Splash in Crown Fountain

millenium park which includes crown fountain is a Chicago must do on a hot july day

July tends to be really hot and humid making it a perfect time to splash in the water from the Crown Fountain (which is also located in Millennium Park).

Listen to Free Music in Millennium Park

A great Chicago activity in July is listening to free concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

The Millennium Park Summer Music Series features a wide variety of music from established and emerging artists at the iconic Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

The annual Grant Park Music Festival is the only free outdoor classical-music concert series in the US. It features the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Grant Park Chorus along with guest performers and conductors.

Watch Free Movies in Millennium Park

Watch free movies outside in Millennium Park presented on the state-of- the-art, 40-foot LED screen as part of the Millennium Park Summer Film Series. Guests may take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or lounge on the Great Lawn.

Where: Millennium Park, located at 201 E. Randolph Street.

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. (Click here to buy a skip the line ticket).

Watch a Baseball Game

what to see in Chicago

Chicago is known for their love of their sports teams, so if you are visiting in July you might want to attend a baseball game. Chicago has two MLB baseball teams (Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox).

You can find the Chicago Cubs schedule here and the Chicago White Sox schedule here.

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. This is a popular spot and the wait for the elevator can be long but if you visit around the time it opens you can enjoy the great views without the crowds.

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.

See Famous Works of Art at the Art Institute of Chicago

Want to escape the heat and head indoors to cool off? The Art Institute of Chicago (111 S Michigan Ave) is one of best indoor attractions in Chicago.  It is one of the largest art museums in the United States and is frequently found on lists of the top museums in the world. You must purchase your ticket online in advance.

Click here to buy a fast pass ticket if you want to avoid long lines.

Attend an Outdoor Festival

Do you enjoy live music, food, drinking and people watching? July is the busiest month for outdoor festivals and events in Chicago from family friendly neighborhood events to popular alcohol fueled music festivals. Outdoor festivals taking place in Chicago in July 2024 include:
Southport Art Fest (July 6-7, 2024), Windy City Smokeout (July 11-14, 2024), Roscoe Village Burger Fest (July 19-21, 2024), Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago (July 19-21, 2024), Taste of River North (July 19-21, 2024), Taste of Lincoln Avenue (July 26-28, 2024) and Chinatown Summer Fair (July 27-28, 2024).

More Chicago July 2024 Events

In addition to the festivals mentioned above, other Chicago July 2024 events include: NASCAR’s Chicago Street Race (July 6-7, 2024), Chicago Artisan Market (July 14, 2024), Millennium Park 20th Anniversary Celebration (July 18–21, 2024) and Renegade Craft Fair (July 19–21, 2024).

As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago in July. If you are looking for more things to do in Chicago in July or the rest of the summer, see my list of the Best Things to do in Chicago in the Summer.

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



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