Best Things to Do in Chicago in July 2021

Wondering what to do in Chicago this July? Here are the best things to do in Chicago in July 2021 (from a local).

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 be outside enjoying summer in Chicago.

Please note that due to current events some festivals and events have yet to be scheduled for this year but they should be announced soon as the city is loosening restrictions in the next few weeks. I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly with any new events and updates.

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
• Face masks – Chicago requires face masks for entry to all indoor attractions and some outdoor attractions
• Reusable water bottle – It can get very hot so it is important to stay hydrated
• Sunglasses
• A hat
• 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)

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.

Things to Do in Chicago in July 2021

Below are the best things to do in Chicago in July 2021.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

See the Bean at Millennium Park

The Bean at Millenium Park is a must on any one day in 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 hot days, kids (and some adults) love to splash in the water coming from Crown Fountain in Millennium Park.

Play at Maggie Daley Park

If you are visiting Chicago with kids, head to Maggie Daley Park, a large public park connected to Millennium Park. The park has play areas for kids of various ages as well as a climbing wall,  tennis courts and pickleball courts and a 18-hole miniature golf course.

Hang out at Navy Pier

Navy Pier can be somewhat of a tourist trap but it is a must do if you are visiting Chicago with toddlers or kids. There are fun attractions at Navy Pier including a Ferris wheel, restaurants, shops, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  Navy Pier is also the starting point for various sightseeing tours and cruises.

Sundays on State

Chicago Theatre instagram photo spot

In an effort to bring people safely back to the Loop, Chicago Loop Alliance will transform State Street from Madison to Lake into an open street on Sundays beginning July 11.  Tis portion of the street will be closed to vehicle traffic to give pedestrians a chance to experience arts and culture, active recreation, retail, restaurants, and bars against the backdrop of State Street’s iconic architecture like the Chicago Theatre (one of the best Chicago photo spots).

Where: State Street from Madison to Lake

When: Sundays beginning July 11 from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Click here for more information.

Watch Free Movies in the Park

Ever summer you can watch free movies in Chicago’s public parks with the annual Movies in the Parks series. Movies in the Parks is part of Night Out in the Parks, which will feature more than 350 outdoor cultural & arts events in parks throughout the city this summer.  Movies start at dusk. The schedule has yet to be released so check back for more information.

Explore the Lakefront

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.  The most popular beaches are located downtown (Oak Street and North Avenue) but they are also the busiest.  Two of the best beaches for more of a local feel include Kathy Osterman Beach and Foster Avenue Beach which are both located north of downtown.

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. To those unfamiliar, historic Wrigley Field is home to one of the city’s baseball teams – the Cubs.  Whether a fan of the Cubs, baseball in general or just a fun atmosphere, a day at the 100 year old ballpark is a must for locals and tourists alike.  You don’t need to enjoy baseball to enjoy a Cubs game – it is fun to just soak in the atmosphere.  You can find their schedule here.

Listen to Free Music at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park

You can listen to classical music performances in July at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. 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. Reservations will become available at 10:00AM on the Monday before the concert. However, for the Independence Day Salute ONLY, reservations will become available on Wednesday, June 30.

When: 6:30pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings starting July 2, 2021. See the full schedule here.

Where: Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, located at 201 E. Randolph Street.

Cost:  All seats are free of charge but advance reservations are required.

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. Congress.  It is part of the Wabash Arts Corridor which is walking distance to Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago and other tourist attractions.

Another famous mural is The Greetings From Chicago Mural at 2226 N Milwaukee Ave, in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.  Pilsen is another neighborhood where you can find tons of street art (and great Mexican food).

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.

Listen to Country Music and Eat BBQ at the Windy City Smokeout

July is a popular month for outdoor festivals with one or more outdoor festivals or events happening every weekend. One of the first music festivals scheduled for this summer is Windy City Smokeout, a country music, BBQ and craft beer festival.

The four-day event features renowned country artists (Brett Eldredge, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Jon Pardi) plus up-and-coming talent as well as barbecue cuisine provided by the best pitmasters from around the US.

When: July 8-11, 2021.

Where: United Center Parking Lot, 1901 West Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60612

Cost:  Prices vary ranging from $35 for a single-day general admission ticket to $625 for a four-day VIP experience. Tickets for the event are currently on sale here.

Take the Water Taxi to Chinatown

Chicago Water Taxi will resume service on May 29, 2021. There are several water taxi 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.

The Chinatown Summer Fair returns for its 42nd festive year on July 17- 18, 2021. Highlights include the Dragon & Lion Dance Procession, artisans, plenty of great cuisine, activities for families and children, and more.

See the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

Want to escape the summer heat? The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, is a massive indoor digital presentation of Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork from the creators of the blockbuster show at Atelier des Lumières seen by over 2 million visitors in Paris and Toronto and featured in Emily in Paris (one of my favorite travel shows on Netflix). Tickets must be purchased online in advance and they are selling quickly!

Where: Lighthouse ArtSpace at Germania Place, 108 W. Germania Pl, Chicago IL

Cost:  Tickets start at $39.99 plus fees for off peak times. See https://www.vangoghchicago.com/ for full prices and to purchase tickets in advance.

More July Events

In addition to the events and festivals mentioned above, some other events to check out in July include: Southport Art Fair (July 10-11, 2021), Chicago Auto Show (July 15-19, 2021), Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival (July 17-18, 2021), Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Latin Jazz Festival (July 23-24, 2021), and Taste of Chicago To-Go.

As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago this July.

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


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