Chicago Jazz Festival: The Complete Guide

an up-close view of a person playing an instrument

Chicago Jazz Festival, Choose Chicago 

Chicagoans love live music, and what’s more, they love their festivals. The Chicago Jazz Festival is one of the most popular music shindigs in the city. Learn a brief history of the event and what to expect from the 2019 festival. This four-day celebration, taking place from August 29 through September 1, is free to the public, based in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.), and features programming by the Jazz Institute of Chicago. (There will be smaller neighborhood concerts beginning on August 23.) See a full festival schedule and map here.


What began as a gathering to honor the death of Duke Ellington in 1974 became a huge annual assemblage of 30,000 concert-goers. Then, in 1978, a Grant Park festival organized to honor John Coltrane—it wasn't long before The Chicago Jazz Festival was born to combine these big events under one sky. First season entertainers, which brought together 125,000 festival-goers over the week, included Von Freeman, Art Hodes, Benny Carter, McCoy Tyner, Billy Taylor, Mel Torme, and Benny Goodman. Many famous performers have lit up the stage in past years including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and BB King.

The 2019 Festival

For the 41st Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, arrive early (seats are on a first-come, first-served basis) to see performances from several amazing musicians, including: Freddy Cole (Nat King Cole's brother), Cécile McLorin Salvant, Eddie Palmieri, Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet, George Freeman and Billy Branch, Camila Meza, and more. See the full lineup here. The music happens rain or shine, so be sure to check the weather and plan accordingly. 

Getting to the Festival

The event is free, at both locations, which means that there will be loads of concert-goers milling about Millennium Park and around the Cultural Center. We strongly suggest public transportation to the festival—the closest Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) stop at Millennium Park is Washington and Wabash, which serves the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple lines. You can also park at the Millennium Park Garages, Grant Park North, Grant Park South, and East Monroe Garages. Or take a bicycle or Divvy bike to the event. 

Consider a hotel stay nearby to have some down time in between acts, have a meal away from the crowds, and be within an accessible distance to the festival. Here are a couple suggestions:

  • Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago, just three blocks from Millennium Park, is a convenient option—grab a drink at the nightly hosted wine hour before heading to a show.
  • Less than a mile away is DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago (Magnificent Mile). You’ll also be near Chicago’s Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue as well as Navy Pier, should you want to make the most of the weekend and explore Chicago.

Festival Essentials 

The Chicago Jazz festival is the ideal event to stretch out on a blanket, enjoy a picnic, and listen to great tunes. Beer, wine and snacks are available for purchase as well, located in the concessions tent east of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion as well as throughout the park and at Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza. Other dining options include the Park Grill and Café, however it will likely be packed inside and require a wait. Cash and credit are both widely used. 

What to Leave Behind: 

  • BBQ grills or any open flame
  • Fireworks or explosives
  • Illegal substances or weapons
  • Pop-up tents or canopies
  • Beach or picnic umbrellas
  • Pets, except for service animals
  • Recording devices
  • Cigarettes or e-smoking paraphernalia
  • Alcoholic beverages (purchase these inside)

What to Bring:

  • Sunblock, hat, and water
  • Picnic basket or snacks
  • Folding seat or lightweight camping chair and a blanket for Millennium Park (but not for the seating area of Jay Pritzker Pavilion)

Chicago Jazz Festival Contact Information

Address: 410 S. Michigan Ave #500
Phone: 312-427-1676
For lost and found items in the park, call: 312-744-6050