Here's the deal:
Chicago's weather is so brutal during the winter months that we deserve to have the best summer street festivals in the country. Ask anyone and they'll tell you that there's no place like the Windy City in the summer when festival season rolls around. The only problem is that with so many to choose from--with the most popular happening on the same weekends--it's impossible to attend them all.
That's why we've narrowed down the list to our Top 10 favorite Chicago summer festivals, from family-friendly affairs to live-music and deejay extravaganzas.
Bud Billiken Parade
Every second Saturday in August is the country's largest African-American parade, which launched in 1929. Catering to families, the parade travels on the South Side, beginning at 39th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and ending at 55th Street in Washington Park (home to DuSable Museum of African American History). Marching bands, professional athletes, actors, radio personalities, politicians and more march in the parade.
Throughout the years, a host of A-List stars and top dignitaries have participated, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Paul Robeson, President Barack Obama (as a U.S. senator), Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Billie Holiday, Diana Ross, R. Kelly and others.
Chicago Pride Festival/Pride Parade
While gay pride is celebrated throughout the month of June, the last two weekends are the most significant. Chicago Pride Festival happens in Lakeview (a.k.a. Boystown) on Halsted Street between Addison and Grace streets. It's a $10 suggested donation. The Gay Pride Parade culminates the month and kicks off at noon on the last Sunday. It begins at the corner of Broadway and Montrose avenues, and continues south on Broadway, then south on Halsted, east on Belmont, south again on Broadway, and east on Diversey to Cannon Drive. It's free to the public.
Chosen Few Picnic Weekend
Taking place over the 4th of July weekend, the annual house music festival pays tribute to the legendary dance music style and its innovators. The signature event of the weekend is an old school reunion picnic, which attracts up to 45,000 strong in Jackson Park (63rd Street and Hayes Drive). Expect deejays and live music acts. Tickets range from $20-$1,000.
NorthHalsted Street Market Days
The Midwest's largest two-day street festival happens in Boystown, with so much to do that it's certain to make your head spin. From food vendors representing notable area restaurants to deejays spinning music to encourage patrons to dance in the street, Market Days is for certain the city's number one festival. Expect a host of colorful people--from the performers to participants--so if you're a prude this may not be the event for you. The festival takes place the second weekend of August on Halsted Street between Belmont and Addison streets. It's a $10 donation at the door.
Pitchfork Music Festival
Some music fanatics will tell you that this near west side music festival's lineup is better than Lollapalooza--which sells out as soon as tickets go on sale. Regardless, Pitchfork's fans love it for its indie music and foodie focus as well as the fact that it's not downtown. Though Pitchfork is a touring festival, it prides itself on connecting with local vendors. It occurs in Union Park.
Puerto Rican People's Day Parade
The Puerto Rican parade combines two major happenings: the Humboldt Park community parade as well as the one occurring downtown. The parade occurs in late June at Division and Maple streets in Humboldt Park near the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. It pays homage to the country's largest Puerto Rican population, with the festival taking place all day at Division Street and California Avenue. All activities are free.
Thirteen BBQ-focused joints--including some of the very best BBQ restaurants in Chicago--are set to serve up finger-licking food. And if that’s not enough grub for you, other vendors are on hand with tasty items like deep-fried Oreos, stuffed burgers, bourbon caramel apple doughnuts and duck fat fries. The highlight of the popular BBQ festival is “RibMania,” the Midwest’s only sanctioned rib-eating competition. A number of live musical and performance acts are also scheduled. Ribfest takes place in mid-June and there’s a $5 donation. The festival entrance is at the intersections of Lincoln/Irving Park/Damen.
Roscoe Village Burger Fest
From turkey and bison burgers to those topped with traditional fixings, the exciting offerings at this foodie-focused neighborhood festival will make you wonder why it doesn't get more hype than it does. Live music, kids' entertainment and a contest for "Chicago's Best Burger" make the event a popular contender among the summer's top food fetes. It takes place in mid-July on Roscoe Avenue, between Damen Avenue and Oakley Street. A minimal donation is requested at door.
Taste of Lincoln Avenue
Numerous food and drink booths from restaurants on and nearby Lincoln Avenue as well as various bands, a craft fair, kids' carnival and more appeal to the thousands who attend the Chicago's biggest neighborhood street fest. Most bands are local, but you're likely to spot a Chicago celebrity (think Blackhawks, Bulls or Bears players) strolling through the event. It takes place in late July or early August on Lincoln Avenue between Fullerton Parkway and Wrightwood Avenue.
Taste of Randolph
The three-day event occurs in the West Loop, specifically along the famed Randolph Street restaurant row. Entertainment is local and nationally known bands, with some family-focused features. Of course, the food will be elevated; expect choices such as Korean tacos and grass-fed beef burgers. Entrance to the event is at 900 W. Randolph St. and it takes place in late June.