Chicago’s typically busy cultural and entertainment calendar reaches its peak this August, with the Windy City playing host to a huge variety of great events.
Locals and visitors alike flock to be outside during sunny August in Chicago. But as well as the city’s wide array of outdoor attractions, there are plenty of things to see and do undercover too, providing much-needed respite from the heat. If you’re visiting Chicago this August and would like to know what’s going on inside and out, we’ve picked out 12 excellent options to consider adding to your itinerary.
Grant Park Music Festival
Held beneath Chicago’s eye-catching skyline, this ten-week music festival is one of the most eagerly awaited events on Chicago’s annual events calendar and a city tradition for almost 90 years. Featuring a series of classical concerts, ranging from world premiere works and performances of symphonies by Mozart, Haydn and Shostakovich to an evening of classic Broadway arrangements, the event is a truly magical occasion, all taking place in scenic surroundings and with plenty of food and beverage options too.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Chicago / Through 20 August 2022
‘Boats: Captain Your Own Adventure’ exhibition
Designed by Chicago Children’s Museum, this exhibition provides a nourishing nautical environment for little ones to engage in the kind of unstructured play that’s essential for a child’s development. Kids can fully engage in make-believe play, build language and problem-solving skills, work through emotions, and learn how to collaborate with peers. This exhibit taps into children’s natural fascination with boats, allowing them to captain their own adventure and play with an abandon not possible in a real boating situation. Highlights include a dock and bait shop, an assortment of boats and boating equipment, and accessories such as captain’s jacket, life vests, steering wheels, sails, buoys, and fishing poles.
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 East Grand Avenue / Through summer 2022
‘Shanghai: Safe Haven During the Holocaust’ exhibition
This exhibition sheds light on a lesser-known moment in Holocaust history: European Jews who had been shut out of multiple countries while trying to escape Nazi persecution found a beacon of hope in an unlikely place: Shanghai, China. In 1946, photojournalist Arthur Rothstein began a project documenting Jewish refugees who now called Shanghai’s Hongkew District “home.” Featuring Rothstein’s photographs and artefacts from local Holocaust Survivors, this exhibition is a tribute to human endurance, capturing the enormous hardship and fierce perseverance of refugees as they managed to not only survive but thrive living in the Shanghai ghetto.
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie / Through 5 September 2022
Windy City Smokeout
Combining great country music with mouth-watering BBQ fare, all washed down with lashings of locally brewed craft beer, this outdoor festival takes place in the inconspicuous surroundings of a used parking lot. But what it lacks in glamour, it makes up for in fun, flavours and top-notch tunes, with some of the nation’s most talented pitmasters, a stellar line-up of musicians and some of the best beer brewers in Chicago and beyond helping make this an occasion to remember for all who attend.
United Center, 1901 West Madison Street, Chicago / 4-7 August 2022
Great Feelings and Meetings: Photographs by Hans Ekestang exhibition
This solo exhibition showcases the vast body of work created by Swedish blues photographer Hans Ekestang. Born in Stockholm in 1952, Ekestang has been capturing the blues through his photography since 1971, devoting the better part of his life to travelling internationally to create a catalogue of pictures taken at blues festivals across Scandinavia, Europe, and the United States. His subjects have included blues legends B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Buddy Guy, among countless others, many of whom feature in this exhibition.
Swedish American Museum, 5211 North Clark Street, Chicago / Through 4 September 2022
Lady Gaga live
American music icon Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga, brings her inimitable talents to Chicago’s Wrigley Field baseball stadium for one night only this August as part of her rescheduled summer stadium tour. Titled The Chromatica Ball, the tour is being billed as the most complex show she’s ever performed. Among the set-list will be songs such as Shallow, taken from the A Star is Born soundtrack, and Hold My Hand taken from the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack.
Wrigley Field, 1060 West Addison Streetm Chicago / 15 August 2022
‘Life Behind the Wire: Prisoners of War’ exhibition
This riveting exhibition addresses what happens when a soldier, sailor, airman or marine is captured during war and provides insight into the drastic differences that exist between varying prisoner of war (POW) experiences. Through artefacts, archival materials, photographs, and oral histories, the exhibition shines a light on the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of life in captivity. It examines international laws pertaining to POWs, day-to-day life in a POW camp, and individual reflections of life as a POW, illustrating how the experience has changed throughout American military history as well as how POW perspectives fit into the larger narratives of war.
Pritzker Military Museum & Library, Chicago / Through Spring 2023
It’s ribs, ribs, ribs all weekend long together with plenty of cold beer and a top-notch entertainment line-up at one of Chicago’s favourite events. Hungry festival-goers can sample fare cooked up by acclaimed BBQ vendors who offer racks of ribs and sides, while competing for coveted titles chosen by the crowd and a panel of celebrity judges. Although ribs play a starring role, there’s also a variety of local, non-rib restaurants serving up their signature dishes, as well as a family area with plenty of kids’ activities and games.
Northcenter, Chicago / 19-21 August 2022
Celebrating 7 years in Humboldt Park Chicago is the two-day Sangria Festival with a variety of Sangria flavours available that you won’t want to miss. From 12-10pm both days revellers can enjoy live music entertainment in the form of authentic Flamenco music of Spain, Salsa Music, a Samba Parade and performance and DJs playing all the familiar hits all day. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, and even a picnic set up to enter the highly competitive picnic setup contest.
Humboldt Park, Chicago / 20-21 August 2022
Third Friday Open Studios
Five hundred years ago, on September 6, 1522, the battered Victoria carrying 21 starving men, limped into Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain. With that, for the first time in history, people had journeyed around the world. This August Chicago Maritime Museum will participate in the Bridgeport Art Center’s Third Friday Open Studios with lively maritime related presentations, with a focus on Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to mark the 500th anniversary of the world’s first circumnavigation. Among the events to commemorate this landmark moment will be a fascinating discussion by historian Bill Derrah live at the museum.
Chicago Maritime Museum, The Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago /
Chicago Air and Water Show
Dating back to the late 1950s, this show has grown to become the largest air and water exhibition anywhere in the US. Free to enter, the two-day event draws an audience of over two million to Chicago’s beachfront to see military personnel and professional pilots perform breath-taking stunts above the waters of Lake Michigan. Be sure to arrive early to secure a prime spot near the water and catch the spectacular demonstrations by aircrafts, boats, and diving and parachute teams – and leave time to soak up the sun and breathe in the crisp lake breezes as the rumble of jet engines soar overhead.
North Ave. Beach and along the Lakefront, Chicago / 20-21 August 2022
Movies in the Parks
Movie lovers in Chicago this August – and indeed through September – are in for a treat, with many of the city’s parks playing host to dozens of silver screen classics as part of its annual Movies in the Parks program. From recent blockbusters such as Encanto and Sing 2 to time-honoured favourites like The Princess Bride and Space Jam, there’s something for every taste. Screenings typically begin at 8.30pm each evening. Full schedules are available to view online.
Various parks throughout Chicago / Through September 2022
By Paul Joseph