Essential Chicago Summer Festivals: May 2015 Edition

Summertime is undeniably the most wonderful time of year to be in Chicago. Chicago is unequivocally a “summer city.” The rooftops, the lakefront, the parks, the beaches, the baseball, the patios, the alfresco dining and libations, the festivals. Okay, it’s true, summer in Chicago can be downright socially exhausting. There is always something to do and somewhere to go. Your friends emerge from the proverbial woodwork after many months of hibernation. You desperately try to take advantage of every ray of sunshine and pleasant day in lieu of the impending, inevitable cold.

North Avenue Beach, Chicago

North Avenue Beach, Chicago

Chicago boasts a dizzying lineup of festivals throughout the year, with over 400 neighborhood festivals. But summertime is prime time for Chicagoans’ favorite warm weather pastime: savoring the sun and fun at a ubiquitous street festival.

The following is a quick and dirty guide to navigating the Chicago festival scene featuring my recommendations. Mark your social calendars accordingly:

Chicago Craft Beer Week

Craft Beer, Local Option, Chicago

Chicago craft beer

Who: Die-hard beer enthusiasts and people who just like good beer.

What: Craft Beer Drinking, Captain Obvious. Find the comprehensive schedule of the craft beer festivities HERE. Social media folks: use #CCBW. Also, download this nifty app.

Where: 300+ locations all over Chicago.

When: Thurs., May 14th {CCBW kicks off at Garfield Park Conservatory with ‘Beer Under Glass‘}  – Sun., May 24th {celebrations conclude with a closing festival at Welles Park}.

Why: Why not?      

Randolph Street Market Festival

Who: Antiquers. Vintage lovers. Bargain hunters. Shopaholics. Foodies. Cool people.

What: A Huge Indoor- Outdoor, European style Market. Chicago’s Famed Antique Market. The Indie Designer Market. Jewelry. Furniture. Global Wares. Epicurean Delights. A Fancy Food Market. A Beer Garden. Live Music.

Where: Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington in Chicago’s West Loop Neighborhood.

When: Sat., May 23rd- Sun., May 24th {Noon- 5:00p}.

Why: Because it’s one of the 10 Best Flea Markets in the United States. Also, because: “8 acres of shopping, eating, drinking, live music, and entertainment.”

How Much: $8 in advance. $10 at the gate.

Pro Tip(s): Cash is king. Dogs are welcome.

Randolph Street Market, Chicago

Randolph Street Market, Chicago [photo by Anuli

Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival

Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival

Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival [photo by Kanwar Sandhu

Who: Chicagoans happy that it’s finally summer (almost). “Bro”-ish types. Tribute band devotees.

What: Chicago’s Favorite Regional Tribute Bands. Obligatory Sing-Alongs. Street Food. Food Trucks. Booze. Local Artisans.

Where: N. Sheffield Avenue from Belmont to Roscoe in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

When: Sat., May 23rd – Sun., May 24th {Noon- 10:00p}.

Why: It’s the 31st anniversary of the unofficial kick off of the unofficial start of summer in Chicago.

How Much: $5 suggested donation.

Pro tip: Have a drink in Sheffield’s beer garden after the fest. They have good beer there.

Maifest Chicago

Maifest, Chicago

Maifest, Chicago

Who: Lincoln Square neighborhoodies; aficionados of German culture; polka fans; beer drinkers.

What: Beer drinking. Sausage and Pretzel Eating. Live Music. Polka. Maypole dancing. German culture. Gemütlichkeit (definition: a space or state of warmth and friendliness).

Where: Lincoln & Leland Avenues in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.

When: Thurs., May 28th {5:00p- 9:30p}; Fri., May 29th {5:00p-11:00p}; Sat., May 30th {Noon-11:00p}; Sun., May 31st {Noon- 10:00p}.                 

Why: Because who doesn’t like celebrating the arrival of spring while immersing themselves in German culture à la drinking from a boot?  

How Much: Free admission!                                                                                                                   

Pro tip: Check out a larger selection of German brews at one of Lincoln Square’s lovable watering holes post-festival. Hüettenbar, Carola’s Hansa Clipper, and the rooftop beer and wine garden at Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen are sure-fire crowd pleasers.

Do Division Street Fest & Sidewalk Sale

Who: Wicker Park, Ukie Village neighborhoodies; hipsters; lovers of non-stop, live music.

What: An Impressive Music & DJ Lineup. Two Live Music Stages Booked by Beloved Chicago Music Venues- the Empty Bottle and Subterranean. Local Food. Do Fashion Fest {on Hoyne from Division St to Crystal}. Sidewalk Sale {on Division St from Damen to Ashland}. Kid-Friendly Family Fun Fest {on Hoyne b/t Crystal & Potomac and on Crystal b/t Hoyne & Damen. Noon- 6:00p}.

Where: Division Street b/t Damen & Leavitt in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

When: Fri., May 29th {5:00p-10:00p}; Sat., May 30th {Noon- 10:00p}; Sun., May 31st {Noon- 10:00p}.

Why: Because you are young, hip and love great music and tasty eats… oh, and drinking in the street.

How Much: $5 suggested donation w/ 90% of net proceeds benefiting local nonprofits.

Do Division Street Festival, Chicago

Do Division [photo by msalmi78

Lincoln Park Wine Festival

Red wine. [photo by Quinn Dombrowski]

Red wine. [photo by Quinn Dombrowski

Who: Oenophiles. Winos. Vino buffs. Okay, you get the idea.

What: Inaugural Wine Tasting Festival. 80+ Varietals. Live Music. Food. Art. Food-Wine Pairings.

Where: Jonquil Playlot Park, 1001 W. Wrightwood Ave., in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

When: Sat., May 30th – Sun., May 31st {1:00p- 7:00p}.

Why: Because WINE.

How Much: General admission tickets are $60/ day and include entry, 12 tasting tickets, and a souvenir wine glass. VIP admission tickets are $95/ day.

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