Fireworks at Navy Pier
Fireworks on the 4th of July are as American as apple pie, and though they will undoubtedly be seen and heard in every neighborhood in the city, Navy Pier has the biggest and best. After taking over from the official city display a number of years ago, Navy Pier brings spectacular fireworks set to stirring music, all perfectly reflected on the surface of the lake. Want to avoid the crowds? It’s lakefront location means the fireworks can be seen from many places along the lakefront trail.
Annual Freedom Fest at Navy Pier’s Rooftop
Held on Navy Pier’s 27,000-sq-ft rooftop, Freedom Fest is not only a great place to see fireworks, but it also offers a live DJ, a full bar, and BBQ. All ages are welcome, and a number of different ticket options are available, starting at $39.
Party on the lake
Want to see fireworks exploding above the city skyline while partying on a boat on Lake Michigan? A number of companies offer a range of firework cruises, all promising dining, dancing, entertainment, and spectacular views. Tickets can be steep and go fast, so don’t hesitate. Check out Odyssey Cruises, Wendella Boats, and Spirit of Chicago Cruises.
Independence Day Salute
Head to the beautiful Jay Pritzker Pavilion on the 4th of July for the Independence Day Salute, part of Grant Park Music Festival, where sweeping, patriotic numbers such as “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the “1812 Overture” are performed by the Grant Park Orchestra as the sun goes down ahead of the fireworks. The free show runs from 6:30 until 8, with an open rehearsal at 11am and an encore the next day, also at 6:30 but at the South Shore Cultural Center.
Windy City Ribfest
What would the 4th of July be without barbecue? Head to Uptown to enjoy some of the best ribs—not just in Chicago but in the country—at the annual Windy City Ribfest. Alongside the huge supply of saucy slabs of meat, there’s also live music, and art and crafts to enjoy. Bibs are advisable.
Eyes to the Skies Festival
Celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2017, the Eyes to the Skies Festival in Lisle, IL, has received national media coverage during its long existence. June 28–July 2, it features up to 30 hot air balloons filling the sky with different shapes and colors in the morning and evening. The festival also has fireworks and a carnival with rides, games, and other activities for children and adults of all ages. All money raised by the festival goes to charity.
Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival
For something a little more serene and classy, the annual Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival will be held on July 1–2, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. The 385-acre site showcases botanic-themed work from 95 unique artists, all available for purchase, with many artists present, interactive art demos, and booth chats all weekend.
North America’s oldest music festival holds concerts throughout the summer in Highland Park, and the 4th of July weekend features greats like The Moody Blues, Lila Downs, and The Beach Boys and The Temptations. Get a seat in the pavilion or relax on the lawn—there are few better venues for live music in the city.
Chosen Few Picnic & Music Festival
Since it started in 1977, the Chosen Few Picnic & Music Festival has grown from a small gathering of people from the early days of Chicago house into one of the world’s biggest house music festivals. Taking place in Hyde Park’s Jackson Park on July 1–2, thousands of fans will enjoy DJ sets and special music guests while families enjoy picnics and BBQs. A range of ticket options are available, including one- or two-day passes, with or without camping.
Because one Ribfest is never enough, there are two in the Chicagoland area over the 4th of July weekend. Put on by the Exchange Club of Naperville to raise funds for charity, Ribfest features 20 “ribbers” competing for the title of best ribs and best sauce, as well as music and family fun, running daily from noon until 10 p.m. from June 30 to July 3.