Chicago Summer Festivals And Events You Can’t Miss

Chicago embraces its summer with gusto.  It’s almost as if we’re trying to cram all the outdoor living we can into the few months of great weather we have….. hmmm.

Chicago Events Summer
Photos Courtesy of Pyrotechnics

Neighborhood fests take over swathes of city streets each weekend, with the usual round up of vendors and cover bands. While the major music festivals like Lollapalooza, North Coast and Pitchfork stake out areas of the city with headlining musicians, thousands of attendees and overpriced beer, there are many smaller events that enchant and delight.

Here are a few Chicago summer festivals and events you may not have heard of (but should!)

Under the Radar Chicago Summer Festivals And Events

Luma8 Chicago Events Summer
Photos Courtesy of Luma8


Arts in the Dark started as a participatory Halloween parade, and this summer, expanded into summertime.

The Lantern Procession illuminates Chicago’s newest parkland, the Riverwalk in downtown Chicago. Dozens of Chicagoans celebrate their creativity by creating glowing lanterns; the procession winds its way along the promenade of the Riverwalk, attracting musicians, smiles and laughs along the way.

The best place to view is the River Theater, the stretch of riverwalk between Clark and LaSalle. The best WAY to enjoy the parade is to participate! The July 2018 theme was Starry Nights and Flying Creatures.

Luma8 Chicago Events Summer
Photos Courtesy of Luma8
Luma8 Chicago Events Summer
Photos Courtesy of Luma8

August 2018 is Chinese Valentine’s Day. Want to participate? Riverwalk participants meet at the jetty between Franklin and Wells at 7:30 pm if they want to walk with their lanterns in the parade.

The annual Arts in Dark parade happens about a week before Halloween ever year. Learn more here.

Full Moon Jam Chicago
Photo courtesy of Neale Zingle • Blind Faith Photography

The Chicago Full Moon Jam

What started out as a small fire jam for a friend’s birthday has grown into one of Chicago’s most energizing monthly events. The Full Moon Jam brings together Chicago’s talented fire dancing community, drummers, and thousands of spectators.

Located south of Foster Beach, on the great lawn near the soccer fields, arrive early for prime spots and some pre-jam yoga. Spread a blanket and enjoy a picnic while fire breathers, hoopers and fan dancers welcome the night while the drummers drive the rhythm.

The fire usually lights by about 7:30pm and ends at 10pm. Be sure to stay for the amazing finale each night! Learn more here.

One note: this is on Chicago Park District land, and the closest bathroom is a long 12 minute walk – be mindful as it gets dark!

Photo courtesy of Clare Densmore and Joseph Nowicki/ FIGMENT Chicago


There are so many arts festivals in Chicago, but only one that encourages adventurers of all ages to participate in creating the installations themselves.

FIGMENT began as a one day event in New York City and has grown into a multi city, annual event. Participation is key. Dozens of installations throughout the park invite you to paint, dance, move, laugh and share joy. Create a mask, join the band, dance a dragon across the park.

Photo courtesy of Doug Peters/ FIGMENT Chicago

Completely volunteer driven and participant focused, FIGMENT’s goal is to advance social and personal transformation through creativity, in the form of free participatory arts events and exhibitions.

Join the fun in July, or consider creating your own installation! Figment is 1pm-6pm in Mozart Park, and our friends from Pyrotechniq are usually spinning 6-8pm afterwards. Learn more here.

Pyrotechnics Chicago Events Summer
Photos Courtesy of Pyrotechnics

IgNiTe by Pyrotechniq Productions

The original fire production team in Chicago is breaking the mold AGAIN. Collaborating with Five Alarm Fireworks, IgNiTe: A Fireworks and Fire Dance Spectacle is pulling out all the stops. Fireworks choreographed with fire dancers will light up the night sky, delighting audiences of all ages at the iconic Garfield Park Conservatory.

Pyrotechnics Chicago Events Summer
Photos Courtesy of Pyrotechnics

Come early to enjoy the gardens, then spread your blankets and enjoy a picnic on the lawn. The event opens at 6pm, while the entertainment begins at 8:15pm. VIP tickets are available. Part of the proceeds help support the Chicago Fire Jam! Learn more here.

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