Believe it or not, summer is coming (thank goodness). A sure sign of the season is the announcement of festivals at Millennium Park, featuring all kinds of music, dance, theater, film, and more—for free. Take a look at the list of events from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) to start planning for warmer days.
The Millennium Park Summer Music Series will offer an exciting lineup of outdoor concerts on most Mondays and Thursdays, June 13–August 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The music series features a wide variety of genre-defying music from top local, national, and international artists—both established and emerging. The lineup will be announced this spring.
The 4th Annual Chicago House Music Conference and Festival, May 23–25, starts in the Chicago Cultural Center with programs catering to DJs, musicians, and industry professionals on May 23, and then moves outside, May 24–25, for live performances and family activities at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and throughout the Park. Headline performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion will feature the Chicago debut of London’s Reel People. Other artists will include legendary DJ and producer Tony Humphries from New York City, Moodymann from Detroit, and Chicago mainstays Gene Hunt, Mark Grusane, and First Lady. The full schedule will be announced this spring at chicagohousemusicfestival.us.
The 34th Chicago Gospel Music Festival returns to Millennium Park, as well as the Chicago Cultural Center, May 31–June 1. Celebrating the great influence of the music genre born in this city more than 80 years ago, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival will present the country’s top gospel artists, from traditional choirs to contemporary urban gospel. The full schedule will be announced this spring at chicagogospelmusicfestival.us.
With a diverse lineup celebrating the blues’ past, present and future, the 36th Annual Chicago Blues Festival shares the great Chicago music tradition with the world and shines a spotlight on its contributions to soul, R&B, gospel, rock, hip-hop, and more at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium ParkJune 7–9. The headliners performing at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion over the three days include Bobby Rush, The Jimmy Johnson Band, Charlie Musselwhite with special guest Billy Boy Arnold, Bettye LaVette, Don Bryant, Latimore, Ruthie Foster, a tribute to Mike Ledbetter featuring The CONNECTION with Mike Welch and Larkin Poe. The full schedule will be announced this spring at chicagobluesfestival.us.
For more than 80 years, the Grant Park Music Festival has been Chicago’s summer musical sensation, demonstrating that classical music performed by a world-class orchestra and chorus can have a transformative impact on the city. That tradition continues June 12–August 17 as the Festival celebrates 85 seasons of unforgettable summer concerts, along with the 15th anniversary of Millennium Park, and 20 years of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar leading the award-winning Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, and renowned guest artists. Most performances are Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, with free seats available for every concert. The Grant Park Music Festival is presented by the Grant Park Orchestral Association, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and DCASE. Start times vary. For the complete schedule, click here.
The 41st Annual Chicago Jazz Festival showcases four stages of free live performances by Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international jazz legends and artists. The festival starts on August 23 with free performances at neighborhood clubs and venues throughout the city, and with headline performances at Millennium Park August 29–September 1. Produced by DCASE and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the full schedule will be announced this spring at chicagojazzfestival.us.
The 21st Annual World Music Festival Chicago rounds out the city’s summer music festivals with performances taking place September 13–29 in various locations. Millennium Park will serve as one of the many festival venues with a performance at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on September 14. The city-wide, multi-venue festival has attracted over 800,000 concertgoers and has presented more than 800 artists and ensembles from over 80 countries since it began in 1999—making it the largest world music festival in the United States. Artists will be announced at a later date at worldmusicfestivalchicago.org.
Throughout the summer season, Millennium Park will also feature a series of one-night-only special performances showcasing classical music, dance, opera, Broadway hits, and more, performed by some of Chicago’s best-loved cultural institutions. Highlights include Paint the Town Red produced by the Chicago Children’s Choir on May 23, Yo-Yo Ma “The Bach Project” produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association on June 20; the 5th Annual Chicago Mariachi Festival produced by the Mariachi Heritage Foundation on June 30; The Mexican Indigenous Music Festival produced by the Old Town School of Folk Music and Cenzontles on July 21; the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic on July 22; the annual Broadway In Chicago Summer Concert on August 12; México en el Corazón on August 27; the Stars of Lyric Opera on September 6; and Third Coast Percussion on September 9. For details and times, visit millenniumpark.org. These programs are supported by a DCASE ArtsSpace grant, providing venue space and support for free public programs produced by Chicago arts and culture organizations.
To celebrate 2019 as the Year of Chicago Theatre, the Millennium Park Summer Film Series will co-present each film of the series with a select Chicago theatre company, providing a season-long sampling of themes, ethnicities, and genres to reflect the city’s rich passion for cinema in all its variety. On Tuesdays, June 4–August 20 at 6:30 p.m., film lovers can take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or spread out a blanket on the Great Lawn to watch favorite films on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen. The lineup will be announced this spring. The Summer Film Series is supported by the Millennium Park Foundation.
Theatre and Dance
As part of the 2019 Year of Chicago Theatre, a series of weekly Millennium Park Theatre Residencies will bring local theater companies into the Park from July to October. DCASE is currently seeking proposals from Chicago's diverse theater and performance community to develop site-specific theater performances that engage the unique architecture, design, public art, and Cloud Gate Plaza as the ultimate stage. Application information is at millenniumpark.org, and the deadline is March 25.
Grab your dancing shoes for the SummerDance Celebration on August 24, a day-long family-friendly festival of dance throughout the Park. Highlights include a dance village, interactive dances from around the world, Chicago-based dance companies performing at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a House DJ Dance Party at Cloud Gate, and much more. Complete details will be announced later this spring at chicagosummerdance.org.
For the fitness-minded, Millennium Park will once again offer free Summer Workouts on the Great Lawn, Saturdays, Tuesday, and Thursdays, May 25–August 31. The Park will host themed workouts on May 25, featuring house music in conjunction with the Chicago House Music Festival, and on June 1, featuring gospel music in conjunction with the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. Each workout is 45 minutes, with Pilates at 7 a.m., Yoga at 8 a.m., Tai Chi at 9 a.m., and Zumba® at 10 a.m. Weekday Yoga will also be offered on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, May 28–September 5, 7:30–8:15 a.m. Summer Workouts are produced by DCASE with grant support provided by McDonald’s Active Lifestyles Endowment, managed by the Millennium Park Foundation.
Families are invited to join the fun all summer long with free activities in the tent at Chase Promenade North, including music and arts and crafts for kids of all ages at the Family Fun Festival, Mondays through Fridays, June 24–August 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The series is supported by the Millennium Park Foundation and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation.
Visitors are invited to stop by and check out the After School Matters Summer Program, Mondays through Fridays, June 24–August 9, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., showcasing Chicago teens discovering their creativity all summer long through a variety of visual arts programs in the Chase Promenade North and the After School Matters Jazz Band rehearsals and performances in Wrigley Square. In the summer, After School Matters provides nearly 13,000 opportunities throughout the city for Chicago teens to develop their talents in the arts, communication and leadership, sports, and STEM, while gaining critical skills for college, careers and beyond. For details, visit afterschoolmatters.org.
YAS! Fest Youth Arts Showcase on September 21 will highlight young artists in dance, theatre, music, spoken word, the visual arts, and more. Through performances and activities, all ages will discover and celebrate the creativity and talent of emerging local artists–and those helping to inspire their creative potential. The full schedule will be announced this summer.
You might be interested in:
Grant Park Music FestivalFor its 85th season, the Grant Park Music Festival will bring classical music superstars and some of the canon’s most beloved repertoire to the Loop.
Things to Do in Spring in the Chicago LoopFrom creative flower-filled exhibits and art shows to swanky rooftops with breath-taking views, the Chicago Loop is the place to be in the spring.