Chicago Summer Events Calendar 2015: Top 10 Free Events

Chicago Summer Events Calendar 2015: Top 10 Free Events
Summertime in Chicago at Millennium Park's Cloud Gate, aka, The Bean. Photo: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune

Chicago’s Summer Calendar is overflowing with hundreds of FREE events and exhibitions, from May through September 2015.  Here are ten events that are sure to blow you away.

1. Downtown Sound Concert Series

Crowd getting into it a Downtown Sound. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Crowd getting into it at Downtown Sound. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Get ready to rock:   This summer's expanded Downtown Sound concert series promises to be bigger and louder than ever.  The city-sponsored rock concerts series, kicks off Monday, June 1 with an additional six shows--making for a total of 16 shows. The series runs Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. (unless otherwise noted) from June 1 through July 23. FREE, Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

What to expect:  Downtown Sound showcases contemporary/new music and electronic artists along with world music artists featuring cutting-edge indie rock, pop bands and rock veterans. Highlights for the season include: San Fermin; King Sunny Ade; Poi Dog Pondering (June 29); and pop-rocker Matthew Sweet (July 13).

2. Exhibitions

Artist Jaume Plensa stands with three of his four sculptures, collectively titled "1004 Sculptures" on display in Millennium Park. Photo: Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune

Artist Jaume Plensa stands with three of his four sculptures, collectively titled "1004 Sculptures" on display in Millennium Park. Photo: Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune

Stop, Look and Listen: Big, bold and sensational--Chicago's fab Millennium Park world-class exhibitions are really something to see.  All exhibits are FREE and open daily during park hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

What to Expect: Great art and some surprises.

  • Jaume Plensa: 1004 Portraits, featuring four monumental sculptures, continues through December 2015 in the South Boeing Gallery and at Michigan & Madison.
  • An Anatomy in Photographs, continues through December 2015. Curated by John Vinci of Vinci/Hamp, Architects, it features more than 50 images—including historical photographs; images of the Park before, during and after construction; and more. North Boeing Gallery.
  • A new exhibition opening in October, Preview of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, showcases a display of Chicago Architecture Biennial Lakefront Kiosks, through December on Chase Promenade near Cloud Gate.

3. Summer Outdoor Film Series

The Jungle Book was part of last summer's Millennium Park film series

The Jungle Book was part of last summer's Millennium Park film series

Watch: A summer highlight for many are the free outdoor movies on Tuesday nights in Millennium Park. The 2015 Summer Film Series takes place every Tuesday from June 23 through September 1 at 6:30 p.m. Take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or spread out a blanket on the Great Lawn to watch your favorite films on a state-of-the-art, 40-foot LED screen.

What to Expect: The summer movie series features a variety of classic titles including: Back to the Future (PG, 116 min.) on June 23 followed by Apollo 13 • June 30; Big Night  • July 7; Edward Scissorhands • July 14; Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory • July 21; Almost Famous • July 28; Drumline • August 4; The Aviator • August 11; Dirty Dancing • August 18 (in conjunction with the theatrical production opening the same night at the Cadillac Palace); Mahogany • August 25 and The Breakfast Club • September 1.

4. The Grant Park Music Festival

Carlos Kalmar (credit Norman Timonera)

Carlos Kalmar (credit Norman Timonera)

Listen: The Grant Park Music Festival, June 17 through August 22—celebrates its 81st season--with an exciting line-up of performances most of which take place on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. FREE

What to Expect: Grammy® Award-nominated Grant Park Orchestra led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the award-winning Grant Park Chorus led by Chorus Director Christopher Bell, festival favorites and world-renowned guest artists--all performing the best in classical music.

5. Chicago Bike Week

A spinning class workout at Millennium Park as part of Chicago Bike Week. Photo: John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune

A spinning class workout at Millennium Park as part of Chicago Bike Week. Photo: John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune

Get Ready to Roll: Bike Week is an annual citywide celebration of bicycling loaded with bike friendly activities and events.  The 2015 Bike Week gets rolling on June 12 and continues through June 19. Various locations, FREE

What to Expect: A host of happenings including citywide events along with activities in Millennium Park including Bike Chicago Film: Napoleon Dynamite on Tuesday, June 16, 6:30 p.m. at Jay Pritzker Pavilion; and the Chicago Triathlon Checkpoint Challenge, a citywide scavenger hunt on Thursday, June 18, 6 p.m. leaving from Cloud Gate--plus the Daley Plaza Rally and more. Click here for a full schedule of events.

6. Made in Chicago Music Series

Drummer Jack DeJohnette, singer Dee Alexander and drummer Dana Hall perform in 2013 at Made in Chicago

Drummer Jack DeJohnette, singer Dee Alexander and drummer Dana Hall perform in 2013 at Made in Chicago

All That Jazz: Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz is offered on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. from August 6 through August 27. FREE, Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

What to Expect: Each program begins with a short set by young, aspiring musicians from Chicago-area high schools as part of the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Jazz Links Ensembles. Highlights for the 2015 season include commissioned projects by Steve Coleman, Juli Wood and Caroline Davis, Greg Ward and a salute to the AACM’s 50th Anniversary.

7. Millennium Park Presents

Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert in Millennium Park

Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert in Millennium Park

One Night Stands: Millennium Park Presents, a series of outstanding programs running the gamut from opera to Broadway on selected dates from May 21 through September 18 is a series of one-night-only performances. FREE Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

What to Expect: Broadway hits, classical and House music; the first-ever Chicago Mariachi and Folklórico Festival (Sunday, June 28 at 3 p.m.); The Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert (Monday, August 17 at 6:15 p.m.); Stars of Lyric Opera presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago (Saturday, August 29 at 7:30 p.m.) and more.

8. Millennium Park FREE Summer Workouts

Who knew that I would fall head over heels for Yoga in 2012?

Get in shape with yoga at the Millennium Park workout classes:

Saturday Wake Up Call: Head over to the Great Lawn Saturdays, June 6 through September 5 for music, fresh air and exercise.

What to Expect: Yoga and pilates and drumming during Zumba®. Workouts are 45 minutes with classes in Tai Chi at 7 a.m., Yoga at 8 a.m, Pilates at 9 a.m. and Zumba, a Latin-inspired calorie-burning dance fitness party, beginning at 10 a.m. PLUS: Special Yoga Wednesdays (June 3–September 2) meet on the Great Lawn from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m.

9. The Family Fun Festival

The Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park offers a variety of free activities

The Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park offers a variety of free activities

Take Your Kid to the Park: Fun all summer long at Millennium Park with music, arts and crafts and more. Rain or shine, under the tent at Chase Promenade North. Daily, June 22 to August 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. FREE

What to Expect: The daily schedule includes Wiggleworms® at 10 a.m. with the Old Town School of Folk Music, a Reading Circle at 11 a.m. and Family Performances at 1 p.m. plus special events throughout the season.

10. Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden. Photo: Choose Chicago

Lurie Garden. Photo: Choose Chicago

Garden in a City: Chicago lives up to its name and then some with its magnificent Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. Lurie Garden is a 5-acre urban oasis located in the Southeast corner of the park, open daily 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The all-seasons garden, designed to shine year round, really comes into its own with the start of spring.  Admission is FREE.

What to Expect: FREE summer programing includes the annual Lurie Garden Plant Sale on Saturday, June 6, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with hands-on gardening tips, crafts and more). Click here for information on tours and additional summer events. 

Millennium Park

  • Where: Millennium Park is located on Michigan Avenue, bordered by Randolph St. to the north, Columbus Dr. to the east and Monroe St. to the south. 312 742 1168.
  • Hours: The Park is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
  • Parking:  Parking is available in the Millennium Park Garage (entrance on Columbus at Monroe or Randolph) and Grant Park North.

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