Chicago 4th of July Weekend 2018 – 10+ Fun Things to Do in July

With 4th of July falling on a Wednesday this year, it gives you the perfect excuse to plan an extra long weekend trip to Chicago – a place known for its abundance of summer activities.

All of the great Chicago attractions that the city has to offer are sure to keep you entertained on Independence Day.

Extravagant fireworks displays and music festivals are just the beginning, and you’ll find plenty to do in all of Chicago’s many diverse neighborhoods.

If you’re looking for Chicago 4th of July Weekend 2018 ideas, check out some of these local activities and fun things do in Chicago in July, including…

  • Navy Pier 4th of July Fireworks
  • Chicago Architecture River Cruise
  • Eyes to the Skies Festival – Lisle Park District
  • The Field Museum
  • and more…

Save on Admission to Popular Attractions

Regular admission to a number of these attractions are included on the Go Chicago Card.

Choose as you go from dozens of Chicago attractions & activities and save up to 45% off combined admission vs paying at the gate.

See all available passes and Chicago attractions – Learn more.

Please note, some of these special July and 4th of July weekend events may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go Chicago Card.

Navy Pier Fireworks
July 4, 2018

Perfectly synchronized to music, the Navy Pier fireworks display is easily one of the best around.

While these shows are held biweekly through the entirety of the summer, the 4th of July is an even more elaborate and enjoyable show than usual! Enjoy some of the best views of Lake Michigan, take advantage of Navy Pier’s ride and food offerings and take in the show.

Head to Navy Pier or Millennium Park for the best views – but be warned the crowds will be fierce. This year’s fireworks begin promptly at 9:30 pm.

Getting In: Navy Pier Fireworks are free to watch.

Navy Pier Centennial Wheel & Rides

Navy-Pier-centennial-wheel-3Since opening in 1995, the Navy Pier has brought thousands of international and domestic tourists to the shore of Lake Michigan. The park is the perfect destination for the entire family and will surely be a great place to enjoy the 4th of July.

There are tons of great rides to go on including the Navy Pier Centennial Wheel, Navy Pier Wave Swinger and The Light House at Navy Pier. There’s also a miniature golf course featuring 18, Chicago-themed holes.

Getting In:  Navy Pier Ride tickets are included with the Go Chicago Card.


Bike Chicago

bike-and-roll-chicagoSince we’re now in the heart of summer, why not enjoy the great outdoors with a ride along the Chicago lakefront?

Pedal leisurely along the Chicago River and down by Navy Pier, or head out to the Museum Campus to pay a visit to one or two of its famed institutions.

Prefer to explore on two feet? Stroll around Millennium Park and the Lurie Gardens for a combination of culture and nature that can’t be beat in the heart of one of the nation’s largest cities.

Getting In: Chicago Bike Rentals are included with the Go Chicago Card.

Northwest Fourth Fest
July 4 – 8, 2018

If you’re outside the city in one of the many suburbs of Chicago, make sure to check out Fourth Fest at the Sears Centre Arena.

Whether you’re looking for something to do on the 4th or want to find festive plans throughout the weekend, this is your destination. Starting on Wednesday, a myriad of family-friendly events will be taking place at the arena.

On the 4th you can enjoy an all day carnival, the 4th of July parade and the children’s Bike and Tike Parade. On Saturday and Sunday, come back for plenty more – a carnival, music festival, food booths, and an arts & crafts fair. The list is nearly endless.

Getting in: admission to the festival is free; food, beverage & carnival rides are an additional cost.

Historical Events

What better way to celebrate the country’s independence than with a visit to a few attractions that capture the essence of American history?

The Field Museum


The Field Museum is a great place to start, with its World’s Fair heritage and unbeatable collection of American artifacts.

This July, you can also pay a visit to their special exhibition, “Antarctic Dinosaurs,” which showcases the history of dinosaurs in the forbidding land of snow and ice some 200 million years ago.

Getting In: The Field Museum tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card. “Antarctic Dinosaurs” is separately ticketed and is not included with the pass.

Chicago History Museum

There’s no better time than 4th of July to remember America’s roots and learn more about the history of Chicago itself.

Learn why Chicago is often considered the Crossroads of America, see how the city grew from 1804 to now and discover the little-known facts about the Great Chicago Fire.

In honor of Independence Day, make sure to visit the Facing Freedom in America exhibition and discover what freedom really means.

Getting in: Chicago History Museum tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card.

Museum of Science & Industry

Art Institute Modern Wing 1If you’re looking for more family fun, a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry is a safe bet. Filled with educational exhibits and interactive displays, it’s perfect for kids of all ages to learn as they play.

This summer you can enjoy special exhibit, “The Science Behind Pixar” where you’ll learn more about how some of our favorite characters, like Buzz Lightyear and Dory, were created.

If you prefer art, head to the Art Institute of Chicago for some special exhibits including materials as diverse as photographs, prints, sculpture, medieval armor, and even architectural schemes.

Getting In: MSI Chicago tickets and Art Institute of Chicago tickets are included with the Go Chicago Card. Please note special exhibitions are separately ticketed and not included with your pass.

Cruises & Sightseeing Boat Tours

Shoreline-Architectural-River-Cruise-pt-2While you’ll still be enjoying the breezy afternoons that the Windy City is famous for in the heart of July, it’s fun to get out on Lake Michigan to explore this ocean-like lake.

Take a Classic Lake Tour for a chance to roam this lovely body of water and see everything from the iconic Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier to the skyline stretching east.

Of course, one of the most popular waterborne activities in Chicago is the Chicago Architecture River Cruise – you won’t believe how much of a city’s story can be told through its buildings!

Getting In: Classic Lake Tour tickets and Chicago Architecture Cruise tickets are both included with the Go Chicago Card.

Grant Park Music Festival – Independence Day Salute
July 4, 2018

Pritzker Pavilion ChicagoFor over 80 years, the Grant Park Music Festival has been a staple in Chicagoland.

Running all summer, the show is a tribute to classical and jazz music with some of the best local performers to date. In honor of Independence Day, bring your family down to the park and hear favorites like Gerswhin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Stars and Stripes and other American classics.

Getting In: The Grant Park Music Festival is free to attend.

Taste of Chicago
July 11 – 15, 2018

Photo by TimeOut Chicago

Enjoy the worlds largest food festival in Grant Park. Sample cuisine from all across this great city, with a wide variety of styles from pierogies to empanadas.

While the event is not happening on the 4th of July, it’s a must-see if you’re planning to be in the area at this time.

Feast your eyes on loads of food trucks and stalls and then literally feast on all your favorite foods. There will also be live entertainment and activities for kids, so it’s perfect for the whole family.

Insider Tip: Arrive early and bring wet wipes!

Getting In: Taste of Chicago is free, but food is separately priced and is not included with the Go Chicago Card.

Eyes to the Skies Festival – Lisle Park District
June 29 – July 1, 2018

Another unique event is the Lisle Community Park Eyes to the Skies Festival. Enjoy vibrant fireworks displays at night and colorful hot air balloons during the day.

You can even take a ride in one of the balloons if you’d like to add some adventure to your Independence Day weekend!

Throw in a carnival, live music, craft booths, and a food court and you’ll never want to leave. There are even events throughout the day for all ages – from Bubble Soccer to Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary shows.

Getting In: Eyes to the Skies Festival is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go Chicago Card.

RibFest – Naperville
July 4th – July 7th, 2018

Image copyright Ribfest.

Image copyright Ribfest.

This one is for those of us who just can’t get enough barbecue in our summer. And BBQ is pretty much one of the most essential things to do in Chicago during the 4th of July.

Justifiably advertised as the “best BBQ you will ever taste,” the food at this festival is like no other. With over a dozen different rib vendors competing to see who can provide the tastiest fare, everyone’s a winner at this carnivore’s delight.

You’ll also find plenty of family-friendly activities, craft beer tasting, and special events – one heck of a party! They also have an incredible lineup of live music – each day holds someone different, from Steven Tyler to Pitbull to Jake Owen.

Don’t miss out on the fireworks, either! They’ll go off at 9:30 pm on the last day of the festival after the music concludes.

Getting In: Ribfest is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go Chicago Card.

Remember to Save on Admission

There you go – plenty of fun ideas for things to do in Chicago in July to help you plan your 4th of July weekend itinerary.

Remember, many of these great ideas are included on the Go Chicago Card, where you can save up to 45% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

We really hope you consider adding a few of these popular options to your upcoming plans. Enjoy!

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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