5 Reasons to Get Outside in Chicago this Summer | Midwest Living

5 Reasons to Get Outside in Chicago this Summer

It's time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather in Chicago, a city so happy to see summer that even the scent of sun-warmed asphalt seems a perfume drawing us out.

Whether you'd like to eat, drink, shop, admire the architecture or take in music, here are some of our favorite al fresco options in Chicago.

Cruise the river. If there’s one thing every Chicago visitor must do, it’s the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise. The 90-minute boat tour gives insights into more than 50 beautiful buildings (Chicago is, after all, the birthplace of the modern skyscraper) while sharing fun facts about the history of the Windy City.

Photo courtesy of City of Chicago

Shop, shop, shop. Antiquers love Randolph Street Market, where 250 vendors fill eight acres of indoor/outdoor space with vintage and designer wares.  For a gritty flea-market experience, Maxwell Street Market packs in vendors, entertainers and some of the best tacos in town. 

Get your groove on. Music-lovers, start planning! Chicago has outdoor music options galore, the queen of which is Ravinia, a Highland Park destination that brings in talent from near and far. Summer highlights include A Prairie Home Companion June 20, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga June 26-27, the Doobie Brothers June 30, Aretha Franklin July 11 and Steely Dan July 24-25. Concertgoers who opt for lawn tickets (seats are also available) have a tradition of bringing knock-your-socks off picnics, often eaten with silver, crystal and fine china. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Other outdoor options include FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, hosting the Barenaked Ladies (June 16),  John Fogerty (July 8), Bryan Adams (July 25) and others. Taylor Swift performs at Soldier Field (July 18 and 19); Billy Joel heads to Wrigley Field (August 27); and check out the Millennium Park schedule for its free concert lineup.

Picnic photo courtesy of Ravinia

Eat, drink and be merry. With all of the incredible patios in Chicago, there’s really no reason—other than rain—to eat inside this summer. RM Champagne Salon has a particularly romantic patio (you’ll feel like you’re in France), and you can’t go wrong requesting outdoor seating at Parson’s Chicken and Fish, a laid-back spot for finger-lickin' fried chicken and a Negroni slushie.  Or shop for your breakfast and lunch at the enormous Green City Market in Lincoln Park or at dozens of smaller farmers markets around town (the city keeps a schedule here).

Patio photo courtesy of Parson's


Green City Market photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

Burn off those deep-dish calories. Chicago’s walking, running and cycling trail options will expand tomorrow with the opening of The 606, Chicago’s first elevated trail. It spans 3 miles and connects six parks. Or to soak in our beloved lake views, head to the Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile paved path that zips by beaches, harbors, bird sanctuaries and more, along with killer skyline views. 

Lakefront Trail photo courtesy of Adam Alexander

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