Food, music, art and spectacle abound at these fun Windy City fests.
Chicago has more than 400 festivals every year, many of them free and some among the world’s largest cultural events. So how do you choose which to plan a visit around?
“Our festivals are great opportunities to experience Chicago’s diversity and neighborhoods like a local,” says Rebecca Starodub, concierge at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago. “You’ll always discover something new and unexpected, even if you live here.”
For the best fests, U.S. News asked Chicago hotel concierges about their personal favorites and insider tips to enjoy them.
Windy City Smokeout
Nothing says summer more than barbecue. Just add big-hit country music acts such as Billy Currington, Old Dominion and Maren Morris to the secret sauce, and Chicago proudly serves up the Midwest’s best smokin’ meat and music fest: Windy City Smokeout. More than 15 award-winning Chicago and champion pit masters from across the country fire up their smokers in the River North neighborhood for 40,000 fans over a July weekend. Standby visiting pit masters include Myron Mixon, Memphis Barbecue Co., Pappy’s Smokehouse and The Salt Lick BBQ. It’s hog heaven for finger-lickin’ festivalgoers lining up at the red-checker tableclothed tasting tents for pulled pork, brisket, wings, baked beans, roasted corn and more than 20 craft beers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Klus says, “Purchase the three-day festival pass for in-out privileges, and order the smallest option at each booth so you can try all of the offerings.” Forgot to go country? “Don’t worry,” Klus says. “You can buy a hat and boots there.”