Summer is for outdoor activities, vacations, and special events like arts festivals. Luckily in Chicago, we don’t have to wait for summer to enjoy festivals.
We have tried to make the list diverse to best represent the variety of festivals we have in Chicago. Whether it is handmade jewelry, kites, food, or theatre written and acted out with local hands, everything here has an artistic touch.
Officially titled the Rhinoceros Theater Festival and commonly referred to as Rhinofest, this festival starts in mid-January and is a good way to kick off the year. Touted at Chicago’s longest running fringe festival, it features original works on the shorter side (under 75 minutes) by Do It Yourself performers that attract thousands of audience members each year. Curious Theatre Branch and Prop Thtr curate this wonderful festival.
For more information: http://rhinofest.com/
Chicago Theatre Week
In mid-February the League of Chicago Theatres partners with Choose Chicago to present Chicago Theatre Week. Whether you have little kids, big kids, or no kids at all, there are performances right for you at a very affordable price (usually under 30 dollars). With over 100 world-class shows performed during this festival, ranging from old classics to new works, there is certainly something for everyone. This is the time Chicagoans flock to the theaters to see top-notch performances on the cheap.
For more information: https://www.choosechicago.com/events-and-shows/arts-and-entertainment/chicago-theatre-week/
Good Food Festival
Also known as the Good Food Expo, this wonderful event coincides with the start of spring and growing season. This festival showcases and celebrates the move towards regional, sustainable food systems. There are speakers, cooking demonstrations by world-class chefs using the world-class ingredients on display, and a marketplace where you can purchase some of these fine products from regional farmers and businesses. This festival is a must for any foodie or any health or environmentally-conscious consumer. When you try some of these foods, you will have no doubt that good food and good cooking certainly are forms of art.
For more information: https://goodfoodexpo.org/
Chicago Art & Design Show
April kicks off with the return of baseball and also the Chicago Art & Design show which features over 100 artists and designers working across the spectrum in mediums from jewelry to sculpture to photography and much more. These fine works are exhibited at the Navy Pier. There is also a photo contest open to local amatuer photographers. This is a good way to enjoy the beginning of spring in Chicago.
For more information: https://amdurproductions.com/event/chicago-art-design-show/
Chicago Kids and Kites Festival
More than a chance to get your kids in the park, this festival has wide variety of kites–many of which certainly qualify as art. Be enamored with the great creativity that goes into creating these kites which have the power to transport you back to you childhood–an artform indeed! Enjoy as kite flyers show their skills and there are even free kite kits available while supplies last. The event is free.
For more information: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/kids_and_kites_festival.html/
Chicago Gospel Music Festival
Gospel music is now heard worldwide with tens of millions of albums sales annually in the United States alone. Thomas Dorsey is credited with inventing gospel, popularizing it in South Side churches, starting the first gospel record label, and organizing the first commercial gospel concerts. He was the music director at Pilgrim Baptist Church on the South Side and made the South Side the epicenter of gospel music. Chicago’s rich gospel history needs to be celebrated and is at the Chicago Gospel Music Festival which has free admission and is open to all.
For more information: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_gospel_musicfestival.html
Artfest Michigan Avenue
This three-day event is very Chicago at it takes place on Michigan Avenue, overlooks the Chicago River, and is watched over by the beautiful Tribune Tower. This festival features over 100 artists displaying world-class work. This festival also has photo contests open to amateurs and attendees of the festival. It is a great way to spend the height of summer in Chicago.
For more information: https://amdurproductions.com/event/artfest-michigan-avenue/
Since July is the height of summer and the height of festival season we wanted to throw in a bonus festival of sorts: The 4th of July Fireworks at Navy Pier. This is a free event for all those who can see the sky at Navy Pier and we feel fireworks are truly a form of art. For more information: https://www.choosechicago.com/events-and-shows/fourth-of-july-guide/
Glenwood Ave. Arts Fest
Featuring artists in ceramics, paint, glass, jewelry, photography, wood, sculpture, and more, it will be difficult to leave this event empty handed. There is also an abundance of entertainment with over 40 bands performing on three different stages! Not to mention, there is an arts demo area, making a great entertainment option for kids.
For more information: http://www.glenwoodave.org/about
Fall Arts & Crafts Adventure Festival
The suburb of Park Ridge offers this wonderful festival every year in Hodges Park and the local community is very supportive of the festival. Put on by the American Society of Artists, there are art demonstrations by some of the artists. There is no charge for admission to the show featuring glassworks, candles, handcrafted soaps, jewelry, and more.
For more information: https://www.americansocietyofartists.info/28th-annual-fall-arts-crafts-adventure
Open House Chicago
Architecture at its finest–that’s what this festival offers. For a couple of days in October, Chicago opens up its gems for free admission to the public. Mansions, theaters, and skyscrapers all open up their amazing architecture for the public to see. Private club and private offices become public for this one weekend in October. The festival is hosted by The Chicago Architectural Foundation and allows access to over 250 buildings across the city.
For more information: https://www.architecture.org/tours/detail/open-house-chicago/
Chicago International Children’s Film Festival
Of all of the arts, those geared toward children is probably the most overlooked. Yet it is some of the most widely consumed–by both adults and children alike–and some of the most impactful. This festival features over 250 new films from over 40 countries across the globe. The festival also offers workshops, talks, presentations, and seminars. Naturally this a great festival to bring kids to, but even if you don’t have kids it is a great festival for adults to attend.
For more information: https://festival.facets.org/festival
There are several options for experiencing this holiday season classic: The Nutcracker.
A modern, ballet-free version of The Nutcracker put on by The House Theatre of Chicago. Tickets are reasonable (ranging from $15 to $50) so you can bring the kids to this family-friendly holiday show! For more information: https://www.thehousetheatre.com/playsandevents/nutcrackerseason16
If you prefer the traditional ballet version of The Nutcracker, Ballet Chicago also has a wonderful version of The Nutcracker. For more information: http://www.balletchicago.org/nutcracker.asp
No matter what month you are reading this, heading to an arts festival is a great way to ensure you are getting out, enjoying yourself, and enjoying all of the vibrant culture Chicago has to offer.