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61 Things to Do in Chicago in July

Eyes to the Skies
Eyes to the Skies Photo: Hannah Altpeter
July 1–3
Festival

Eyes to the Skies

Lisle

It may be 25 miles from the Loop, but watching dozens of hot air balloons launch from Lisle Community Park is a thing of beauty. Particularly neat is the “balloon glow,” when the skies fill with balloons lit up like massive, magic lanterns. Go up in one yourself for an extra $20.

Details:Lisle Community Park. $8. eyestotheskies.org

July 1–2
Classical

Golden Spinning Wheel, The Epic of Gilgamesh

Loop

Rather than trot out the same few masses and requiems as predictable as death and taxes, Grant Park Music Festival finds little-known jewels for its annual choral-orchestral collaborations. This year’s chief entry, Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů’s The Epic of Gilgamesh, paints as an oratorio the ancient story of the titular tyrant from the oldest known work of literature.

Details:Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Grant Park Music Festival. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.com

July 1–4
Festival

International Festival of Life, Chicago Music Awards

West Loop

The self-proclaimed carnival of nations features food, art, music, and dance highlighting the myriad cuisines and cultures of Africa and the Caribbean. This year’s festival combines with the Chicago Music Awards on July 1, when the city will toast its best reggae, pop, blues, rock, and roots musicians.

Details:Union Park. $15–$400. internationalfestivaloflife.com, cityofchicago.org

July 2–3
Festival

Chosen Few DJs Music Festival

Jackson Park

See “10 Neighborhood Fests That Are Actually Worth Your Time.”

Details:Jackson Park. $25–$375. chosenfewdjs.com

July 2–17
Opera

The Cousin from Nowhere

Lake View

If you love operettas, you know there are few opportunities to see them. For those who don’t want to wait for Die Fledermaus and The Merry Widow to roll around at the Lyric, there’s Chicago Folks Operetta, which not only stages light operas with full sets, costumes, and a pit orchestra but also translates them into dust-free English. Here it remounts The Cousin from Nowhere, a long-lost love story by Eduard Künneke.

Details:Chicago Folks Operetta at Stage 773. $25–$40. chicagofolksoperetta.org

July 6–10
Festival

Taste of Chicago

Grant Park

The Big Eat returns with its best lineup in years. Billy Idol, the Isley Brothers, the Decemberists (see below), and Donnie Trumpet (see below) are worth fighting the crowds. Consider the lunch options gravy.

Details:Grant Park. $23–$32. tasteofchicago.us

July 6
Pop

Donnie Trumpet

Loop

Whitney Young alum Nico Segal (a.k.a. Donnie Trumpet) made a splash with 2015’s Surf, the debut he helmed for music collective the Social Experiment. The album blends his sunny trumpet stylings with hooks by vocalist Jamila Woods (see “Jamila Woods Shows Her Depth as a Solo Artist”) and emcee Chance the Rapper. Expect a life-affirming set from his crew of scrappy young collaborators.

Details:Petrillo Music Shell, Taste of Chicago. 5:30 p.m. $23. tasteofchicago.us

July 8
Rock

The Decemberists

Loop

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, the seventh studio album from the Decemberists, features the group’s most curious and political themes yet. And though its name is inspired by the speech President Obama gave after the Sandy Hook shooting, the album is one of the group’s more lively. Hear tracks from this latest effort, plus some back-catalog hits, at this outdoor set.

Details:Petrillo Music Shell, Taste of Chicago. 5:30 p.m. $23. tasteofchicago.us

July 8
Pop

Chic

Highland Park

If you don’t believe disco is back, look no further than Daft Punk’s and Lady Gaga’s collaborations with Nile Rodgers, the lead guitarist for disco staple Chic. Jump aboard the nostalgia wagon at this Ravinia set, where fans can rightly expect to see duets with the night’s headliner, Duran Duran.

Details:Ravinia. 7 p.m. $55–$160. ravinia.org

July 8
R&B

King

Hyde Park

After breaking into the underground in 2011 with its brand of girl-group R&B, King effectively disappeared, allowing lackluster peers to steal the spotlight. That changed this year with the release of We Are King. The long-awaited full-length debut is chock-full of the same lulling orchestrations that had the group exciting so many so quickly.

Details:Promontory. 8 p.m. $35–$75. ticketweb.com

July 8–10
Festival

Millennium Art Festival

Gold Coast

Visitors can explore a curated array of paintings, ceramics, photography, and furniture—and leave their own mark on a freestanding graffiti wall.

Details:Lake at Michigan. Free. amdurproductions.com

July 8–10
Festival

Square Roots Festival

Lincoln Square

See “10 Neighborhood Fests That Are Actually Worth Your Time.”

Details:Lincoln between Montrose and Wilson. $5–$20 donation. squareroots.org

July 8–Aug. 13
Art

Ben Stone

West Loop

Local artist Stone goes political for his fourth solo show at Western Exhibitions. After a bullet blasted through the window of his West Side studio, Stone “collaborated” with the shooter by casting the shattered pane as a sculpture. Another piece in the show re-creates a police memorial to question the sanctity of contemporary icons in troubled times.

Details:Western Exhibitions. Free. westernexhibitions.com

July 8–10
Festival

West Fest

West Town

See “10 Neighborhood Fests That Are Actually Worth Your Time.”

Details:Chicago between Damen and Wood. $5 donation. westfestchicago.com

Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune
July 9
Rock

Peter Gabriel

Near West Side

Peter Gabriel’s heyday may have come and gone, but he’s left a hefty legacy. Consider acts as far ranging as DJ Major Lazer and indie-rock wunderkinds Vampire Weekend, both of which draw on Gabriel’s blend of rock and worldbeat. This rare Chicago appearance is a must-see for fans new and old.

Details:United Center. 8 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.

July 9–Aug. 13
Art

Min Song

West Loop

This local conceptual artist uses found materials to turn still-life photography—say, a shot of a fruit bowl—into twisted sculptures that traverse the second and third dimensions.

Details:Carrie Secrist Gallery. Free. secristgallery.com

July 11
World

Femi Kuti

Loop

Kuti’s nuanced mix of Afrobeat and jazz may be the standard in Chicago’s avant-garde music scene, but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling to watch live. At this stop, Kuti is once again joined by the Positive Force, his band and social activist organization.

Details:Jay Pritzker Pavilion. 6:30 p.m. Free. cityofchicago.org

July 11–Aug. 31
Art

Neha Vedpathak

River North

Using only a thumbtack, this Chicago artist picks and plucks the fibers of Japanese paper until a layer of fuzz accumulates on the surface. She then sculpts the sheets into colorful, abstract shapes that seem to defy gravity. This exhibition offers the opportunity to contemplate Vedpathak’s intricate materials.

Details:Poetry Foundation. Free. poetryfoundation.org

July 12
Classical

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Highland Park

When Wynton Marsalis’s Concerto in D—for violin, not trumpet—premiered in London, reviewers zeroed in on its Americanness: its blues and jazz influences and its pastiche of styles sewn together over 50 minutes. The concerto, with the original soloist, Nicola Benedetti, comes to its spiritual home for the American premiere.

Details:Ravinia. 8 p.m. $15–$75. ravinia.org

July 12–17
Theater

Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet

Navy Pier

You won’t get the real Gary Busey in this whacked-out take on Shakespeare’s insane Dane. Instead, you’ll get award-winning Busey double David Carl channeling the lantern-jawed actor as he attempts to perform each role in Hamlet with puppets.

Details:Chicago Shakespeare Theater. $35. chicagoshakes.com

Millennium Park Summer Film Series
Millennium Park Summer Film Series Photo: City of Chicago
July 12, 19, 26
Film

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

Loop

It’s summer in Chicago, which means Tuesday night is movie night. Relive the great escape of Thelma and Louise on July 12, see a full-moon double feature of Moonstruck and Silence of the Lambs on July 19, and catch a 50th anniversary celebration of the Chicago documentary collective Kartemquin Films on July 26.

Details:Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. cityofchicago.org

July 12
Folk

Marissa Nadler

Ukrainian Village

The former Chicagoan returns to perform tracks from Strangers, her seventh studio album, released in May. The album finds Nadler leaning into her country influences rather than the freak-folk that defined her early sound. It’s the singer at her most captivating, all haunting vocals and eerie lyrics.

Details:Empty Bottle. 9 p.m. $12. ticketweb.com

July 12
Classical

Daniel Schlosberg, Spektral Quartet

River North

The weekly downtown concert series Rush Hour invites the pianist Daniel Schlosberg and the jolly Spektral Quartet to play Schumann’s ebullient Piano Quintet.

Details:St. James Cathedral. 5:45 p.m. Free. rushhour.org

July 13–14
Opera

Operetta in Exile

Lake View

A chamber orchestra and six singers pay tribute to the European operetta composers pushed into exile by the Third Reich. This multimedia exploration by Chicago Folks Operetta highlights works by Jewish composers and librettists whose creativity triumphed over one of history’s most inhumane eras.

Details:Stage 773. $30. chicagofolksoperetta.org

July 14–Aug. 22
Theater

Our Lady of 121st Street

Lake View

The opening rant in Stephen Adly Guirgis’s comic drama is a visually searing moment that, once seen, cannot be forgotten. Set in an impoverished urban neighborhood, the story centers on a beloved nun whose body goes missing from the local funeral home.

Details:Eclipse Theatre Company at Athenaeum Theatre. $20–$30. eclipsetheatre.com

July 14
Gala

PAWS Chicago Beach Party

Loop

See “19 Things to Do with Your Pet This Summer and Fall.”

Details:Castaways. 6 p.m. $50–$150. pawschicago.org

July 15–17
Festival

Pitchfork Music Festival

Near West Side

Queue up for your annual buzz-band booster shot. This year’s headliners include Brian Wilson, Miguel, Sufjan Stevens, and FKA Twigs, with local support from rockers Twin Peaks, emcee Mick Jenkins, alt-country act Whitney, and R&B staples BJ the Chicago Kid and Jeremih.

Details:Union Park. $65–$165. pitchforkmusicfestival.com

July 15–Jan. 2
Art

Post Black Folk Art in America

River West

Intuit, the museum dedicated to outsider art, turns a critical eye on its own purpose, asking why so many African Americans are considered “outsiders.” In response, they present 50 black artists who’ve made major impacts on folk art, including the Gee’s Bend quilters, Thornton Dial, and Minnie Evans.

Details:Intuit. $5. art.org

Stihl Timbersports Series U.S. Pro and Collegiate Championships
Stihl Timbersports Series U.S. Pro and Collegiate Championships Photo: Stihl Timbersports
July 15–16
Recreation

Stihl Timbersports Series U.S. Pro and Collegiate Championships

Tinley Park

Stihl’s annual lumberjack competition pits men from around the country against each other in a battle unlike any other. The winners in the hot saw, single buck, springboard chop, standing block chop, stock saw, and underhand chop contests advance to the finals.

Details:Tinley Park Convention Center. Free. stihlusa.com

July 16–17
Dance

Thodos Dance Chicago

Lake View

Each year, dancers from this contemporary company take the director’s chair for its New Dances series, and the most promising new dance is adopted into the Thodos repertory. Guest choreographer Shannon Alvis joins company members Jessica Miller Tomlinson, John Cartwright, and others.

Details:Athenaeum Theatre. $14–$40. athenaeumtheatre.org

July 17
Festival

Chinatown Summer Fair

Chinatown

Official opening ceremonies for the Year of the Monkey start at 1 p.m., followed by martial arts demos, Eastern drumming, and other performances.

Details:Chinatown Gate. 10 a.m. Free. chicagoevents.com

July 18
Country

Emmylou Harris

Highland Park

It’s been more than five years since Harris’s last release. Her brand of folk, country, and rock might sound de rigueur in 2016, but that’s no fluke. Harris’s rich output (26 studio albums) serves as a by-the-book resource for future generations to dive into, a relic of country rock’s golden age. Lyle Lovett also performs.

Details:Ravinia. 7 p.m. $38–$115. ravinia.org

Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune
July 19
Rock

Alabama Shakes

Loop

In the past two years, the blues rockers released a critically adored album, picked up a couple of Grammys, and even appeared in an iPad commercial—today’s yardstick for rock ’n’ roll stardom. If you didn’t catch the band’s rowdy Lollapalooza set in 2015, soak up their riotous good cheer at the Opera House.

Details:Civic Opera House. 7:30 p.m. $42–$72. ticketmaster.com

July 19
Nature

Birding with the Field

Winnetka

You’ll have to rise early for this one, but for birders, staring down a great horned owl at dawn is worth it. New and experienced bird watchers alike are invited to join migration expert David Willard on this avian adventure, part of a months-long, countywide competition.

Details:Skokie Lagoons. 7 a.m. Free. fieldmuseum.org

July 19
Classical

Chanticleer

Highland Park

The Bay Area chamber choir brings tidings of its new album, Over the Moon, a collection of a cappella pieces focusing on, well, the moon. In making the record, the all-male group commissioned works by the Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi and the ever-inventive Nico Muhly, assembled motets from as far back as the Renaissance, and frosted the concoction with stellar arrangements of “Moon River” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Details:Ravinia. 7:30 p.m. $10–$75. ravinia.org

July 19–22
Art

Road Scholar: Monet to Modern Art at the Art Institute of Chicago

Loop

This full art immersion program includes a three-night stay at the Palmer House Hilton, daily admission to the Art Institute, private tours, meals, and seminars on a wealth of artists. You’ll even get to explore the museum before-hours.

Details:Art Institute of Chicago. $849–$1,109. artic.edu

July 20–25
Dance

Chicago Human Rhythm Project

Gold Coast

Rhythm World, a three-week tap festival featuring performers from across the globe, concludes with three distinct programs and a range of percussive works in JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance.

Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $25–$100. mcachicago.org

July 20
Classical

Philip Glass: A Journey Through Time

Loop

The photographer Frans Lanting, fascinated by the likes of fiddlehead ferns and horseshoe crabs, spent seven years on seven continents cultivating images of weird and wondrous life forms. The minimalist composer Philip Glass worked with the conductor Marin Alsop to create a score to accompany the projected images. For those who hear Glass and want to scream, having beautiful photos to look at might smooth things out.

Details:Millennium Park. 6:30 p.m. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.com

July 21
Museum

Adler After Dark: Jumpin’ Jupiter

Near South Side

A rock ’n’ roll celebration of Jupiter is on deck at the Adler. Nowhere else on earth can you chill in a space visualization lab, groove to retro tunes by Rosie & the Rivets, and explore the frigid crust of Europa all in the course of a single evening.

Details:Adler Planetarium. 6:30 p.m. $15–$25. adlerplanetarium.org

July 21
Classical

Matthias Goerne

Highland Park

This German baritone strings together three song cycles from Robert Schumann’s “year of song,” the period in 1840 when the composer wrote practically nothing but art songs for a whole year. Among these three, Goerne boldly includes Frauenliebe und -leben, a gorgeous set of songs where the singing “I” is both female and gender-role-regressive.

Details:Ravinia. 7:30 p.m. $10–$75. ravinia.org

July 21–Oct. 9
Art

Petcoke: Tracing Dirty Energy

Loop

As Chicagoans continue to decry the millions of tons of petroleum coke—the toxic byproduct of the oil-refining process—piling up on the Southeast Side along the Calumet River, the Museum of Contemporary Photography displays work by 11 artists deployed to document the black tar mountains, from aerial perspectives to politically charged images.

Details:Museum of Contemporary Photography. Free. mocp.org

July 23
Classical

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Highland Park

Having already stepped down from his role as music director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine has also announced an end to his four decades at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Before he puts his baton in Lucite, though, he comes back to the site of another long-term gig, Ravinia. Levine hasn’t returned since his two-decade tenure as Ravinia’s music director ended in 1993—until now, with Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (a.k.a. “Resurrection”).

Details:Ravinia. 7:30 p.m. $15–$120. ravinia.org

July 23
Gala

Hemingway Alive in Oak Park

Oak Park

This first annual fundraiser in Ernest Hemingway’s hometown celebrates the local roots of one of America’s most beloved writers. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park unveils plans for a new writing center alongside rum cocktails, a photo booth, a short-story contest, and access to the Hemingway archives.

Details:Oak Park Library. 7 p.m. $85–$125. ehfop.org

Race to Mackinac
Race to Mackinac Photo: Michele Almeida
July 23
Recreation

Race to Mackinac

Loop

Watch as 3,000 sailors crew 300 boats out from Navy Pier in the Chicago Yacht Club’s 108th race to Mackinac Island. Even if you don’t know a galley from a bilge, you can appreciate the awesome beauty of hundreds of sails billowing on a 300-mile odyssey.

Details:Navy Pier. 10 a.m. Free. cycracetomackinac.com

July 23–24
Festival

Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk, Chicago Craft Beer Festival

Lake View

On a summer day, you could do worse than strolling Sheffield Avenue’s gorgeous gardens. Live bands will keep you walking to a beat, whether you’re on a self-guided tour or following a master gardener. A bonus: The Chicago Craft Beer Festival takes place in the same neighborhood on the same weekend, on Sheffield between Webster and Fullerton.

Details:Sheffield and Webster. $7–$35. sheffieldgardenwalk.com

July 23–24
Festival

Wicker Park Fest

Wicker Park

See “10 Neighborhood Fests That Are Actually Worth Your Time.”

Details:Milwaukee between North and Paulina. $5 donation. wickerparkfest.com

July 24, 26
Classical

Shakespeare in the Park

Austin, South Shore

The Grant Park Chorus leaves its eponymous park and summer festival with a program of a cappella choral music setting texts by Shakespeare, as part of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s shuffling off this mortal coil.

Details:Columbus Park Refectory, South Shore Cultural Center. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.com

July 26
Classical

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Highland Park

Stravinsky’s Firebird, the energetic suite about a magical bird that leads a prince to release 13 hexed princesses, debuted as a ballet. The Handspring Puppet Company rethought the story, creating life-size puppets à la school mascots. In Handspring’s version, Stravinsky’s prince transmogrifies into a woman on a quest of self-discovery, tied to the direction of South Africa after apartheid.

Details:Ravinia. 7:30 p.m. $15–$75. ravinia.org

July 26–27
Hip-Hop

Drake

Near West Side

After three years and numerous false alarms, Drake finally dropped his fourth album, Views, this spring. While its mix of hip-hop and R&B may not be as innovative as in 2011, the album was still catchy enough to break multiple Billboard records.

Details:United Center. $50–$180. ticketmaster.com

July 26–Dec. 31
Art

Andrew Yang

Gold Coast

To create a model of the Milky Way, the Chicago artist and biologist poured seven tons of sand in an MCA gallery. Each grain represents a star, approximating astronomer Carl Sagan’s claim that “the total number of stars in the universe is larger than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of planet Earth.” Displayed among artifacts of our solar system, Yang’s installation asks viewers to consider themselves as galactic material, hurtling through space.

Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. mcachicago.org

July 27–31
Festival

Lollapalooza

Loop

It’s hard to believe that Lolla—once a Jane’s Addiction farewell tour—turns 25 this year. The festival celebrates by expanding to four days and billing heyday acts Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If 300,000-person crowds and $8 Budweisers aren’t up your alley, peruse the after-parties at do312.com/lollaaftershows.

Details:Grant Park. Sold out; see resellers. lollapalooza.com

July 27–31
Recreation

Tall Ships Chicago

Navy Pier

The awesomely vertical vessels of Tall Ships Chicago are stunning examples of gorgeous form and function. Tour 14 galleons, schooners, brigantines, and fireboats, or sail off on one and spend hours learning what seamanship was like before the advent of motors.

Details:Navy Pier. $10–$79. navypier.com/tall-ships-chicago-2016

July 28–31
Books

Newberry Book Fair

Gold Coast

This massive used-book sale offers more than 120,000 books, movies, and records, many priced at $3 or less. Want to beat the crowds? Become a Newberry member and shop on the preview night.

Details:Newberry Library. Free. newberry.org

‘Newsies!’
Newsies! Photo: Deen van Meer
July 28–Aug. 7
Theater

Newsies!

Loop

Witness astounding acrobatics in this feel-good story about scrappy urchins forcing Gilded Age robber barons to pay a fair wage. No matter your politics, you’ll be cheering for the newsboys’ fledgling union by the final curtain.

Details:Broadway in Chicago at Cadillac Palace Theatre. $35–$100. broadwayinchicago.com

July 29
Zoos

Bites, Blooms and Bordeaux

Lincoln Park

Wine with the animals at this summer soiree, where guests amble lush gardens while sipping varietals and noshing on carefully selected food pairings. Also available: a VIP sipping session with sommeliers from the American Wine School.

Details:Lincoln Park Zoo. 6 p.m. $69–$110. lpzoo.org

July 29
Dance

DanceWorks Chicago

Near West Side

This “open mic night” for dance serves as an informal set for three randomly chosen choreographers, each showing 15 minutes of work. Afterward, artists and audiences workshop the pieces they’ve seen.

Details:Lou Conte Dance Studios. 7 p.m. $3 donation. danceworkschicago.org

July 29
Art

Gabriela Salazar

Ukrainian Village

For her debut at Efrain Lopez Gallery, buzzing artist Gabriela Salazar presents sculptures of what she calls “graspable” objects, such as handrails, which she finds full of hidden meaning. Salazar re-creates these common items using natural materials.

Details:Efrain Lopez Gallery. Free. efrainlopezgallery.com

July 30–Sept. 4
Theater

The Jackie Wilson Story

Uptown

The joy in Detroit soul legend Jackie Wilson’s music is downright infectious in this musical bio by Black Ensemble Theater founder Jackie Taylor. If you aren’t swaying along with golden-age hits such as “Higher and Higher” and “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” four bars in, you need to check your pulse.

Details:Black Ensemble Theater. $45–$65. blackensembletheater.org

July 31–Nov. 27
Art

Florasonic

Lincoln Park

After visiting a Costa Rican cloud forest, artists Jenny Kendler and Brian Kirkbride returned to find the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory eerily quiet. In response, they composed synthetic bird and insect songs for this installment of the conservatory’s ongoing sound-art series.

Details:Lincoln Park Conservatory. Free. experimentalsoundstudio.org

Through Aug. 13
Zoos

Summer Nights

Brookfield

On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Chicago Zoological Society opens a beer-and-wine garden at beautiful Brookfield Zoo, where visitors can kick back and enjoy a variety of live music, synchronized unicyclists, laser light shows, strolling magicians, and, of course, the wonders of the animal kingdom.

Details:Brookfield Zoo. Free–$18. czs.org

Through Sept. 3
Seasonal

Navy Pier Fireworks

Navy Pier

The primo viewing spot for this summer-long spectacle is the pier, but expect a throng—especially on July 4. Other options: Shoreline Sightseeing, Odyssey Chicago, and Mystic Blue offer cruises on Lake Michigan for the show. If you haven’t got your sea legs, the third annual Freedom Fest offers a barbecue, bar, DJ, and dance floor atop Navy Pier’s roof.

Details:Navy Pier. Free–$135. navypier.com

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