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Outdoor Festivals in Chicago

Fun, outside, and mostly free

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The numerous Chicago festivals are the city's way of making the most out of the warm summer weather before it's plunged back into the harsh Chicago winter. Here's a list of some of the more popular outdoor festivals in Chicago.

Taste of Chicago

Photo: Prescott Carlson

The granddaddy of outdoor festivals, Taste of Chicago is Chicago's biggest event. Having started out as a modest one day festival in 1980, Taste of Chicago has blossomed into one of the world's largest outdoor food festivals attracting over 3 million people each year lining up to scarf down deep dish pizza and giant BBQ turkey legs.

Chicago Blues Festival

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Over a half million music fans turn out each year for the Chicago Blues Festival in this "Blues Capital of the World." The festival attracts performers ranging from seasoned blues men to promising up-and-comers.

Chicago Jazz Festival

Chicago Jazz Festival
Photo: Chris Gansen

Jazz aficionados mark Labor Day weekend on their calendars each year so they don't miss the Chicago Jazz Festival in Grant and Millennium Parks, which plays host to some of the world's greatest jazz artists. The Chicago Jazz Fest also holds the distinction of being the city's longest running music festival.

Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza started in 1991 as singer Perry Farrell's vision to bring an eclectic batch of music and create a sense of community by touring various amphitheater sheds nation wide before ditching the tour and growing into an annual 3 day event in Chicago's Grant Park that draws a massive 250,000 people from around the world to catch dozens of acts spread across various stages.

Chicago Gourmet

Photo: Prescott Carlson

Chicago Gourmet in Millennium Park celebrates the city's vibrant culinary scene, and for one flat (albeit pricey) fee, guests get to sample various cuisines prepared by some of Chicago's top chefs, as well as watch numerous cooking demonstrations and taste wine and spirit samples from over 300 wineries and 65 spirits producers.

Chicago Ginza Holiday Festival

The annual Ginza Holiday festival presented by the Midwest Buddhist Temple is a celebration of the Japanese culture, featuring master craftsmen from Tokyo demonstrating their crafting skills learned over many generations. The crafts, along with other Japanese merchandise is offered for sale. Besides the demonstrations and sale, kids especially will enjoy performances of taiko drumming and martial arts demonstrations. Plenty of Japanese cuisine and Japanese beer is available as well.

Kids & Kites Festival

Venture up north to picturesque Montrose Harbor along Lake Michigan for the annual Kids and Kites Festival, a day of fun and sun where -- you guessed it -- the city provides materials for children to make and fly their own kites, as well as demonstrations by expert kite makers featuring amazing "large form" kites. Those not satisfied with the basic diamond shape kite can peruse the fancier kites available for sale. Food vendors will also be on hand.

Chicago World Music Festival

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs started the Chicago World Music Festival in 1999 with the goal of celebrating the diverse music of cultures around the world, hosting a week long festival each September. Instead of harboring the music all in one location, the DCA spreads events throughout the city hosting performances at some of the city's museums, cultural centers, parks and music clubs, with most events being free or charging a very low ticket price.

Chicago Pride Fest

Photo: Steve Stearns

Dubbed the "first official party of summer," the two day Chicago Pride Fest, held the Friday and Saturday before the annual Chicago Pride Parade, packs the revelers in along North Halsted Street who come for the celebration, food, live entertainment and scores of vendors selling arts and crafts.

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