Chicago’s top spring & summer events in 2018

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

As a visitor or a local, you can always find your ticket to entertainment in Chicago

After thawing out from an icy winter, Chicago bursts to life in the spring and summer with plenty of things to do in the heart of the city and along the waterfront. Home to many major league sports teams, you can devour a pickle-and-mustard-topped Chicago Dog while enjoying baseball or count slam dunks at a Bulls game. Whether you prefer improvisational comedy or improvisational jazz, you can catch a show any night of the week in one of Chicago’s numerous bars and night clubs. As the largest city in the Midwest, countless music festivals, theater productions, and dance troupes make stops in the Windy City.

SPORTS

Baseball

Grab your mitt and head out to the ballpark to take part in America’s favorite pastime, which thrives in Chicago thanks to the city’s 2 Major League Baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox. The crack of the bat sounds in the city’s South Side at Guaranteed Rate Field where the White Sox play in the American League. Across town, the Cubs play at Wrigley Field, the oldest (although recently refurbished) baseball park in the National League. As you call out for a beer and a pretzel from a wandering vendor, observe the famed ivy-covered brick outfield wall and hand-turned scoreboard.

Soccer

This spring and summer, Toyota Parks lights up with goals galore as both the MLS Chicago Fire and the NWSL Chicago Red Stars charge across the pitch. Things heat up in rivalry matches when the Fire faces off against D.C. United or the New England Revolution.

Football

As the summer draws to a close, the roars of Chicago Bears fans fill Soldier Field Stadium as the team charges across the turf to tackle adversaries like the Green Bay Packers. With more recorded victories than any other NFL franchise and the highest number of players admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Bears have a history of greatness. Snag season tickets or passes to individual games and witness their next historic touchdown.

Hockey

With 6 Stanley Cups and 16 division championships, the Chicago Blackhawks have been a powerhouse on the ice since the foundation of the National Hockey League, and Chicagoans come out in force to root for the team. The Hawks call the United Center home and defend their rink against fierce rivals like the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Basketball

Perhaps the most famous NBA team in the world, The Chicago Bulls command the court while shooting hoops in the United Center. The team rose to glory in the 1990s with superstar players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as well as legendary coach Phil Jackson. While the player himself has retired, you can still hear the squeak of Air Jordans on the court as the Bulls faceoff against rivals like the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat. Meanwhile, the women of the Chicago Sky play WNBA basketball in the Wintrust Arena.

CONCERTS & MUSIC FESTIVALS

R&B and Hip Hop

The crazy-in-love couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z are reviving their international On The Run II tour with a stop at Soldier Field in Chicago. Tickets to see Bay/Jay are sure to sell quickly, so snag yours today. While you’re booking tickets, don’t forget about Kendrick Lamar, Flatbrush Zombies, and Post Malone with 21 Savage coming to Chicago this spring and summer. After a Cubs game, you can head over to the Cubby Bear for delicious bar food, billiards, and live music from Sir Mix-A-Lot this April.

Take a trip down nostalgia lane by bumping to the beats of Salt-N-Pepa, Montell Jordan, Rob Base, and Coolio at the inaugural I Love The 90s Tour coming to Tinley Park in July. The throwbacks continue with tickets to see the supreme singer Diana Ross and the R&B supergroup Earth, Wind And Fire at the Ravinia Pavilion.

Pop, Rock, and Punk

Between Taylor Swift and Bon Jovi, some of the highest-charting names in music are coming to Chicago this spring and summer. Maroon 5, Radiohead, U2, Shakira, Panic! At The Disco, and Smashing Pumpkins are sure to pack the United Center with adoring fans. You can turn back the clock with Paul Simon and John Fogerty with ZZ Top and then call for “Free Bird” at a Lynyrd Skynrd concert.

After 24 years, the Vans Warped Tour is hanging up its skate shoes as the longest continuous traveling music festival in America. Go to the biggest backyard party of the summer to rock out with dozens of punk, rock, ska, and metal bands for the first time or the last time at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park. Warped Tour is going all out with headliners like Bowling For Soup, Reel Big Fish, Simple Plan, and Motionless In White.

Country

Music festivals are essentially giant outdoor parties that let you soak in summer sun while guitars twang, drums thunder, and singers pump up the crowd. The 2018 Windy City LakeShake turns the waterfront of Northerly Island into a country music extravaganza with headliners Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, and Florida Georgia Line strutting their boots across the stage.

Other country artists coming to various Chicago venues this spring and summer include Keith Urban and Kelsea Ballerini, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town, and Lady Antebellum. Plus, you won’t want to miss the best-selling female country artist of all time when Shania Twain comes to Soldier Field in May.

Jazz and Blues

Tap your foot along to improvised saxophone and thrumming bass at Constellation. As one of Chicago’s thriving jazz clubs, this venue features some of the city’s most progressive jazz played by both local groups and touring performers. On Sundays at the House of Blues Gospel Brunch, you can fill your stomach with chicken and waffles from the all-you-can-eat buffet while feeding your soul with gospel sung by local talent. Mexican jazz drummer famed for composing the original score for the film Birdman, Antonio Sánchez is coming to the Chicago Symphony Center this May, and tickets are sure to sell fast.

THEATER, COMEDY, & DANCE

Musicals

Lights dim, the curtain rises, and the action unfolds with belting high notes and choreographed numbers. Transport yourself to another world with familiar classics like The Wizard of Oz, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Or finally see the show you’ve been singing along to when Hamilton arrives at the CIBC Theatre. Then, have the time of your life at the stage adaptation of Dirty Dancing when it comes to the Cadillac Palace this spring.

Comedy

Thanks to Chicago’s legendary comedy scene, you can grab a drink, take a seat, and laugh your heart out any night of the week. The Second City’s improv and sketch comedy shows launched the careers of Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert. Who will be the next big name in comedy? Find out at the original Second City stage.

If you want to see one funny person with a microphone, then the stand-up comedy of the Festival of Laughs and the LIT AF Tour will have you belly laughing with Martin Lawrence, DeRay Davis, and Rickey Smiley at the Arie Crown Theater and the UIC Pavilion. For a more intimate venue, savor a glass of wine and locally sourced cuisine with the entertainment of Kevin Nealon and Heather McDonald at the City Winery.

Ballet

In a pure white tutu, the ballerina extends her arms, tips to one leg, and remains poised on a single pointed toe while you and the rest of the audience hold a collective breath. She sustains gravity defying balance while violin chords extend time. Then, with a stretch, she settles to earth again and the ballet company continues with jumps, kicks, twirls, and flicks of Latin flare. The Ballet Nacional De Cuba performs Don Quixote to the classic Ludwig Minkus score and a revised storyline all their own. The company returns to Chicago for the first time in 15 years, and the strength and grace of their performance is not to be missed. If you want to enjoy resident Chicago elegance this spring, the Joffrey Ballet is pairing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to revitalize the neo-classical works of Stravinsky.

Jazz Dance

Giordano Dance Chicago, one of the world’s premier jazz companies, lights up the stage with powerful jumps, jazz hands, and sensuous shimmies to brass blasts. For 50 years, this locally trained troupe has stepped across the globe, but nothing beats seeing them in their hometown at the Auditorium Theatre.

Hip Hop Dance

Dancers shake their hips to the heavy thump of hip hop in the fierce, high-octane performance of Bring It! Live. Mixing it up with moves from ballet, jazz, modern dance, hip hop, and gymnastics, the Dancing Dolls will ignite The Chicago Theatre with majorette dancing for just one night this summer, so tickets are sure to fly.

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Expedia Local Expert

Our articles are designed to make sure you spend more time having fun, exploring, and living like a local and less time trying to figure out the logistics on the go. We share our pointers for maximizing your time and stretching your dollar, offering ideas and advice for attractions, things to do, and itineraries. Our writers are lovers of travel and are eager to share their know-how with you. Read on, and travel better!

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