You don’t need to reach for your wallet to get your fill of fun things to do all around the city. Here are 10 of our favorite free events and activities this month in Chicago, including exciting new exhibits, live music, iconic Chicago events, and so much more. Start planning your budget-friendly Chicago adventures for July 2023.

1. Catch movies, music, and more in Millennium Park

Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion
Abel Arciniega :: @tequilagraphics

Summer means plenty of fun and free events in iconic Millennium Park, from music festivals to movie screenings under the stars. Check out the lineup of free shows coming to the Pritzker Pavilion this July.

Check out the full Millennium Park events calendar.

2. Attend a neighborhood celebration

A man samples food at Taste of Chicago
Taste of Chicago; photo courtesy City of Chicago DCASE

Almost every Chicago neighborhood has its own signature summer event. There are music festivals, block parties, art events, and street fairs dedicated to food, culture, and more. Here are just a few of the free fests happening this month:

3. See the summer fireworks

Navy Pier’s fireworks display is one of the most iconic parts of a Chicago summer. The dazzling free series runs on Wednesday and Saturday evenings all summer long. You catch the show on the Pier or along the lakefront — no matter where you are, the views will be spectacular.

4. Get free admission at Chicago museums

Field Museum with guests socially distanced
Field Museum; photo by Lucy Hewett

Spend an afternoon wandering through a Chicago museum, where you can dive into fascinating history, provocative contemporary art, and galaxies far, far away.

Here are the upcoming free museum days in Chicago during July 2023 for Illinois residents:

The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center is free for all every Wednesday, and the Museum of Contemporary Art is free for Illinois residents every Tuesday. You can also visit one of the city’s always-free museums, like the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Hyde Park Art Center

Explore more: Mark your calendar for free museum days throughout the year.

5. Dance your way through summer

SummerDance in Spirit of the Music Garden Grant Park summer dancing
SummerDance in Spirit of the Music Garden Grant Park summer dancing

Chicago SummerDance is back, filling parks around Chicago with the sounds of live music throughout the summer. This beloved program brings free dance lessons to outdoor spaces all over the city. Come learn some new moves from a professional instructor, or just kick back and enjoy the tunes. Check out the July schedule:

  • Saturday, July 15: Pullman Park (footwork, salsa, East Coast Swing, line dancing)
  • Wednesday, July 26: Davis Square Park (Ballet Folklorico)
  • Sunday, July 30: Maxwell Street Market (salsa, hustle and disco, merengue, open dancing)

Get more details at the full Chicago SummerDance schedule.

6. Hear live jazz at a museum

Tuesdays on the Terrace at the MOCAC
Tuesdays on the Terrace

The Museum of Contemporary Art’s popular Tuesdays on the Terrace series is back, with free weekly concerts on the museum’s lawn. The shows highlight artists from Chicago’s internationally renowned jazz community. Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnics; light refreshments and a full bar with cold beverages, wine, and cocktails are available for sale.

7. Hit the beach

Abel Arciniega :: @tequilagraphics

Beach season is officially here which means Chicago’s dozens of free beaches are open to the public. People watch at North Avenue Beach, take in the views at South Shore Beach, play some beach volleyball at Foster Beach, and beyond. Many Chicago beaches are connected via the Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile path perfect for running, walking, or biking.

Explore more: Check out more sandy spots to explore with our Chicago beach guide.

8. Find live music, yoga, and more on the lakefront

Heidi Zieger Photography

Navy Pier offers a full schedule of free summer events, from live DJ performances to outdoor fitness classes. Check out everything happening on the Pier this July:

  • Wave Wall Wax DJ sets on Saturdays
  • Live on the Lake! concerts on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Pier Fitness classes on Tuesdays
  • Skyline Sessions concerts on Thursdays and Fridays
  • Shakespeare in the Park on July 26 and 26

Visit the Navy Pier events calendar for more details.

9. Be mesmerized by Art on theMART

Art on theMART

A brand new season of Art on theMART debuts this summer. The massive waterfront display will feature works in collaboration with internationally acclaimed artists. This month, Building Light explores themes of discovery, urbanism, and change through abstracted and time-lapsed vignettes. An original soundscape will accompany the piece.

10. Take a tour of the Chicago Cultural Center

A landmark attraction in the Loop, the Chicago Cultural Center is a stunning public space featuring art exhibits, fascinating history, a local makers market, and soaring architecture — including the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome. Make the most of your visit with the free guided tours that meet every Thursday and Friday afternoon year-round.

Bonus! Explore a new neighborhood

The Nine Dragon wall in Chinatown
Chinatown; photo by Adam Alexander

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there’s always something new to discover in Chicago. Get to know a new neighborhood on a free Chicago Greeter tour, led by a friendly local who will show you each neighborhood’s landmarks, hot spots, and hidden gems.

For example, experience an urban melting pot in West Ridge, featuring plenty of international grocers and authentic restaurants. Become immersed in the historic communities of Washington Park and Woodlawn, which are home to a lively art scene, must-try eateries, and an abundance of landmarks. Or take a cultural journey with an immersive visit to the historic Chinatown neighborhood.

Looking for more? Check out our guide on free things to do in Chicago all year long.