Chicago has various indoor and outdoor activities and adventures to try this summer.

A guide to your summer unplugged

June 2, 2022

Whether you are looking for a fun outdoor activity, stuck at home on a rainy day, or looking for something new to try, there are plenty of ways to have a blast without a device in hand.

There’s no need for an outlet outdoors


Ainsley Williams

COASTING ALONG. A cyclist bikes by North Avenue Beach, the lake glistening behind them. The 18.5-mile path, which stretches from Edgewater to South Shore, provides spectacular views of the city, an enjoyable form of exercise, and direct access to Chicago’s beaches.

Lakefront Fun

Chicagoans certainly are blessed with spectacular waterways for fun summer boat trips. Whether it’s a Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour where you glide down the river while a tour guide points out significant buildings that grace the skyline, or exploring historic Chinatown via a Chicago Water Taxi, there is no shortage of options for a river adventure. You can also spend your summers on Lake Michigan by dining on the water with Odyssey Cruises, which serves a three-course dinner all on the water. For those who are more adventurous, zooming down the Lake in a fast Seadog boat tour will be right up your alley. 

The picturesque Chicago lakefront, an iconic Chicago symbol, provides the perfect backdrop for a bike ride on any sunny day. With an 18.5-mile trail from 71st Street in South Shore north to Edgewater, any avid cyclist can enjoy scenic views of sparkling Lake Michigan and the vast Chicago skyline.  

Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s top attractions, and a great place to spend an unplugged summer day. The pier includes restaurants like Harry Caray’s Tavern, Billy Goat Tavern and Brown Sugar Bakery for a sweet treat. Navy Pier is also home to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater that provides interesting performances at a variety of show times. Explore the picturesque Crystal Gardens to see the wonderful display of fountains and the lush canopy of plants. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, Navy Pier puts on a fireworks show Wednesdays from 9-9:10 p.m., and Saturdays from 10-10:10 p.m.


Park Activities

Maggie Daley Park, a 20-acre public park downtown, includes plenty of space to relax and enjoy a picnic as well as innovative playground equipment for kids of all ages. The Ribbon, a quarter-mile long ice skating rink, is converted into a rollerblading rink during the summer, with climbing walls in the center. An 18-hole miniature golf course with Chicago-themed obstacles provides family-friendly entertainment. 

Farmers markets, where farmers sell their produce directly to the consumer, are an enjoyable way to support small businesses while getting to try many tasty treats and fresh farmed goods. Chicago offers many farmers markets in most neighborhoods throughout the summer. These include: the Division Street Farmers’ Market, the Hyde Park Farmers’ Market, the Bronzeville Community Market, the Lincoln Park Farmers Market and the Logan Square Farmers Market. 


Day Trips

Throughout summer, outdoor art fairs, booth-style shows that host galleries, curators and artists, pop up around the city. In addition to the art booths where visitors can often purchase art and collectibles, many of these fairs feature fun games, delicious food and live music. Prominent art fairs throughout Chicago include the Logan Square Arts Festival, the Old Town Art Fair and the 57th Street Art Fair in June, and the Millennium Art Festival in July.

With fans of all ages shouting in support of their teams, the atmosphere at a sports game is unmatched. Whether you want to venture to see the Cubs at the newly-renovated Wrigley Field, or the White Sox at the expansive Guaranteed Rate Field, there are plenty of options to enjoy a baseball game. Soccer fans aren’t left out, with both the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars playing throughout the summer. 

Chicago offers some summer activities you’ve wanted to try


Oliver Wilson

WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT. A group puts away their kayaks after a trip on the Chicago River. The tour renders a different perspective of Chicago’s architecture and a fun opportunity to spend time with family or friends.

Summer is about getting away. It’s a chance to escape the piles of school work, to have fun with friends and to truly dig into Chicago for all that it offers. America’s third largest city provides endless choices, but here are some of the best options.


Kayak on the Chicago River

What better way to take in some of Chicago’s historical and most significant architecture than from a kayak on the Chicago River? An array of tours, available during the day and even in evenings during the city’s firework displays, provide lessons on the city’s history while simultaneously offering a workout and just plain fun on the water. The tours, which range from about $40 to $70, also give kayakers a chance to get a look at the city’s booming Riverwalk, remade only a few years ago.


The Escape Game Chicago

There are a million escape room businesses to try out there, but The Escape Game Chicago in River North is a true gem. The array of choices for your escape adventure are vast here and they can feel relevant to Chicago without giving any answers away. A favorite is “The Heist,” an escape room challenge that includes classic images from the nearby Art Institute. The price tag: $39.99 plus tax.


Taste of Chicago

Experience Chicago’s largest festival, the Taste of Chicago, for a chance to eat some of the city’s most famous delicacies without going all over town. With music, activities and good food (think deep dish and ribs and classic Chicago-style dogs), Taste of Chicago is good for families, too. A tradition for more than 40 years, the festival is popular and usually draws tens of thousands to Grant Park downtown. The admissions price is free, and strips of tickets will be exchanged for food. This summer, the festival will do three “pop-ups” in different neighborhoods during June, as well as a somewhat scaled-back version of the traditional “Taste” downtown from July 8-10.


WNDR Museum

The popular WNDR Museum combines an experiential art gallery and a place to take Instagram-able photos. The museum includes a wide and regularly-changing array of exhibits, from older ones like the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, where spheres, above and below, create a sense of infinity, to newer ones like the Boxed In, where dancers on screens rotate around visitors. Be warned: The lines can be long, but it’s worth the wait. General admission tickets start at $36.


Tilt 360

View Chicago from more than 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile with Tilt 360 in the 875 N. Michigan Ave. building. The movable platforms will thrill visitors and give an opportunity to see the city from above

Indoor activities provide cure for rainy day boredom

While summer days are typically spent outdoors, every once in a while the humid Chicago summers are interrupted by a day where the weather is not like the postcards. When stuck inside, this list of rainy day activities is the perfect remedy for the boredom of an indoor summer day. 



Zara Siddique

Friendship bracelets prove to be an addictive summertime activity. After picking your favorite colored string, bracelets can be made anywhere. Patterns from BraceletBook are available for any skill set ranging from beginner to expert. These bracelets can be perfect accessories or thoughtful gifts.  




Mia Lipson

Summer treats do not require a trip outdoors. From popsicles to cookies, with everyday ingredients, recipes can make all-day projects or short-term snacks. Taste of Home has recipes ranging from four-step snacks to five-course meals, ensuring cooking and baking will be an easy fix for an otherwise-boring day.






Flickr CC2.0/Nenad Stojkovic

An at-home workout can provide a way to stay active when stuck indoors. Don’t throw out those hand-outs from gym class. Instead, they can be used to complete a workout with everyday objects. From yoga to cardio you can engage in a self-paced and customized workout.




Flickr CC2.0/M01229

Scrapbooking is the best way to capture every moment if you’re looking for an offline way to document the summer months. All you need is a notebook of any style and mementos from pictures to tickets. From there, you can customize your scrapbook to perfectly encapsulate your summer. 


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