Arts & Culture » Summer Guide

Ten cool things to do in Chicago in August

Summer's almost over, but there's still plenty to do between now and Labor Day.


  • Joshua Black Wilkins

Justin Townes Earle

The country blues man stops by City Winery to play some tunes. His last two albums, the companion pieces Single Mothers and Absent Father, were released less than a year apart, adding to a quality discography that features records released on local label Bloodshot Records. Expect songs old and new tonight.

Mon 8/3, 8 PM, City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph,, $25-$35, $45 VIP.

Beyond the Sole - © ARJUN KAMATH 2014
  • © Arjun Kamath 2014
  • Beyond the Sole

Black Harvest Film Festival

For the rest of the month the Black Harvest Film Festival, a collection of movies that chronicle the black experience, will be showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The celebration kicks off with "A Black Harvest Feast," a special program that also features a reception with Black Ensemble Theater founder Jackie Taylor.

8/8-9/3: times vary; see website, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State,, $11, $50 festival pass.

  • Matthew Hurst via Flickr

Brooklyn Brewery Mash Tour

Chicago folks normally don't take too kindly to New Yorkers, but I think we can make an exception when tasty beverages are involved. The Brooklyn Brewery Mash Tour is a traveling beer, food, and arts festival featuring local chefs, artisans, craftsmen, and musicians. Citywide events include a rare-beer tasting with brew master Garrett Oliver and Michael Kiser of the blog Good Beer Hunting, a found-footage film festival, and an appearance by the alt-rock band Surfer Blood.

8/10-8/16: times vary; see website, various locations,, prices vary.

  • Courtesy iO Chicago

Beer Shark Mice

The legendary midwest improv team reunites for a series of shows. After performing all over the country and appearing in major Hollywood movies and TV shows like Scrubs, Anchorman, and It's Complicated, members Mike Coleman, David Koechner, Pat Finn, Neil Flynn, Pete Hulne, and Paul Vaillancourt return to the iO stage where it all started.

8/13-8/15: Thu 9 PM, Fri 10 PM, Sat 8 and 10 PM, iO, 1501 N. Kingsbury,, $20.



Things are about to get Kafkaesque at First Floor Theater, hosts of this annual lit and theater festival dedicated to Franz Kafka. Each night eight of Chicago finest playwrights--Ike Holter, Brett Neveu, and Kristiana Rae Colón among them--present new short plays inspired by the writer, so expect plenty of gallows humor, a healthy distrust of bureaucracy, and maybe a cockroach or two.

8/14-8/22: Thu-Mon, times vary; see website, Collaboraction, 1579 N. Milwaukee,, $15.

  • Getty Images/iStockphoto

Great American Lobster Fest

Lobster ain't really midwestern, but don't let that stop you: the crustaceans will be flown in from Boston both mornings of this weekend festival, fresh and ready to devour. Not into seafood? There will also be hot dogs, mac and cheese, and other fare for landlubbers. The Wailers, Train Company, and Band Called Catch perform.

Sat 8/15-Sun 8/16, 10 AM-10 PM, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand,, $10-$99.

  • Mandy via Flickr

Wizard World Comic Con

This annual opportunity to get your nerd on features four days of science fiction, fantasy, film, horror, anime, manga, cosplay, comic books, card games, and celebrity appearances. In attendance: Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Jeremy Renner (Avengers: Age of Ulton), Burt Reynolds (!), and Jigsaw himself, Tobin Bell.

8/20-8/23: Thu 3-8 PM, Fri noon-7 PM, Sat 10 AM-8 PM, Sun 11 AM-5 PM, Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Rd., Rosemont,, $40-$105.

Hubbard Street Dancers Jacqueline Burnett and Jonathan Fredrickson in "I am Mister B" by Gustavo RamÌrez Sansano - TODD ROSENBERG
  • Todd Rosenberg
  • Hubbard Street Dancers Jacqueline Burnett and Jonathan Fredrickson in "I am Mister B" by Gustavo RamÌrez Sansano

Chicago Dancing Festival

Over the course of four days, some of the nation's best companies perform and premiere new work, and it won't cost a dime to see them. Hubbard Street, the Joffrey Ballet, and the Chicago Human Rhythm Project are among the local troupes; national companies include Martha Graham Dance Company and the Miami City Ballet performing Balanchine's Allegro Brilliante. The festival closes with a gala honoring its founder and artistic director, Chicago dancer-choreographer Lar Lubovitch.

Tue 8/25-Sat 8/29, times vary; see website, various locations,, free.

  • Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Billy Joel

The Piano Man himself takes over the Friendly Confines. Even if this sells out, you'll hear everything standing on Waveland. The whole neighborhood will be buzzing for this one.

Thu 8/27, 8 PM, Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison,, $44-$124.

  • Courtesy of Bucktown Arts Fest

Bucktown Arts Fest

Free, community-oriented, and 30 years old, this annual street fest features food and beer, three stages of live music, 200-some artists, and activities for kids. And you can take a stroll on the 606 while you're at it. Proceeds go toward arts education in Bucktown and Wicker Park.

Sat-Sun 8/29-8/30, 11 AM-7 PM, Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley,, free.

See the rest of our recommended events for August.

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