Once Memorial Day hits, it seems there is a different street festival on every corner. So how do you decide which ones are worth braving a sea of dogs and strollers? That's what we're here for. Make the most of your summer with these ten fairs and festivals, and consult these music fests while you're at it.
The kickoff to the summer season includes the Chicago Antique Market, Indie Designer Market, Modern Vintage Chicago—200 vendors all told. There's also food and a vinyl swap meet.
Sat 5/23-Sun 5/24, 10 AM-5 PM, Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington, randolphstreetmarket.com, $8-$10.
More than 25 food trucks—Bridgeport Pasty, Windy City Patty Wagon, La Cocinita, and plenty more TBA—roll up on 18th Street between Throop and Racine. Twenty bucks gets a "sampler" ticket for five small portions, Revolution brews a beer especially for the occasion, and Thalia Hall brings the live music.
Sat 6/6-Sun 6/7, 11 AM-10 PM, Thalia Hall, 1227 W. 18th, pilsenfoodtrucksocial.com, $5 suggested donation.
The lineup at the midwest's largest book fair is never less than impressive; this year it includes LeVar Burton, Elizabeth Berg, Elizabeth Alexander, Mimi Sheraton, Scott Simon—and some 200 others, plus the usual array of booksellers. Some events require tickets.
Sat 6/6-Sun 6/7, times vary, Printer's Row, S. Dearborn between Congress and Polk, printersrowlitfest.org, free.
Break out your feathers and tassels for a few days of parties, classes, workshops, and special themed performances: neoburlesque, classic burlesque, and more.
Wed-Sat 6/10-6/13, times vary, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, windycityburlesquefest.com, $10-$25, $117 festival pass.
Headliners this year include Estelle, Big Freedia, and the Veronicas; there's also the usual colorful street fair, comprising food and drink vendors, art items, and "unique merchandise tailored to the gay community." The Pride Parade is next weekend.
6/20-6/21: Sat 11 AM-10 PM, Sun 11 AM-9 PM, Halsted and Waveland, chicagopride.gopride.com, free.
Barbecue specialists both local and national gather in the heart of Uptown; there's also beer, wine, and live music.
7/3-7/5: Fri-Sat noon-10 PM, Sun noon-9 PM, Lawrence and Broadway, chicagoevents.com, $5 suggested donation.
New Belgium Brewing's whimsical traveling party returns again to Chicago, celebrating "bikes, beer, and bemusement." Things kick off with a costumed bike parade.
Sat 7/11, 10 AM-5 PM, Palmer Square, 3100 W. Palmer, newbelgium.com/events/tour-de-fat, free.
The north-side fest hosts two stages of live music and the wares of three dozen local artists, plus food, booze, and a stage devoted entirely to karaoke.
8/1-8/2: Sat noon-10 PM, Sun noon-9 PM, 5900 N. Broadway, starevents.com/festivals/edge-fest, $5 suggested donation.
Lobster ain't really midwestern, but don't let that stop you. Lobsters are flown in each morning from Boston, fresh and ready to devour. The Wailer perform.
Sat 8/15-Sun 8/16, 10 AM, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand, americanlobsterfest.com, $10-$99.
Free and community-oriented, this annual street fest features food and beer, three stages of live music, 200-some artists, and activities for kids. 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.