Our Pledge To You


Independence Day 2018: The ultimate guide to surviving Chicago’s July Fourth

Fireworks on display just north of Navy Pier on July 4, 2017. | Colin Boyle/For the Sun-Times

Hey Chicago! Independence Day is a great day of celebrations, fireworks, cookouts and spending time with friends and family. We’ve rounded up key information to know ahead of time so you’ll be prepared for a fun and safe midweek celebration.

In this Sun-Times July Fourth Survival Guide you’ll find:

  • The July 4 weather forecast

  • Where to watch fireworks in Chicago

  • Getting Around

  • Safety tips

  • Other things to know

☀ Weather

The Cloud Gate, commonly known as ‘The Bean,’ in the afternoon sun in Chicago’s Millenium Park on June 28, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

The National Weather Service is predicting humid conditions on Wednesday, July 4, but temperatures will likely not be as high as they were over the weekend — but there could be localized heavy rains and flash flooding. Keep checking for the latest weather forecasts, and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

The American Red Cross offers the following safety tips regarding hot weather:

  • Never leave your children or your pets in the vehicle. The temperature inside can easily reach 120 degrees.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the heat.
  • Check on friends, family, and neighbors who don’t have air conditioning, particularly if they spend much of their time alone or if they’re likely to be affected by the heat.

🎆 Fireworks

Navy Pier 4th of July Fireworks. | Provided

Navy Pier Fourth of July fireworks. | Provided

Illinois bans most consumer fireworks, so you’re better off watching officially-sanctioned fireworks events than setting up your own. (The Red Cross advises “leaving any area immediately if untrained amateurs are using fireworks.” )

The largest fireworks event in Chicago on the night of July 4 is at Navy Pier.  The fireworks are scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m. — although getting there earlier is advisable if you don’t have a reserved ticket, as Navy Pier will close its gates to visitors without advance reservations as soon as it reaches capacity.

There are also plenty of other places around the city where you can get a glimpse of the Navy Pier fireworks including Promontory Point, the museum campus near the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, Maggie Daley Park, 31st Street Beach, North Avenue Beach and Belmont Harbor.

If you don’t want to squeeze into Chicago proper on the night of July 4 but still want to see fireworks, consider visiting one of the other fireworks displays scheduled that night in the suburbs, such as Itasca, Evanston, Highland Park and Oak Lawn.

🗺 Getting around

A CTA train passes over Wabash Avenue in Chicago on July 2, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

The AAA in Chicago is predicting 46.9 million people will be traveling to celebrate this year’s Independence Day.  In Chicago, traffic is expected to be particularly severe between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on July 3, as commuters leaving work early mix with travelers hoping to get away for the holiday.

If you’re staying in or near Chicago to celebrate July 4, we’ll echo the official advice:  Take public transportation if you can.


The Chicago Transit Authority is running a Sunday schedule on July 4, with extra services on all L lines and some bus routes.

Bikes will not be allowed on the L, but will be permitted on buses with bike racks. 🚲 🚌. Strollers and carts must be folded prior to boarding.

The CTA recommends purchasing fares ahead of time to avoid long queues in stations for the return trip. Visit the CTA’s website to learn more, and check the website in case of service alerts and disruptions.

🚃 Metra

Metra will be running a Sunday/holiday schedule on July 4, with added capacity on all operating lines. The Heritage Corridor, the North Central Service, and the SouthWest Service lines will not operate on July 4.

The Union Pacific North line train no. 826 from Waukegan to Chicago will depart at 10:25 p.m. instead of 10:10 p.m. to accommodate passengers leaving the Naval Station Great Lakes July 4 celebration. (This is the last Sunday/holiday schedule service to Chicago on the UP-N.)

Metra is offering a special $10 unlimited rides ticket valid only for July 4, which can be purchased either through the Ventra app (App Store, Google Play) or by cash on the train. Metra confirmed to us that they are not charging the $5 surcharge on board July 4 services for the $10 unlimited rides ticket, but it will be charged as usual for all other tickets if there was a vending machine or agent at the station you boarded. So if you’re leaving from one of the main Chicago terminals, it’s better to buy your ticket either ahead of time, at the ticket office or through the Ventra app.

In addition, Metra is offering ‘early getaway’ trains on Tuesday, July 3, for passengers leaving work early. Services for the July 3 afternoon are changing — check the Metra website for details.

There are many transportation options on July 4th including biking like Jeremiah Garrard. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times Archives

There are many transportation options on July Fourth, including biking — like Jeremiah Garrard. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times Archives

🚋 South Shore Line

The South Shore Line will also be running a Sunday/holiday schedule on July 4. (Note that a fare increase on the South Shore Line went into effect on July 1.)

🚲 Divvy

The city’s bike ride-share program, Divvy, is an excellent way to get around the city without having to walk or look after your own bike. A single ride up to 30 minutes costs $3, while the 24-hour Explorer Pass offers three-hour rides for $15. Rides and passes can be purchased through the Divvy app or from kiosks at each Divvy station. Check stations and bike availability on the Divvy website.

🚦 Driving

If you have to drive, do so early. Parking near popular places, such as Navy Pier, is expected to fill up pretty quickly. You’re probably better off parking elsewhere in the city and taking public transport — Navy Pier offers a free trolley over the summer that can get you to places in River North and next to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Illinois State Police advises the public:

  • Designate a sober driver before the drinking begins;
  • If you’re impaired, take a taxi, call a friend or family member, or use public transportation to get home safely;
  • If you know someone who is about to drive while impaired, take away their keys and make alternative arrangements.

⚠ Safety tips

Grilling is a July 4th tradition for many throughout Chicago. | Sun-Times Archives.

Grilling is a July Fourth tradition for many throughout Chicago. | Sun-Times Archives.

🍹 Food and grilling

Picnics are a great way to spend the holiday outdoors and enjoy food with friends and family. To keep your holiday safe, the Red Cross advises:

  • Don’t leave food in the hot sun. Keep perishable foods in the cooler with plenty of ice or freezer packs.
  • Wash your hands before preparing the food.
  • If you’re grilling, always supervise the grill when in use. Don’t use more starter fluid if the coals have ignited. Use long-handled tools made for grilling to keep yourself safe.
  • Don’t grill indoors. Keep the grill away from the house, from tree branches, and anything that might catch fire.
  • Make sure everyone — including pets — keeps away from the grill.

If you’re grilling, check out our Food We Love guide on grilling tips and recipes from Chicago’s expert chefs.

🐶 Pets

Dogs have an especially tough time on July 4th. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Dogs have an especially tough time on July Fourth. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Watch out for your pets! If you’ve looked after pets for a while, you may already know these tips, but it’s worth remembering:

  • Keep your pets away from fireworks. Generally, dogs, cats and other pets don’t respond well to sudden and loud noises, and can become frightened or disoriented from the sounds.
  • Make sure your pets can’t get to the alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can be poisonous to pets, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • Don’t use sunscreen or insect repellent on your pet if not specifically labelled for animals.
  • Look out for substances dangerous to your pets, such as matches, lighters, jewelry and candles. Like sunscreen and insect repellent, these items can contain things that cause irritation or injury to your pets.

Remember that your pet can’t tell you if something’s wrong, so always keep an eye out for them and their safety.

There will be parades galore like this one in Evanston. | Sun-Times Archives

There will be parades galore, like this one in Evanston. | Sun-Times Archives

💭 Other things to know

  • In busy crowds and loud places, it might be difficult to reach one another through text messages and phone calls. Communicate with family members and friends beforehand on what to do if you’re separated in the crowds.
  • The National Retail Foundation conducts a survey every year about Americans’ Fourth of July plans. This year, the NRF’s survey indicates 153 million of us are planning a cookout or picnic and we’ll all collectively spend $6.9 billion on food. That’s a lot of hot dogs.
  • USPS post offices will be closed and there will be no mail delivery on July 4. If you do need postal services, self-service kiosks are available at select post offices on July 4. Visit usps.com for more information. Regular mail service resumes July 5.

More Sun-Times Guides

If you’re all prepped and ready to go for July 4, check out the Chicago Sun-Times Guide to Summer to perk up the rest of your summer experiences!

Another sign of summer in Chicago: the farmers markets. Check out our guide to find one near you: Chicago Sun-Times 2018 Farmers Market Guide.