10 great things to do during a Chicago summer — for the first time or the 100th

As the weather warms up, it’s time get outside for dining, boating, strolling a festival and more.

SHARE 10 great things to do during a Chicago summer — for the first time or the 100th

People lay out, swim and relax at Oak Street Beach,

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

There is no place like Chicago in the summertime. And whether you are a lifelong resident or a first-time visitor, chances are you have a to-do list of activities in mind when the sun shines bright, and the temperatures finally go up in the Windy City.

But if you are still looking to build your bucket list, we have some ideas.

Dine on an outdoor patio


The River Roast patio offers views of the skyline and Chicago River.

Matthew Reeves

It’s a known fact (or at least it should be) that food just tastes better when eaten outside on a patio. Whether it’s the sun shining down on your salad plate or the twinkling lights casting a spotlight on that porterhouse steak you are about to dig your teeth into, sitting outside enjoying a meal while also enjoying Chicago’s sparkling skyline serves up a culinary experience like no other. And yes, the wine tastes better outside too.

Where to go:

Watch a movie under the stars


Classic movies screen under the stars at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

If you spend far too much time on your couch watching movies on Netflix, you need to leave the couch … and watch movies outside. Partaking in a flick with a comfy blanket around you and the stars above you just might be one of summer’s most satisfying experiences. What’s even better? You can have as much popcorn as you want.

Where to go:

Chill with some Italian ice

If you have never dug your plastic spoon in some Italian ice on a scorching hot day, it’s safe to say that you are doing summer entirely wrong. There is something to be said for being able to relive your younger days enjoying one of Chicago’s most treasured desserts. And the best thing about a cup of Italian ice? It comes with zero guilt.

Where to go:

Take a ride on a boat


A Wendella boat travels down the Chicago River.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago gets even more beautiful when you see it from a floating vessel. And really, what is summer without a boat ride? Whether it’s a slow cruise down the Chicago River or a death-defying adventure on the waves of Lake Michigan, the fact is that, ultimately, water makes everything better. Just don’t forget your Dramamine.

Where to go:

Take yourself out to a ballgame


Chicago Dogs mascot Squeeze entertains the crowd at Impact Field in Rosemont.

Daniel Boczarski

Oh sure, Wrigley Field serves up a mighty good baseball team and Guaranteed Rate Field serves up a mighty good … beer? But for those looking for a new trip around the bases, head out to the suburbs to check out some of the grittiest players around. Plus, you might catch a T-shirt shot out of a cannon. Can it get better than that?

Where to go:

Get hit by a wave

So maybe Chicago’s beaches aren’t the most luxurious or well-known in the country. But for a few short months over the summer, they are our little pieces of paradise to enjoy. And while some may choose to simply lay out in the sun, others inevitably will decide to get in the water and take in a mighty wave or two. And if you don’t scrape up your face on the sand beneath you, is it even summer anyway?

Where to go:

Eat a hot dog

A world-famous Superdawg —with fries, of course — is served up in its iconic box at the Northwest Side diner drive-in.

A world-famous Superdawg —with fries, of course — is served up in its iconic box at the Northwest Side diner drive-in.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Technically, one can partake in a delectable hot dog 365 days a year. But eating a hot dog in the sunshine is extra special, especially when it’s a hot dog made in Chicago. Go ahead and let the yellow mustard drip unto your chin and add more celery salt if you need to. Make it an experience you will remember.

Where to go:

Walk a street festival


Fiesta del Sol draws crowds to Cermak Road.

Fiesta del Sol

In a world where we all seem to be separated by the most rigid of screens, it’s good to get out there and rub some shoulders with some actual humans. Luckily, Chicagoans have their pick each and every weekend of summer as to what humans they want to partake in this particular activity with. Just don’t forget your hand sanitizer.

Where to go:

Catch a fish

You grab a line and I’ll get a pole, and then we will take a whole bunch of pictures for our Instagram if we get lucky enough to catch one. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But seriously, its therapy on water in the middle of the big city. Plus, you are going to get a whole bunch of Vitamin D while trying to snag one of those lunkers.

Where to go:

Zip down a zipline


The views are vast on the zipline at the Forge Adventure Park.

Courtesy The Forge

What could be more summer than strapping yourself in for a speedy ride down a single rope hanging hundreds of feet above ground? If that mere sentence just gave you an anxiety attack, start with a small one and work your way up. The views in the summer are fantastic.

Where to go:

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