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6 of the Best Summer Festivals in Chicago

If you’re visiting Chicago [been | want to go] in the summertime, you’re in luck. Every summer, millions of locals and tourists alike brave the heat and flock to downtown Chicago as it comes alive with an infusion of festivals that celebrate the food, culture and arts that make the city so diversely wonderful. If you’re visiting from out of town, there’s no better way to experience the Chicago culture than nibbling on a smoked turkey leg, catching a show from a local up-and-coming band or sitting on the lakefront and taking in a fireworks show. With hundreds of festivals spanning the entire summer, there really is something for everybody to enjoy. Here’s the 411 on a few favorites to check out this summer:

Taste of Chicago | Moniquewingard The Taste of Chicago (June 25-July 4, free admission, food and drink tickets sold in strips of 12 for $8) There’s no better way to experience the essence of Chicago than through the food and every year, millions of people flock to the Chicago lakefront to participate in the world’s largest food festival. Local favorites include Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza, Eli’s Cheesecake and Robinsons No. 1 Ribs. And to cool off from the summer heat, make sure you try a Rainbow Cone, a Taste of Chicago favorite that layers scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts) and pistachio ice creams and orange sherbet on top of a waffle cone. Each day offers different live music to groove along with as you sample your way through the best food Chicago has to offer. This year’s lineup includes Salt-n-Pepa, Gavin Rossdale, Los Lonely Boys, Mat Kearney and Rob Thomas. And here’s a tip from a local: each booth offers a taster portion of a dish or two. Taster portions give you a smaller portion for less tickets, allowing you to experience more and get more bang for your buck.
Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party (July 9-10, 2010, $40 for a one-night pass/$70 for a two night pass) Every year, thousands of people flock to this two-night music fest that benefits St. Pat’s Church, the oldest public building in Chicago. Tickets include five drinks (alcoholic or non) and access to the musical stages. Headlining this year’s festival are American Idol 2009 winner Kris Allen, the Barenaked Ladies and Spoon. And if you’re single and looking to mingle, local legend has it that this is the festival to meet your mate- nearly 100 pairs have met at the World’s Largest Block Party and gone on to marry.

The Flaming Lips, Pitchfork Music Festival | jcbehm Pitchfork Music Festival (July 16-18, 2010, $40 for a single day pass/$90 for a three-day pass) Three days, three stages, 41 shows. For the past five years, indie music lovers have packed into Chicago’s Union Park to hear their favorite musicians and discover some new tunes. Adding to the indie flair of the event is the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) Record Fair, where you can pick up a few vinyl discs to spin at home. Windy City Ribfest (July 16-18, 2010, $5 suggested donation for entry) Good food, good music…what more could you ask for? A dozen musical acts (headlined this year by Sister Hazel and Tonic) provide the tunes as the best of the best in Midwestern barbecue duke it out and smoked meat enthusiasts sample the dozens of barbecued specialties. Come hungry and BYOB (bring your own bib).

Lollapalooza | eytonz Lollapalooza (August 6-8, 2010, $90 for a one day pass/$215 for a three-day pass) One of the world’s largest music festivals, Lollapalooza celebrates its fifth year in Chicago this year. Music lovers from around the globe pack their tents, picnic gear and sunscreen and head out to Grant Park every year for this three-day music fest that features hundreds of acts on eight stages. Sunup to sundown, punk rock to alternative, heavy metal to hip hop, there’s no greater celebration of musical diversity than this weekend fest.
The Chicago Air and Water Show (August 14-15, 2010, free admission) Parachuters? Check. Aerobats? Check. Speed boats? Check. More than two million people check themselves onto Chicago’s lakefront beaches yearly to watch this action spectacle take place. For more than 50 years, the Chicago Air and Water Show has been giving spectators an action show they won’t forget. The crowds are heavy and the air is thick, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the Blue Angels fly in formation or the water spraying off the wave runners in the extreme water show. Another tip from a local: If you’re around town the day before the festival, they do run-throughs of the routines. If you happen to be around the lakefront when they’re practicing, you can see the show and avoid the crowds.

On any given weekend in Chicago, there’s something being celebrated somewhere and the best way to experience the true culture and diversity of the city is to get out into it and explore it. Taste something new. Listen to a new band. Peruse the handmade goods at a craft fair. For a complete list of summertime activities throughout the city, you can check out the official visitors site for the city at http://www.choosechicago.com.--
The guest post above was written by Nicole Brook. Check out her awesome travel blog, "Sunglasses and Umbrella Drinks" at http://sunglassesandumbrelladrinks.blogspot.com