Memorial Day Weekend to many Chicagoans serves as the first sign of summer. We collectively celebrate the brave men and women who died serving in the United States’ armed forces – and the celebration comes in the form of a variety of fun activities to enjoy while the weather heats up in Chicago.
Memorial Day weekend is one of the most relaxing weekend stretches of the year. Day trips are had, hot dogs are grilled, parades are attended and we’ll all finally feel that Chicago summer vibe we crave through the winter.
Make the most out of your 3-day weekend. Here’s a list of 10 things you can enjoy:
1.) Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade – Saturday, May 27
Chicago plays host to one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the country, and tens of thousands of people line State Street to celebrate those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. The event officially begins at Daley Plaza at 11am with a wreath-laying ceremony, followed by the start of the parade at noon.
This year’s Parade Grand Mashal is Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh. Among many accomplishments, General Walsh served as the Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing deploying the wing to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.
2.) Randolph Street Market – May 27-28
Like to shop? Enjoy live music? The Randolph Street Market just may be for you. This two-day reoccurring festival that extends into December kicks off during Memorial Day Weekend and features over 300 vendors from all over the Midwest. From indie designer goods to vintage jewelry to fascinating modern art, the Randolph Street Market has something for everyone. And if you’re not on the market for tangible goods, each day has a live band line up, a DJ, kids activities, cabanas and more.
3.) Relax on Chicago’s Beaches
With the weather forecasts predicting temperatures in the mid-70s this weekend, you may want to plant a chair in the sand at North Avenue or Oak Street Beach. Memorial Day Weekend marks the first time this year that Chicago’s beaches will be open to the public – so if you do decide to relax on one of Chicago’s many beaches, expect big crowds.
It’s always a nice confidence boost to show up to work after a long weekend with sun-kissed skin.
4.) Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival: May 27-28
This great street festival is in its 33rd year and is one of the best community events to attend this Memorial Day Weekend. The festival features a ton of great food, drinks, and crafts made by local artisans. Come out and enjoy two days of music on two different stages right off the Belmont Redline stop. The festival runs May 27th through May 28th.
5.) Bike the Drive – Sunday, May 28
Do you love riding bikes? Do you love the scenery of Lake Shore Dr? Now you can enjoy both at the same time! On Sunday, May 28th participants can bike down Lake Shore Dr from Bryn Mawr all the way to the Museum of Science and Industry and back during five hours of car-free riding! The iconic roadway is closed to all motorized traffic between 5:30am and 10:30am Sunday morning.
6.) Red, White and Bar-B-Q: May 26-28
Starting on Friday and extending until Sunday, the Westmont Lions Club plays host to its annual barbecue festival and competition. Enjoy 3 days of free live music, the best BBQ vendors in the Midwest, a beer tent with craft beers, an all-ages carnival, amateur BBQ competitions, raffles and more. This festival is expected to be attended by over 25,000 people – lots of barbecue’d eats will be consumed and lots of napkins will be used. Licking your fingers is expected.
7.) Hop Aboard a Lake Cruise
There aren’t too many things more relaxing than a day aboard a boat – especially on a warm, sunny day in Chicago (crossing our fingers). Consider taking a day cruise or a sunset cruise from Navy Pier. One of the more popular cruises is the Chicago Classic Lake Tour. You and your family will embark on a 45 minute maritime excursion out onto Lake Michigan as you marvel at the breathtaking Chicago skyline and landmarks.
Other popular cruises include the historic Tall Ship Windy vessel, and the unbeatable Architecture River Cruise. The latter is especially important in a place like Chicago, where architectural styles and influences play such an important role in the history and character of the city (information via Smart Destinations).
8.) Mole de Mayo: Friday, May 26
Pilsen’s annual Mole de Mayo street festival returns to the Near South Side neighborhood to honor the classic traditional Mexican sauce. A cook-off, lucha libre wrestling performances and live music adds to the festive mood near 18th and Ashland. Local art vendors also ply their wares in the open air market, making Mole de Mayo a true neighborhood tradition (Timeout Chicago).
9.) Navy Pier Fireworks
Memorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of the Navy Pier fireworks schedule. Twice a week during summer in Chicago, a 10-15 minute firework show is displayed for free for all attendees. The first show is this Sunday, May 28th at 10:15pm.
10.) Grill-Out Chill-Out: all weekend
Sometimes nothing beats a good old fashioned BBQ with family and friends. Snag a couple packages of hot dogs and burgers at the local grocery store and fire up the grill for an afternoon of good times and even better tastes.
These are just a few of the things you could be doing in our beautiful city this weekend. If you’re headed to any of these great events, save time and money by booking parking in advance. Use promo code CHI50 for $50 in free parking credit ($5 per transaction).