Under-the-Radar Spring Festivals in Chicago

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Whether you’re a Windy City native or have dropped in for a weekend visit, you’re well aware that summertime in Chicago is a force to be reckoned with. After drawn-out winter months and lingering chilly days, Chicagoans are fueled to take on the sunshine like a bull at the rodeo.

With Lake Michigan at its doorstep and hundreds of rooftop restaurants at its bedside, there’s no shortage of weekly shenanigans to fill up a Chi-Town agenda. But let’s be real here, summertime in Chicago is basically synonymous for festival season and these high-energy gatherings are the true stars of the show.

There are hundreds of festivals in Chicago, with a diverse array of food, music, art, film and cultural events taking over the city every weekend. While we’re all familiar with the big kids on the block, like Lollapalooza – which attracts 120,000 music fans to Grant Park each summer, or Taste of Chicago – the largest food festival in the world – these behemoth celebrations are only scratching the surface of what this city’s festival scene has to offer.

As it turns out, there are enough hidden gem festivals in Chicago to fill your entire experiential treasure chest. Here are three offbeat fests coming up in the Windy City, as well as convenient travel tips for out-of-towners!

Manifest Urban Arts Festival

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Photo: Picssr

Every year, Manifest Urban Arts Festival showcases the artistic innovation and creative work of Columbia College Chicago’s talented student body. On May 13, art lovers, students, Chicagoans and the Columbia community will gather in the the heart of the city’s culturally rich South Loop neighborhood to enjoy student-curated fashion shows, literary readings, film screenings, musical recitals, live performances, gallery exhibitions and more. And what would a great festival be without great music? Throughout the day, various student bands and DJs will rock out on Manifest’s three outdoor stages, with a national headliner closing out the night. Oh, and it’s free – can’t be mad at that!

Chicago Craft Beer Week

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Photo: Chicago Craft Beer Week

If you’re in the city in late May and you’re not participating in Chicago Craft Beer Week, then it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. But actually – this one’s a no-brainer. From May 19-29, 400 of the city’s greatest beer venues will host a slew of events celebrating Chicago’s craft beer culture and the people who define it. This spirited brew-haha offers special discounts on rare beers from local breweries and restaurants throughout the city. Cheers to that! Here are two CCBW events not to miss:

Beggin for Brews & Barkin’ for Bubbles at the Lagunitas Chicago Brewery. Why? Because you need a beer, and your dog needs a bath. Not to mention it supports a great cause!

Revolution Brewing Shoreline Sightseeing Beer Cruise. Hosted by Revolution Brewing and Shoreline Sightseeing, this 90-minute cruise takes you down the picture-perfect Chicago River. Enjoy Rev Brewing’s most popular beers, delicious appetizers and a live DJ.

Check out their full schedule for info on all their awesome events.

Do Division Street Fest & Sidewalk Sale

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Photo: Do Division Street Fest

While there is no shortage of street fests in Chicago, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine a more ideal setting for this type of event than on the road dividing two of the city’s hippest, trendiest neighborhoods. With Wicker Park to the north and Ukranian Village to the south, Division Street’s tree-lined sidewalks, eclectic boutiques and European vibes make it the perfect spot for this cheerful gathering. Over the first weekend in June, attendees can enjoy all-day live music, local food vendors, alcoholic beverages and kid’s activities alongside a massive sidewalk sale put on by the Division Street merchants.

Travel Tips:

Coming in from out of town? Easy-peazy. Chicago happens to be one of the most accessible cities in the United States, with hundreds of bus and train lines dropping you at various stations around downtown. Find your cheapest options and most convenient routes through Wanderu.



maddie-richAbout Maddie Rish. 
Maddie is the writer and marketing associate for Everfest, the World’s Festival Authority and largest festival community. Her passions in life can be defined by the Four F’s: food, festivals, family and friends. She loves traveling the world and drinking red wine, especially when the two are happening simultaneously.

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About the author
Austin Bay

Austin Bay

As a Northern California native, Austin's favorite trips begin and end in the mountains. He's always on an adventure to find new running trails and stay somewhere long enough to get to know people.
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