a young person with long hair sitting in a brick architectural window-like opening feature at the Chicago Botanic Garden; the subject is staring down at a DSLR camera with their face obscured by hair
This summer you can take a class at the library to learn how to use your DSLR camera and then stare at that instead of your cell phone. Credit: Ben Hershey/Unsplash

Ah, summer vacation: the time of year when Chicago’s youth are free from the confines of school—but aren’t allowed to be in Millennium Park after six at night on weekends (or anywhere in public after 10 PM) without an adult present. What’s a teen to do during the lazy hazy days of summer? 


Do You Know Where Your Children Are? (aka the new curfew policy)

As of May, anyone under 18 must be with a “responsible adult” over age 21 to visit Millennium Park after 6 PM Thursdays through Sundays. An adult who is at least 21 years old can accompany no more than four people under 18, according to the policy—although there are exceptions for ticketed events (such as concerts or sporting events). Park visitors should be ready to present government-issued identification cards upon request. The complete rules are readable at the City’s website

The city also recently changed its general curfew policy, making the curfew for children aged 12–17 one hour earlier: 10 PM daily. The curfew for minors under 12 stays the same: 8:30 PM Sunday through Thursday and 9 PM Friday through Saturday.

Free Time

Here are some ways to cure those summertime blues.


The Chicago Park District has opened some public pools (but not all) this summer, so check the Park District’s website for open hours before you head out. Clean swimwear is required and street clothes and street shoes are not allowed on the pool deck.


Chicago’s lakefront beaches are officially open through Labor Day (Mon 9/5). Lifeguards are on duty from 11 AM to 7 PM daily. Check to make sure the beach is open before you go; the Park District’s updates their website daily with swimming conditions. Some favorites:

Oak Street Beach

1000 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive

Known for: the view of the skyline

Rainbow Beach

2873 E. 75th 

Known for: its dunes and community gardens 

Kathy Osterman Beach (aka Ardmore Beach or Hollywood Beach)

5800 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive

Known for: being LGBTQ+ friendly

Skate Parks

Chicago Park District skate parks offer options for both new and advanced skateboarders. Here are a few.

Burnham 31st Street Skate Park

Just south of 31st at DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Daily 6 AM–11 PM

Grant Skate Park

Southwest corner of Grant Park, near Ninth and Columbus
Daily 6 AM–9 PM

Wilson Skate Park

Wilson and DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Daily 6 AM–11 PM


Here are some scenic options, whether you just want to take a quick ride or are in the mood for an all-day trek. 

Bloomingdale Trail (aka the 606)

1600 to 3700 W. Bloomingdale
Daily, 6 AM-11 PM

This 2.7-mile elevated trail runs along Bloomingdale from Ashland to Ridgeway. The 606 is open to both cyclists and walkers, so take a ride early in the morning if you want to avoid foot traffic. 

Lakefront Trail

Runs from 71st on the south to Ardmore on the north

The South Shore portion is usually less crowded. Check out the Park District’s website for a full access map and safety guidelines.

Major Taylor Trail

Starts at Dan Ryan Woods near 81st and goes south through West Pullman, Beverly, and Morgan Park, ending near 134th and Halsted in the Whistler Woods Forest Preserve, just across the Little Calumet River 

Note: the portion between 95th and 105th are on the street (and not a separate off-street path).

The Garden Dirt Jumps

3400 N. Rockwell, in (Richard) Clark Park
Open daily, 6 AM–11 PM 

If you’ve got a BMX or mountain bike, this set of dirt jumps offers terrain for all ages and skill levels. Pro tip: You can get to the dirt jumps from the south or north by using the bike trail along the western edge of Clark Park, on the east side of the Chicago River. 

Outdoor Spots

Chicago Riverwalk

Along the Chicago River and Wacker, between Lake and DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Daily, 6 AM–11 PM

The riverwalk offers great people watching as well as art installations and live music. You can see Art on theMART from Wacker Drive between Wells and Franklin streets each night at 7:30 and 8 PM. It’s the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, and the screening content changes every three months or so.

Chess Tables

The Park District maintains free chess boards in the form of outdoor tables in five district locations from the north side to Pilsen; check their website for details. 

Lincoln Park Zoo

2400 N. Cannon
Mon-Fri 8 AM–5 PM; weekends 8 AM–7 PM

Check out the new lion cub, born March 15. His name is Pilipili, which means “pepper” in Swahili. 

Millennium Park

201 E. Randolph
Most park spaces open daily, 6 AM-11 PM

Even though the city has imposed a curfew at Millennium Park, there’s plenty to do before nightfall. You can splash in the Crown Fountain or visit the Lurie Garden, the Boeing Galleries, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and of course Cloud Gate (aka The Bean). The park also offers summer workouts and concerts. Pro tip: Millennium Park added security checkpoints and metal detectors in May.

Street Fairs & Music Festivals

Sure, there’s Lolla. But did you know there are also multiple street festivals every weekend, all across the city—and they’re free? (They might ask you for an entrance fee, but it’s a suggested donation. If you can’t spare a buck or two, you can still walk in.) Editor’s note: check out Reader senior writer Leor Galil’s article “The ‘new normal’ hangs over another summer of live music” for more insight and music festival listings.

Sundays on State

State from Lake south to Monroe
Sun 7/24, Sun 8/7, Sun 8/21, and Sun 9/4, 11 AM-6 PM

Last summer the city banned vehicle traffic on State Street on select Sundays to encourage people to come downtown on the weekend. This year Sundays on State returns, promising more art, music, and entertainment. 

Chinatown Summer Fair

Wentworth from Cermak to 24th Pl.
Sat 7/30, noon-10 PM; Sun 7/31, 10 AM-7 PM

The fair opens with a lion dance procession and kung fu demonstrations. It also features a K-pop dance competition, a breakdance battle, and a headlining performance by hip-hop artist Kween Widda K.

Northalsted Market Days

Halsted from Belmont to Addison
Sat 8/6-Sun 8/7, 11 AM-10 PM

This year marks the 40th annual Market Days festival, where you can find DJs, dancing, live music, arts, and crafts in what organizers call “America’s first gay village.” 

LatiNxt Music Festival

Navy Pier’s Lake Stage, Beer Garden, and Wave Wall; 600 E. Grand
Sat 8/6, 2-11:30 PM; Sun 8/7, 2-8 PM

Navy Pier’s fourth annual music festival showcases music from the Latin American diaspora as well as the emerging Chicago Latine music scene.

Sandbox Symphony

Oakwood Beach (41st St. and S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive)
Sat 8/13, 2-10 PM

An interactive festival including live music, art exhibitions, yoga, meditation, movement, and dance

Chalk Howard Street

East of the Howard Red Line station, between Paulina and Ashland
Sat 8/27, 11 AM-8 PM

This festival is dedicated to all things chalk: 2D and 3D chalk artists, interactive art, and colorful street art. 

Fiesta Boricua

Division and California
Sat-Sun 9/3-9/4

This annual Puerto Rican festival offers performances, artisan and food vendors, and a carnival, and showcases a different municipality of Puerto Rico each year. 

Bulls Fest

In the parking lots around the United Center (1901 W. Madison), and along Madison between Wood and Damen
Sat-Sun 9/3-9/4 

This two-day event will include free music and activities, as well as a basketball tournament for ages eight and up that requires participants to pay and preregister. 

Chicago Traditions

Bud Billiken Parade and Family Festival

The parade route generally kicks off in Bronzeville, travels along King Drive and ends in Washington Park (51st and King Drive). This year’s route and festival location will be announced on the festival website.
Sat 8/13

The post-parade festival includes Zumba, free school supplies, and health and hiring fairs.

Chicago Air and Water Show

North Avenue Beach and along the lakefront (visible from Fullerton to Oak Street beaches)
Sat 8/20-Sun 8/21, 10 AM–2 PM

Chicago Jazz Festival 

Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph) and venues citywide
Thu 9/1-Sun 9/4

This Chicago music festival has taken place for more than 40 years, with the first unofficial gathering in 1974, just a few weeks after composer and bandleader Duke Ellington died. 


If you’re looking to get out of the heat, lots of museums offer free or discounted admission to Chicagoans—especially those under 18. 

Adler Planetarium

1300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Wednesday nights (4-10 PM) are free for Illinois residents with proof of residency.

Art Institute of Chicago

111 S. Michigan
Free for Chicago residents under age 18 every day 

Chicago History Museum

1601 N. Clark
Free for any Illinois resident under age 18 

The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center

740 E. 56th Pl.
Free admission on Wednesdays 

Field Museum

1400 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive
Free for Illinois residents August 23, 24, 30, 31 and September 6, 7; discounts available daily for students with valid ID

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 E. Chicago
Free every Tuesday for all Illinois residents; free every day for those under age 18

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W. 19th St.
Free admission daily 

National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

3015 W. Division
Free admission year round

Chicago Cultural Center

78 E. Washington
Daily, 10 AM-5 PM
Admission is always free 

Busy Beaver Button Museum

3407 W. Armitage 

Logan Square’s Busy Beaver Button Company turns artwork into custom buttons. The adjacent museum is always free—plus it accepts button donations. Editor’s note: the museum is currently closed to the public during the pandemic; check their website for updates.

After Dark

Night Out in the Parks

The Chicago Park District hosts music events across the city; some end before sunset.

Tue 7/12, 7–8 PM

Africa in the Caribbean

Kedvale Park, 4134 W. Hirsch

Music, dance, and stories about the influence of African culture on the island of Puerto Rico

Wed 7/13, Thu 8/11, and Thu 9/8, sunset–10 PM

The Chicago Full Moon Jams at Foster Beach

Foster Beach, 5100 N. Simonds 

Fire performers and drummers under a full moon

Thu 7/14, 7–8:30 PM

Kombilesa Mi with Azania Drum Core

Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd 

The Old Town School of Folk Music’s Chicago Future Folk Project includes performances from Afro-Colombian hip-hop artist Kombilesa Mi and Chicago-based djembe orchestra Azania Drum Core.

Fri 7/15, and Fri 8/19

6–9 PM (sign-up at 5:45 PM)

Wicker MIC

Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen 

Musicians, comedians, poets, and actors can sign up to perform at this open mic. 

Thu 8/4, 6–7:30 PM

School of Rock Chicago

Merrimac Park, 6343 W. Irving Park 

School of Rock’s performers range in age from eight to 18. 

Sat Aug. 6, 2–6 PM

We Are Hip Hop Festival

Dvorak Park, 1119 W. Cullerton

This festival showcases hip-hop culture while highlighting Chicago MCs, street artists, and breakers. 

Outdoor Movies

You can find free movies all across the city on pretty much any day of the week. Some are geared toward little kids, but you can also find some rated PG-13. Movies start at sunset, so an adult will need to accompany anyone under 18 after 10 PM. 

Movies in the Parks

Tue 7/12


Daniel Burnham Park, north of Oakwood Beach at 39th and the lake 

Fri 7/22

King Richard

Austin Town Hall Park, 5610 W. Lake 

Thu 8/18

La La Land

Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen

Gallagher Way

3635 N. Clark (just outside Wrigley Field)
Every other Wednesday, gates open at 6 PM

Gallagher Way hosts free movies every other Wednesday night, in conjunction with the Music Box Theatre. Gates open at 6 PM and guests are allowed to bring carry-out food (there are several restaurants within the Gallagher Way complex). There are beverages, candy, popcorn, and ice cream available for purchase. Movies begin at 7:30 PM. 

Wed 7/20

School of Rock

Wed 7/27

Pitch Perfect

Wed 8/3


Wed 8/17


Wed 8/31

Almost Famous

Wed 9/14


Wed 9/21

Bohemian Rhapsody

Budget-friendly ideas

Here are a few activities that are easy on the wallet.


Chicago Water Taxi

On the Chicago Riverwalk, along Wacker between Clark and LaSalle
Sat-Sun, 10:45 AM–6:45 PM
Cost: $10 for an all day pass, $6 for one ride between any two Chicago Water Taxi locations

This service takes passengers on the Chicago River between several locations, including Chinatown and Michigan Avenue. 

Chicago White Sox Family Sundays

Guaranteed Rate Field, 333 W. 35th
Sun 7/24, 7/31, 8/14, 8/28, 9/4
Cost: starting at $10/ticket 

Pro tip: on steamy days you can cool off using the outdoor shower on the Main Level, near Section 161. 

Mini Golf at Maggie Daley Park

337 W. Randolph (golf course is located at the south end of the BP Bridge)

Mon–Thu and Sun 10 AM–8 PM (last ticket sold at 7 PM); Fri–Sat 10 AM–9 PM (last ticket sold at 8 PM)
General admission: $12 

Note: If you’re under 18, you have to be accompanied by an adult 21 years old or over after 6 PM, Thu–Sun. While you’re there, check out the 60-foot hopscotch drawing. 

Frozen Desserts

Original Rainbow Cone 

9233 S. Western (see website for other locations including Navy Pier and the mobile truck)

Known for: slicing and stacking five flavors into a cup or cone

Margie’s Candies

1960 N. Western and 1813 W. Montrose

Known for: ice cream creations and other confections

Black Dog Gelato

859 N. Damen (see website for other north side locations)

Known for: “Chicago-style” gelato

The Freeze

2815 W. Armitage 

Known for: soft-serve ice cream 

La Michoacana Premium

1855 S. Blue Island 

Known for: its paletas

Jobs and Other Paid Gigs

My CHI. My Future.

The city is promoting an app and website they’ve created to help Chicagoans ages 13 to 19 find jobs, activities, and classes. You can filter by interest, type of activity, and location. Here are just a few of the paying gigs you can find via MCMF:

After School Matters 

The After School Matters program allows teens to apply for internships, apprenticeships, and classes. 

  • After School Matters summer programs run July 5–August 13 and will take place at locations across the city. Some programs include remote options. 
  • Chicago teens who are 14 or 15 can apply for programs that offer a stipend. 
  • Chicago teens who are 16 or older can choose between an advanced apprenticeship or an internship, both of which pay $15/hour.

Chicago Housing Authority

The CHA is offering paid summer work opportunities for ages 13 and up. 

Chicago Park District 

  • Lifeguards. At last glance, the Chicago Park District was still looking for lifeguards — and they’re offering a signing bonus of $600. 
  • Seasonal jobs. The park district is also hiring for other seasonal jobs, such as recreation leaders. 

Code + Create 2022 Paid Summer Programming Series

Through 8/12

Everyone Can Code Chicago is offering teens age 16 and up a six-week program in which participants can earn $15/hour. 

Yollocalli Arts Reach

Through 8/12

This youth initiative from the National Museum of Mexican Art allows teens to take a class or participate in an internship while earning a stipend. 

Free Camps and Activities

CTE Summer Camps 2022

The Chicago Public Schools are offering career and technical education (CTE) camps across the city at various high schools. You can sign up for one or multiple camps. Here are just a few:



Simeon Career Academy, 8147 S. Vincennes


Broadcast Technology

Clemente Community Academy, 1147 N. Western


Culinary Arts

Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450 W. Cermak

Chicago Public Library Activities

You can find something to do at a library almost any day of the week. Here are just a few options.

New Life Centers Summer Youth Program

The organization New Life Centers offers a free program for students from seventh grade through high school for residents of Austin, Humboldt Park, and Garfield Park.

  • Sports and recreation (rock climbing, kayaking, paintball, BMX biking)
  • Job training
  • Financial literacy classes

Free Meals

LunchStop Summer Meals Program

Through 8/12, Mon-Fri, 10 AM–noon

Chicago Public Schools provides free breakfast and lunch to any Chicago children between one and 18 years old at any school where summer programs take place. ID is not required to pick up meals. Go to the CPS website to see a full list of all LunchStop pickup sites.

Volunteer Opportunities

Here are a few organizations that are seeking young volunteers.

Cards for Hospitalized Kids

CFHK distributes cards to hospitalized children across the country, including in Illinois. Volunteers can help in a couple of ways: either helping with card sorting and distribution at its Chicago facility or making cards for hospitalized children at home.

Chicago Area Runners Association

CARA welcomes anyone age 14 or older to volunteer for its ‘Go Run events. Volunteers help with setup, check-in, registration, and on the course. 


Warren Park, 6601 N. Western


Humboldt Park, 1440 N. Humboldt 


Jackson Park, 6401 S. Stony Island 

Chicago Cares

Chicago Cares offers a range of volunteer opportunities throughout the city, both in person and virtually. Many are onetime commitments for a few hours. Here are just a few options:

  • Cook a meal with elementary-school students in East Garfield Park.
  • Learn how to repair bikes in North Lawndale. 
  • Help maintain the Kilbourn Organic Greenhouse in Avondale.

Greater Chicago Food Depository

The GCFD welcomes youth volunteers to help repack food donations for individual and family recipients. This can include assembling boxes, checking expiration dates, and labeling products. Volunteers who are 16 and older can volunteer without an adult.