15 outdoor summer festivals that celebrate the arts

Credit: Elliott Mandel

Stop the summer brain drain before it starts! Luckily, Chicagoland’s fairs and fests season offers a variety of outdoor art events that can keep your kids engaged and learning new things all summer long. Here are some of our top picks of art fests to check out this season.


RELATED: Our ultimate guide to summer fairs and festivals in Chicagoland




Make Music Chicago


When: June 21


Where: Various locations in Chicago


Music-makers of all ages, abilities and musical tastes will gather for performances and participatory music festival throughout Chicago’s public spaces, including Maggie Daley Park, Riverwalk, Lincoln Park Zoo, Gallagher Way, and more than 20 Chicago Park District sites.


Fountain Square Artisan Summerfest


When: June 22-23


Where: Sherman and Church streets (downtown), Evanston


The oldest fine arts fair on Chicago’s North Shore celebrates its 40th year. Features the eclectic works juried artists as well as eco-friendly art. The fest takes place in downtown Evanston, just steps from the eponymous Fountain Square.


The Art Center’s Festival of Fine Art


When: June 22-23


Where: Central Avenue and Sheridan Avenue, Highland Park


This revamped festival showcases original works from 125 juried artists and offers activities for children and families, as well as live entertainment and tasty festival treats.


Chicago SummerDance


When: June 27-Aug. 24


Where: Grant Park, 337 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago


Free one-hour dance lessons by professional instructors and two hours of live music and dancing are presented as a part of the largest annual outdoor dancing series in the U.S. Swing, waltz, cha-cha or simply enjoy the music.


Illinois Shakespeare Festival


When: June 27-Aug. 10


Where: Ewing Manor, 48 Sunset Road, Bloomington


As You Like It, Pride & Prejudice and Caesar are on the docket for this summer’s festival. Free performances of Who Stole Cleopatra? highlight the Theater for Young Audiences schedule.



Bristol Renaissance Faire


Logan Square Arts Festival


When: June 28-30


Where: I AM Logan Square Gallery, 2644 1/2 North Milwaukee, Chicago


The Logan Square Arts Festival features art installations across the neighborhood, great local music, craft beer, food from neighborhood restaurants and family fun.


Bristol Renaissance Faire


When: July 6-Sept. 2 (Weekends)


Where: 12550 120th Ave, Kenosha, Wis.


More than 1,200 performers, artisans and merchants will take visitors on a trip through Elizabethan England with 16th-century activities. Kids Kingdom is an enclosed play area filled with oversized sandboxes, a climb-aboard pirate ship, interactive games, crafts and other child-friendly diversions.

Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival


When: July 5-7


Where: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe


Guests can stroll the Esplanade and shop for beautiful botanic-themed art and art made from plant materials. More than 90 juried artists will display their work including photography, paintings, ceramics, cement, metal, fiber, wood, jewelry and much more. Artist talks and family activities will be featured.


Arts at the Lake


When: July 20-21


Where: Paulus Park, 200 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich


Festival featuring original, hand-made art by 70 artists from across the U.S. Also, live music and hands-on art activities for the kids.


Geneva Arts Fair


When: July 27-28


Where: Third Street, Geneva


Featuring more than 150 artisans and a kids’ art area with special activities.



Photo Courtesy of Choose Chicago


Soulful Chicago Book Fair


When: Aug. 3


Where: 61st Street, between Cottage and King, Chicago


A celebration of literacy and literary arts found throughout the African Diaspora, complete with more than 100 authors, music, unique networking opportunities and genuine community building.


Art at the Glen


When: Aug. 3-4


Where: The Glen Town Center, Between Lake and Willow Roads, Glenview


Families can stroll past the work of 185 artists, enjoy food from local restaurants, listen to music and enjoy kids’ activities, including an art scavenger hunt.


Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest


When: Aug. 16-18


Where: 6900-7000 N. Glenwood Ave. (Morse and Glenwood), Chicago


Includes a street art fair, indoor art displays, and live entertainment on three outdoor stages featuring 48 acts. KidFest Area features free hands-on arts activities.


Chicago Jazz Festival


When: Aug. 23-Sept. 1


Where: Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago


The tradition showcases Chicago’s vast jazz talent along national and international artists to entertain, encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages with live musical performances in the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park.


Alley Art Festival


When: Aug. 31


Where: Water Street Mall, 24 E. Downer Place, Aurora


Local artists converge on Water Street Mall in downtown Aurora and engage passerby with their art, craft, talent and more. More than 60 artists display their wares, food is available for purchase, and events include free yoga, a creative children’s booth and live music.


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