Grab hold of summer with both hands

August is a great time to pretend that summer will last forever. (Some say “denial”; we prefer “optimism.”) Take this month to bask in free, fresh air-happy, artistic festivals that’ll provide warm ‘n’ toasty memories all winter long. (Whatever the heck that is.)

The 21st Annual Chicago SummerDance 

You’re never too young (or old) to two-step. Chicago’s SummerDance invites dancers of all abilities, musical preferences and heights to Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden (601 S. Michigan Ave.) to tread the 4,900-square-foot boards with their fellow Chicagoans. One hundred percent free, the one-hour lessons are followed up with live music dance parties. A smattering of August’s downtown offerings are Steppin’, Swing, Cajun and Bollywood, and SummerDance in the Parks treats eight neighborhood parks to similar experiences. On Aug. 26, the SummerDance Celebration will be a full day of dance lessons, DJ dance parties and—for the folks who prefer to step back and cheer along—a dance-off finale featuring the best of the previous weeks’ students. 

Bucktown Arts Fest 

Like you needed another reason to adore artistically leaning street festivals! That said, it doesn’t hurt that the Bucktown Arts Fest is a nonprofit volunteer-run event with proceeds going directly toward arts education. OK, a few more perks: it’s completely free (with no gate donation request), with abundant, family-friendly entertainment that includes kids’ musicians, dance and theatrical performances, and many local bands, plus the festival showcases individual artists—not mass producers—allowing the focus to remain on independent artisans. This is a really easy way to support the arts, find that new great piece for your home, and, did we mention there’s a sangria booth?

Aug. 26-27, 2200 N. Oakley Ave., Chicago

Shakespeare in the Parks

We’re pretty sure this is the way theater was intended to be viewed; out in the open, with the Chicago skyline as a dramatic backdrop. Now in its sixth year, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks continues to offer its wildly popular—and utterly free—performances to 18 parks across the city, brought to us through a partnership with Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Chicago Park District. This year’s production is Romeo & Juliet and, if you’re unsure whether your kids are ready for the star-crossed Montague and Capulet kids and all of that familial in-fighting, this abridged (75 minutes!) show, with its open-air setting and exceptionally cool theater truck-turned-stage, is a pretty neat way to test the waters. They’ll bring the Bard; you’ll BYOB(lanket).

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