Summer might be the ideal time for a little international travel but—let’s be real—how many of us can really afford to circumnavigate the world before school’s back in session? Fortunately, Chicago’s epic festival scene is here for us (and our wallets). In this month alone, you and your crew can jet from Central America to Europe to Asia—and still make it back in time to catch the July 4 fireworks.
Begin with our friendly neighbor to the South, Mexico. Flavors of Mexico is your chance to nosh on authentic treats just like your abuela would make. Check out the goodies on Restaurant Row, cooking demos throughout the weekend, plus music and cultural stages fit for the whole family. Free. 5-10 p.m. June 3; noon-10:30 p.m. June 4-5. 3000 W. 26th St., Chicago. (773) 868-3010.
Start practicing your “opas!” and head to Lincoln Park Greek Fest, a celebration of all things big, fat and Greek. Chow down on some Greek goodness (spanakopita, get in my belly), then check out the music and dance performances, as well as some Hellenic-flavored kids’ activities. $5 donation. 5-11 p.m. June 3; noon-11 p.m. June 4; 4 p.m. -10 p.m. June 5. 2701 N. Sheffield, Chicago. (773) 868-3010.
Get a taste of island living at Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, aka the Puerto Rican Festival. Kids will go wild for the carnival rides, while the adults enjoy Caribbean cuisine (and piña coladas galore) plus music that will get your feet tapping. Free; carnival rides cost extra. 3-10:30 p.m. June 16-17; noon-10:30 p.m. June 18-19. Division and California, Chicago. (773) 868-3010.
June is a good month to get your Scandinavian on, thanks to two events that are more Swedish than Ikea. Head to Chicago’s Swedish hub for Andersonville Midsommarfest, complete with Swedish entertainment, music and dancing around the Midsommar Maypole, not to mention face painting, games and a pet parade. $10; free kids under 12. 5-10 p.m. June 10; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. June 11-12. 5200 N. Clark, Chicago. (773) 728-2995. Or drive west to celebrate Geneva’s heritage at Swedish Days, where you can find food, special kids-only activities and Sweden Väst, a tent that’s all Swede, all the time. Free; fee for some activities and carnival. June 21-26. South Third Street and West State Street, Geneva. (630) 232-6060.
Since you don’t have to deal with jetlag, make a quick stop in Europe for the Highland Games& Scottish Festival, also known as kilt central. Unique cultural activities include the Highland Dance Competition, Haggis Eating Contest and “Heavy Athletics,” like the caber-toss, stone put and Scottish hammer throw. And yes, “laddies” can show off their stems in the Knobbly Knees Kilt Contest. $12, free kids Friday; $20, $5 kids 3-12. Parking $5. 4-10 p.m. June 17; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. June 18. Hamilton Lakes, Highway 290 and Thorndale, Itasca.
Wrap up your world tour in the Far East. The Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, which sets sail from Chinatown, is a nod to the traditional sport beloved in China. Chicago’s version of the 2,000-year-old endeavor includes on-land activities like music and dance—plus a few surprise special guests. Best of all, it’s free, which is better than any airline could do! 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 25. Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W. 19th St., Chicago. (312) 326-5320.