We have said on here repeatedly how outdoor concerts in Chicago make this city’s summer concert season one of the best in the world. But a lot of people don’t understand just how many venues there are out there around the city that celebrate our 3-month-window of beautiful weather that makes the other 9 months of snow worth it. So here’s a rundown of the outdoor music around town this summer:
1. Ravinia Festival
A favorite for the North Shore ‘burbs, Ravinia is a heavily guarded secret amongst Chicagoans. Host to many an orchestral concert, the neighborhood park is also known for letting it loose on the weekends and hosting some massive acts. The park is easily accessible by Metra trains which drop you off right at the entrance gate. Pavilion tickets offer great views, but the experience is just as nice if you score lawn seats for $15-$25. Best part of all – the whole lawn area is B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Party). So pack a blanket, a picnic, and a cooler stocked with refreshments and you’ve got yourself a nice little evening.
This Summer: Sheryl Crow (6/13), Cheap Trick (7/10), B-52s (7/21), Counting Crows (8/21)
2. Charter One Pavilion
When Daley’s bulldozers took their midnight run down Meigs Field in 2003, very few would have expected expected what came next. Chicago’s newest outdoor venue on Northerly Island overlooks the Chicago skyline and offers the greatest outdoor concert experience in the city. From the cool breezes off Lake Michigan to the skyline lit up at night behind the stage, it is truly an awesome place to see a show in the summertime. Plus, if you attend a Wednesday or Saturday show, the fireworks from Navy Pier blow up right around the time the band goes into their encore.
Shows This Summer: Styx & Foreigner (6/5), Rush (7/5 & 7/7), Chicago & Doobie Brothers (7/16 & 7/17), REO Speedwagon & Pat Benatar (7/18)
3. Soldier Field
When the Monsters of the Midway are busy training in the off-season, the lakefront stadium houses more than a few big name shows. The open size allows for some pretty incredible stage setups like U2’s 360 Tour and has enough seating to really pack the house. For an outdoor venue, the acoustics are pretty good and the weather in July is 80x nicer than the bitter cold we’re used to for those December Bears games.
Shows This Summer: The Eagles (6/19), U2 (7/6), Bon Jovi (7/30 & 7/31)
4. First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
By far the biggest of the outdoor concert-only venues in the Chicago-area, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre offers great sound quality, ticket prices, and plenty of parking. They manage to land some of the biggest acts each summer and with few residential neighbors close by, they can let it rock as loud as they want.
Shows This Summer: Lynyrd Skynyrd & Bret Michaels (6/25), Santana (7/9), Kings of Leon (7/24)
5. Toyota Park
The Chicago Fire home stadium doubles as an outdoor amphitheater with a full sound and solid stage. The arena is smaller than the other MASSIVE venues around town, so there is no “nosebleed” section to worry about. They don’t bother with a “lawn section” either, so you can rest assured when you buy tickets they also come with a view.
Shows This Summer: Eric Clapton Crossroads Festival (6/26), Jimmy Buffet (8/14)
6. Alpine Valley Music Theater
Thousands of Chicagoans take advantage of our Northern neighbor every summer. With it’s multiple lakes, forests, and solid supply of cheese, Wisconsin is a great weekend getaway from the bustle of the city. And Alpine Valley is the Southern Wisconsin epicenter for outdoor rocking. Nestled in the farming town just across the border, the steep lawn seating allows great views for cheap seats. And the terraced beer gardens are a great place to sneak into to enjoy some serious outdoor tunes.The pre-concert tailgates are also something of epic proportions… especially when the Parrotheads are in town.
Shows This Summer: Jimmy Buffet (6/26), Dave Matthews Band (7/3 & 7/4)
7. Taste of Chicago
If you like your outdoor music with a side of greasy street food, then Taste of Chicago is your dream come true. The week-long festival downtown is one of the biggest in the world and the live music is something not to be missed. With free admission to acts at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park, the price is right. Just plan on arriving early if you want a good spot.
Shows This Summer: Gavin Rossdale (6/26), Rob Thomas (7/2), Steve Miller Band (7/3), Passion Pit, Robert Randolp & Family Band (7/4)