Chicago is an excellent destination for a 4th of July trip. In the same weekend you can visit museums and some of the country’s tallest buildings, lounge by the beach, listen to live music in the park or attend one of the world’s largest outdoor food festivals.
There’s enough to keep you buy for three to four days, and many of the city’s best attractions are open on Independence Day so you won’t miss out by visiting on a holiday weekend. If you’re planning a July 4th weekend trip to Chicago, here’s what you need to know.
Chicago is a major hub, making it cheaper and easier to get to from other major cities than its Midwest neighbors. You can get direct flights from cities like New York, LA, Miami, Denver, Houston, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Seattle, and more. And if you’re coming from a closer location in the Midwest, Chicago is often a short – and cheap – Amtrak or Megabus ride away. Most people will be flying or driving in Friday and leaving Monday; if you want to avoid some of the traffic consider arriving Thursday or Saturday and leaving Sunday or Tuesday.
Read more on flights to Chicago
What to pack:
The weather in Chicago in in July is generally hot….but then again this is Chicago so you really never know. It could be 90 degrees and sunny, or it might be rainy and as cold as 65-70 degrees. Check the weather forecast the day before you leave, pack plenty of layers and bring an umbrella as summer storms are common.
Where to stay:
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Most tourists stay at a hotels on or near the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue between the River and Oak Street), in the Loop, or near Grant Park. These areas are the most convenient to downtown attractions and public transport. Staying near the airport is not advised unless you have a car (and won’t be spending much time with it in the city; parking is hard to find and expensive) or if you have meetings close by or a very early morning flight.
>> Read more on where to stay in Chicago
Where to eat:
Chicago is a well-fed city. From deep dish pizza and Chicago style hot dogs to more upscale and inventive cuisine served by the country’s best chefs, Chicago has it all.
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What to see and do:
Navy Pier hosts fireworks throughout the summer, including on July 2 and 10:15 and on July 4 at 9pm. The Taste of Chicago also takes places over the weekend of the 4th ending at 6pm on July 3. Visitors can buy tickets to sip and sample foods from all over Chicago while listening to live bands.
One of the biggest draws of a visit in July is how much time you can spend outside soaking up the beauty of the city. Cruise down the Chicago River, ride a bike or run down the Lakefront path, hit the beach, dance at a street festival or shop along the Magnificent Mile. If it gets too hot (or too wet), head inside to visit one of the city’s great museums or to settle in with a drink at the top of the Hancock Building until the weather clears. Some places do close on July 4 so double check the schedule before you firm up plans.
Getting out of the city:
If your trip to Chicago is part of a great tour of the Midwest, you can easily add on a few side trips from Chicago. Cities like Madison, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Detroit and St. Louis are two to five hours away by car, train or bus (or a short flight) or you can explore more of the Lake Michigan seashore in Indiana and Michigan.
Photo by: Paul Morgan