2018 Festival & Event Dates

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(event highlights only, subject to change)


Chicago Cultural Center Music, Theater & Dance, Exhibitions and More



Discover the free visual art and performance programs presented at the Cultural Center by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and its partners.

Maxwell Street Market

Sundays, Year Round, 7am–3pm
800 S. Desplaines St.


A Chicago tradition of bargains and bargaining with an international flavor, the Maxwell Street Market offers an eclectic mix of merchandise – from tools to tires, plus fresh produce, furniture, clothing, rare find and collectibles – plus some of the best Mexican and Latin street food in the city.

Under the Picasso

Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.


The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events presents FREE cultural programs year round weekdays at Noon at the Daley Civic Center. 


1st & 3rd Fridays (Chicago Cultural Center)
1st & 3rd Saturdays (Garfield Park Conservatory)
11am Winter, Spring & Fall


With engaging music and dance performances in a kid-friendly setting, the free Juicebox programs are geared for toddlers, but enjoyable for the whole family.

Year of Creative Youth

January-December 2018


Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have designated 2018 as the “Year of Creative Youth.” The $2 million investment by the City of Chicago will include a Creative Youth Festival across the Millennium Park Campus, performance opportunities for teens at city festivals and partner events, cultural grants and convenings for youth arts organizations and a marketing campaign among other events.

Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush

February 10-May 6, 2018
Chicago Cultural Center, Exhibit Hall


Born and raised in the Chicago area, Nina Chanel Abney emerged as a major force in contemporary art in the early 2000s. Inspired by twentieth century masters such as Matisse, Stuart Davis and Romare Bearden, Abney takes on recent issues of racial politics with startling directness. Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush is organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural

March 3-September 23, 2018
Chicago Cultural Center, Sidney R. Yates Gallery


Having rocketed to worldwide fame in the 1980s, graffiti artist Keith Haring worked with 500 Chicago Public School students to paint murals in Chicago's Grant Park in 1989. This is the first exhibition of many of these works by the artist known for his incisive draftmanship and unsettling cast of symbolic characters (atomic baby, barking dog). Haring died tragically of HIV-AIDS in 1990.

20th Annual Chicago Kids and Kites Festival

May 5, 2018
Cricket Hill in Lincoln Park


Up, up and away. Kids of all ages will get swept up by this timeless spring tradition. Free kite kits are provided for children to build, decorate and fly (while supplies last) along with other family activities such as professional kite flying demonstrations, face painting, balloon artists and the Big Kite Candy Drop (weather permitting).

Chicago City Markets

May-October 2018
Daley Plaza Farmers Market opens May 10, 2018
Daley Plaza and citywide locations


Across Chicago at locations downtown and throughout the city’s neighborhoods, the markets managed by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) sell fresh fruits, vegetables plants and flowers. Some neighborhood markets also feature music programming, prepared foods and local artisan (non-food) vendors.

Chicago's Memorial Day Parade

May 26, 2018
State St. from Lake St. to Van Buren St.


The City of Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade honors all men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.

3rd Annual Chicago House Music Festival

May 26, 2018
Millennium Park

Throughout the day, DJs and live performances will showcase the various sounds and styles of house music, the musical form born in Chicago that has gone on to revolutionize dance music internationally. 

Chicago Riverwalk Summer Programming

Late May-October, 2018
Chicago Riverwalk, Lake Shore Dr. to Lake St.

From daytime fishing to evening fireworks, the Chicago Riverwalk offers a full slate of free summer fun along the 1.25-mile active waterfront environment and cultural destination in the heart of the city. The Chicago Riverwalk is presented by the City of Chicago with programming produced by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management, Choose Chicago, the Chicago Park District and the vendors and boat tour operators along the Chicago Riverwalk.

33rd Chicago Gospel Music Festival

June 1-2, 2018
Millennium Park and Chicago Cultural Center


Celebrating the great influence of the music genre born in this city 80 years ago, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival features local and national artists from traditional choirs to contemporary urban styles at the largest free, outdoor gospel music festival of its kind.

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle

June 2-October 1, 2018
Chicago Cultural Center, Exhibit Hall


This multi-faceted project explores the past, present and future of North America’s Great Lakes – one of the world’s most emblematic and ecologically significant ecosytems. Painted in Rockman’s signature, meticulous but visionary hyper-realist style, the works in the exhibition are anchored by five mural-sized (72” x 144”) oil paintings, each exploring a theme that emerged during Rockman’s field research and engagement with lake experts. Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle is organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Millennium Park Summer Workouts

June-August, 2018
Millennium Park, Great Lawn


Jump start your weekend with tai chi, yoga, pilates and Zumba® classes on Millennium Park’s Great Lawn. Grant support provided by the McDonald’s Active Lifestyles Endowment, managed by the Millennium Park Foundation.

35th Annual Chicago Blues Festival

June 8-10, 2018
Millennium Park


With a diverse lineup celebrating the Chicago Blues’ past, present and future, the Chicago Blues Festival features the live music performances of over 100 national, international and local artists celebrating the city’s rich Blues tradition while shining a spotlight on the genre’s contributions to soul, R&B, gospel, rock hip-hop, rap and more.

Millennium Park Summer Music Series

Select Mondays & Thursdays
June–August, 2018
Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion


Grab a seat in the pavilion or bring a picnic for the Great Lawn and enjoy the free music taking place all summer long at Chicago’s architectural gem, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

June–August, 2018
Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion


Grab a seat in the pavilion or bring a picnic for the Great Lawn and enjoy the free outdoor movies at Chicago’s architectural gem, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

22nd Annual Chicago SummerDance

June 28–August 25, 2018
Grant Park, Spirit of the Music Garden and other Chicago Park district locations


Swing, waltz, cha-cha...or simply enjoy the music at the largest outdoor social dancing series in the United States. Dancers of all ages and skill levels are invited to take part in introductory, one-hour dance lessons by professional instructors followed by live music and dancing in Grant Park and other Chicago Park District locations. The series culminates at the SummerDance Celebration highlighting the city’s diverse dance community in Millennium Park on Saturday, August 25, 2018.

38th Annual Taste of Chicago

July 11-15, 2018
Grant Park


A cultural experience for all your senses, Taste of Chicago is the nation’s premier free outdoor food festival showcasing the diversity of Chicago’s dining scene, alongside a smorgasbord of cooking demonstrations, music concerts, dance performances, art activations, family activities and more.

60th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show presented by Shell Oil Products US

August 18-19, 2018
North Avenue Beach


Featuring military and civilian flight aerobatics, historic aircraft, simulated water rescues and parachute teams, the Chicago Air and Water Show is one of the largest and longest-running free admission events of its kind.

40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival

August 30-September 2, 2018
Millennium Park and Chicago Cultural Center


A favorite Labor Day weekend tradition, the world class Chicago Jazz Festival showcases four stages of live performances by Chicago’s vast jazz talent alongside national and international jazz legends and artists. The festival is produced by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and programmed by the Jazz Institute of Chicago.

20th Annual World Music Festival Chicago

September 7-23, 2018
Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center and other citywide locations


Enjoy global grooves by award-winning artists from around the world at the city-wide, multi-venue World Music Festival Chicago featuring 50 artists and ensembles representing over 20 countries and regions of the world.

Creative Youth Festival

September 22, 2018
Millennium Park


As part of the “Year of Creative Youth,” Chicago's first Creative Youth Festival will showcase youth artists in dance, theatre, music, spoken word, the visual arts and more. Through performances and activities, all ages will discover and celebrate the creativity and talent of emerging local artists - and those helping to inspire and unlock every child's creative potential.

African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race

October 27, 2018 - March 3, 2019
Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Rooms


Featuring work from a wide range of practices including cartooning, sign painting, architectural signage, illustration, graphic design, exhibit design and product design, this exhibition is the first to demonstrate how African American designers remade the image of the black consumer and the work of the black artist in this major hub of American advertising/consumer culture. African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce and the Politics of Race is funded in part by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, as part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy.

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

Mid-November 2018 - Mid-March 2019
Millennium Park


Swish, twirl and glide at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, a Chicago winter tradition for over a decade that draws over 100,000 skaters annually. Skating is free, with skate rentals available for a fee. Free skating lessons are offered throughout the season. Grant support provided by the McDonald’s Active Lifestyles Endowment, managed by the Millennium Park Foundation.

105th Christmas Tree and Holiday Celebrations

November-December 2018
Millennium Park


Celebrate the holiday season at the official Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting, sing holiday favorites at Caroling at Cloud Gate on Friday evenings and glide across the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.

Caroling at Cloud Gate

Fridays, November 23–December 14, 2018
Millennium Park, Cloud Gate aka "The Bean"


Bundle up and belt out some holiday classics as local choral groups lead hundreds of celebrants in song at these festive part concerts, part sing-alongs.

Dance-Along Nutcracker®

December 2, 2018
Chicago Cultural Center


Sugar plum fairies and mouse kings of all ages and abilities are invited to point their toes to the familiar music of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic. The Dance-Along Nutcracker, created in 1985, is the property of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the world’s first openly gay musical organization.


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