Summer unofficially begins with Memorial Day.
Start the season off right with a festival all about New Orleans’ French Quarter. After that, the summer fun kicks into high gear with concerts, museum exhibits, shows and, of course, more food and drink festivals you won’t want to miss.
May 26: French Quarter Fest
City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago
Spend an afternoon in New Orleans without buying a plane ticket. Dine on gumbo and oyster po’ boy sliders while the New Orleans Suspects, Sanctified Grumblers and more perform.
May 27: Tuesdays in the Woods: Let’s Play in Nature!
Crow Island Woods, 1140 Willow Road, Winnetka
Take your preschooler or kindergartner to the park for lunch with other parents and kids.
Begins May 28: Pivot Arts Festival “Art Meets Science”
Various locations, Chicago
Theater meets science in this multi-disciplinary festival that will include Wilmette native and Evanston resident Christina Gonzalez-Gillett’s “Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead,” a look at the climate change debate.
May 29: Catfight
MB Financial Park, 5501 Park Place, Rosemont
Rockin’ in the Park, a free summer concert series, kicks off with this local all-girl cover band. Concerts take place Thursdays through August 28.
May 30 to June 1: Millennium Art Festival
Millennium Park, Lake Street at Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Explore the work of more than 110 juried artists showing paintings, photography, furniture and more.
May 31 to June 1: Backyard Food Fest
Chalet Nursery, 3132 Lake Ave., Wilmette
Start your own edible garden with 20 percent off vegetable and herb plants. Kids can also pot their own strawberry plants.
June 2: An Evening with Richard Peck
Evanston Public Library—Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston
Meet the Newbery Medal-winning author of “A Long Way from Chicago” and “A Year Down Yonder.”
Begins June 3: Rush Hour Summer Concert Series
St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St., Chicago
Now this is an enjoyable rush hour! This series has a concert every Tuesday night through August 26, and it starts with “Igor Stravinsky: L’Histoire du soldat” by Fulcrum Point New Music Project.
June 4: H’Art & Soul
Ignite Chicago, 401 N. Armour St., Chicago
Support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago as local artists perform live. Featured guests include Second City and SNL member Tim Meadows, aerial artist Helena Reynolds, graffiti artist Miguel del Real and more.
June 5-8: 3rd Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
You most likely won’t be able to see all 400 comedians at this hilarious festival, but you have four days to try.
June 7-8, 14-15: Viva la Fiesta
Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield
Enjoy the food, drink, music and dance of South and Central America while, of course, seeing native animals.
June 9: Summer Astronomy
Heller Nature Center, 2821 Ridge Road, Highland Park
Take a closer look at Jupiter, Saturn and the moon.
Begins June 10: Grant Park Music Festival
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago
Pack a picnic basket, open your favorite bottle of wine and head out to Millennium Park for a summer evening of music, food and friends. Concerts take place through August 15, and the series begins with “Tchaikovsky Extravaganza.”
June 11: “Days Like Today”
Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe
Don’t miss this brand new musical about finding—and keeping—love, even when it feels impossible. This show runs through July 13.
June 12: Fleurotica 2014
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago
The amazing designs in this fashion show are all created using flower and plant materials. Proceeds will benefit Garfield Park Conservatory, a 2013 Make It Better Philanthropy Award winner.
June 13-15: Chicago Blues Festival
Grant Park, 337 E. Randolph St., Chicago
An annual summer favorite, this year’s lineup includes Carolina Chocolate Drops, Otis Taylor Band, Bettye LaVette, Dr. John and more.
June 16: Melissa Etheridge
Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Two-time Grammy Award-winner Melissa Etheridge will join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A preconcert dinner package is available, so make the most of your night out.
June 17: Music on the Esplanade: Rio Bamba
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
Hit the dance floor with this mix of bossa nova, samba, and American and Latin jazz. Chicago Botanic’s Music on the Esplanade series takes place every Tuesday through August 26.
June 18: The Second City’s “Go, Improv, Go!”
UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave., 3rd Floor, Chicago
Beat the heat with this improvised kids show that will have everyone (yes, even adults) laughing. The show runs through July 31.
Opens June 19: Charlotte Salomon: “Life? or Theater?”
Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie
Hoping to escape Nazi oppression during World War II, Charlotte Salomon fled to France and spent two years painting. She created 1,300 pieces she called “Life? or Theater?: A Play with Music” before being sent to Auschwitz. Three hundred of her paintings will be on display in Skokie until September 21.
June 20-29: Red Bull Flying Bach Chicago
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago
You’ve probably never thought “breakdance” when you listen to the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, but this live performance is bringing together world champion crew Flying Steps and the famous composer’s best pieces. It’s a one-of-a-kind performance you won’t want to miss.
June 20-21: Morton Arboretum Wine Festival
Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
Spend two of the year’s longest nights sipping on wine and taking in the beautiful views at Morton Arboretum.
June 20-22: Long Grove Strawberry Festival
Downtown Long Grove, Robert Parker Coffin and Old McHenry roads
Love strawberries? You’ll love this festival dedicated to the red fruit. Enjoy smoothies, ice cream, doughnuts, and, of course, chocolate-covered strawberries.
June 21-22: Art in the Village
Downtown Winnetka, Lincoln Avenue between Elm and Oak streets
Celebrate North Shore Art League’s 90th birthday with this fine arts show. Seventy-three booths will be set up with artists selling paintings, drawings, sculptures, photography, jewelry and more.
June 25-29, July 1-6: Summerfest
Henry W. Maier Festival Park, 200 N. Harbor Drive, Milwaukee, Wis.
Get out of town (and state!) and rock out at the world’s largest music festival. There’s something for everyone as headliners include Lady Gaga, Brad Paisley, Dave Matthews Band and Fall Out Boy. But that list doesn’t even begin to cover the more than 800 acts that will be in attendance.
Begins June 25: Jazzin’ at the Shedd
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Spend Wednesday evenings through September 3 at the Shedd, where there will be live music, food and drink, and fireworks.
Begins June 26: It’s Thursday, Let’s Dance!
Learn a new dance most Thursdays throughout the summer before testing your new skills during a live show. Each week features a new dance style, ranging from Latin to Big Band.
June 26: Hebrew School Dropout
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights
You’ll actually LOL at this show by comedian Dave Konig. The Emmy Award-winner will share his spiritual journey, which includes hosting a national talk radio show for the Catholic Church. And yes, he’s Jewish.
June 27-29: Highwood Days with Taste of Summer
Everts Park, 111 North Ave., Highwood
This festival-season favorite is better than ever with food from restaurants throughout the North Shore, live music, a beer garden and carnival rides.
Opens June 27: Brigadoon
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago
Two American friends get lost in Scotland and end up in a mythical village where no resident can leave and no outsider can stay without falling in love. As you’ve probably guessed, romance does ensue between a tourist and a citizen of Brigadoon.
June 28: 41st Annual Glenview Summer Festival
Downtown Glenview, Lehigh Avenue between Glenview Road and Washington Street
This festival, better known as the “Street Sale,” allows local merchants to sell art, clothing, food and more.
June 29: 45th Annual Chicago Pride Parade
Begins in the Uptown neighborhood at Broadway and Montrose, Chicago
One of Chicago’s most famous summer events, the Pride Parade will feature more than 200 entries. Last year’s parade saw an estimated one million spectators, so be prepared for crowds.
June 30: Destination Solar System
Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
All aboard the Space Express! Explore the sun, Saturn’s moon and other areas of the Solar System with Adler’s newest show.