The Fourth of July weekend holds everything Americans clutch to their hearts as dear: freedom, if only for a day, from the grind; savory aromas wafting from backyard grills; sipping an adult beverage; weather that’s the opposite of winter; a confluence of friends and family; and patriotic marches punctuated by explosives. Add another to the list of fun activities to take in during the Fourth of July with these Chicago events.
James McMurty (Photo Credit:

James McMurty (Photo Credit:

34th Annual American Music Festival
Fitzgerald’s Nightclub
6615 Roosevelt Road
Berwyn, IL 60402
(708) 788-2118

Date: July 1 through July 4, 2015 Doors open at 4:30p.m.

The venerable New York Times calls Fitzgerald’s “a musical gem,” but Chicagoans have known this for more than three decades. Although the concerts going on at Grant and Millennium Parks get all the press, the Berwyn venue’s 34th Annual American Music Festival is really where it’s at over the Independence Day weekend. Showcasing American roots and regional music, it fits in perfectly with the holiday. Expect over 40 local and national acts performing inside the club and outdoors in festival tents and, unlike music fests in the city, you can actually have a seat and get into a bathroom, nosh tasty American vittles like barbecue, and enjoy a real cocktail and satisfying craft beer.

Windy City Ribfest
Lawrence and Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640

Date: July 3 through July 5, 2015 at 12 p.m.

Slip into your sportiest clothes and swallow your troubles along with the business end of some smoky bones and a cold one at the seventh annual Windy City Ribfest taking place in Uptown. The three-day festival is intended for everyone from pixie Zoey Deschanel look-alikes to soccer-dad coaches and their bouncy offspring enjoying wall-to-wall live music performed by local, regional and national acts plus lots of tribute bands. In between the tuneage, browse arts and crafts vendors, let the kids work up a sweat in their own play area while you cool off with a drink and nibble ribs from grillmasters from around the city and around the world.

(Photo credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Freedom Fest
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-7437

Date: July 4, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.

Rooftops are where it’s at and on July 4th, and you can have the best view in the city when you secure your place at the second annual Freedom Fest high atop the tourists bumping into each other at the Pier. You won’t feel thirsty with 20 cash bars awaiting your order and a tasty barbecue dinner what precludes your trying to grill for the neighbors back at the ranch. Then, the piece de resistance is your bird’s eye view of the stunning Independence Day fireworks show over Lake Michigan.

Related: Best Frozen Drinks In Chicago

The Grateful Dead
Soldier Field
1410 S. Museum Campus Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

Date: July 3 through July 5, 2015 at 7 p.m.

Deadheads who were there when the band finished its last Soldier Field set in July of 1995, as well as newbie Heads, rejoice that the consummate 1960s jam band bids the planet “adieu” in Chicago during Independence Day weekend. Celebrating the band’s incredible 50th anniversary, remaining members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir reunite and thrill with two sets each night. Trey Anastasio of Phish subs for Garcia on guitar), while Jeff Chimenti and Bruce Hornsby add keyboard work.

Eyes To The Skies Festival
Lisle Community Park
1825 Short St
Lisle, IL 60532

Date: July 2 through July 4, 2015

Of course, eyeballs are glued to the night sky during the Fourth for fireworks, but the 33rd Eyes to the Skies Festival also fills the daylight skies with colorful hot-air balloon shows. You can hop aboard for a tethered balloon ride, stroll the ginormous craft fair and untether the little miscreants in the kids’ area and carnival. Music will be supplied by the likes of 10,000 Maniacs and two stages of local and regional bands. Nosh Greek, Italian, Mexican and American food spread among two food courts and set up your spot for a good view of fireworks launching on three nights.

Related: Best Places To Go On A Picnic In Chicago

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at