The Fourth of July is the biggest celebration of the summer, and while there's nothing wrong with busting out the grill and having a few friends over at your abode, the annual holiday falls on a weekend this year, which means you have even more time to squeeze in a few patriotic festivities. With that in mind, we rounded up an editor-approved list of events and activities that are guaranteed to add a spark to any itinerary.
Fireworks at Navy Pier
We know, we know. You can see fireworks in Chicago every Wednesday and Saturday night through September, but there's just something about seeing them on the actual Fourth (starting at 9:30 p.m.) that, well, feels more special. Avoid the actual Pier (read: mayhem) and park yourself on a blanket with a picnic pretty much any place on the lakefront. Even better, RSVP for our next suggestion ASAP. Navy Pier, 600 East Grand Avenue, 312-595-5282.
Rebar at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
We don't need an excuse like the Fourth to head over to Trump for cocktails, but the fact that The Terrace and Rebar offer the most commanding views of the fireworks is definitely a draw. While we can't promise you it won't be crowded, you can't argue that sitting on a plush banquette with a Firecracker cocktail (Trump vodka; muddled strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries; and simple syrup) sounds a heck of a lot more fun than standing in a sea of bodies with a dry mouth. Do yourself a service and make a reservation. Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, 404 North Wabash Avenue, 312-588-8034.
Independence Day Salute: Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park
One of our favorite outdoor summer activities plays one of our favorite concerts, the Independence Day Salute, on July 4 starting at 7:30 p.m. From experience, we suggest you arrive at least one hour (if not earlier) prior to start time, as this concert always draws a full house. Bring a picnic, bring some vino, but remember that there's no alcohol allowed outside of the park—which includes the other side of that fence on the park grounds. All the more reason to arrive early. Millennium Park, 201 East Randolph Street, 312-742-1168.
Summer BBQ at The Duck Inn
Don't feel like slaving over a grill this weekend? No problem! For just $20 per person, the Duck Inn is offering a BBQ platter on July 4 and 5 that includes BBQ brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage, potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, and pound cake. The only thing not included? The cot where you'll want to nap later. The Duck Inn, 2701 South Eleanor Street, 312-724-8811.
Fourth of July at the Chicago History Museum
Forget about that barbecue for a moment and take some time to think reflect on what the Fourth of July is really about. The Chicago History Museum is hosting its 56th annual patriotic celebration (from 10:00 a.m. to noon), complete with a parade at 10:45 a.m., a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and live music. Added bonus: free admission to the museum. Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark Street, 312-266-2077.
Windy City Ribfest
Love ribs? You're in luck, as this weekend (July 3-5) in Uptown, there's an entire fest dedicated to saucy, meaty bones from grill masters like Chicago BBQ Company and Porky Chicks. Work off a few calories in between eating sessions by perusing the arts and crafts vendors or shaking what your mama gave you on the dance floor to the music of regional and national bands. Windy City Ribfest, Lawrence and Broadway Avenues.
African/Caribbean International Festival of Life
This lively festival in Union Park (July 3-5) features more than 50 musical acts, ranging from reggae to gospel, as well as plenty of food (jerk chicken, anyone?), arts and crafts, soccer, and a kids' pavilion with rides to keep everyone in the family happy. African/Caribbean International Festival of Life, Union Park, 1501 West Randolph Street.