1. We have a million beaches.
Only in the summer is it socially acceptable to take off almost all of your clothes around a bunch of strangers without being arrested for it. In Chicago, we call this going to the beach. You’ve got gay beaches, dog beaches, student beaches and a shoreline as far as the eye can see. When you’re on Lake Michigan in the summer, there’s nowhere else in the world.
2. Great indie bookshops on every corner.
If you want to grab a cup of coffee from Metropolis, Wormhole, Dollop or Robust, skip the croissant or the biscotti. Go grab a novel instead. Pick up the new Adam Johnson book at Myopic or The Book Cellar or browse Quimby’s for all their best in queer zines. Go to Women and Children First and buy up all their Jeanette Winterson. Browse the latest Michael Chabon novel at Unabridged. Get lost in Uncharted Books, Barbara’s or 57th Street Books. There’s nothing wrong with buying Amazon, but supplement those internet purchases by buying local and supporting the thriving lit scene around you. You can also do this by attending one of the city’s ten million Live Lit events. Yes, I checked. There are ten million. Math.
3. Barbecuing in your backyard is required by city law (almost).
Chicago in the summer smells amazing, mostly because bacon and steak make everything better. (Fact: I don’t trust people who don’t like bacon.) Barbecue is a big deal in Chicago, and it’s all about the theme. This weekend, I’m attending a Buffy barbecue, which is the greatest idea I’ve heard.
4. We have a street festival every weekend.
Sometimes it sucks, like when Midsommarfest cuts off your bus route and getting to Lincoln Square is suddenly next to impossible. However, street festivals make up for it by allowing you to gather together with thirty of your closest friends and walk up and down the same eight blocks for four hours — while checking out art, books or hot people. (Usually all of the above.) If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, I don’t even want to know your life. You are clearly not a Chicagoan.
5. We’re the summer music concert capital of the world.
Here’s a short list of acts you can see play in Chicago this summer. Ready? Breathe. Go.
The Postal Service. The Replacements. Phoenix. Wire. Bjork. Hot Chip. Against Me! Crystal Castles. New Order. Cat Power. Nine Inch Nails. Public Enemy. Savages. The Killers. Guided By Voices. Smith Westerns. Disclosure. Icona Pop. MIA. Low. Foxygen. Father John Misty. Belle and Sebastian. Killer Mike. Kendrick Lamar. X. R. Kelly. Taking Back Sunday. Joanna Newsom. Best Coast. The Breeders. The Cure. The Dismemberment Plan. Mumford and Sons. Solange. Dinosaur Jr. Rancid. Grizzly Bear. VIolent Femmes. Ellie Goulding. Devotchka. Local Natives. Crystal Castles. Yo La Tengo. Bad Brains. Beach House. Lana Del Rey. Tegan and Sara. Alt-J.
I’m sorry. I think I just died. Austin, you got served.
6. You don’t know living until you’ve had a Chicago dog in the summer.
Does your hot dog not have relish on it? Then I’m sorry, you’re not doing it right. In Chicago, dressing your hot dog is a sport and a privilege, and to win at hot dogs, you need a giant pile of onions, ketchup, mustard and former cucumbers. Can you still see the actual hot dog? Then you’re not trying hard enough.
7. We don’t have stars, but we do have Belmont Harbor.
Chicago isn’t a great city for stargazing, but when you’re out by the lake on a summer night, you don’t even care. One of the best things to do is take a blanket and a date to the harbor or Fullerton beach at night or go for an evening stroll along Navy Pier. Navy Pier suddenly makes sense when you’re not inundated with tourists. It’s an epiphany.
8. You haven’t watched a classic film until you’ve seen it outside.
Our Outdoor Film Festival and Movies in the Park give Chicagoans a chance to catch classic films like Bringing Up Baby, Annie Hall, Some Like It Hot and A Streetcar Named Desire or local favorites like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles on the big screen. Introducing a whole new generation of kids to Woody Allen is something I’m always into, and it’s even better with a date.
9. You can jam under a full moon.
Empirical proof that Chicagoans are bad asses: We breathe fire. Every month during the summer, Montrose Beach hosts the Full Moon Jam, where a group of fire artists play put on a show for a massive crowd of spectators and fellow fire enthusiasts. A friend of mine told me they even give lessons, but I’m too neurotic for that. Some people fear no God. I fear all of them, even the ones I don’t believe in. Good to cover your bases.
10. Our Pride lasts all month.
Some cities have one Pride parade. We have a million. In addition to two Lakeview pride weekends, we have two black pride parades, United Latino Pride, Disability Pride, Dyke March and T.G.I.F., which celebrates transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people. I personally feel we should have even more pride parades, like Book Lovers Pride, Coffee Addicts Pride, Meryl Streep Pride and Pride Pride, where we congratulate ourselves for having so much pride. Who doesn’t love a reason to celebrate?
11. You can gorge yourself on food truck cuisine.
If you hop the Green Line to Oak Park, you’ll find the most amazing assortment of food trucks known to man in the land that gave birth to Hemingway. (They even have a museum.) For fans of Happy Endings, you’ll know food trucks are a huge thing in Chicago, and even if you can’t eat at Steak Me Home Tonight, you’ll find plenty to whet your appetite for moderately priced subs.
12. Yard sales aren’t just for your grandparents.
Chicago is renowned for the amazing vintage and thrift stores (I live for Unique, Ragstock, Buffalo Exchange and Hollywood Mirror), but you’re missing out if you don’t heed those little highlighter colored signs advertising your friendly neighborhood yard sale. You’ll be surprised what people will give away for close to nothing when they are moving. My life goal is a pinball machine, because Miranda Priestly taught me to reach for the stars.
Also pro-tip: Churches often have surprisingly good rummage sales — with donations from the community. They’re freaking gold mines.
13. We have farmers’ markets everywhere.
Minnesota gets the credit for being farmer friendly, but nearly every Chicago neighborhood has something to offer for those looking to buy local and organic outside of their Whole Foods (aka “Whole Paycheck”). Southport, Logan Square, Lincoln Park, Rogers Park, Pilsen, Printer’s Row and Andersonville offer diverse and surprising options on the North and West sides (even candles, pastries and sweets) and the South Side’s 61st Street Market really can’t be beat.
14. Our outdoor parks are big in Japan.
When it comes to gorgeous outdoor sights, Chicago has the Bahai Temple, but our city parks aren’t to be beat. For such a densely populated city, Chicago offers ample green space to its residents; even downtown offers Grant Park and Millenium Park for those who want to remember what grass looks like. However, there’s no better outdoor getaway than Hyde Park’s Osaka Gardens, a little piece of Japan in our backyard.
15. We got the Home Alone house.
For those who want a short trip out of the city, Evanston and Winnetka are a great chance to get away (while still being train accessible), and Evanston offers a surprising number of Ethiopian and Indian restaurants, including Mt. Everest, a personal favorite. But every trip out of the city is incomplete without a visit to the Home Alone house in Winnetka, where the John Hughes classic was filmed. It’s such a local treasure that it recently sold for $1.5 million. Don’t have that kind of money? A picture will do just fine.
Bonus: For Mean Girls fans, you can check out Old Orchard Mall in Skokie — which (fun fact!) is actually an outdoor mall. If you’re super sad about being lied to, make a stop by Half Price Books in Niles and cheer yourself up. You’re going to be just fine.
16. Millenium Park gets awesome.
Most Chicagoans joke about The Bean, because we just don’t get why tourists give a frak about it. I’m convinced it’s the portal to another dimension and suburbanites are trying to cross over to the other side. (Don’t go to the light!) But summers make Millenium Park worth braving the hassle — with free concerts, dance parties, classical performances and world music fests throughout the summer. A couple years ago, I got to see She and Him there for free and this summer welcomes Glen Hansard and Dan Deacon, among others.
17. You can take a million free classes.
No one wants to leave their house for anything in the winter, even if it’s free, but in the summer, you can choose from a smorgasbord of dance lessons in the park or free Sunday yoga at Lululemon or Cheetah Gym. I hear tell that Broadway Armory is even offering trapeze classes. They aren’t free, but doesn’t that sound awesome anyway?
18. There’s this thing called the suburbs.
Chicagoans can be a little bullish about venturing outside of the city, but in addition to Evanston and Niles, the Chicagoland area can really surprise you. Earlier this year, I attended a vintage clothing fair in Elgin that was such a hit they’re having another one in September. I found a vintage steamboat hat that makes me look like Mark Twain. It was $50 and I’m a grad student, but who needs to eat this week?
19. You can ruin your summer bod in style.
Munchies recently called Chicago America’s best food city, and there’s a reason why: it is. After you grab dinner at local favorites like Girl and the Goat, Alinea, Purple Pig and Frontera Grill, you can further ruin your diet at Black Dog Gelato, Sweet Mandy B’s, Molly’s Cupcakes or Mindy’s Hot Chocolate. Why do you think the Chicago marathon servers crashed? Mandy B’s may be sweet, but it’s also deadly.
Bonus: You pick.
There are a million reasons that Chicago summers are like nothing else on earth, when the weather decides to cooperate. Why do you love Chicago summers? Are you a Jackson park loyalist? Do you like first Friday hopping? Had a great cup of coffee in Bronzeville recently? Sneaking candy into the Logan Theatre right now?