Fireworks, Booze Cruises, BBQ: How to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Chicago

Here’s how to watch fireworks and party on the Fourth of July in Chicago this year.

4th of July from the Chicago River
4th of July from the Chicago River | Gunther Allen/Shutterstock
4th of July from the Chicago River | Gunther Allen/Shutterstock

The Fourth of July is a complicated holiday, and it’s not surprising that many of us have complicated feelings surrounding it. That said, you don’t need to be dyed-in-the-wool patriot to throw on your best crop top, house an irresponsible amount of hot dogs (sans ketchup, natch), and kick back with a frosty domestic light beer. From boat-borne fireworks cruises to parades to boozy brunches and beyond, here are our recommendations to make this Independence Day one to remember.

Tuesday, July 4
DuSable Harbor
If you’ve been barbecuing all morning, it’s time to chug a few Red Bulls and rally for a booze cruise to remember. Setting sail at 8:30pm on the 4th, not only will you be treated to the best view of the fireworks in the city, but you’ll also be able to enjoy 3(!) dance floors, multiple bars, and all 192 feet of a luxury yacht. Below Deck, eat your heart out. As a note, the city has not (as of yet) confirmed a fireworks display at Navy Pier on the 4th itself, so if you’re looking to have a side of fireworks with your cruise, book for the 1st of July instead!
Cost: Tickets start at $35 per person

Saturday, July 1
Navy Pier
Every holiday has its own Chicago spectacle: for St. Patrick’s Day, the river turns Ninja Turtle-green. For Thanksgiving, State Street gets its own float-filled parade. For Christmas, Daley Plaza turns into a German holiday village wafting with mulled wine. But the Fourth belongs to Navy Pier. We encourage you to arrive early to smoosh yourself into a prime viewing spot—but don’t worry, if you get there early, there’s plenty of live music and activities to keep you busy until showtime. The fireworks show starts at 10 pm.
Cost: Free

Wednesday, July 5
Grant Park
Don your finest stars and stripes and convene at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for a post-holiday musical medley of classic patriotic tunes from Michelle Cann and the Grant Park Orchestra. Starting at 6:30 pm, the picnic-friendly affair will feature classics like George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and other patriotic tunes.
Cost: Reserved seating starts at $26, free seating is available in the bowl and on the lawn

Saturday, July 1 - Tuesday, July 4
Washington Park
One of the most culturally rich festivals in town is back for the long holiday weekend, as the International Festival of Life spotlights and celebrates Caribbean and African cuisines, music, games, art, and more. Look for DJs and musicians putting on sets of gospel, reggae, R&B, blues, jazz, African, and Latin tunes.
Cost: Tickets start at $25

Friday, July 3
Commissioners Park, Bridgeview
Get an early jump on the Americana action as the Bridgeview Park District hosts this family-friendly get-together with fireworks, food trucks, glow sticks galore, and… a DJ known as the “Italian Stallion.” The fireworks show starts at 9:15 pm.
Cost: Free

Tuesday, July 4
The Emily Hotel
An essential Fourth of July rewatch, Independence Day is an epic blockbuster that conjures the spirit of survival, heroism, and celebration—as the film culminates in a glorious fireworks display over a smoldering spaceship. Plus, Jeff Goldblum looks like a snack. The rooftop terrace at The Emily Hotel in the West Loop is hosting a screening on July 4, with Rooftop Cinema Club, starting at 10:15 pm.
Cost: Tickets start at $22.50

Monday, July 4
All over Evanston
The city of Evanston has been going hard for the Fourth since 1922, so this year’s festivities are bound to be extra luminous. Though last year was the centennial, 2023 marks the 100th celebration held in the city. There’s a whole day of family fun planned on July 4, including morning games, a fun run, and a band concert, all culminating with lakefront fireworks at 9:30 pm.
Cost: Free

Tuesday, July 4
Gear up for a day off well-spent at the Darien Lions Club’s 52nd annual Independence Day Parade. Previous acts at the parade have included the Hinsdale South High School marching band, the Chicago Bears Drumline, the Honey Bear dancers, the antique car-driving Salt Creek Model A Club, a fleet of BMX stunt riders, and a lion mascot, naturally, so it’s a safe bet that this year’s festivities will be equally eclectic.
Cost: Free

Eat your way through the Fourth at Chicago restaurants

Saturday, July 1 - Tuesday, July 4
Various locations
While it may not have the pumpkin spice or peppermint of other food-centric holidays, the Fourth of July is undoubtedly a prime time to gorge on all-American comfort food. We’re talking hot dogs, burgers, steaks, barbecue, apple pie, and more, all of which you can find on special throughout the holiday weekend. Said specials include bacon waffles with Nashville hot chicken bites for brunch at Bub City Chicago, candied bacon and rainbow sherbet pies at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits, steaks and lemon-blueberry butter cake from Mastro’s Steakhouse, barbecue ribs and apple pie at Club Lucky, and seasonal cupcakes, cookies, and cakes at The Goddess and Grocer.
Cost: Menu prices vary

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Sam Greszes is a Chicago-based writer.