By Chloe Mulliner, on May 12, 2016

The coolest Chicago solstice itinerary

During the 1893 summer solstice in Chicago, Illinois, the World’s Columbian Exposition unveiled the very first Ferris wheel. The superstar of the fair, this 264-foot rotating wheel was an architectural wonder built to outshine Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It transformed aerial observation and pushed architectural boundaries, placing the United States back in the engineering arena.

This 2016 summer solstice, Chicagoans may not even think about that majestic Ferris wheel, but they’ve still got their sights set on celebrating the first day of summer. On June 20, as the longest day of the year rolls in with more than 15 hours of daylight, embark on the best things to do in Chicago and get that summer feelin’. Check out our suggestions for the top summer activities in Chicago and relish all those rays:

Sunrise: If you’re not one to rise with the sun, forget that 5:15 a.m. wakeup call. Snooze for a bit and then fuel up at Ipsento Coffee House—you can’t go wrong with a Nutella mocha paired with an almond croissant. This Bucktown spot roasts its own sustainable coffee, and they’re so confident in their brewing perfection that they teach classes so you, too, can learn the art of creating a supreme cup of coffee.


Midday: Escape to the Japanese-inspired Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park. In June, the garden is unveiling Yoko Ono’s SKY LANDING contribution. The activist’s art installation, which is symbolic of the union between the East and West, will sit where the original Phoenix Pavilion once stood. Reflect at the garden’s latest addition and stroll beneath the cherry blossom trees.

Afternoon: Seek shade inside the fancy walls of 312 Chicago, where you’ll find yourself bragging about the city views and homemade pasta. Give your Italian accent a whirl as you read through the menu with dishes like orecchiette con rapini and gnocchi tre colori. Our pick? It’s a tie between the salmone and caprese panini. Toast to those summer vibes with a day dreaming cocktail or some crisp bubbly.

Evening: The Millennium Park Summer Music Series invites you to rock your way into summertime. At 6:30 p.m. at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, DJ Spooky will hit the stage with his global pulsating beats of Rebirth of a Nation, and Kelan Phil Cohran will wail during his Summer Solstice Ensemble. The concert is free.

Viewfinder tip: One-hundred-and-three stories high, Skydeck Chicago is another great place to watch the solstice sun set.

Sunset: When it comes to Cub territory, relishing the sunset over Wrigley Field is by far the best way to welcome summer. At 7:05 p.m., the Cardinals will step up to bat against the Cubs. Cheer on the home team with a cold one in hand and peanut shells at your feet, as the sun melts into the horizon at 8:29 p.m.


This summer solstice, break free from work early or venture outside of your Chicago hotel to embrace the change in seasons.

Highlights from Chicago summer solstice 2015

  • Sunrise at Lake Michigan and caffeine at Metropolis Coffee Company
  • Make Music Chicago
  • Gold Coast Art Fair at Grant Park
  • Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers baseball game
  • Pride Fest parade
  • Sunset at North Pond

Highlights from Chicago summer solstice 2014

  • Sunrise at Montrose Beach
  • Body Art Expo tattoo and piercing event
  • Chicago Pride Fest
  • Wicker Park’s Green Music Fest
  • Cocktails at The J. Parker

What Chicago June events are you putting on your calendar?