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Chicago festivals range from local neighborhood get-togethers to citywide extravaganzas. Try to catch a neighborhood street fair for some great people-watching if you're in town between June and September. On some weekends there are several festivals at once. For details, see www.chicagoreader.com or timeoutchicago.com.
Taste of Chicago. Taste of Chicago dishes out pizza, cheesecake, and other Chicago specialties to 3.5 million people over a 10-day period before the July Fourth holiday. Grant Park, Columbus Dr. between Jackson and Randolph Sts., Chicago, IL, 60606. 312/744-3315.
Chicago Air & Water Show. Thrill-seekers and families flock to the Chicago Air & Water Show, a lakefront spectacle featuring aerial acrobatics and daredevil water acts. See the U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform precision flying maneuvers at the two-day event in mid-August. Lakeshore, Fullerton Ave. to Oak St.; focal point at North Ave. Beach, Chicago, IL, 60639. 312/744-3315. www.explorechicago.org/city/en/supporting_narrative/events___special_events/special_events/mose/chicago_air_and_water.html.
Chicago Blues Festival. The Chicago Blues Festival, in Grant Park, is a popular three-day, four-stage event in June starring blues greats from Chicago and around the country. If you see only one festival in Chicago, this is the one. 312/744-3315. www.chicagobluesfestival.org.
Chicago Jazz Festival. The Chicago Jazz Festival holds sway for four days during Labor Day weekend in Millenium and Grant Parks. 312/744-3315. jazzinchicago.org/jazzfest/.
Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The holiday season officially starts with the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, a weekend-long event at the end of November with tons of family-friendly activities including musical performances, ice-carving contests, and stage shows. The fanfare culminates in a parade and the illumination of more than 1 million lights along Michigan Avenue. magnificentmilelightsfestival.com.
St. Patrick's Day parade. The St. Patrick's Day parade turns the city on its head: the Chicago River is dyed green, shamrocks decorate the street, and the center stripe of Dearborn Street is painted the color of the Irish from Wacker Drive to Van Buren Street. This is your chance to get your fill of bagpipes, green beer, and green knee socks. It's more than four hours long, so you probably won't see the whole thing. 312/942-9188. www.chicagostpatsparade.com.
World Music Festival. At the weeklong World Music Festival, international artists play traditional and contemporary music at venues across the city in September. www.worldmusicfestivalchicago.org.
Street fairs. Street fairs are held every week in summer, but two stand out as the best. North Halsted Market Days, in August, is the city's largest street festival. It's held in the heart of the gay community of Lakeview and has blocks and blocks of vendors as well as some wild entertainment such as zany drag queens and radical cheerleaders. The Taste of Randolph, in June, is more sedate, featuring dishes from the fine restaurants lining the western end of Randolph Street. www.northalsted.com/pages/northalsted_market_days_/29.php tasterandolph.com/.
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