About This Festival
A Large-Scale Affair
Want to get the best of Chicago food? You can do it all in one place, Grant Park, at the annual summer fiesta, Taste of Chicago. This foodie celebration isn’t too snobby to include hot dogs and pizza, and then takes it up a notch with menu items from the city’s restaurants.
It’s the height of summer in Chicago, and one of the best opportunities to spend the day in the sunshine (although, it does sometimes rain) with good food and music, watching everyone else enjoy good food and music. Seriously, the people-watching nearly rivals the cuisine here. But make sure you get some tasty treats, as well.
Taste of Chicago History
This popular culinary celebration started in 1980, when a group of restaurateurs pitched a Fourth of July food festival idea to the mayor of Chicago. Back in those early days, the event was held along the Chicago River, in a three-block area on N. Michigan Avenue. The time also coincided with a building boom on N. Michigan Avenue, dubbed “The Magnificent Mile.”
But the overwhelming success of the first event boosted the venue over to Grant Park, commonly known as Chicago’s “front yard,” for more space to accommodate the crowds of folks wanting to taste the best of the city’s restaurants. Since then, the Taste has grown to be one of the largest tourist attractions in Illinois.
Schedule and Events
While the Taste of Chicago is no longer held over Fourth of July weekend and the fireworks are a thing of the past (some locals are a little miffed about this), there are still plenty of reasons to hit this festival.
Colorful food booths are lined up in Grant Park, featuring the best cuisine in the city—from pizza to Mexican, Chinese and Indian dishes. Local chefs, guest stars and celebrity chefs demonstrate wares and share cooking tips. A Celebrity Chef du Jour prepares a three-course meal in an air-conditioned, sit-down dining venue. Special kids’ activities are always popular at the Family Village, and live music is performed throughout the day. Evening musical events are held at the Petrillo Music Shell.
Sure, the festival is crowded, and you may wait in a few long lines. The best option for folks who want to stay out of the fray is to go for lunch or dinner on weekdays. The crowds are far smaller than the weekend scrum. If you’re not a local, pay attention to those lines. Much as they’re a lot of time waiting around, sometimes they signal a huge crowd favorite.
One of the greatest benefits to Taste of Chicago is all the time you’re hanging out. Whether you’re in a line, back on your blanket tasting some great food, or at the Petrillo Music Shell enjoying a concert, this event is optimal for people-watching. Get fashion tips, snark at clothing choices, or be amazed at attendee behavior (in a good or bad way). It’s better than TV.
For some, the evening concerts are nearly as important as the food element of this event. Are you among them? If so, decide how essential it is to get good seats. Concert seating tickets for the Petrillo Music Shell are available for a fee, but the vast lawn seating is free of charge. A huge screen showing the stage is available for those sitting on the lawn.
Last year was the first time food trucks were added to the Taste, and were available during the evening concerts at the Petrillo Music Shell. It’s a perfect opportunity to mix your food with your music and wind up the day.