Top 10 fabulous must-dos during Pride Month in Illinois

June is Pride Month, and there’s no better place to celebrate than in Illinois, the birthplace of the first-ever Pride Parade in the country.

Whether you’re a local or visiting from out of town, Illinois is brimming with fabulous and inclusive events that honor and uplift the community. So get ready to paint the town pink with our top 10 must-dos during Pride Month.

The first part of this list is centered around Chicago, but you can use one of the links below to jump to another part of the state:

1. Stroll the colorful streets of Chicago’s queerest communities

A close-up of a rainbow-coored Legacy Walk pillar in the Northalsted neighborhood of Chicago

Chicago is an amazing LGBTQ+ friendly destination with plenty of vibrant neighborhoods that cater to the rainbow community, such as:

  • Northalsted, formerly known as Boystown, is the center of queer culture in Chicago and is home to many popular bars and clubs. As you walk down its streets lined with rainbow-colored crosswalks, you’ll come across the Legacy Walk, an outdoor exhibit that features prominent figures from our queer history.
  • Andersonville is a charming neighborhood renowned for its quirky boutiques, delectable eateries, and vibrant gay bars. The community also prides itself on Women and Children First, a feminist bookstore that has been a beloved staple for over 40 years.
  • Uptown is one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods, with beautiful historical architecture, lots of ethnic food, and multiple music venues.
  • Edgewater also has a vibrant and welcoming scene with the Granville Anvil serving as a longtime anchor to the gay-friendly Hollywood Beach (properly known as Kathy Osterman Beach).
  • Rogers Park is an eclectic neighborhood on the far north side of the city. It has a friendly, inclusive vibe and it’s home to several queer-owned businesses.

2.  Explore Chicago’s many museums & zoos

Chicago’s Museum Campus is a treasure trove of world-class museums, including the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. And during Pride Month, these cultural hubs transform into vibrant celebrations of history and culture with special events and exhibits that are not to be missed.

For a deeper dive into our community’s fascinating past, head to the Leather Archives & Museum, located in the vibrant neighborhood of Rogers Park. This unique space is entirely devoted to preserving the rich history and cultural significance of the leather crowd..

And if you’re an animal lover, make sure to visit the Lincoln Park Zoo or Brookfield Zoo to see furry and feathered creatures of all kinds, including bear and otter counterparts to the LGBTQ+ community’s beloved subcultures.

3. Have some fun in the sun

two men sitting at the end of the pier's rainbow-painted landmark at Hollywood Beach
©Adam Alexander Photography

Chicago is an amazing destination for outdoor fun during Pride Month in Illinois. With more than two dozen free beaches along Lake Michigan, including the colorful and welcoming Hollywood Beach, it can be tough to decide which one to visit! (Hot tip: the Lakefront Trail spans 18 miles and connects many of these beaches for easy access!)

two gay men taking a selfie in front of Chicago's Bean
©Adam Alexander Photography

In addition to the beaches, Chicago boasts over 600 parks sprinkled throughout its diverse neighborhoods. That means there’s no shortage of places to play, picnic, or relax, including:

  • Millennium Park, a world-famous destination offering free concerts and endless selfie opportunities with the iconic Bean (also known as Cloud Gate).
  • Lincoln Park, a sprawling oasis of gardens, lagoons, and trails that spans seven miles through Edgewater, Uptown, Lake View, Lincoln Park, and Near North neighborhoods.
  • Oz Park in Lakeview, which features sculptures of the beloved Wizard of Oz characters, a “Dorothy’s Playlot,” and the “Emerald Garden.”
  • The 606 Trail in Wicker Park, a unique recreational trail and green space spanning over 2.5 miles along a previously abandoned rail line.

3. Catch a performance around the city

the marquee for the James M Nederlander Theatre in Chicago, IL

Chicago’s theatre scene is as vibrant as its queer community. Whether you prefer dazzling Broadway-style musicals or edgy Off-Broadway productions, there’s always a show to see.

For those seeking more queer fun during Pride Month, don’t miss out on the many daily drag brunches or nightly drag shows featuring some of the city’s most talented queens and kings.

And if you’re looking for a laugh, you’re sure to find one at the many comedy venues around town. 

4. Taste the rainbow with some of Chicago’s finest food offerings

Exploring Chicago during Pride Month will surely work up an appetite, and luckily, the Windy City is a food lover’s dream.

Treat yourself to some classic comfort foods like deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs, or embark on a culinary adventure with a melting pot of ethnic cuisines. Whether you’re in the mood for upscale dining or a casual bite, Chicago’s restaurant scene has got you covered.

5. Attend the many Chicago Pride festivities

a Chicago Pride Parade float with colorful rainbow confetti in the air and people dancing

No Illinois Pride Month list would be complete without mentioning Chicago’s famous Pride Parade, Pride Fest, and Pride in the Park. You can’t help but feel the excitement in the air as Chicago turns into a colorful and vibrant celebration of love and inclusivity.

Chicago Pride Fest

Kicking off the annual Pride festivities is the Chicago Pride Fest, a two-day street festival held in Northalsted during the third weekend of June. This family-friendly event features live music on three stages, local food vendors, and fun activities for people of all ages.

thousands of people line the streets of Northalsted, Chicago during Pride Month in Illinois with colorful floats marching down the road

Chicago Pride Parade

The main event, the Chicago Pride Parade, is a 4-mile-long celebration held annually on the last Sunday of June. With over a million attendees each year, it’s one of the most anticipated events. You’ll be in awe of the colorful floats, lively music, and flamboyant costumes that create a carnival-like atmosphere.

Pride in the Park

If you’re still not done partying, the same weekend as the Pride Parade is the relatively new Pride in the Park festival in Grant Park. With an exciting lineup of musical performances from both national and local artists, this two-day event is the perfect way to cap off your Pride Month celebrations.

8. Hop the Red Line to the Purple Line to Evanston

Evanston is a charming North Shore suburb known for its progressive values and being home to Northwestern University. Every year, the City of Evanston, Evanston Public Library, and its Evanston Pride committee host many Pride events throughout June. Don’t forget to check out the many colorful murals that decorate its streets while you explore its vibrant downtown area!

9. Take a roadtrip to Galena

two men in aprons stand outside of a bakehouse in Galena, IL

Galena, Illinois is a charming town in Northwestern Illinois with historic buildings dating back to the early 1800s. But don’t be fooled by its historic exterior, Galena has a modern twist that includes delicious restaurants, luxurious spas, and a chance to go on a wine-tasting tour in the surrounding countryside!

What makes Galena stand out is its friendly vibe, especially at its unique LGBTQ+-owned B&Bs where you can relax and feel included.

a gay couple with their two kids blowing bubbles on the #AmazingForAll bridge in Galena, IL

Oh, and don’t forget to snap a pic on the “Amazing for All” bridge, a rainbow-colored bridge that celebrates and recognizes the diversity of the Galena community.

10. Bus or train to Champaign

Champaign, Illinois is also a rainbow beacon for queer travelers after recently earning a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Municipal Equality Index.

The city is home to the University of Illinois, making it a lively and inclusive town with plenty of activities for all ages. Plus, its Uniting Pride Center hosts a variety of social groups, community-building events, and educational workshops during Pride Month and throughout the year.

Not only is Champaign a great place to be, but it’s also easy to get to. It’s accessible by Amtrak or Greyhound from various starting points across Illinois.

Bonus: Come back for Market Days in August

A drag queen in bright blue poses with an attendee at Chicago's Market Days even in August

Market Days is an especially unique experience for queer travelers. As one of Chicago’s top summer festivals, Market Days is essentially an extension of Pride, bringing together locals and visitors alike in a powerful celebration of diversity and acceptance. At the festival, you’ll find a plethora of vendors, live performances from both local and national artists, and an unforgettable party atmosphere that lasts all weekend long.

There’s something for everyone during Pride Month in Illinois!

two women holding hands while walking through a park during the late summer in Illinois

From the vibrant queer scene throughout Chicago to the charming historic towns, Illinois is a great destination. With inclusive events and activities in every corner of the state, you’re sure to find something that resonates with you during Pride Month in Illinois and beyond.

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