Flag down free fun
Bring your red, white and blue self to Millennium Park as the Grant Park Music Festival presents an evening filled with American spirit at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on the Fourth of July. You and a million others can enjoy the annual Independence Day Celebration, under the baton of Christopher Bell with the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. The sounds of Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and John Phillip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" make hearts swell at the free concert.
6:30 p.m. Friday, July 4, at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St. Free. gpmf.org or (312) 742-7638.
Down by the Lakeview
Natives know that Lakeview is home to some of the city's best restaurants, and the Taste of Lakeview is the ideal time to sample some of that delicious food, hear live music, and browse art and crafts. Around 40,000 fest-goers have come to expect the best pizza, ice cream and gelato, Mexican and Asian fare, and more. Just a week prior to the Taste of Chicago, local foodies experience smaller crowds at Taste of Lakeview, too. There's a special section of the festival dedicated to children's activities and entertainment, so bring the little noshers along. Proceeds benefit the West Lakeview Neighbors and the Jahn World Language School.
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 5, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, July 6, at the intersection of Lincoln and Belmont avenues. Suggested donation is $5. (312) 470-0829 or starevents.com/festivals/taste-of-lakeview.
Chicago hosts yet another music festival, and this one should attract EDM fans from around the region. The first Riverwest Music Festival features local and international electronic artists such as Adrian Lux, Excision, Rusko, Jamie Jones, Apollonia, Dixon, Deep Dish, DJ Koze, Mind Against and Ten Walls performing on two stages along the Chicago River. The fest's Chicago debut takes place over the July Fourth weekend in the heart of the city.
11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, July 4-6, at 1177 N. Elston Ave. (near Division Street). Single-day tickets are $59.99-$69.99, and a three-day pass is $100-$169. riverwestmusicfestival.com.
Topeka was named one of the Top 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade by Kiplingers Personal Finance magazine in 2010, and now local attractions have partnered to create the Topeka Vacation Value Card for travel savings this summer. Save on visits to the Kansas Children's Discovery Center for hours of hands-on entertainment, and the Combat Air Museum, one of only a few major aviation museums located on active airfields.
Through Labor Day. See visittopeka.com/vacation-card/vacation-discounts or (800) 235-1030.
The animals may be lethargic during the summer heat, but Friday and Saturday nights at Brookfield Zoo rock with live music and entertainment, an assortment of food and refreshment options, and the coolest animals emerging at evening. Summer Nights features kids' activities and a spectacular laser, light and video show. Roaming performers include stilt walkers, jugglers and magicians. Get up-close views of Brookfield Zoo's ambassador animals or take in a special Dolphins in Action demo. Outdoor exhibits and the carousel remain open late and select indoor exhibits will be available into the evening.
4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through July 26 at First Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield. Admission to Summer Nights is free for zoo members, $14.95 for nonmembers and $9.95 for children ages 3-11 and seniors age 65 and over. CZS.org/Events or (708) 688-8000.
Crystal clear fourth
Voted Best Festival in McHenry County for 2011-2013 and 2014, Lakeside Festival attracts more than 50,000 people to Crystal Lake. The 35th annual bash offers food at the "Taste by the Lake," rides, midway games, historic tours, gallery exhibits, beer and winesa, a parade and a fireworks extravaganza. Proceeds benefit the Lakeside Legacy Foundation.
4 to 11 p.m. Thursday, July 3; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 4-5; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 6, at Lakeside Legacy Arts Park, 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake. Admission is $5, $2 for ages 65 and over, free for kids 12 and yoounger. (815) 455-8000 or lakesidelegacy.org/events/lakeside-fest.