Why do Chicagoans put up with Chicago winters? Chicago summers. They are glorious. And whether you call the Windy City home or you’re just visiting, it is, in our opinion, the best town for an active, adventurous summer.
From free workouts to outdoor yoga, farmers markets to stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Michigan, Chicago’s fitness scene is on point. Here are 14 fit-and-active experiences to put on your Chicago summer bucket list:
1. STRETCH ALONG THE SKYLINE
Rooftops are synonymous with summer here, but try switching that glass of rosé for your yoga mat. Bottom Line Yoga gives you the whole package: You get to take in Chicago’s gorgeous skyline while doing sun salutations. And its classes aren’t on just any rooftops: You’ll be doing downward dogs on top of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Civic Opera Building.
2. BRUNCH & BURN
There’s no reason your fitness plan needs to exclude everyone’s favorite meal and Brunch X Burn gets that. Its events combine working out, brunch and charitable giving. You read that right. Your high-energy workout and brunch all go to a good cause. Buy tickets early — they’re in high demand.
3. WORK OUT FOR FREE IN MILLENNIUM PARK
All the fun things to do in Chicago during the summer add up fast. Luckily, our city comes through with free morning classes from top fitness centers, like the East Bank Club, Great Lakes Tai Chi and Moksha Yoga Center. You’d be a fool not to hit up the Great Lawn of Pritzker Pavilion for a string of classes on Saturday mornings. It’s the perfect opportunity to try something new and save up for that warm vacation come February.
4. DANCE FOR FREE IN MILLENNIUM PARK
After the workout classes end, there’s still fun to be had. You can catch incredible live performances every Monday and Thursday from June 12 to August 21. Not to mention Chicago’s Blues and Jazz festivals are both on the summer calendar.
5. DANCE (BUT NOT FOR FREE) AT MUSIC FESTIVALS
Chicago loves music festivals, and that means the city has some of the best in the country. Whether it’s the iconic Lollapalooza, high-energy Spring Awakening or totally chill Pitchfork, you can expect the world’s best bands and artists and festival-goers from all over the world. And don’t forget that fitness tracker — you’ll hit your step goal (two-fold) and without even realizing it.
6. RUN THE LAKEFRONT & THE 606
While the city offers tons of sidewalks to run, waiting at stoplights and stop signs can really halt your momentum. That’s why paths are just the best. Chicago has two amazingly scenic ones, with the 18-mile Lakefront Trail on the east (one of MapMyRun users’ favorites in the U.S.) and the brand-new 606 Trail on the west.
7. RUN A HALF MARATHON THAT ROCKS (AND ROLLS)
Leave the headphones at home — July’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon features live music along the sidelines as you run through Grant Park, New East Side, Streeterville, River North, Loop, West Loop, South Loop, Prairie Shores and the Near South Side. Half marathon isn’t for you? There are also 5K and 10K options.
8. SUP WITH THE SKYLINE
Standup paddleboarding is one of the latest (and greatest) trends in watersports, and it’s no surprise why. It’s the perfect way to mix up your workout while taking in our beautiful city. Chicago SUP will set you up with the board. And with lessons and group classes available, it’s fun for all fitness levels, an office outing or the fitness fanatic’s birthday celebration.
9. INDULGE AT TASTE OF CHICAGO
Second to only Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago is one of Chicagoans’ favorite summer festivals. Between dozens of local food vendors, fun activity stations and free concerts (by big names like Passion Pit, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Alessia Cara), Taste is without a doubt the best place to have a cheat day … or week.
10. WORK OUT AT THE BEACH
Go ahead and eat at Taste, because with Montrose Beach and North Avenue Beach open and ready for activities, you’ll burn it all off in no time. Take in the gorgeous city while kayaking, jetskiing, doing yoga with Sun and Moon Beach Yoga, standup paddleboarding … or combine those last two with SUP Yoga.
11. FIND YOUR INNER ACROBAT
When it comes to summer workouts, the sky’s the limit. No, seriously. Chicago has its very own outdoor trapeze school that includes aerial workshops and flying trapeze at its outdoor set-up right off Belmont Harbor where you can stunt and swing to amazing lake views.
12. JOIN A SUMMER SPORTS LEAGUE
Miss the days of group volleyball, soccer and dodgeball? Chicago has no shortage of summer social leagues. Grab your closest friends — or make new ones — while playing all your favorite childhood sports. Whether you’re with Chicago Sport & Social, S3 or Players, you’ll have just as much fun as you did in all those rec leagues or gym classes … and get awesome matching shirts to boot.
13. KAYAK THE CHICAGO RIVER
Move your workout to the water and take in gorgeous views as you paddle. With solo or tandem options from Kayak Chicago, it’s the perfect activity to do alone or with buddies on a sunny afternoon. Added bonus: Once your hour is up, you can just pop on over to the beach for a dip.
14. GET YOUR FOODIE ON AT FARMERS MARKETS
Though Chicago is lucky enough to have farmers markets year round, the selection vastly expands and heads outdoors in the summer, making it even more fun to peruse with kids or your pup. Whether you’re an avid cook or just love organic produce, fresh smoothies, crepes and tacos, this is a little piece of foodie paradise. Our picks are the Logan Square Farmers Market or Lincoln Park Green City Market in the morning and Lincoln Square Farmers Market in the evening.