While an air-conditioned theater might be just what summer ordered, the best way to watch a movie in Chicago is outdoors. There are parks, nature centers and historic attractions reeling family favs all season long. And their lawns are yours for the taking (BYO chairs and blankets!). Watch a flick while fireflies dance with our guide to summer outdoor movies.

Images made for Parkways Foundation at Chicago History Museum for Movies in the Parkphoto: Chicago Park District

Movies in the Parks
The mother of all outdoor film events is put on by Chicago Park District and spreads across your favorite green spaces, from Wicker Park to Adams Playground Park. Best of all, it’s free! All movies begin at dusk. Since there are too many awesome screenings to mention here, be sure to check out the schedule online. That said, we have a few favorites. They are: Sing! (Kevdale Park on June 16), The Secret Life of Pets (Churchill Park on June 215), Trolls (Hermitage Park on June 17), Captain America: Civil War (Brainerd Park on July 5), Star Wars: Rogue One (Montgomery Park on July 11), The Lego Movie (Lincoln Park on July 12) and Finding Dory (Blackhawk Park on July 19).

Locations citywide
Schedule online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Family Fun Night at Blackberry Farms
This one is quite a trek for families living in the city, but take our word for it, it’s totally worth the gas-powered hike. Make a whole day of family fun at this living-history museum that has one of the coolest play spaces around with a rustic farm-inspired design and cool interactive features: Adventure Playground. Schedule a family date night filled with rides, games and a history lesson on pioneer life, complete with educational demonstrations. Don’t forget to pack the blankets, picnic basket and lawn chairs to enjoy a special showing of Tangled on an outdoor movie screen. Total bonus: Rapunzel and her friend Spiderman — didn’t see that friendship brewing, did ya? — will be there for photo opps.

Jun. 9, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Blackberry Farm
100 S. Barnes Rd.
Online: foxvalleyparkdistrict.org

Cantigny Park
If you have a kid that likes trucks and tanks and things that go boom!, Cantigny is a must-visit. Along with the First Division Museum (which documents the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division with soldier uniforms, weapons and more), it has nicely landscaped gardens and a “tank park” spangled with army vehicles that kids can climb on. It all adds up to perfect pre-movie entertainment. And, speaking of movies, on Friday nights you can enjoy a movie on Parade Field under the stars at 8:30 p.m. Zootopia  kicks off the outdoor movie fun on June 2. Every third Friday will feature even more family fun, including live music, food trucks, special exhibits and more.  Movies are all free with $5 car parking.  Note: The museums are currently closed for renovation and will reopen late summer.

1S151 Winfield Rd.
Schedule online: cantigny.org

millennium parkphoto: City of Chicago / Millennium Park

Millennium Park
More free movies! And in the heart of downtown in the shadow of the pretty skyline, at that. Every Tuesday, from June 13-September 5 at 6:30 p.m., you can take a seat at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or plop down on the Great Lawn to fixate on a 40-foot-tall screen. Not every film in this series is appropriate for kids, but the following should definitely make your must-do list: Bend It Like Beckham (August 4), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (August 24) and The Princess Bride (August 29).

Located at Michigan Ave. & Randolph St.
Schedule online: cityofchicago.org

Movies on the Green at Oakbrook Center
Shopping and a night at the movies in the great outdoors join forces at Oakbrook Center’s Movies on the Green. Bring a blanket to spread out under the stars on the Village Green, where a state-of-the-art 32’x18′ digital LED screen will bring your favorite silver screen characters to life every Wednesday evening at 7 p.m., June 14-August 9. Catch Moana on June 14, LEGO Batman on June 26, Sing! on July 19 and more family faves throughout the summer. Plan on enjoying dinner before or after the show at Oakbrook Center’s brand new dining destination, The District, which features 10 fast-casual dining hotspots, including Nando’s Peri-Peri and Cilantro Taco Grill.

100 Oakbrook Center
Schedule online: oakbrookcenter.com

Cascade Drive-Inphoto: Cascade Drive-In

Cascade Drive-In
Cascade is still around, offering blockbuster double features under the stars. It’s not often parents have a chance to blow their kids’ minds, but you’ll do just that when you park the car in front of the nation’s largest outdoor movie screen and offer them a dose of yesteryear. Bring your own food and charcoal to cook on one of the grills in the picnic area. Cascade operates March through November. Check their schedule online.

1100 E. North Ave.
West Chicago
Online: cascadedrivein.com

Oak Park’s Movies in the Park
Just a hop, skip and a jump from the city is Oak Park’s Scoville Park, where they’ll be playing family loved movies at dusk all summer long. The force will be in Oak Park with a showing of Rogue One – A Star Wars Story on June 15, the park turns into a Field of Dreams on July 20, The Queen of Katwe makes an appearance August 17 and Beauty and the Beast dances the night away September 23.


Scoville Park
800 Lake St.
Oak Park
Online: pdop.org

What is your favorite place to watch a movie outdoors? Share it in the Comments!

— Amy Bizzarri