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.
photo: 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.
Locations citywide, Jun. 7-Sept. 9
Schedule online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
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 at the band shell under the stars at 8:30 p.m. Movies are all free with $5 car parking.
May 31-Aug. 30, Fridays at 8:30 p.m.
1S151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton
Schedule online: cantigny.org
photo: Porapak Apichodilok via Pexels
Summer of Superheroes with Water Flicks at Navy Pier
Water Flicks returns to the Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park for family movie night with Lake Michigan and the beautiful Chicago skyline as your backdrop. This year, bring your blankets, lawn chairs and capes as the Pier presents “the summer of superheroes,” a showing of D.C. and Marvel film favorites, including Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and more.
Every Monday, Jun. 24-Aug. 12
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave.
Movie Night at Gallagher Way
Gallagher Way has teamed up with Music Box Theatre to hand-select a schedule of nostalgic, free outdoor movies that runs the middle of May to the end of September as part of their summer programming series. Movie-goers are encouraged to bring carry-out food from Gallagher Way restaurants, such as Big Star or West Town Bakery, or purchase food from the Smoke Daddy food truck located in the park. Beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, popcorn and other snacks will be for sale in the park. Gates open at 6 p.m., movie starts at 7:30 p.m.
Select Wednesday evenings (check website), gates open at 6 p.m., movie starts at 7:30 p.m.
3635 N. Clark St., Lakeview
photo: City of Chicago / Millennium Park
More free movies! And in the heart of downtown in the shadow of the pretty skyline, at that. Every Tuesday, starting in June 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.
Jun. 4-Aug. 20, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
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. 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, Cilantro Taco Grill and for dessert? How about Stan’s Donuts and Coffee?
Jun. 12-Aug. 7, Wednesdays at 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
100 Oakbrook Center, Oakbrook
Schedule online: oakbrookcenter.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 once a month all summer long.
May 18, Jun. 20, Jul. 18, Aug. 15 & Sept. 14; movies begin at dusk
Scoville Park, 800 Lake St., Oak Park
— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri