The big event
It's baaack. Chicago's slimmed-down food and music fest – which is still billed as the world's largest free food festival, by the way – returns for the 36th year. The Taste of Chicago features just under 70 restaurants and 20 food trucks for a total of 200-plus menu items (including mustard-fried catfish and peach cobbler from BJ's Market; fried Oreos from Punky's Pizza & Pasta; and turkey legs from Miller's Pub) over its five-day stint that continues through Sunday in Grant Park (Jackson and Columbus drives).
Live music at Taste: Kongos (Thursday), The Decemberists (Friday), Billy Idol (Saturday) and The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald and Ernie Isley, with an opening act by Sheila E. (Sunday). Lawn seating is free for Petrillo Music Shell concerts listed here; tickets cost $15-$23 for seating. A second stage at Columbus Drive and Balbo Avenue features free acts throughout the duration of the fest.
Fine print: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thusday-Friday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Free entry; food and beverage tickets are sold in strips of 12 for $8.50. Want to maximize your mouthfuls? Each vendor has smaller "taste" portions that cost between one and five tickets.
Free pick of the week
Bowmanville Garden Walk (Saturday)
Welcome table at Bowmanville and Bell avenues
Whether you're searching for gardening inspiration or just love seeing what's beyond the fence, this annual event aims to scratch your green-thumb itch. The quiet, tree-lined neighborhood nestled to the southeast of Rosehill Cemetery and bordered by Ravenswood, Foster, Western and Bowmanville avenues features a chance to meet garden owners and wander to select front, back, side and even hidden gardens. Master gardeners from the University of Illinois are on hand at the welcome table (Bowmanville and Bell avenues) to help solve more pressing plant queries. Rain or shine. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Free.
Also on tap ...
Tour de Fat (Saturday)
Palmer Square Park, 2200 N. Kedzie Ave.
The traveling fest presented by New Belgium Brewing returns to Chicago for the 17th year. Join in a costumed bike parade around the neighborhood, participate in a game show for the chance to win a new bike, watch yo-yo and puppet performances and more. Live music features Mucca Pazza (1 p.m.) and Dr. Dog (3:40 p.m.). Beer and food available for purchase. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.
Ruido Fest (Friday-Sunday)
Addams/Medil Park, 1301 W. 14th St.
A three-day Latin alternative music festival features scores of bands, plus dozens of food vendors and merchandise. Highights: La Ley, Panteon Rococo, Carla Morrison (Friday); Maldita Vecindad, Natalia Lafourcade, Cuca (Saturday); Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Aterciopelados, Los Pericos (Sunday). 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $55-$60 single-day passes; $95-$150 multiple-day passes; VIP tickets available; free for kids ages 5 and under with adult accompaniment.
Arts and Crafts Festival (Saturday-Sunday)
DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 57th Place
Browse fine art and handcrafted work by local, national and international artists at the 42nd annual event featuring African-American themes, history and culture. Extras include a farmers market, food vendors, beer garden, family activities and performances. Noon-10 p.m. daily. Free.
West Fest (Friday-Sunday)
Chicago Avenue, between Damen Avenue and Wood Street
Local businesses and live music are the focus of this annual West Town affair. Empty Bottle Presents programs the main stage, featuring headling acts Luna (Friday), Bully (Saturday) and Cloud Nothings (Sunday); a DJ stage includes a house music focus with Heather & Collette (Friday); Mark Farina (Saturday) and Derrick Carter (Sunday). Special programming for kids and a pets area round it out. 5-10 p.m. Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $5 suggested donation.
Roscoe Village Burger Fest (Saturday-Sunday)
Clybourn Avenue and Diversey Parkway
The annual patty party gets a new location in 2016 due to construction, but you can expect the same tasty lineup: a dozen burger vendors, two stages of live music, and kids activities. Headliners this year include 10,000 Maniacs and Liquid Soul (Saturday); and Rod Tuffcurls & The Bench Press and 16 Candles (Sunday). 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. $10 suggested gate donation.
Teens in the Park Festival (Saturday)
Northerly Island, 1300 S. Linn White Drive
Everyone knows Chicago's got talent. See young rising artists and those who've already had some time in the spotlight at this free music and arts festival for Millennials and post-Millennials. Headliners include Sir the Baptist, Boy Illinois, Mark Hood, Spenzo and Jamila Woods. Other activities include a graffiti wall, games and vendors. 2 p.m. Free. Tickets available online. Entry limited to ages 14-24.
Square Roots Festival (Friday-Sunday)
Lincoln Avenue, between Montrose and Wilson avenues
Live music and dozens of craft beers highlight this Lincoln Square fest co-presented by the Old Town School of Folk Music. Two indoor and outdoor stages feature more than 50 acts. Highlights: Dessa, My Brightest Diamond (Friday); Lydia Loveless, Debo Band (Saturday); Cracker, Sarah Jarosz (Sunday). Also features food vendors, arts and crafts and kids activities. 5-10 p.m. Friday; noon-10 p.m. Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday. Suggested donation: $10; $5 for seniors and kids; $20 for families. Some indoor concerts require a ticket.
Irish Fest (Friday-Sunday)
Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave.
Irish and American music, dance, food, exhibits, merchandise and kids activities highlight this 31st annual indoor-outdoor event. Headlining acts include The Narrowbacks (Friday); Eileen Ivers (Saturday) and The High Kings (Sunday). Other highlights: mashed potato-eating contest (8 p.m. Friday); a men in kilts contest (7:30 p.m. Saturday); and hooley hook-up events for singles each evening. 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday; noon-1 a.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday. $8-$15; $5 for kids ages 4-12; free for kids under age 4.
Brush with Nature (Sunday)
Emily Oaks Nature Center, 4650 Brummel Ave., Skokie
Watch more than 50 professional artists work on canvases along the walking paths of the suburban nature center during this seventh annual event. Bonus: Grab a breakfast of fresh-cooked pancakes and fixings, presented as part of the Skokie Park District's Pancake Breakfast in the Woods event. 9 a.m.-noon. Free to watch artists; breakfast costs $7.50; $5.50 for kids under age 10.
Events listed are subject to change. We recommend double-checking times and locations before you head out the door. Want to share your upcoming events with us for consideration in a future roundup? Send us an email.