The start of summer in Chicago is a highly anticipated event after the cold, snowy winters. Many Chicagoans look forward to the warmer temperatures, sunny days, and fun outdoor activities that summer brings.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Summer in Chicago officially starts on the Summer Solstice, which falls on June 20 or 21 each year.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the start of summer in Chicago. We’ll discuss how the start date is determined, weather changes to expect, summer solstice celebrations, things to do, and tips for making the most of the sunny season.

How Is the Official Start of Summer Determined?

The official start of summer is determined through various methods, including the Summer Solstice, Meteorological Summer, and Astronomical Summer.

Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice marks the official start of summer in terms of astronomical events. It occurs around June 20th or 21st in the Northern Hemisphere. During the Summer Solstice, the North Pole is tilted towards the Sun, resulting in the longest day and shortest night of the year.

This event signifies the beginning of summer and is celebrated in many cultures around the world.

Meteorological Summer

Meteorological summer is determined based on the calendar months of June, July, and August. This method is used by meteorologists to simplify weather records and analysis. By dividing the year into four equal seasons, meteorologists can easily compare weather patterns and make predictions.

In this system, summer starts on June 1st and ends on August 31st.

Astronomical Summer

Astronomical summer is determined based on the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. It takes into account the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its elliptical orbit around the Sun. Astronomical summer officially begins at the moment of the Summer Solstice and ends at the moment of the Autumnal Equinox.

This method aligns with the natural cycles of the Earth and the Sun.

Weather Changes to Expect in Early Summer

As summer approaches in Chicago, residents can look forward to a shift in weather patterns. The city experiences distinct changes in temperature, humidity, sunshine, and the occurrence of thunderstorms.

Understanding these changes can help people prepare for the upcoming season and make the most of their summer plans.

Warmer Temperatures

One of the most noticeable changes as summer begins in Chicago is the rise in temperatures. Gone are the chilly days of spring as the mercury climbs and brings warmer weather. Average temperatures can range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit (23-30 degrees Celsius), providing the perfect conditions for outdoor activities such as picnics, beach trips, and outdoor festivals.

It’s time to dust off those sunglasses and sunscreen!

Increased Humidity

With the arrival of summer, the humidity levels in Chicago also tend to rise. The air becomes more saturated with moisture, leading to that sticky feeling we all know too well. Humidity levels can range from 60% to 90%, making it important to stay hydrated and seek shade when needed.

Don’t forget to keep a water bottle handy and embrace the occasional cool breeze that brings relief from the humidity.

More Sunny Days

Chicagoans can expect a significant increase in the number of sunny days during early summer. The sun shines brightly for an average of 10 to 12 hours a day, providing ample opportunity to soak up vitamin D and enjoy outdoor activities.

With longer daylight hours, there’s more time to explore the city’s parks, visit the lakefront, or simply relax in the backyard with a good book. It’s the perfect time to indulge in outdoor hobbies and make the most of the glorious weather.

Afternoon Thunderstorms

While summer brings plenty of sunshine, it also brings the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms in Chicago. These storms are often brief but intense, with heavy rainfall and occasional lightning and thunder.

They can occur spontaneously, so it’s always a good idea to carry an umbrella or have a backup plan for outdoor activities. These storms can also provide a welcome relief from the heat, bringing a refreshing coolness to the atmosphere.

For more detailed and up-to-date weather forecasts, it’s advisable to check trusted sources such as the National Weather Service’s website or local news channels. Staying informed about the weather changes in early summer will help Chicago residents make the most of their outdoor plans and enjoy the season to the fullest.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice in Chicago

Chicago, known for its vibrant culture and diverse events, is the perfect place to celebrate the summer solstice. As the longest day of the year, the summer solstice marks the official start of summer and brings with it a sense of excitement and anticipation for the warm months ahead.

In Chicago, there are several events and festivities that take place to commemorate this special occasion.

Summer Solstice Events at the Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, offers a unique and educational experience for visitors during the summer solstice. They host special events and programs that allow attendees to learn about the science and significance of the solstice.

From stargazing sessions to interactive exhibits, the Adler Planetarium provides a memorable way to celebrate the start of summer in Chicago.

Chicago SummerDance in Grant Park

Another popular event that coincides with the summer solstice is the Chicago SummerDance festival held in Grant Park. This outdoor dance extravaganza brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy live music and dance performances.

From salsa to swing, there are a variety of dance styles to choose from. Whether you’re a seasoned dancer or simply enjoy watching others groove to the rhythm, Chicago SummerDance is a must-visit event during the summer solstice.

Taste of Chicago Festival

One of the most anticipated events in Chicago during the summer is the Taste of Chicago festival, which typically takes place around the time of the summer solstice. This food festival showcases the city’s diverse culinary scene, with a wide variety of cuisines and dishes to sample.

From deep-dish pizza to gourmet desserts, the Taste of Chicago offers something for everyone. In addition to the delicious food, there are also live performances by renowned musicians and artists, creating a festive atmosphere that captures the essence of summer in Chicago.

Ravinia Festival Concerts

For music lovers, the Ravinia Festival concerts are a highlight of the summer solstice celebrations in Chicago. Located in Highland Park, just outside the city, Ravinia is the oldest outdoor music festival in the United States.

It features performances by world-class musicians and orchestras, covering a wide range of genres including classical, jazz, and pop. With its beautiful outdoor setting and captivating performances, Ravinia offers a magical experience that perfectly complements the enchantment of the summer solstice.

Fun Things to Do in the Early Summer in Chicago

Hit the Beaches

When summer arrives in Chicago, one of the best ways to beat the heat is by heading to the city’s beautiful beaches. With over 26 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, there are plenty of sandy spots for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.

From the popular North Avenue Beach to the more serene 31st Street Beach, there is a beach for every preference. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, towels, and beach toys for a day of fun in the sun!

Check Out City Parks and Gardens

Chicago is known for its stunning green spaces and meticulously maintained gardens. In the early summer, these parks come alive with vibrant blooms and lush foliage. Take a leisurely stroll through Millennium Park and admire the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “The Bean.”

Explore the expansive Grant Park, home to Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago. For a more immersive experience, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, where you can marvel at a wide variety of flowers and plants.

Attend Street Fests and Markets

Chicago is a city that loves to celebrate, especially during the summer months. From neighborhood street fests to bustling farmers markets, there is always something happening in the city. Explore the diverse neighborhoods of Chicago and indulge in delicious food, live music, and unique crafts at these lively events.

Some popular street fests include the Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Blues Festival, and the Chicago Jazz Festival. Don’t miss the chance to experience the vibrant culture and community spirit of the Windy City!

Go on Architectural Boat Tours

Chicago is known for its stunning architecture, and one of the best ways to appreciate it is by taking a boat tour along the Chicago River. These guided tours offer a unique perspective of the city’s skyline, showcasing iconic buildings such as the Willis Tower, the Tribune Tower, and the Wrigley Building.

Learn about the rich history and architectural significance of these structures as you cruise along the river. It’s a fantastic way to explore Chicago’s architectural wonders while enjoying the refreshing breeze from the water.

Take in City Views from Rooftops and Observation Decks

For breathtaking views of the city, head to one of Chicago’s rooftop bars or observation decks. From here, you can admire the sprawling skyline and the shimmering waters of Lake Michigan. The Skydeck at Willis Tower offers a thrilling experience with its glass-bottomed ledge, allowing you to see the city from a whole new perspective.

The 360 Chicago Observation Deck, located in the John Hancock Center, provides panoramic views of the city’s landmarks. Whether you’re enjoying a drink at a rooftop bar or standing on a towering observation deck, the views are sure to leave you in awe of Chicago’s beauty.

Tips for Making the Most of Summer in Chicago

Stay Hydrated and Use Sunscreen

With temperatures soaring in the summer months, it’s important to stay hydrated and protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay cool and hydrated.

Additionally, don’t forget to apply sunscreen with a high SPF before heading out to enjoy the city’s many outdoor attractions. The Chicago Park District offers over 580 parks, including 26 miles of lakefront, where you can relax and soak up the sun.

Pack Light, Breathable Clothing

Chicago’s summers can be hot and humid, so it’s essential to dress appropriately. Opt for light, breathable clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable throughout the day. Consider wearing loose-fitting clothes made of natural fabrics like cotton or linen.

Don’t forget to bring a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

Take Advantage of Longer Days

One of the best things about summer in Chicago is the longer days. With sunset happening later in the evening, you have more time to enjoy outdoor activities. Make the most of these extended daylight hours by visiting one of Chicago’s many rooftop bars or taking a stroll along the lakefront.

You can even catch a spectacular sunset over the city skyline.

Enjoy Al Fresco Dining Options

Chicago is known for its vibrant food scene, and during the summer months, many restaurants offer al fresco dining options. From rooftop patios to sidewalk cafes, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a meal outdoors while taking in the city’s beautiful scenery.

Don’t miss out on trying some of Chicago’s signature dishes, such as deep-dish pizza or a Chicago-style hot dog, while enjoying the warm weather.

Check the City’s Event Calendars

Summer in Chicago is filled with festivals, concerts, and other exciting events. Make sure to check the city’s event calendars to stay up to date on what’s happening around town. From Grant Park’s Taste of Chicago to the Lollapalooza music festival, there’s always something going on in the Windy City.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the lively atmosphere and unique cultural events that make Chicago so special.


Summer’s arrival in Chicago is an exciting transitional period. The Windy City sheds its cold-weather coat and truly comes alive again with sunshine, blue skies, and pleasant weather perfect for making the most of the season.

With summer officially starting on the Summer Solstice in late June, Chicagoans can look forward to warmer temperatures, specialty events, and beloved outdoor activities in the coming months. Use this guide to make the most of the city during the best season of the year!

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