Chicago Local Life

The Best Neighborhoods for Catching Chicago's Free Movies in Parks

Chicago summer is brief but glorious, and the city knows how to take advantage of those few warm months. Each season you can attend free movie screenings at dusk in Chicago’s neighborhood parks. Pop some popcorn, grab some blankets to spread out on the grass, and enjoy the show.

Here are six neighborhoods where you can catch movies—everything from superhero flicks and kids movies to classic comedies and dramas—from June through early September. 

The Loop

Head to Millennium Park for a free movie in the park

Millennium Park in the Loop puts on its own Summer Film Series each year from June to August, while the Chicago Park District takes charge of the Movies in the Park series hosted in other neighborhood parks until early September. You can catch a different movie every week in Millennium Park, including horror movies, cult classics, and kid-friendly fare.

At the heart of downtown Chicago, the Loop offers plenty of things to do before you settle in for the show. Spend the day at the Art Institute of Chicago, right next door to the park, or grab a burger, fries, and a shake at Shake Shack, located right across the street from the park in the Chicago Athletic Association hotel building.

East Side

The East side neighborhood of Chicago is a quiet family-friendly area with great parks

Calumet Park in the East Side neighborhood hosts family-friendly movies in July and August as a part of the Chicago Park District series. 

Calumet Park has almost 200 acres of open space. Spend the day at Calumet Beach before the movie, or play a game on one of the multiple sports fields. If you’re looking for dinner to go with the movie, Skyway Doghouse isn’t far from the park.

Edgewater 

You can catch movies on the beach at Edgewater's Kathy Osterman Beach

Edgewater is home to Kathy Osterman Beach, unofficially known as Hollywood Beach. You can bring your towels and flip flops to the lakefront for movies on the beach from June to August. 

Of course, you can prep for the movie by lounging on the beach and cooling off in Lake Michigan. When you start to crave something sweet, a short walk will take you to Zanzibar Cafe on Bryn Mawr Avenue. The cafe does baked goods, sandwiches, and some of the most delicious ice cream you’ll find in the city.

Lincoln Park

The cinematically themed Oz Park is a great place to catch an outdoor movie

Oz Park is known for its “Wizard of Oz”-themed sculptures and play areas with names like “Dorothy’s Playlot,” so it’s fitting that the park is a spot for outdoor movie screenings. Expect to see classics and current blockbusters on the big screen.

Since Oz Park is centrally located in Lincoln Park, you’ll have no trouble finding places to grab a bite to eat before the screen lights up. Sushi bar Shine is just across the street from the park, and Insomnia Cookies is just up the street. 

Near West Side

View from Skinner Park in Near West Side

Skinner Park in the Near West Side hosts film screenings during the summer in July and August.

Before the movie, you can take advantage of the park’s indoor swimming pool and outdoor playground. Plus, there are fields for pickup games of baseball, football, and soccer. If dinner and a movie are the plan, you can walk a few minutes to eat at the famed Billy Goat Tavern or grab something to go from Harold’s Chicken Shack.  

River North

River North is home to great dining and summertime events, like movie in the park

Montgomery Ward Park, located in River North, is a picturesque spot on the North Branch of the Chicago River with an active outdoor movie schedule.

Before the movie, kids can play on the park’s playground and pet parents can let their dogs burn off some energy in the dog-friendly area. If you want to venture a little further into the neighborhood, River North has plenty of options for drinks and dining.

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