The 10 Best Festivals in Illinois!

Festivals are perfect opportunities to experience delicious foods, great music, and various activities that bring the community together. Illinois offers numerous festivals, many of which are free to attend. Some of the largest and most well-known national festivals, such as the Chicago Air & Water Show and Taste of Chicago, are held in Illinois. The following festivals are considered the best by attendees. 

1. Chicago International Film Festival, Chicago, IL

The Chicago International Film Festival is the longest running film festival in the country. It started in 1964 and is now held every fall in Chicago. This competitive film festival presents hundreds of films in various categories such as Reel Women, Black Perspectives, and New Directors Competition. 

2. Shaw’s Oyster Fest, Chicago, IL

Presented by Shaw’s Crab House, the Oyster Fest features fresh seafood, live blues music, and alcohol. The festival has been serving up the best oysters from around the country for over 25 years. They also serve lobster rolls, fish tacos, clam chowder, and other delectable seafood. 

3. Quad Cities Air Balloon Festival, Moline, IL

Held each September, Quad Cities Air Balloon Festival brightens the sky with an assortment of beautiful colors. Visitors can attend the balloon launch and take tethered balloon rides. This festival also raises awareness to community issues by donating food to the River Bend Foodbank. 

4. St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Chicago, IL

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a lively event centered around the sparkling emerald Chicago River. Held downtown Chicago, this popular festival features Celtic performances and neighborhood festivities to celebrate Irish culture. The river dyeing ceremony make this parade one of the biggest each spring. 

5. Taste of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Thousands of people gather each year for the Taste of Chicago, a free festival complemented by family-friendly activities and music. This nationally-known outdoor food festival features a large variety of diverse foods from the Chicago dining community. 

6. Champaign Blues, Brews and BBQs, Champaign, IL

If you love barbeque, the Champaign Blues, Brews and BBQs should be on your destination list. Featuring some of the best barbeque in the nation, this free event also showcases blues bands and motorcycles. Ice cream and other concessions are also provided at this crowd-gathering festival. 

7. Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago, IL

The Chicago Jazz Festival has been a Chicago Labor Day weekend tradition for decades. This free music festival showcases the vast jazz talent in Chicago while featuring national and international jazz performers. 

8. Naperville Ribfest, Naperville, IL

Summertime in Naperville means delicious barbeque ribs, chicken, and pulled pork. The Naperville Ribfest features dozens of vendors competing for the best ribs and sauce. With a mission to end child abuse and domestic violence, this tasty festival is also making a difference. 

9. Chicago Air & Water Show, Chicago, IL

The Chicago Air & Water Show is the largest air and water show in the nation. With free admission, this massive festival features top military and civilian pilots and aircraft presenting daring stunts on the water and in the air. Thousands of people gather along the Magnificent Mile to watch the planes each year. 

10. Rockford Arts & Crafts Holiday Spectacular, Rockford, IL

Support local artists and crafters at the Rockford Arts & Crafts Holiday Spectacular. This massive arts and crafts festival features over a hundred crafter and artists selling hundreds of handcrafted items such as jewelry, woodcrafts, floral arrangements, clothing, and more. Visitors can register to win hourly prizes, as well. 

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