Pick a Flick! Outdoor Movie Venues for Summer Nights


While an air-conditioned theater might be just what a sweltering summer ordered, the best way to watch a movie in Chicago is outdoors. There are parks, nature centers, drive-ins, hotels and historic attractions reeling family favs all season long. And their lawns or rooftops are yours for the taking (BYO chairs, blankets and maybe even your own popcorn). Watch a flick while fireflies dance with our guide to summer outdoor movies.

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Chicago Park District’s 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 throughout Chicago, Jun. 3-Sep. 3. 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.

Water Flicks at Navy Pier

Water Flicks returns to Navy Pier with Lake Michigan and the beautiful Chicago skyline as your backdrop. On Mondays, Jul. 11-Aug. 29, bring your blankets and lawn chairs as the Pier presents favorites like My Big Fat Greek WeddingMi FamiliaRentAre We There YetMinari and Encanto.

Cantigny Park

If you have a kid that likes trucks and tanks and things that go boom, Cantigny in Wheaton 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 kids can climb on. It all adds up to perfect pre-movie entertainment. Speaking of movies, on Fridays, May 26-Aug. 19, you can enjoy a movie at the bandshell at 8:30 p.m.

Movie Night at Gallagher Way

Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field has teamed up with Music Box Theatre to hand-select a schedule of free outdoor movies on most Wednesdays, May 11-Sep. 21. Movie-goers are encouraged to bring carry-out food from Gallagher Way restaurants. Beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, popcorn and other snacks will be for sale. Gates open at 6 p.m., movie starts at 7:30 p.m.

Chicago Onscreen

The Chicago Park District’s Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase will return, Aug. 30-Sep. 3, for another year of local film screenings in local parks across the city, and a virtual film festival, Sep. 5-25.

Millennium Park

More free movies! And in the heart of downtown in the shadow of the pretty skyline, at that. Every Tuesday, Jul. 12-Aug. 30, you can take a seat at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion or plop down on the Great Lawn to fixate on a 40-foot-tall screen.

Rooftop Cinema Club

Emily Hotel in Fulton Market has partnered with Rootop Cinema Club to transform its 5th-floor terrace into an open-air cinema. The summer movie lineup includes cult classics and new releases, including some Chicago-based favorites. Emily Hotel will provide a full food and drink menu and each guest receives wireless headphones to fully immerse themselves in the movie experience. Movies 4:30 p.m. and after are 18+.

Movies & Food Trucks at Geneva Commons

Enjoy movies and food trucks on the center green all summer long on Friday evenings at Geneva Commons, Jun. 3-Aug. 26.

ChiTown Movies Drive-In

Watch a movie old-school-style under the stars in your car at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen. Order popcorn, tacos, wings, pizza, kids meals and more to be delivered to your car from the ChiTown Grille.

McHenry Outdoor Theater

Experience movies like they did in the 1950s, in your car watching under a canopy of stars, May 6-Oct. 30. At McHenry Outdoor Theater, kids can stay snug in their pajamas and your family can watch two movies for less than the price of one.


Moo-V-Night.com is a traveling outdoor movie business in Chicago that brings the drive-in experience to you. Oftentimes, park districts will hire their services to host outdoor movies in their parks. Follow Moo-V-Night’s Facebook to keep tabs on where they’re popping up throughout the summer.

— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri

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