Free and Cheap 2012 Labor Day Weekend Events in Chicago

Are you looking for things to do in Chicago this Labor Day weekend? Check out our list of top-picks for Chicago Labor Day events  this Labor Day Weekend:


1.  Chicago Jazz Festival – This is the weekend for the free Chicago Jazz Festival  – Make sure to get downtown to see opening night of the 34th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival with a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald called  Exquisitely For Ella: A Songbook Tribute at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park at 6:30pm.

Friday, Aug. 31
Millennium Park: 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday
Grant Park: 11am – 9:30 pm
Jazz Institute of Chicago’s free, quality live musical performance.


 2.  Enjoy a fun free American Girl Event in Chicago – Check out these FREE events

  • August 31: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. –  American Girl Historical Character Scavenger Hunt – Learn about the beloved American Girl historical characters! Your girl will go on a scavenger hunt throughout the store, collecting fun facts about each historical character along the way. She’ll discover what it was like to grow up in America’s past, and find hidden clues she’ll need to solve a fun puzzle. And she’ll get a free American Girl poster at the end!
  • August 31: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. –  Julie’s Embroidered Card Craft – Owls were all the rage in Julie’s generation—your girl can learn how to stitch a 1970s-inspired owl design on an embroidery card. It’s an activity Julie would have had a “hoot” doing!

Where: Water Tower Place
835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago


3.   Enjoy some great FREE Fireworks Over Navy Pier: September 1, 2011 –Enjoy great fireworks over Chicago’s Navy Pier when the skies late up the Saturday of Labor Day weekend at 10:15 p.m.


4.  Get a FREE morning workout — Kick off your weekend on Saturday morning September 1, 2012 with an energizing workout on the Great Lawn of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Supported by McDonald’s® and presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, these free workout sessions will be held from 7 am to 11 am.    Workouts are 45 minutes long with classes in Tai Chi at 7 a.m., Yoga at 8 a.m., Pilates at 9 a.m. and Zumba®, a Latin-inspired calorie-burning dance fitness party, beginning at 10 a.m. Returning this year, there will be live music played over Millennium Park’s state-of-the-art sound system for the yoga and pilates classes. Workouts are free and are open to people with all levels of experience. Millennium Park, Great Lawn   N. Michigan Ave. & E. Randolph St.


5.  Check out the Taste of Polonia: Aug 31-Sep 3  –  Enjoy non-stop live music, food and fun for all ages at the 33rd Annual Taste of Polonia over Labor Day weekend!**Five stages feature music for every taste from rock to dance to classical! Chicago’s own: ABBA Salute, Arra, Bad Medicine, Blue Road, BritBeat, Comfortably Floyd, Gentleman of Leisure, Libido Funk Circus, Waco Brothers and more! Polish artists: Myslovitz and more to be announced! Classical Performances: TBA. Plus a great line-up of Chicago club DJs on the dance stage each night!**Delicious, old-world Polish favorites like polska kielbasa, pierogi, potato pancakes and imported beers will surely satisfy your appetite!  Admission range is $3 – $6; children under 12 are free.


6. Family Fun Festival  –  The Family Fun Festival returns to Millennium Park this summer, making the Park the place to be for kids of all ages. Every day, from July 9 – September 2 between 10 AM and 3 PM, family performances and hands-on activities will take place in the Family Fun Tent, located on the Park’s Chase Promenade North. The Family Fun Festival is sponsored by Target  — Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St.

      September 1-2: Get Out & Grow — Activities led by William Moss and Friends


7. African Festival of Arts: September 2 – 5, 2011 –  Celebrate African culture at the 21st Annual African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park, a spectacular celebration of arts and culture from across the African Diaspora.  It is the largest neighborhood festival in Chicago, and said to be the largest of its kind in the U.S.   Thousands of people from around the world come to Chicago’s Washington Park, Labor Day Weekend for this authentic African experience. They are transported to African villages across the Diaspora with vibrant drumming, storytelling, dancing, interactive demonstrations, historical artifacts, colorful and rich fabrics, informative health and wellness workshops, as well as fascinating entertainment.   Admission is $10-15 and weekend passes are available.


8.  Enjoy free dance lessons at SummerDance in ChicagoChicago SummerDance brings people of all ages and skill levels together on the 4,900 square-foot, open-air dance floor made of 100% recycled materials each summer. The series offers free, introductory one-hour dance lessons by professional instructors followed by music and dancing. The diverse musical lineup showcases dance styles from all corners of the globe.

  • August 31, 2012 – Mojo & The Bayou Gypsies – The 16th annual Chicago SummerDance series presents free Zydeco 2-step dance lessons by Louie Stallone and live music featuring Mojo & The Bayou Gypsies performing Cajun and Zydeco music.
  • September 1, 2012 – Guitarra Azul – The 16th annual Chicago SummerDance series presents free Tango dance lessons by Gregory Day and Tommye Giacchino and live music and dancing, featuring Guitarra Azul performing Nuevo Flamenco music.
  • September 2, 2012 – The Weiss Brothers Orchestra – The 16th annual Chicago SummerDance series presents free Swing lessons and Family Dance by Dancing with Class, and live music featuring Weiss Brothers Orchestra performing Ballroom music.


9.  Try out a Chicago InstaGreeter at  Neighborhood Outposts in the Loop and Old Town: September 1, 2011  –  The Chicago Greeter program is a free service offered by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.   “Chicago Greeter uses volunteers to highlight Chicago for guests. It’s like having a friend or family member showing you around,” said Katie Law, manager of greeter and volunteer services but requires reservations.   The InstaGreeter Tours gives visitors the stellar Chicago Greeter experience without the need to pre-register!  These hour-long guided walks of Downtown and seasonally, Millennium Park and iconic Chicago neighborhoods, are perfect for the visitor with more flexible travel dates, someone whose schedule may not allow for a longer Chicago Greeter visit, or a last-minute guest who cannot register for a Greeter visit 10 business days in advance.  Explore the Loop — Learn about Chicago history, architecture, the Chicago River and the Lakefront on a FREE InstaGreeter visit of the Loop!  Explore Old Town — Enjoy the Old Town neighborhood with an InstaGreeter. Old Town InstaGreeter is located at the Second City, the celebrated improvisational comedy club and training ground of comedians John Belushi, Bill Murray, Tina Fey and Steve Carrell, among many others.


10. Ravenswood Remix: September 1-2  – All things eco and indie come together at the first-ever outdoor festival of art (outsider, folk, craft), music (The Hoyle Brothers, Pet Lions), and green-living workshops.   Ravenswood Remix is Chicago’s first festival featuring art that’s drawn from outside the margins: A refreshing remix of indie, intuitive, folk and craft art made from recycled and found materials. The two-day event, which benefits local school art programs, features workshops and education for people of all ages. With the work many eclectic artists, great music, food from forward-thinking restaurants, and refreshing beverages, it’s the best way to cap off your summer fun.  Ravenswood Remix is an outdoor festival located at 4100 N. Ravenswood Ave., one block north of Irving Park, between Belle Plaine & Berteau. Conveniently located one block from the Irving Park brown line stop, just east of the Metra train tracks.  $5 suggested donation to benefit Hamilton Elementary School art programs


11. 8th Annual Pullman Labor Day Bike Ride: September 3 — Historic Pullman, the original company town built by George Pullman in the 1880s to house the workers at his Palace Car factory, is a significant part of the rich Chicago southside labor history and the eighth annual Pullman Labor Day Bike Ride will be on September 3, 2012. Appropriately held on Labor Day, the ride’s theme honors the important role labor unions have played in Pullman and the Calumet region. All proceeds from the ride go towards expenses and a celebration by the historic Hotel Florence in Pullman at the conclusion of the 30 mile course. Lunch and a labor history program will be a part of the festivities, with appropriate speakers for the occasion.Approximately 30 miles, the route takes our riders through a varied landscape, from industrial sites to natural areas. Starting in Pullman, we cross the east side of Chicago (Water Reclamation at CEPA Station), over the state line to Indiana, and then past the beaches at the southern end of Lake Michigan, at Whihala Beach and Lakefront Park in Whiting, IN, en route Marktown, IN. In the former steelworkers’ town, we meet a local historian for a brief tour. On the way back, there will be stops at the site of the Memorial Day Massacre and the Cline Avenue Bridge. Then passing the wetlands of the Calumet, returning to Pullman’s Clock Tower for lunch and music.

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