The international travel hub of Chicago, revered for its world-class attractions, has long been a hotbed for music of all genres.
When it comes to music scenes, it’s hard to beat a city that helped cultivate sounds ranging from the urban blues of the late Muddy Waters to the alternative tunes of Wilco. No matter what makes you get on the dance floor, you’ll find it here. Check out these Chicago neighborhoods to hear cool jazz, grungy garage bands, famous headliners – and maybe the next big thing.
Uptown: Historic Entertainment Capital
Chicago’s Uptown boasts restored Art Deco buildings, a popular beachside along Lake Michigan and diverse cultural influences, from Vietnamese to Ethiopian and Appalachian. This neighborhood has been the local entertainment capital for well over a century, beginning with the earliest days of silent films. Opened in 1907, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge features jazz performances that last into the wee hours of the morning, seven days a week. The 1917 Riviera Theatre looks a bit like an old movie house on the outside – because it was one until it became a private nightclub in 1986 and later a concert venue. Catch a show at “the Riv” and you might see anyone from Marilyn Manson to Ben Folds in a gorgeous, French Revival interior.
Dancing to upbeat, live jazz at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
Wicker Park and Bucktown: Independent Vibes
Discover a plethora of vintage shops, independent restaurants, restored historic homes and active, cutting-edge arts communities in Wicker Park and Bucktown. If you prefer low-key music halls, dive bars and inexpensive drinks, you’ll find it all here. From the outside, the Empty Bottle doesn’t look like much, but inside this street-corner venue is an intimate stage where you’ll hear everything from honky-tonk to punk rock. The Hideout is a similarly underground spot with a small stage, eclectic musical lineup – including country, metal and introspective soft singer-songwriters – and loyal patrons in attendance.
The Empty Bottle, an eclectic music venue
Logan Square: Venues Big and Small
Known for its artsy vibe and scenic boulevards, and anchored by the central square of the same name, Logan Square is one of Chicago’s up-and-coming neighborhoods that retains a small-town vibe. Blues lovers just might find their happy place at family-run Rosa’s Lounge, featuring top-notch blues music seven nights a week. Don’t let the low-key space fool you; Rosa’s was named the best blues club in Chicago by the New York Times. You’ll find a little more room to move and groove at Concord Music Hall, a newer and larger space, where a diverse musical calendar includes big names and intimate aftershows alike; hear hip-hop one day and bachata or electronic the next.
Blues jam session at Rosa’s Lounge
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Chicago Midway (MDW) international airports both offer plenty of flights from destinations around the world. Rental cars are available, but Chicago has a convenient network of public transit options that makes it easy to get around.