If you are hungry and enjoy variety, the Taste of Chicago Festival is perfect for you. Every summer for five days in July food vendors and artists take over the park in order to provide you with an array of the best foods in the city. Past years have included over 80 restaurants, pop-up restaurants, and more than a dozen food trucks. Guests will find tasty bits at every step.
Make sure your taste buds are ready because you can experience anything from hot dogs and hamburgers to deep-fried spaghetti. Diversity and a variety of cultures come together to give you a plethora of flavors that will delight you and many treats to make you go “hmmm.”
The tickets you buy at the gate are sold in strips, and you can use these to buy small taste portions or full-size meal portions of whatever you want, wherever you want. You can walk around and eat while you browse or have a seat in one of the beverage tents. There are also hundreds of picnic tables spaced strategically around the park.
In addition, the festival has free concerts in the park in different locations such as the Petrillo Music Shell, Goose Island Stage, and the Theatre Garden. Join in the silent disco, which happens every day at the fountain. You can get a set of headphones and dance along with one of the different DJs performing nearby. There is also a playground for the kids where they have inflatables and a Ferris wheel.
You do not need tickets to get into the Taste of Chicago, and it is free to enter. You will have to buy tickets to eat and drink the selections because the festival has its own form of currency. You can buy these tickets at the gate or any of the ticket booths around the park.
Taste of Chicago is held at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. The closest large city is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is about 100 miles along Interstate 94. However, you can reach the park from Interstate 290, 55, or 90 as well as from U.S. Highway 41. Since the park is in the middle of Chicago and this is a huge venue, you should have no trouble finding it. Maneuvering a large rig should not be an issue either since it is mostly highway driving. There is one area on Lakeshore Drive that is low clearance so remember to know your rig's height. You can expect some traffic no matter which day you come as Chicago is a hub of activity year-round.
Admission is free, and you do not need a ticket, but you will have to pay to park. You can park anywhere by Grant Park and just walk into this huge outdoor dining experience. Remember to consider the size of your camping setup when planning your parking options. There are two public garages in the area, but these will have height restrictions. You can pay daily parking rates, prepay online, or call Millennium Garages for details. Parking garage options in the area may best suit tow vehicles and smaller campervan setups.
Take Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to the Taste of Chicago from just about anywhere in the city. If you are taking the subway, get off at Jackson and head a few blocks east. If using the elevated lines, exit at the Adams and Wabash stop. If you are coming in from further out, you can arrange a rideshare service to get to the CTA or take it all the way to the park. Other options include private bus company services.
Because the Taste of Chicago is in the middle of the city park, there is no onsite camping available. However, there are several park and ride lots, rideshare lots, and public transportation lots where you can park your RV and take the CTA or other public transportation to the event.
There are quite a few campgrounds in the Chicago area. You may find your closest option in Wheaton, Illinois, which is just under 30 miles away from Grant Park. With dozens of campsites on offer, most are also big enough for even the largest rigs. You will also likely find electric hookups, showers, restrooms with running water, and sites with a picnic table and campfire ring with a grill for cooking. Camping in Wheaton brings you near Silver Lake, where you can fish, boat, and swim.
Travelers can also look for RV camping options about 32 miles away in Portage, Indiana. Campsites in the area accommodate all types and sizes of rigs and provide full hookups. You may also get cable TV, laundry facilities, picnic areas, a playground, and a camp store. Pets are welcome as long as they are properly restrained and supervised at all times.
There are a variety of other choices for RV parking in Chicago that are closer if you don’t mind not having amenities. First off, there are two McCormick Place lots they rent out for overnight parking. One is at the 18th Street lot by Soldier Field, and the other is on 31st Street and Lakeshore Drive at the southern end of the convention center parking lot. You can reserve a space online, which is the best choice for an event such as Taste of Chicago. Other options include the Lincoln Park Zoo, Soldier Field, or Museum of Science lots, which you will also need to prepay to reserve a spot. These spots do not provide water, electric, or any other amenities since they are just parking lots.
You will be using foot power to get around the Taste of Chicago, although there are plenty of places to have a seat while you eat. After all, you are here to taste what the town has to offer, right? The park is ADA accessible, and strollers are allowed but no bicycles or other types of wheeled transportation.
It can get to nearly 100 degrees in Chicago during the month of July, so wearing something cool and comfortable is a must. Sunglasses are another essential item to wear. You will also want to wear supportive shoes. While you would probably like to wear sandals, with all the walking you may want to choose tennis shoes instead. Wearing a hat that covers your face and neck to protect you from the sun is advised as well. However, since you will be so close to Lake Michigan, it can get breezy at night, so you may want to bring a light jacket as well.
Try not to bring anything cumbersome with you because you are going to want your hands free for eating and drinking. Of course, you will want to take pictures, but this is easy enough with your phone or a small camera you can put in your pocket. A small, lightweight bag may be preferable, so you can use it to carry any items you may decide to buy while you are there.
Sunscreen is very important during the summer in Chicago, especially when you are that close to water. The reflection of the sun can be a major sunburn waiting to happen. Bug spray is also recommended because you will be eating food and in the evening the mosquitos will be out in droves. It’s also a good idea to bring a refillable water bottle for each person to refill so you don’t get dehydrated on your adventure.
Although you will be eating a variety of foods at the Taste of Chicago Festival, you may want to cook a few meals at the RV, too. The RV parks and campsites provide campfire rings with grills, but some camping lots do not have any type of cooking provisions. You can use a camp stove or the stove in your RV if you have one. Make sure you stock up on grocery items and other necessities before parking for the night.
Hungry travelers can enjoy a plethora of restaurants in the Chicago area, but you may want to think ahead on the timing of a visit to any of them. You are going to have over 100 options to choose from at the festival. In the past, vendors have included Da Pizza Dude, Harold’s Chicken, Eli’s Cheesecake, Pink Taco, Egg Rolls Etc., Chicago’s Dog House, and so many more. Whether you want a Mexican cuisine, Italian, French, or American, they have it there and then some in the Chicago area.
Food trucks and pop up vendors make up for almost 60% of the choices in recent years so you are going to have your choice of anything and everything you can think of and a lot of stuff that you would never have imagined. You may also find a new 'least' favorite food and a new 'most' favorite food. Everyone has different tastes, and Taste of Chicago is a great place to explore new ideas.
Security is very visible, and there is no question who to go to if you need assistance. The Chicago Police Department always assists with dozens of officers at the festival to keep the peace. Drug use is not permitted anywhere on the grounds. Smoking is not allowed in any enclosed places or within 15 feet of the entrances of these places. That includes vapes, eCigs, and other nicotine or tobacco portals. There are many alcohol vendors in the park, but you must be 21, have a valid photo ID, and open containers cannot be taken off the premises.
This foodie event is held in July in Chicago, so you know it will be hot. At least in the high 80s and 90s. Sometimes it can top 100 in the big city. However, it is called the “windy city” for a reason. It gets windy by the lake, and at night it can actually get a little chilly for some. Protect your skin with sunscreen, hats, scarves, and shade whenever possible and drink tons of water.
You can call 911 from anywhere in the park and tell them the letter and number on the pole nearest to you, and they will find you. These pole markers are attached to light poles around the park to help first responders find those in need. There is also a First Aid Trailer in the middle of the park west of Columbus and south of Congress on the corner of Ida B. Wells Drive by the fountain. Pharmacy options are as close as a 15-minute drive or may be present along your route to a campsite in the vicinity.