The best things to do in Pilsen include exploring the street art and galleries, trying authentic Mexican cuisine, listening to live music, and participating in cultural events.
Pilsen was originally settled by Irish and German immigrants, and then after the Chicago Fire it became a destination for Czech immigrants. More recently, the neighborhood became Chicago’s hub for Mexican Americans and the Hispanic community in Chicago.
Last updated: April 2022
Read More About Pilsen:
The Best Restaurants in Pilsen
Where is Pilsen?
Pilsen is located in the lower west side of Chicago. The rough borders are 16th Street to the north, Canal Street to the east, the Chicago River to the south, and Ashland Avenue to the west.
How to Get to Pilsen:
The L’s Pink Line stops at 18th Street and the Metra stops at Halsted Street just north of 16th Street.
Parks and Outdoor Activities:
An 18 acre park with tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, and baseball fields. The field house contains an indoor pool, gymnastics center, and gymnasium. The park is next to the National Museum of Mexican Art and the museum partners with this park to host cultural events. In the summer, Movies in the Park are shown here.
A 6.5 acre park with an outdoor swimming pool, baseball fields, athletic fields, and playgrounds. Community events like Fiesta del Sol, Dia de Los Muertos, and the We Are Hip Hop festivals take place at this park.
National Mexican Museum of Art
This free museum is home to one of the nation’s largest Mexican Art collections; it spans history from ancient Mexico to today. The Nuestras Historias Stories of Mexican Identity exhibit highlights works from the Permanent Collection that tell diverse stories of Mexican identity in North America and features works from both sides of the border. The museum is also a cultural hub hosting theater, dance, music, and literary events.
The museum has created a free guide to the murals surrounding the museum.
Chicago Arts District
This stretch of Halsted Street between 17th Street and Canalport in East Pilsen is filled with street art and is home to many galleries.
Pilsen Arts & Community House
A non-profit organization that hosts gallery exhibitions, workshops, and events like makers markets, poetry open mics, book releases, book clubs, and musical performances. In addition, classes for both youth and adults are offered in mediums including printmaking, drawing, painting, embroidery, and mixed media are offered. The Pilsen Arts & Community House hosts the Hecho En Art Fair in August and the 18th Street Pilsen Open Studios in October (find more info under the Annual Events category).
A contemporary art gallery displaying photography, paintings, drawings, sculpture, mixed media, textiles, furniture, film, fashion, and interior design.
A collaborate space hosting creative mediums, mural projects, and art exhibitions. The gallery sells affordable art prints in addition to original works.
An art center featuring contemporary visual art exhibitions and performing arts programing. Currently visiting hours are by appointment only.
Carlos and Dominguez Fine Arts Gallery
A gallery presenting artists from North, Central, and South America that work in all mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed media.
Chicago Art Department
CAD provides studio and gallery spaces for local artists. The galleries are used for student exhibitions, group shows, and solo exhibitions.
Woman Made Gallery
A non-profit gallery supporting women and non-binary artists. Nine exhibitions are hosted annually in addition to artists talks, panel discussions, poetry readings, and other arts events.
Breweries in Pilsen:
Alulu Brewery and Pub
A brewery and restaurant that specializes in small-batch craft beers with global inspirations like Italian and Czech style Pilsners, Lithuanian farmhouse beer, Mexican lager, and German dunkel. A couple hard seltzers are available too.
Lo Rez Brewing and Taproom
Try creative brews like a saison with cucumber and pink peppercorn or a Belgian-style golden ale with basil and sage at this taproom. The brewery hosts events like trivia nights, movie nights, live music, and cook-offs – learn more via their Instagram account.
Lagunitas Brewing Company
As of April 2022, this brewery and taproom were closed but will hopefully reopen soon.
Things to Do in Pilsen:
2nd Fridays in the Chicago Arts District
On the second Friday of each month, the public is invited to explore the galleries of The Chicago Arts District. This event takes place from 6 pm until 10 pm on South Halsted Street between 17th Street and Canalport.
16th Street Murals
There are about 50 street art murals located on the 16th Street railroad embankment between Halsted Street and Western Avenue.
Pilsen Public Art Tours
This company offers private tours of Pilsen’s murals.
A drive-in movie theater showing both classic and current blockbusters. Tickets are $33 online and you get to pick your parking spot. Food like popcorn, wings, tacos, and pizza is available from ChiTown Grille and is delivered right to your car.
Pilsen Community Market
During the summers, this market takes place on Sundays outdoors at Tenochtitlan Plaza. In 2022, the first outdoor market will be on May 23. During the colder months, the market takes place at Honky Tonk BBQ. The vast majority of the businesses featured at the market are Latina-owned, and products like produce, baked Goodes, crafts, and gifts are sold.
An intimate concert venue located in a landmark building. In addition to live music, the space is used for comedy shows, book readings, podcast events, and daytime concerts for kids.
The Tack Room, Thalia Hall’s carriage house turned cocktail bar, has live music nightly.
Giant Penny Whistle
A tavern hosting music events like DJ sets and a live tributes to Snoop Dogg’s greatest hits. Head to their instagram account for information on shows.
A large bar/restaurant/patio space that hosts vinyl DJs, live music, and art shows.
Honky Tonk BBQ
This barbecue restaurant has live music Friday through Sunday with each night of the week devoted to a different genre. On Fridays at 9 pm a DJ takes the stage, live roots music is featured on Saturdays at 9 pm, and on Sundays at 6 pm you can hear live jazz and 1920’s swing. *Find details on the restaurant’s Instagram page, this music series has just resumed.
Annual Events in Pilsen:
Dia de Los Niños Parade
This parade will take place on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 4:30 pm and the route along Blue Island from 18th Street to 21st Street. In addition to the parade, the event has live music, face painting, games, and activities for children.
Fiesta del Sol
A massive Latino festival celebrating its 50th anniversary that is scheduled to take place from July 28-31, 2022 on Cermak Road. Fiesta del Sol is a free and family-friendly street festival that showcases Mexican cuisine and local businesses. There are two stages for live music and performances and a Ferris Wheel.
Mole de Mayo
Taking place May 27-29, 2022 at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue, Mole de Mayo combines live music, dancing, art, lucha libre wrestling, and an outdoor mole cook-off. During the event local restaurants and chefs compete to win the titles of “Best Mole” and “People’s Choice”.
Cinco de Mayo Pilsen Cantina Crawl
A 21+ event on Saturday, May 7, 2022 where attendees get to taste mezcal cocktails and enjoy live music at bars and restaurants on 18th Street.
The 2022 event will be held on June 24-26. While the dates have been announced the location hasn’t been revealed yet. In 2021 the event was held at Harrison Park and involved michelada vendors, live music, a mechanical bull, and a ping pong championship.
Buen Provecho! Taste of Pilsen
A September event held in conjunction with Mexican Independence Day that invites participates to taste bites from over 20 neighborhood restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. This event is different from other Chicago neighborhood food events because participants walk from restaurant to restaurant, instead of having the restaurants set up booths at a central location.
Hecho En Art Fair
An annual event supporting the BIPOC art community and the Pilsen Arts & Community House that features an artist, artisan, and makers market on 18th Street between Ashland and Paulina. The 2022 event is scheduled for August 13-14.
We Are Hip Hop Festival
Hosted by SGA Youth & Family Services in August at Dvorak Park, this festival brings artists, performers, and Hip Hop musicians together to promote peace and anti-violence.
18th Street Pilsen Open Studios
An October event that includes gallery tours, open studios, workshops, mural tours, and live painting.
Dia de los Muertos at Dvorak Park
A family-friend event hosted by SGA Youth & Family Services.
Día de los Muertos Xicágo
Hosted by the National Museum of Mexican Art at Harrison Park, this annual event takes place at the end of October and features ofrendas created by the community, art activities, and performances.