If you make it out to see one band at a street fest this year, make it the Oblivians. Absent for 15 years, the raw Memphis garage-rock trio joins fellow rabble-rousing noisemakers Tight Phantomz, Born Ruffians and Those Darlins in ensuring West Fest won't have a shortage of fun — or local flavor. Legendary instrumental-rock collective Tortoise also plays, and this year's DJ stage is devoted to Chicago house music. Four-legged "humans" are also emphasized. A "Pup Fest" caters to pet product vendors, and offers canine baths and dog activities designed to benefit charities.
When: July 13-14
Where: 2000 W. Chicago Ave.
Admission: 312-850-9390 or westfestchicago.com; $5
Sheffield Garden Walk & Music Festival
Wonder what sorts of lush paradises and soothing retreats lurk behind beautiful houses? Here's your chance to peruse more than 100 of the city's finer gardens on self-guided tours. Home to four Chicago landmark districts — the McCormick Row Houses, Armitage-Halsted commercial district, Bissell Street Row Houses and Fremont Row Houses — the Sheffield neighborhood is worth visiting on architectural principle alone. The festival also features two days' worth of live music, with power-pop underdogs Archie Powell & the Exports leading the way. And while you're getting ideas about how to transform your own backyard, a Kids' Corner provides face painting, temporary tattoos and a petting zoo for the wee ones.
When: July 20-21
Where: 1000 W. Webster Ave.
Admission: 773-929-9255 or sheffieldgardenwalk.com; $7-$10
Wicker Park Fest
Whether you're avoiding Lollapalooza or Pitchfork Music Festival because of the crowds and costs — or simply looking for more live outdoor music in the "off" weekend between those giant events — Wicker Park Fest beckons. It is cheap, touts three stages and ropes in indie-minded artists. Psychedelic icon Roky Erickson, socially conscious instigators Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, co-ed pop-rockers Cults, Chicago's marching punks Mucca Pazza and avant-rock experimentalists Man Man top the bill. Visual arts displays, kids' entertainment and neighborhood vendors round out the attractions.
When: July 27-28
Where: 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Admission: 773-384-2672 or wickerparkfest.com; $5
Tall Ships Chicago 2013
Returning for the first time as a five-day event since 2010, Tall Ships Chicago coincides with the Chicago Match Cup, a $100k sailing contest that is the only U.S. stop on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour. A total of 14 ships will appear. Want to walk on their decks and see the masts up close? Most are available for dockside boarding; certain boats will cruise Lake Michigan. Amid the majestic vessels, educational demonstrations related to sailing and Chicago's maritime past will help Navy Pier once again live up to its name.
When: Aug. 7-11
Where: 600 E. Grand Ave.
Admission: 312-595-7437 or tallshipwindy.com; $5 and up
The Renegade Craft Fair
Inevitably, summer has to end. What better way to get closure and prepare for the fall than by strolling a bazaar at which you can find distinctive wares and gifts that liven up the colder, dreary days that lie ahead? Focused on handmade products and taste-making designs, the Renegade Craft Fair brings together contemporary furniture, savvy jewelry, screen-printed artwork, artisan paper goods, ceramic items and all styles of unique items to brighten up living and work spaces. Decorative art installations, workshops, DJs and locally produced munchies contribute to the upbeat atmosphere. Eat your heart out, Restoration Hardware.
When: Sept. 7-8
Where: 2000 W. Division St.
Admission: Free; renegadecraft.com/chicago