A couple of weeks ago I got to write about one of my favorite indoor venues in Chicago, the United Center. This week I get to turn my attention to one of Chicago’s best outdoor venues, Soldier Field. Soldier Field is best-known for hosting the Chicago Bears, as well as the occasional NHL game. What some people may not know is Soldier Field is actually a really good place to see a concert.
That is why it was not surprising when The Grateful Dead announced they had chosen Soldier Field to host their 50th anniversary shows July 3-5. If you are attending those shows, or perhaps the Taylor Swift or One Direction shows later in the summer, here is what you need to know when seeing a concert at Soldier Field.
Getting To Soldier Field
Soldier Field is actually very easy to drive to, as it is located right off of Lake Shore Drive. Traffic can be an issue, especially during the week, but it is pretty difficult to get lost. Once you get there, parking garages are conveniently located north and south of Soldier Field. There is more parking available in the Soldier Field South Lot as well as tailgating in the Adler Planetarium Lot.
One of the things that set Soldier Field apart from other venues like the United Center is that Soldier Field is very easy to get to using public transportation. CTA, Metra shuttle and Pace bus services drop off and pick up at the Transportation Center located in the East Museum Lot.
If you are coming from the south, the Metra Electric District stop at Museum Campus/ 11th Street Station is right across the street from Soldier Field. I took that train to see my first concert at Soldier Field—Dave Matthews Band—and the feeling on the train ride home was awesome. No one really said anything; we were all just blown away by the awesomeness we had just experienced. I always try to take the train to concerts whenever possible.
What to do before the show
The other thing that separates Soldier Field from other venues in Chicago is its proximity to other cool things to do. The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are all a stone’s throw from Soldier Field. If you made a special trip to Chicago to see the Grateful Dead, you should not leave without stopping at the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium.
Buddy Guy’s Legends is a mile walk from Soldier Field, but it is worth it. They have live music every night and afternoon acoustic sets Wednesday through Sunday. Buddy Guy’s Legends is the best place in Chicago for Cajun soul food. I recommend the jambalaya.
Also within walking distance of Soldier Field are the Art Institute of Chicago and historic Michigan Avenue. If you go to Grant Park be sure to get a picture at Buckingham Fountain. Don’t call it Buckingham Palace or people will laugh at you—I learned that the hard way. Millenium Park, in the northwestern corner of Grant Park, features the Bean, another must-see while you are in Chicago. All of these things are a long walk—or short cab ride—from Soldier Field.
The Chicago Lakefront Trail goes right past Soldier Field, just on the other side of the Gold Star Families Park & Memorial. Runners, bikers or anyone looking for a great view of Lake Michigan will want to take advantage of the Lakefront Trail.
At The Show
There are bike racks all around Soldier Field, so if you rode there on the Lakefront Trail you can conveniently park your bike. Soldier Field also has SmartKiosks throughout the stadium and parking garages. The selfie stations are actually pretty cool. Soldier Field is equipped with Wi-Fi as well, though you will have to pay for it.
Soldier Field has some great places to eat. I am personally fond of DMK Burger Bar, though Brew Brothers, Stock Yard Grill and Portage Park Polish are quite popular as well.
When it comes to seating at Soldier Field, I suggest you splurge on tickets on the field or in the 100 level. I am usually content to sit farther away, especially at the United Center, but if you really want to see everything on stage at Soldier Field you are better off paying a bit more to sit closer. If you do want to sit in the 200 or 300 level, be sure to get something in the south end zone.
There are a couple of things you should not leave home without when you see a concert at Soldier Field. Sunscreen and bug spray are a must for any outdoor concert, but I suggest you bring a jacket as well. Even in the summer it can get pretty chilly at night by the lake. Bring your camera too, as there are a lot of places in and around the stadium where you can get great pictures.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone seeing a concert at Soldier Field is to get there early and enjoy the city. Sure you could drive there or take public transportation and get in-and-out quickly and conveniently, but I feel like that is a waste. Especially if you haven’t been to Chicago in a while, you should go to a museum or just walk around and enjoy the greatest city in the country.