Pokémon GO Fest 2018 Event

The 2017 Pokémon Go Fest may safely be labeled a failure. The first outdoor tournament was beset by connection troubles, bad weather, unhappy fans, and a lot of nothing – and it was all live streamed around the world.

Niantic had clearly learned a lesson. The Pokémon Go Fest this year demonstrated that the developer has not only worked hard to improve the game in the previous year, but has also learned a lot about putting on an event. Pokémon Go Fest 2018 has issues, but it was a lot more fun than any of us survivors from last year expected.

The Pokémon Go Fest Chicago was the game’s first live event. On Saturday, July 22, 2017, it occurred. Despite the fact that tickets were almost instantly sold out and the event faced significant hurdles, Niantic and the Pokémon community came together in the end for a Legendary night in Chicago.

July 14, 2018: All Pokémon Go Fest Chicago 2018 bonuses unlocked

All of the research activities linked with Pokémon Go Fest Chicago 2018 have been accomplished, which means that all of the Candy bonuses and Zapdos Day have been unlocked.

July 14, 2018: Pokémon GO Fest Chicago 2018 has just started and we’re here live to bring you all the action!

We’re heading into Lincoln Park now! More to come!

  • The South Entrance is full of Torkoal and Unown! (North Entrance… not so much?)
  • Unown spells out “C E L E B I ?” this year. So yes, Unown ? is out!
  • Plusle and Minun also seem to be concentrated at the entrances.
  • You can rent and return battery backs at the Valor, Instinct, and Mystic gyms, as well as enter contests, make offers to trade, and take photos with costumed Pokémon like Squirtle and Eevee.
  • The Shiny rate does seem boosted. I scored many Shiny Minun and Plusle but also Shiny Wailer and Snorunt and my god kids each got a Shiny Aerodactyl. One got two Shiny Aron as well.
  • Gifts from Go Fest are especially cool. You can get postcards with the art from previous start screens/events.

The Special Research Quest is, not surprisingly, Celebi. Here are the spoilers:

  1. Spin 3 PokeStops or Gyms, Earn 1 Candy Walking your Buddy, Catch 15 Pokemon
  2. Catch 10 Fire-type Pokémon, Catch 10 Water-type Pokémon, Catch 10 Grass-type Pokémon, Catch 10 Steel-type Pokémon, Catch 10 Rock-type Pokémon, Catch 10 Ice-type Pokémon.
  3. Catch 7 Unown, Spin 3 Pokestops or Gyms, Hatch 3 eggs. (Here’s where you get Celebi.)
  4. Catch 5 Plusle, Catch 5 Minun.
  5. Claim rewards. (Yeah, seriously!)

If you want some extra help:

  1. Get Step 1 done at the entrance way and the team lounges area before you begin the walk. Make sure your buddy is a 1KM type because numerous Field Research tasks require buddy candy too.
  2. Get Step 2 done during the walk, concentrate on catching Pokémon that a dual-type to speed things up. Before you get to the last area, start incubating at least three 3 KM eggs.
  3. Get Step 3 done at the entrance way or team lounges area, plenty of Unown there.
  4. Get Step 4 done at the statue at the South Entrance. It’s the only place we found consistently spawning Plusle and at least a few Minun, plus plenty of Unown and a few Torkoals to stock up on.

Random notes:

  • The food isn’t great and the lines are long, so bring something with you.
  • We couldn’t find a place to get T-Shirts this year, which was sad.
  • There was absolute NO ISSUES with cellular connectivity and only very minor ones with game slowdown. A few people had trouble logging in at some point, but nothing persistent. Kudos to Niantic and the carriers.

I’ll have a full write-up on Monday, but overall, it was an amazing event. Smartly planned, skillfully executed, and terrific fun.


Pokémon Go depends on your phone’s capacity to connect to the internet, which is mainly out of our control. Our data networks failed us last year; this year, the bulk of phone carriers remained stable. That element alone made spending a full day in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, in the midst of dirt and heat, a breeze. We could contact folks! Also, utilize Twitter! And endlessly surf over Instagram!

Oh, and we could play Pokémon Go, which was nice. One hiccup: There was supposed to be free public Wi-Fi throughout the park for those of us with restricted data plans, but getting it to operate for more than 10 minutes was difficult. But, because it’s 2018, we always have a backup plan for getting online.

A photo of someone holding a smartphone showing us their Pokémon Go collection.
We ran into a guy playing outside the city who had a surprising collection of Pokémon with 420 CP.
 Blaire Deziel


Of course, this was not the case in 2017. Another difference between Year One and Year Two was that Year Two provided all participants a clearer reason for the event, one that seemed significantly more autonomous than the team-based aim of the previous year. Pokémon Go Fest 2018 revolved on three key research challenges, which Niantic placed into the game earlier this year to better incentivise daily play. This one had a plot that centered on the fact that we had spent the whole day in this park. It was also a clear method to obtaining a new mythological Pokémon.

As I said on Saturday, completing all of the things required to earn a Celebi takes time. Yes, the most dedicated gamers got it completed by the afternoon. But the rest of us spent a couple hours walking down the two-mile track of PokéStops, catching Pokémon, hatching Eggs, and completing the mission. It was difficult but not impossible, and it was perhaps the greatest distance I’ve walked while playing Pokémon Go since its inception. (By the end of the day, I had 25,000 steps on my pedometer.)

It’s difficult to compare the emphasis of Go Fest 2018 to that of Go Fest 2017, given that nothing went as planned the previous year. The idea of the 2017 event, on the other hand, was that each team would fight to collect the most Pokémon and unlock a Raid Battle with Lugia, the game’s first in-game legendary. We weren’t able to execute it correctly, so Niantic handed every single individual a Lugia without them having to do anything. For the rest of us, it’s fantastic! Bad news for die-hard supporters.


However, the team-based emphasis of the two competitions allows for a more straightforward comparison. There was no use in working as a group since everyone had to capture their own Celebi. Many people went, strolled, and sat together; no one played together, since that wasn’t the goal. There were no Gyms or Raid Battles for anyone to participate in. I’m not a big fan of them, but Pokémon Go Fest is one of the few times when they really make sense.

At the very least, we had trade. Nobody was offering me any helpful advice.

Having saying that, concentrating on playing the game alone seemed like a natural Pokémon experience. The sprawling Lincoln Park provided an ideal location for us to explore things on our own, and Niantic set up particular rendezvous places along the way. There were four type-based places with surprisingly good designs, each with its own set of Pokémon.

A photo of someone holding a map from Pokémon Go Fest.
Everyone got a map on their way into Lincoln Park of the trail.
 Blaire Deziel


Nonetheless, I often felt that I was one of just a few other people working on their own objectives. This year, there were no crowds to overwhelm us; no yelling bands of gamers sprinting to capture a rare Pokémon in the distance. This event was billed “A Walk Through the Park” by Niantic, and it was just that – walks are typically lonely. According to the creator, there were still 21,000 individuals that came through throughout the two-day event, and it was simple to run meet other gamers all around Chicago. (Niantic also said that 180,000 people logged in while playing in the city throughout the Go Fest weekend. There are no numbers available for the 2017 tournament.)


Despite a considerably more scattered population in 2018, the game continues to rely on its community. That group is just more intimate, loyal, and… peaceful than the Pokémon Go player base of the first two years, and definitely during Pokémon Go Fest 2017. And, despite the fact that it was rainy, hot, and miserable for half of this year’s event, I walked away with a far more favorable review: it was pleasant playing the game again.


Pokémon GO trainers gather in Grant Park for Pokémon GO Fest on July 22, 2017. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

On July 14 and 15, 2018, the Pokémon Go Fest returns to Chicago. It’s the second annual meeting for lovers of the popular app-based augmented reality game, which is headquartered in Lincoln Park this year. Last year’s initial Pokémon Go Fest in Grant Park was “disastrous,” according to many, with organizational challenges and technological faults that led to a class-action lawsuit filed by festival goers.


Niantic, the app’s creator, has guaranteed a stress-free event this year. This year’s Pokémon Go Fest is a two-day event that will extend gaming over Lincoln Park, with temporary mobile towers provided by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

Are you going to catch them all this weekend? Here’s all you need to know about the 2018 Pokémon Go Festival:

💡 Heads up

The Taste of Chicago takes place at Grant Park (the old location of the Pokemon Go Fest) from Wednesday, July 11 to Sunday, July 15. Expect more congestion in the Loop and neighboring areas (including Lincoln Park).

Niantic and the event organizers have remained tight-lipped regarding the actual gaming experience for festival goers, but we’ve made some educated guesses in this guide to help shape your experience.


Pokémon Go Players in Grant Park in Summer 2017. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times
Pokémon Go Players in Grant Park in Summer 2017. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times


🗒 Information for everyone

Niantic Inc., the game creator, anticipates that this year’s Pokémon Go Fest will go ahead without a hitch. The layout of this year’s Fest, which spreads players over Lincoln Park and extends programming over two days this weekend, is anticipated to help things run more smoothly, according to Niantic spokesman Yafine Lee in an email to the Sun-Times.

Please keep in mind that players will only be able to use their in-game ticket on one of the two days this weekend. This implies that if you travel to Lincoln Park on Saturday, you won’t be allowed to play at the Fest on Sunday – even if you buy a second ticket on Sunday.

Niantic has scheduled in-game events across the city, in addition to activities in Lincoln Park, to encourage gamers to tour Chicago. If you’re attending the festival, you can anticipate an entertaining tour throughout town. If you aren’t, expect to see more people gazing down at their phones than normal.

Tyler Vaughan celebrates after catching a “mystical Unown” alongside his mother, Helen Vaughan, at Pokémon GO Fest in Grant Park on July 22, 2017. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times


🏘 Information for residents

“Residents should anticipate plenty of people surrounding the park and more Pokémon GO activity across the city over the weekend,” Niantic spokesman Yafine Lee said, giving non-players a heads up.


However, based on a preview of the gaming map, it seems that overflow into residential areas will be minor; most hotspots will be clustered around Chicago’s regular cultural and tourism sites.

It’s unclear if the Lincoln Park gaming area will be blocked off for the Fest, but even if it isn’t, we suggest avoiding the area if you’re not planning on playing. (If you want to attend a festival without a virtual reality component, consider Taste of Chicago. On Saturday, Le Butcherettes and the Flaming Lips will perform together.)

The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. | Photo provided by Todd Rosenberg Photography


☀ Weather

The National Weather Service is now forecasting “seasonably warm” temperatures with “slightly increased” humidity levels, while a weak front is making day-to-day forecasting tricky. According to the event’s website, the Fest will go on regardless of the weather.

Continue to monitor weather predictions for updates, bring an umbrella if rain seems to be on the way, and devise a strategy to safeguard your phone from water damage (whether that means buying a fancy waterproof case or going low-tech with a Ziploc bag).

📱 Cell service

This weekend, we talked with Chicago’s four top cellular network providers about their strategies for preserving service across Lincoln Park. Here’s what they each said:

  • Verizon: “The Verizon network has been enhanced and optimized in preparation for the upcoming Pokémon festival. To support the expected crowds we have deployed two cell on light trucks (COLTs) which will add additional capacity to our existing network infrastructure around Lincoln Park.”
  • AT&T: “To support customers at this year’s Pokémon Go Fest, we are deploying two Cell on Wheels, or COWs. These portable cell sites will boost capacity by 452%, providing a more reliable connection.”
  • Sprint: “This year, we will be deploying a COW again to provide additional network coverage for Pokémon Go Fest.”
  • T-Mobile: “We’re deploying four additional temporary cell sites in the Lincoln Park area to support the expected capacity this weekend.”

🗺 Getting to Pokémon Go Fest

A CTA train passes over Wabash Avenue in Chicago on July 2, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times



The Chicago Transit Authority is expanding rail and bus services for the Taste of Chicago, which will be useful for the Fest as well. Additional services will be available on the Red Line and Brown Line L, which operate near Lincoln Park.

  • If you’re entering at the North Entrance, the closest CTA L station is Wellington (Brown Line, 18 minute walk), and bus 77 Belmont stops right outside at Diversey/Lake Shore.
  • If you’re entering at the South Entrance, the closest CTA L station is Sedgewick (Brown Line, 12 minute walk), and buses 22 Clark, 36 Broadway, 73 Armitage stop a few steps away at Clark & LaSalle.

The CTA Trip Planner is a helpful tool for organizing your transportation trip, especially if you need an accessible or step-free route.

To prevent large waits at train stations, the CTA suggests buying tickets in advance. If paying with cash, exact change is required; contactless bankcards and mobile wallets may also be used for bus fare. To learn more about tickets, go to the CTA’s website, and keep an eye out for service warnings and disruption notifications.


If you want to spend the whole day in Chicago, the CTA unlimited-ride ticket (1-day, $10; 3-day, $20; 7-day, $28) loaded onto a Ventra Card may be a good deal, but you’ll need to purchase a hard plastic Ventra card for $5 to fill with credits. (If you register your card online, you will get a $5 credit.)

If you’re in town for the weekend, the CTA offers disposable 1-day paper Ventra Tickets ($10) at all Ventra vending machines and 3-day Ventra Tickets ($20) at O’Hare and Midway vending machines.

🚃 Metra

Metra will extend additional service on the BNSF, Union Pacific Northwest, and Union Pacific North lines during the Taste of Chicago. Alcohol will be prohibited on Metra trains after 7 p.m. on Friday, July 13, and throughout the weekend.

Except for the South Shore Line, the $10 Metra weekend pass provides unlimited travel on all Metra lines on Saturday and Sunday. Metra suggests purchasing your ticket in advance using the Ventra app or at the station if a ticket agent or machine is available; the $5 on-board surcharge remains in effect for tickets purchased onboard.

Like last year, players from across the country are expected at Pokémon Go Fest. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times


🚲 Divvy

Divvy, the city’s bike-share program, is a wonderful way to travel about Chicago without having to walk or maintain your own bike.

There are Divvy stations located around the city, including two within a few blocks of the Fest’s North and South Entrances, however we suggest checking the app to verify dock availability before riding a Divvy bike there. If the docking station is full, you’ll have to cycle to another site to re-rack your rental bike, which may result in late fines.


A single 30-minute ride costs $3, but you may dock and re-rent your bike in under a minute by stopping at stations along the route. The Explorer Pass is valid for three hours and costs $15. Rides and passes may be bought through the Divvy app or at kiosks located at each Divvy station. Check stations and bike availability on the Divvy website.

🚦 Driving

Based on the predicted traffic from the Taste of Chicago and the Pokémon Go Fest, we highly advise guests to avoid driving. On weekends, parking in Chicago is notoriously tough, and if your Pokémon hunting takes you to many spots across the city, you’ll certainly spend more time seeking for parking than playing the game.