Which summer fest is best?

Summer is synonymous with festival season in Chicago. Here are some great fests in both the city and the suburbs. While they have similar themes, each is unique. Pick the one nearest to you, or hit both for double the festival fun. Then you can make your own determination of which fest is best!

If your littles love all things that fly:

Chicago Air and Water Show

Aug. 19-20

North Avenue Beach, 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

So maybe it’s more of a show than a fest, but this celebration of aviation is a summer staple in Chicago. There’s just something about seeing planes and parachuters soar over Lake Michigan! Plus, it’s the largest free show of its kind in the U.S. North Avenue Beach gets crowded very early, but Montrose Harbor is another option for watching the show.

Eyes to the Skies

June 30-July 2

Lisle Community Park, 1825 Short St., Lisle

Hot air balloons are mesmerizing, and kids can see lots (and lots) of them at the Eyes to the Skies festival. Admission is free for the early morning balloon launch. Tethered balloon rides are typically offered then, too, weather permitting ($20). The children’s area features face painting and art activities as well as some favorite performers. Want to stay up late? The evening balloon glows are worth the lost sleep. $8, free kids 6 and under.

If your family is looking for Nordic fun:

Andersonville Midsommarfest

June 9-11

Andersonville, Chicago (Clark Street between Forest and Catalpa)

Midsommarfest comes from this northside neighborhood’s deep Swedish roots and makes Swedish traditions and tasty treats accessible to all. There is lots of music as well as shopping. This year, organizers have revamped the kids’ area, located on Summerdale and Clark in the Alamo Shoes parking lot. It features fitness and art activities as well as a Dream Big Performing Arts workshop. A pet parade takes place on Saturday. A $10 donation is requested of adults and kids 12 and under are free.

Swedish Days in Geneva

June 20-25

Downtown Geneva

While the whole event is family friendly, Kids’ Day is held on Friday, June 23, and features many activities for little ones, including the Kids’ Parade for kids 10 and under to dress up or decorate bikes, trikes or wagons. The Creation Station is also a popular spot with kids. Free; some activities and carnival cost extra.

If your crew consists of carnivores:

Ribfest Chicago

June 9-11

Lincoln Avenue, north of Irving Park Road, Chicago

Kids Square is headquartered in Northcenter Town Square at Lincoln and Belle Plaine and it’s a highlight of this food-centric festival. Inflatables, performers and free activities and games keep little ones happy while adults enjoy the many rib offerings. $10 suggested donation; $20 families.

Naperville Ribfest

June 30-July 3

Knoch Park, 724 S. West St., Naperville

With a full 20 acres of food and fun, this fest is big. Offerings for little ones include a petting zoo, inflatables and magic shows. The carnival rides are very popular and a $15 carnival bracelet, which is available daily from noon-3 p.m., allows for unlimited carnival rides. Ticket prices vary, but kids under 11 are free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

If your kids are little leprechauns:

Chicago Gaelic Park Irish Fest

May 26-29

Gaelic Park, 6119 147th St., Oak Forest

Irish culture abounds for the family in storytelling, dance, plays and music. There are also magic shows, a petting zoo and carnival rides. Consider entering your little one in the Bonnie Baby contest or the Red Hair and Freckle Face contest. Animal lovers will appreciate the Irish dog exhibition as well as a chance to see Connemara ponies. (Note: Even though “Chicago” is in the title, this fest is in Oak Forest.) $15, $12 kids 4-12, free kids 3 and under.

Irish American Heritage Festival

July 7-9

Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., Chicago

From dancing to cultural exhibits to a fun children’s area, there’s a lot going on at this celebration of all things Irish. Music is everywhere at this fest and it will get feet, both little and big, tapping. There are things happening outdoors as well as inside the center, which is pretty large (it covers a full city block). It’s nice to have an indoor option should a summer storm blow through. $10-$15, free kids 12 and under.

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