Camping option for every family in Forest Preserves of Cook County

Recently fellow Chicago Parent blogger Samantha Schultz and I descended onto Camp Reinberg in Palatine for one night with our littles. Just for reference that’s two adults, with five children under 6. We were definitely going to see how easy this camping thing was for two city moms who haven’t been camping before.

Camp Reinberg is one of the five Forest Preserves of Cook County campsites located around the Chicagoland area that are now open to families, as well as youth groups, year round, and offer a selection of tent sites along with cabins that sleep anywhere up to 10 people. We happened to score a 10-person cabin that had heating and air conditioning. It included two rooms — one private room with two single twin beds for the adults and four bunk beds in the common area for children. The middle of the room included a card table as well as four storage benches. A full service/ADA approved bathroom was included.

Our evening started with dinner in the dining hall. It includes two full-service kitchens with refrigerators to store all of the necessities for making great meals without having to worry about storing in the cabin. If you forget anything, there is a commisary on site. If they don’t have what you want, you’re just a hop away from a convenience store as well. That was the one thing that I really loved. We were on a REAL camping site that gave us every aspect of being away from the big city, while allowing us to camp stress-free because we knew we could head out to get necessities if needed.

The campsite offers great programing during the peak camping season for every member of the family. We got a little taste of this when our children were able to hang out up close and personal with a Great Horned Owl and handle several bird specimens. The owl handler gave great insight on birds and animals that we could see while walking around the nature trail or our campsite.

Every weekend April through October, Forest Preserves staff lead free programs open to all registered campers, including:

  • Friday and Saturday night campfires
  • Special Friday and Saturday evening programs
  • Saturday afternoon activities and hikes
  • Camping skill demonstrations

They also offer regularly scheduled programs, including Camping 101 workshops, staff-led Family Campouts and even a comprehensive Camping Leadership Immersion Course (CLIC) for leaders of organized groups. Read more about their camping programs here.

Each campground has a limited number of Camping Adventure Backpacks available for free check-out that include binoculars, field guides, a compass, activity sheets and other aids to nature exploration. This helped immensely with getting the children excited about taking a nature walk.

While the campsite is completely quiet, we were assured that there were several forest rangers walking the grounds if we needed them.

I do believe that this is a great option for those who don’t really want to do the tent camping, but want the feeling of being one with nature.

We did have to pack our own sheets, pillows, comforters and towels – along with everything else we would need to make ourselves comfortable. The kids were excited to break out their sleeping bags, and I do have to admit that this trip made me think of all the fun that I had on summer retreats as a teen.

Maybe this will be a way for me to bring my husband camping without him having to pitch a tent or have to build a fire in order for us to be able to eat. He can do it, but he doesn’t want to. I can do it as well, but I’d rather just turn the knob on the stove.

Between the s’mores, and the freedom to run all over the forest preserve, the kids had a blast and are looking forward to coming back several times over the summer and maybe even the fall. We’ll have to check back to see how tough they are when the snow falls.

If you’re interested in camping in the Chicagoland area, find more info at and choose from one of five campsites around you. I guarantee everyone can find something that they love.

Bullfrog Lake (Willow Springs)

Dan Beard (Northbrook)

Reinberg (Palatine)

Shabbona Woods (South Holland)

Sullivan (Oak Forest)

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