The 5 best events happening in Chicagoland parks this summer

Summer’s here and the kids are having a blast at soccer camp and swimming lessons because you spent hours of careful planning and lots of hard-earned cash to get them there. Wouldn’t it be nice to relax and let somebody else dream up ideas for your weekend calendar?

For more park fun

For a complete listing of Night Out in the Parks events (1,000-plus!) visit or download the app on your mobile device.

Lucky for you, the Chicago Park District already did. Night Out in the Parks is a trove of free or nominal cost family events happening in neighborhood parks all across the city. Your job? Pack sandwiches, grab a blanket and go! Here’s what you can expect.

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks

Calling all groundlings! That’s Shakespeare-ese for audience members, an apt name for those who attend Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, spreading blankets and parking lawn chairs on the grass in front of a portable stage. Performed by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the featured production is usually one of the Bard’s lighter, more humorous works that will grab the attention of the youngest theater-goer with its colorful costumes and lively stage antics. Plus your kids will love the free cardboard Shakespeare fans.

Midnight Circus in the Parks

There’s something magical about the circus. That’s why kids hang upside down from monkey bars pretending to be trapeze artists and use hula hoops for training backyard lions. At Midnight Circus (named for the hour of a brand new day when anything can happen) you won’t see any lions, but you will see acrobats, aerialists, clowns and contortionists. The kids will love watching Samantha and Max, children of founders Jeff and Julie Jenkins, perform with the troupe. Be forewarned: if your daughter doesn’t already own a tutu, she will ask for one.

Movies in the Parks

It used to feel special to watch a movie, but since laptops, iPods and tablets have made them so ubiquitous, they’ve lost some of their attraction as a unique family activity. That being said, movies in the parks are a lot of fun. There’s something about sitting under the stars with a crowd of friendly people munching picnic fare, watching Bill Murray and his buddies fight paranormal invaders in New York City. Think drive-in movies without the cars.

Music in the Parks

You’ve had a long day at work and it’s hot outside. It’s also the perfect time to throw together a “snacky” supper (cheese cubes, baby carrots, popcorn, apples—finger foods you can grab easily) and head to the park for a concert. Go early and let the kids run around; then relax to the cool, sweet notes of choral a cappella or be energized by the lively rhythms of a world music percussion concert.

SummerDance in the Parks

Dancing is one of those things that can be intimidating for a lot of people. You might indulge in a little DDR with the kids in the privacy of your own living room, but dancing with other humans out in public? No way. SummerDance in the Parks feels your pain, but knows you could have a really good time if you’d only give it a whirl. And the kids, always less self-conscious than their parents, will love it. Instruction is provided and there’s comfort in knowing a lot of other people are showing up as inexperienced as you.

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