The Chicagoan’s August bucket list

Once we get deep into August, sometimes the lazy days of summer become, well, long. Vacation is over, camps are done and it feels like your crew has pretty much done it all: ridden the Navy Pier Ferris wheel, visited the zoos, hit the beach, gotten water-logged at your pool, and toured every kid-friendly museum within the city limits.

So what to do? Don’t wish those last precious days of summer away! Embrace the dog days with some fresh ideas to get you through until school starts. Here are five options that fit a range of pocketbooks, all guaranteed to help you say so-long to summer in an unforgettable style.

Catch an outdoor flick

How about a not-so-typical Tuesday night at Millennium Park watching movies under the stars for free? The Fourth Annual Summer Film Series will feature some family-friendly classics, like Finding Nemo (Aug. 16). Older kids and teens might enjoy a family movie night of Westside Story (Aug. 2) or Grease (Aug. 9). The entire summer series list can be found at All movies start at 6:30 p.m.

Cool off on the ice

Ice skating isn’t just for the winter; it’s actually a refreshing respite on a humid August day. Many area indoor rinks offer weekly open skate times where you’ll find you have the place almost to yourself to practice those double axels—or just to practice staying on your feet. Favorites include the Centennial Ice Rink in Wilmette, the Chicago Park District’s McFetridge Sports Center and the Glenview Ice Center. Prices range from $5-$8 per skater, plus skate rentals.

Check out the Illinois State Fair

Head downstate to Springfield and experience how non-city folks throw a shindig (Aug. 11-22). Don’t miss the life-size cow sculpted from 500 pounds of unsalted butter and the Farmer’s Little Helpers offering freebie hands-on activities to teach kids about farming and agriculture. The Kid’s Corner, which runs daily (10 a.m.-7 p.m.), hosts free activities such as face painting, a bicycle skills course and a tiny tots play area. For nourishment, hit the Ethnic Village with 15 food booths such as Indian, Filipino, Greek, Cuban and more. Check website for general admission prices; rides, games, attractions and parking cost extra.

Experience some equine therapy

Horses are good for the soul, and kids as young as preschoolers can take to the saddle to experience the joy of riding. Sarah’s Pony Rides in Willow Springs is perfect for tots, with pint-sized ponies to match itty-bitty riders. Take a relaxing family trail ride or learn the finer points of riding via a private lesson (starts at $35 for a half-hour; $55 for an hour). Or, tour the Cook County Forest on horseback at Forest View Farms in Tinley Park, which offers trail rides from $25 per hour plus mommy and me lessons. The Double J Riding Club in Countryside specializes in family lessons, preschool introduction classes and tiny rider sessions, which include the basics on grooming, for $35 and up.

Set sail

You don’t have to own a boat to enjoy sailing Lake Michigan. Now you can charter one! From family sails for a day of swimming to excursions to watch the fireworks at Navy Pier, Chicago is home to many charters that specialize in sailing for non-sailors. With a captain to guide the way, daytime charters, Monday-Thursday, tend to be the most economical variety. Chicago Sailboat Charters offers specials for $285 for a three-hour sail for up to six people during weekdays (check their website for current deals). The Seabreeze Charter Company has weekday sailing cruises from $178 per hour with a minimum of two hours. And while it’s not cheap, sailing into the end of summer is certainly something the kids will remember well after they’re stocking their new backpack.

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