Chicago Summer Fun Headquarters

From the best playgrounds to the best beaches to the most stroller-friendly strolls, we’ve got everything you need to know to make the most of Chicago’s summer season.

15 Can’t-Miss Summertime Festivals

Ah, summer in Chicago. If it seems like there’s a fair or festival every week somewhere in the city and suburbs, that’s because there is. But you can’t be everywhere, and little feet are good for only so many steps, so we’ve picked our fifteen not-to-miss summer fests.

Chicago’s best beaches

Always remember to check the park district Web site before you head out to the beaches, which close periodically during the summer. There’s nothing worse than getting out to the lakeshore on a hot day with a carload of kids, only to find out the water’s off limits. For more information on all the Chicago beaches, visit

Sure, the playground you love and visit most will be the oneclosest to home, but isn’t it nice to know wherever you travel withkids in the city, you’ll be near a spiffy public playground tosweeten the outing? There are more than 500 playgrounds in Chicago.What’s your favorite?

Chicago’s best playgrounds

Sure, the playground you love and visit most will be the one closest to home, but isn’t it nice to know wherever you travel with kids in the city, you’ll be near a spiffy public playground to sweeten the outing? There are more than 500 playgrounds in Chicago. What’s your favorite?

With a record number of 90-plus degree days this summer, and more predicted, sometimes you just have to head indoors. Here’s our pick for nine of the best spots in Chicago and the suburbs.

12 best indoor play places in Chicago

Whether it’s hot and ridiculously humid or so cold it would put a polar vortex to shame, Chicago’s weather rarely cooperates with what your family has planned. Lucky for Chicago parents, this area is bursting with variety of indoor spots where kids can play and parents can retain their sanity and their clean homes. Here are a dozen of our favorites.

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10 free things to do this summer in Chicago

Looking for a quick getaway from Chicago? Here are ten shortsummer vacations we recommend for your family to enjoy.

10 short summer vacation ideas for Chicago families

Looking for a weekend getaway or some short vacation to enjoy with your family? Well, here are ten travel ideas we have to help you plan a summer escape!

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Looking for some fun summer activities? Well, here are 101 ideaswe think will help you enjoy the season.

101 summer ideas in Chicago for your family

Now that the initial excitement of summer is waning, the “I’m bored” is kicking in. If you’ve run out of ideas to keep the whining at bay, we’ve come up with 101 things to do to fill your lazy summer days.

Want to splash around without carrying the beach gear? Take thekids to one of Chicago’s sprayparks for a quick cool down. Here areour picks for the five best water playgrounds in and around thecity.

The five best sprayparks in Chicago and the suburbs

Thanks to the help of Chicago-area parents, here’s ChicagoParent’s list of can’t-miss water playgrounds in and out of thecity:

– Kristy MacKaben

Shake up the traditional marshmallows and hot dog roastings forsome more fun and healthy campfire foods. We have three differentmenus for you and your family to enjoy as you eat under thestars.

Campfire cuisine in Chicago: 3 menus to get you going

One reason to love the great outdoors is the way it sharpens theappetite. Even hot dogs and marshmallows taste good when you roastthem over a campfire after a long day’s hike.

The trouble, at least for my family, is that we always roast hotdogs and marshmallows. To remedy that, I’ve developed two menus foran overnight trip. Each one is comprised of dinner, dessert andbreakfast. To minimize packing, each relies on the same cookingequipment for every dish.

Looking for a quick summer getaway? Stay close yet have a breakjust a few hours away from home. Here are a few of our suggestionsfor close yet fun and family-friendly destinations.

Gas tank getaways

Staying close to home is the hottest family travel trend in America. For those of us lucky enough to live in Chicago, that leaves plenty of great destinations with a few hours’ drive.

Kenosha, Wis.

This lakefront town just north of the Illinois border often is overlooked, but it has lots to offer at a price families can afford. If you don’t want to drive, take Metra and then hop on board one of Kenosha‘s five restored electric streetcars. They travel a two-mile loop along the Lake Michigan shoreline, HarborPark, two historic districts, downtown business district and the Metra train station, all for $1 for adults and 50 cents for kids 5-12.

Along the way, stop at the free Dinosaur Discovery Museum. This mecca for tiny dino lovers claims to have the largest collection of meat-eating theropods, along with life-scale replicas of Tyrannosaurus rex, Gallimimus and Ceratosaurus. At the Kenosha Public Museum, also free, you’ll find more than 80,000 items in its natural sciences collection and nearly 1,000 works of fine art. Don’t miss the woolly mammoth excavated in Kenosha County or the hands-on Field Station where kids can explore the arts and sciences.

If you work up an appetite, head to The Spot Drive-In and order a burger and homemade root beer served in a frosty mug. The food and drink are good and made even better by the carhop service right to your car window. Before you head home, stop at the nearby Jelly Belly warehouse and hop onboard the train for a tour of the facility. The tour is free, as are the samples in the factory store.

Cleveland and Sandusky, Ohio

This city four hours east of Chicago is working hard to overcome its history as a less-than-inviting place to visit. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which opened in 1995, put the city back on the tourism map. But it’s not the only reason to visit.

Next door to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the best hands-on children’s science centers in the country, the Great Lakes Science Center. When I visited with four busloads of middle schoolers on a band trip, we had to drag them out of the science center.

For younger children, Cleveland has a Children’s Museum, zoo and, its newest attraction, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, which opened in late 2011 and is home to eight-foot sharks, rays, piranhas, crocodiles and octopus.

If yours is a coaster-loving family, plan to spend a day before or after your visit to Cleveland at Cedar Point in Sandusky. This coasterific amusement park has an area dedicated to little ones, but the rest of it is dedicated to daredevils. This is the amusement park where my then 11-year-old son transformed from a kid who didn’t like heights into a kid who wants to build bigger, faster, scarier coasters for a living.

Springfield and New Salem, Ill.

This trip is all about history-our state’s history as a part of President Abraham Lincoln’s life. We’re not called the Land of Lincoln for nothing, and Illinois’ capital is the center of our Lincoln history. Take the self-guided walking tour of Springfield‘s downtown to get a feel for how Lincoln lived and worked, then head to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to let your kids play the way Lincoln and his siblings would have played in their early years.

It’s a 3.5-hour drive to Springfield from Chicago, so give the kids, and yourself, a break from the car with a stop at Lincoln’s New Salem, about 30 minutes north of Springfield. This outdoor museum is a reco

These three restaurants have the absolute best picnic-packing supplies so that your picnic will come together like peanut butter and jelly.

The best and easiest picnic in Chicago

The best and easiest picnic in Chicago

It’s almost Memorial Day, and that means it’s time for one thing: picnics! The question isn’t whether to eat outdoors, it’s what to put in your basket. Here are three places that provide perfect picnic eats for summer:

1  The Roost Carolina Kitchen: This relatively new fried chicken joint makes chicken in three flavors: herb seasoned, spicy and Nashville hot. All are scrumptious, but be warned, the Nashville hot could require resuscitation (and a lot of water). Throw in some extras like baked mac and cheese, hand-cut potato chips and the peach cobbler for dessert.

2   Lucky’s Sandwich Company: These huge sandwiches make any picnic a hearty success. Whether you order the turkey and cheese, Italian sausage or any other of about a dozen options, what makes the meal is the seasoned coleslaw that comes right on top.

3  The Florentine: Too busy to pack your own basket? This Chicago Loop gem does the work for you, with a choice of lavish baskets brimming with meats, cheeses, crunchy breads, grilled veggies and fruit.

The Roost Carolina Kitchen: This relatively new fried chicken joint makes chicken in three flavors: herb seasoned, spicy and Nashville hot. All are scrumptious, but be warned, the Nashville hot could require resuscitation (and a lot of water). Throw in some extras like baked mac and cheese, hand-cut potato chips and the peach cobbler for dessert.

Lucky’s Sandwich Company: These huge sandwiches make any picnic a hearty success. Whether you order the turkey and cheese, Italian sausage or any other of about a dozen options, what makes the meal is the seasoned coleslaw that comes right on top.

The Florentine: Too busy to pack your own basket? This Chicago Loop gem does the work for you, with a choice of lavish baskets brimming with meats, cheeses, crunchy breads, grilled veggies and fruit.

If it is true that families who run together have fun together, you are in for a really fun summer because these races get top props from us and our readers.

Five family-friendly runs to try this summer

Five family-friendly runs to try this summer

For the exercise-averse among us, running a 5K might not sound like quality family time. But these five races are so much fun, you’ll barely realize you’re breaking a sweat—and they’re perfect for all types of families. After all, the family that runs together, stays together, right? Or at least avoids hypertension.

Have an itch to sleep under the stars and get some fresh air with the family? These are your best, and most convenient, bets.

The best camping sites within a 90-minute drive of Chicago

The best camping sites within a 90-minute drive of Chicago

Given a choice between a comfy bed or sleeping on the ground, I would usually pick the bed. The idea of sleeping outdoors on purpose isn’t at the top of my list of fun things to do. But in order to truly experience nature, you have to do more than just take a hike through the local woods. Spending the night outdoors allows you to hear the sounds, see the stars and introduce your kids to a side of Mother Nature they usually only see out of their bedroom windows.

So regardless of personal preference, you owe it to yourself, and your kids, to try camping this summer. And here is the fun part—you don’t have to travel far to do it. Within 90 minutes of downtown, there are plenty of options for you and your family to spend the night around the fire sleeping among the stars.

Close and convenient

With 64 wooded and semi-wooded campsites, Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville is easily the closest option to the city to give camping a shot. Sites are $30 per night ($10 less if you are a DuPage County resident) and include a fire ring, picnic table, a parking pad for your vehicle and even electricity. The forest preserve offers its visitors more than six miles of hiking trails plus a beautiful lake where you can rent canoes, kayaks, rowboats and boats with small motors to take you around. Camping is mainly available on weekends only, but there are times when you can grab a spot during the week in the summer. To secure a spot, call (630) 933-7284.

History and housing

Easily the park with the most activities in and around it is Starved Rock State Park. Located just outside of Utica, it has more than 130 campsites awaiting your arrival. In addition to all of the fun you can have at your campsite, Starved Rock offers plenty of hiking (13 miles), waterfalls, boat rentals, boat cruises, eagle watching and even kid-friendly activities such as guided walks, trolley tours and canal rides. If you are OK with a short drive (15 minutes) from the park, you can even try your hand at horseback riding. Reservations are accepted at and daily rates vary between $25 and $35 per night. If you’re really feeling brave? Camping reservations are available 365 days a year.

A little more like home

For those looking to ease into the whole camping experience, this is for you. Chicago Northwest KOA is in Union. Part of the Kampgrounds of America family, this KOA park offers many amenities for families such as movie nights, haywagon rides, ice cream socials, flashlight candy hunts, an outdoor pool and mini-golf. They even have cabins with A/C available for rent in case you really aren’t up for “roughing” it outdoors. Of course, camping with such features comes at a price, so be prepared to shell out anywhere from $39-$45 per night (or up to $70 per night for a cabin). Aside from the on-site activities KOA offers, this location happens to be very close to one of the state’s coolest kids’ attractions, the Illinois Railway Museum. You can book online at or call (800) 562-2827.

On the shores of Lake Michigan

Combining the beauty of the forest with the waters of fifth-largest lake in the world, Illinois Beach State Park in Zion has more than 200 campsites within a few steps of the beach for you and your family to call home for a night or two. Be sure to bring swimsuits—there is plenty of beach available for swimming. And don’t forget to take advantage of the five-plus miles of trials in the park. Pets are welcome. Rates begin at $25 per night but go as high as $35 during the peak season, and reservations can only be made online at

They might be little, but they can still have a thrilling summer at these four Chicago amusement parks.

The absolute best amusement parks for your little ones

The absolute best amusement parks for your little ones

It’s summer—get your hands in the air! These four local amusement parks are sure to get rise out of everyone. We’ve got the 411 so you can enjoy all the fun.

Pirates’ Cove

901 Leicester Road, Elk Grove Village

(847) 439-2683

$11, $9 resident; free adults

Best for: the littlest thrill seekers

Pirates and preschoolers alike will love this small-scale theme park targeted to kids 1-9. If they’re ready to ride solo, peewee pirates can give the 1950s kiddie carousel a whirl or splash around in the mini paddle boats. Kids can tackle the giant Pirate Plunge slide or Safari Express train on their own or go with a bigger pirate pal.

New this summer, the Soarin’ Schooners flying boat attraction is sure to take off. Kids can captain their own ship or let parents fly. Get physical on the 20-foot rock wall or the Castle of Camelot playground, plus slide down the smoke-breathing dragon and enjoy entertainment at the Fun Stage.

Buccaneer Bites is available for pizza and ice cream, or you can bring your own lunch and picnic on the 18th Century Pirate Ship. Gym shoes and socks are recommended.

Visit Fridays for special events, like Superhero or Outer Space Day. Weeklong summer camp is available for kids ages 3-9. Very Important Pirate (VIP) passes make saving a snap.

Donley’s Wild West Town

8512 S. Union Road, Union

(815) 923-9000

$17, free kids under 2

Best for: cowboy enthusiasts

Little buckaroos unite! Union, Ill., isn’t just for Day Out with Thomas. This Old West theme park is sure to delight cowboys and cowgirls ages 12 and under.

Spend your day immersing yourself in the ways of the Wild West. Shoot ‘em up at the pop gun gallery or take aim at the archery range. Giddy up on a pony or go down the river on an adventure canoe ride. And if your dogs start barking, take a seat for one of the three Wild West shows offered daily.

The options are many: ride the Runaway Mine Cars roller coaster, C.P. Huntington Train or 1951 vintage carousel; pan for gold or try your hand at cowboy roping; peruse cool cowboy memorabilia at the Wild West Museum.

And when you’re worn out from all the rootin’ and tootin’, wrangle the gang for grub at the Snack Shop, where pizza, hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches are offered. Or you can always “tailgate” in the parking lot. Season passes are available.

Santa’s Village AZOOsment Park

601 Dundee Ave., East Dundee

(847) 426-6751

$22.75, free kids 2 and under

Best for: animal encounters and summer Santa visits

This half-zoo, half-amusement park attraction is geared to kids 2-12. Parents and grandparents will love the nostalgia of the 56-year-old park, while kids will enjoy the North Pole-themed fun.

This year’s new additions include an elevation drop tower ride, Tri-Nado swirling ride, Wacky Worm kiddie coaster and trackless train.

You can interact with more than 250 animals, including reindeer, of course. Soar high into the skies in the Balloon Race ride, or grab a hose and put out a fire in SVFD Engine #3. And take a few minutes to see Santa’s summer home (with 100% less snow)—and maybe even squeeze in a visit with the Big Guy himself.

With plenty of rides geared towards those under 54 inches, this is a park has countless opportunities for little ones while older kids will have fun, too. Food and snacks are offered, but your own food is welco

We want s’more!

5 incredibly delicious s’more-themed desserts in Chicago

5 incredibly delicious s’more-themed desserts in Chicago

S’mores have long been an essential part of summer. The name of this tasty treat is a contraction of the phrase “some more” for obvious reasons: it’s very hard to have just one!

Most commonly made by a campfire (but a microwave, oven or grill work in a pinch), s’mores are simply a roasted marshmallow and piece of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers. The warmth of the marshmallow melts the chocolate, making the whole thing gooey, messy and delicious.

A recipe for s’mores first appeared in a 1927 book, Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, by Loretta Scott Crew. The s’more is so beloved that it even has its own day: Aug. 10 is officially National S’mores Day.

It is always a treat to indulge in a traditional s’more, but there are also plenty of local variations on this time-honored summer tradition. From cookies to cupcakes to pizza and beyond, the basic s’mores concept can be enjoyed in a number of delicious formats.

1. Creative takes on the original

Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square ( plays with the basic elements of a s’more to create new flavor combinations. They feature a Salted Caramel S’more with homemade graham cracker, salted caramel ganache and a toasted vanilla black pepper marshmallow. The whole thing is dipped in bittersweet chocolate and finished with smoked sea salt.

2. Cookies and cupcakes

Flirty Cupcakes (, with locations in University Village and Lincoln Square—and a van that travels around—offers two fun twists on the traditional s’more. The S’moreWich Cookie contains two handmade shortbread graham cracker cookies dipped in chocolate, with marshmallow Italian buttercream in between the cookies. Toasted mini mallows coat the sides. The S’more Me Over Cupcake pairs a graham cracker crust with a marshmallow cream center layered with dark chocolate and topped with a toasted marshmallow meringue with dark chocolate drizzled over the top.

3. Pie

During the summer months, Logan Square hot spot Bang Bang Pie ( features an ooey gooey s’more pie. Their concoction combines a graham cracker crust, a layer of dark chocolate and marshmallow cream torched to perfection.

4. Pizza

You can even enjoy a “slice” of a s’more at Dimo’s (, which has locations in Wrigleyville and Six Corners. This very unique pie starts with a light base of shredded mozzarella cheese, topped off with Teddy Grahams, mini roasted marshmallows, chocolate chips and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

5. Bark

Chicago-area blogger Michelle Price created a recipe for s’mores bark as a creative use for leftover melted chocolate from another dessert recipe. (


6 oz. dark chocolate, melted

4 large marshmallows

1 graham cracker


Melt chocolate, but ensure it has a chance to cool down before you add marshmallows. While you’re waiting for the chocolate to cool, rip the marshmallows into five pieces <

A Hawaiian vacation sounds amazing to just about anyone. Pick the island that’s right for you with this guide.

Which Hawaiian island is right for your family?

Which Hawaiian island is right for your family?

There’s nothing like saying “Aloha!” to a new experience together as a family—and traveling to Hawaii is an experience nobody will ever forget. But it is an expensive endeavor. Roundtrip tickets often top $1,000 and deciding where to visit in Hawaii is not easy. Given there isn’t a comprehensive ferry system connecting the six main islands and inter-island flights will significantly add to your trip tab (starting at $85 one way), choosing the island of your dreams is the first step in planning the ultimate tropical getaway.

What type of family you are may very well determine the ideal island for your clan, so here are some recommendations based on your “family personality.” Whether you’re adventurous, beach bums, amateur scientists or hungry for a slice of history, there is the perfect island waiting just for you.


Want to have the hustle and bustle of a metropolis while witnessing a place of historical significance in our nation’s history? Then Oahu, home to Honolulu, Waikiki and Pearl Harbor is just the place. Honolulu and Waikiki satisfy the fast pace city families are accustomed to, while the island’s role in World War II is a wonderful learning experience for older children. Often called “The Gathering Place,” Oahu is a spot any family would be fortunate to spend their time.

  • Where to stay: Who knew it was possible to mix a Hawaiian vacation with a Disney-themed trip (minus a cruise)? With the debut of Disney’s Aulani Resort in 2011, now you can kill two birds (err mice?) with one stone while lounging seaside.


The Big Island is, as one might imagine, the biggest island in Hawaii. But many people don’t realize that its size is so comparatively immense that it’s larger than all of the other islands combined. One of the many highlights of this destination is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home of Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.

  • Where to Stay: Widely considered among the most family-friendly resorts is the 62-acreHilton Waikoloa Village with its expansive pools and private ocean-fed snorkeling lagoon.


Kauai, one of the most beautiful islands anywhere, is often called the Garden Isle due to its lush landscape. This island is graced with awe-inspiring views that can be seen by helicopter or on various hikes. Waimea Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” offers trails for novices and seasoned hikers alike.

  • Where to Stay: The most kid-friendly property is the gorgeous Grand Hyatt in the town of Poipu—it woos guests the moment they step into the open-air lobby. A pool complex with a slide and salt-water lagoon is the perfect place to cool off. The luxurious yet kid-friendly St. Regis Princeville on the famed North Shore will make kids feel like royalty. The Kauai Marriott is an upscale oceanside retreat that won’t break the bank.


Sure, every Hawaiian Island has amazing beaches, but Maui has 30 miles of them—each rivaling the last in terms of waves, surf and beauty. What’s more is that every day is a perfect beach day—you might just have to drive a bit. If it’s rainy in your spot, head south to tony Waimea and you’re practically guaranteed sun. Most tourists prefer South Maui, which is where Waimea is, or West Maui, with the enchanting Kaanapali Beach and its resorts connected by a delightful beachfront path.

  • Where to Stay: In Wailea, the newly renovated Fairmont Kea Lani (meaning white heaven) is comprised of one-bedroom suites, giving parents privacy while kids dig the cool water slide. In Kaanapali, the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort V

Chicago has millions of fests every summer. How do you choose? Start by checking out our absolute favorites.

Our 7 favorite summer fests in Chicago

Our 7 favorite summer fests in Chicago

Food trucks are amazing. Celebrate them with these three favorite fests.

3 food truck fests you have to hit

3 food truck fests you have to hit

Treat your family to a few meals out this summer via these food truck events that are kid-friendly, affordable and undeniably delicious. Offering a taste of the best Chicago has to offer, food truck fests are not only a fun day out, but they also support the local community and vendors.

Chicago Food Truck Fest

June 27-28, Armour Square Park. This fun fest hosts a variety of food trucks with diverse offerings including Tamale Spaceship, Pierogi Wagon, Gino’s Steak Truck and Taquero Fusion. Stop at Beaver’s Donuts or Crave Bar for an artisan-inspired ice cream bar for dessert.

Food Truck Fests at Daley Plaza

City Hall debuted its version of a food truck festival last year, and it’s back again this year on select dates from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. June 5, 10 and 16; July 8, 13 and 31; Aug. 5, 18 and 28; Sept. 1, 9, 22 and 28; Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28. The city announces the food truck participants via Twitter at #ChiFoodTruckFests.

Chicago Food Social

Aug. 22-23, Milwaukee Avenue between Division and Noble. Along with Chicago’s tastiest food trucks, this event features live music, chef demonstrations, an oyster shucking competition and lots of family fun.

Craving a juicy, freshly picked strawberry? These are our favorite places to pick berries straight off the farm with the kids.

5 berry sweet places to pick strawberries around Chicago

5 berry sweet places to pick strawberries around Chicago

Thanks to the enviable climate of California, we can pretty much count on having beautiful, ruby red strawberries at our fingertips any time of the year. But there’s no sweeter pleasure than biting into a freshly picked strawberry, warm from the sun. And while we may be a ways from the sun-drenched West Coast, the Midwest still offers a fair number of family-friendly spots where you can pick your own strawberries.

Here are five places—all within an easy 75-minute drive of Willis Tower—that will guarantee your sweetest summer yet.

Pick. at Garden Patch Farms

14158 W. 159th St., Homer Glen

Distance from Chicago: 35 miles

With its less than 45 minute drive from the Loop, Pick. is clearly the closest option for u-pick strawberries. But proximity isn’t the only charm of this family-owned spot. Summer is the farm’s biggest season, with pickable produce that includes peppers and blackberries, and the chance to feed the farm’s hens.

Tom’s Farm Market

10214 Algonquin Road, Huntley

Distance from Chicago: 50 miles

Strawberry lovers will swoon for this sweet spot, which has four varieties of u-pick strawberries. Pre-picked berries are also available, as are strawberry-flavored treats in Cheryl’s Café, from pies and shortcakes to shakes and lemonade. The gift shop and garden center offer additional perks for shoppers.

Thompson Strawberry Farm

14000 75th St., Bristol, Wis.

Distance from Chicago: 60 miles

It’s right there in the name: this farm just over the Wisconsin border is all about the berries. The cash-only farm has been growing strawberries for more than 70 years, and now offers raspberries (in August) and pumpkins (in October). Be sure to visit regularly—frequent pickers are rewarded with a 25 cent discount when they reuse their baskets, and if you pick five baskets, the sixth is free!

Garwood Orchards

5911 W. 50 South, LaPorte, Ind.

Distance from Chicago: 60 miles

Get the full farm experience, thanks to tractor rides out to the strawberry fields, at this nearly 200-year-old family business. U-pick options range from blueberries to black raspberries to tomatoes. And if the sun gets a little too hot, you can always stop by Palazzolo’s Gelato and Sorbetto for some icy treats.

Stade’s Farm & Market

3709 W. Miller Road, McHenry

Distance from Chicago: 60 miles

Strawberries might be the main attraction of this spot (they have 12 acres), but they’re certainly not the only draw for families. The Farmtractions Theme Park, which includes a petting zoo, kiddie zipline and giant sandbox, is available for $6 a person, and the bakery sells strawberry-rhubarb pie and some delicious-sounding vanilla cake donuts with strawberry frosting throughout berry season.

You deserve playtime this summer, too!

4 super fun summertime dates for parents

4 super fun summertime dates for parents

Rollerblade the lakefront

Roll on over to the 18 ½-mile Chicago Lakefront Trail along Lake Michigan, from the 63rd Street Beach at the south end of the city to the edge of Lincoln Park. Or, if you’re looking for a lulling roll, try the 20-mile-long North Branch Trail, which winds north along the Chicago River escaping the rush of the city.

Need skates? Check out Bike and Roll at Navy Pier or stop by Londo Mondo on Chicago’s Gold Coast to buy your own.

Rock the Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Get on a roll this summer with the 2015 Humana Rock `n Roll Chicago Half Marathon July 18-19. The race starts at Grant Park, then rolls out along Lake Michigan, past Soldier Field, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Grant Park and ends in front of Buckingham Fountain for fantastic finish photo ops!

Find some old-time rock and roll!

Bounce back to the ’70s at the new Brass Monkey where they’re rolling back some of the best-loved, long-forgotten dishes like the TV dinner, French bread pizza, fish Styx, bologna sliders, even Peter Brady’s favorite–pork chops and applesauce. You’ll love the disco décor. If you don’t know how to roll, the retro music quizzes might leave you stumped, although I’ve got to say I rocked mine!

The Brass Monkey, 401 N. Morgan St., Chicago,

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Keep that bocce or bowling ball rolling at Pinstripes’ new Chicago location. A suburban family favorite, Pinstripes rolled into the city this spring, taking up over 33,000 square feet in River East. Find five indoor and two outdoor bocce courts, 11 bowling lanes, American Italian food and wine and riverside patios with firepits for chilly evenings.

Pinstripes, 435 E. Illinois St., Chicago,

Spend your summer nights in the Chicagoland parks at these free or inexpensive family events.

The 5 best events happening in Chicagoland parks this summer

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?

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.

Just because the weather isn’t ideal, doesn’t mean you can’t have some wet-and-wild fun.

8 indoor water parks you have to check out

8 indoor water parks you have to check out

It’s summer in Chicago—time to break out the swimming suits! It might not seem like the ideal season for wet-and-wild fun, but that doesn’t mean splishing and splashing is out of the question. These low-cost and local options—and did we mention indoor?—are just the ticket. My family of four checked them out to give you the inside scoop.

1. The Water Works

Schaumburg Park District

505 N. Springinsguth Road, Schaumburg

(847) 490-2505

Youth: $7, $5 residents; Adults: $9, $7 residents

Best for: Feeling like a kid again

This giant indoor water park has features to keep kids and parents giddy all day. The water playground slides and rapid water channel were our 3- and 5-year-old’s favorites. The drop slide and diving board gave the hubs and I quite a rush. Water slides for those 48 inches and above are thrilling—one goes straight down! The grill is great for a quick snack, pizza or burger.

2. Vaughan Aquatic Center

Fox Valley Park District

2121 W. Indian Trail, Aurora

(630) 907-9600

$9, $8 resident; free kids under 2

Best for: Children of varying ages

Upon entering, you can clearly see how this park district earned The National Gold Medal, the highest honor possible in parks and recreation. The water park features the best tot area I have seen, with seesaws and swings. Imagine not having to wrangle the baby in your arms the entire visit! There are two water slides for those over 48 inches. The tube slide bursts out the building and is even visible from the highway. My 5-year-old son loved the interactive water play area. There’s also a rope cross great for school-age kids.

3. Family Aquatic Center

Oak Brook Park District

1450 Forest Gate Road, Oak Brook

(630) 645-9581

Youth: $8, $6 resident; Adults $12, $10 resident

Best for: Exercise

The basketball net and kids’ exercise lane with noodles are awesome for play and to practice swimming. The children’s water play area with geysers and water slide are great, too. But the best part of this pool was the locker rooms. The large, carpeted locker area kept the little ones from slipping and sliding, and hand blow dryers kept the chills away.

4. Splash Landings

Glenview Park District

2400 Chestnut Ave., Glenview

(847) 486-5372

$6, free kids under 2

Best for: Aviation lovers

The air traffic control-themed water slide is a hit with the pre-K set. We also loved the large lap pool lane to practice swimming. Wiggles and Giggles Childcare Service is available to drop off the littlest ones for some special time with an older child. There’s also an Aqua Shop for goggles, swim diapers and noodles.

5. Pavilion Aquatics

Center Lagoon Pool

Elk Grove Park District

1000 Wellington Ave., Elk Grove Village

(847) 593-6248

$9, $7 resident, under 2 free

Best for: Younger kids

The newly resurfaced pool is a hit with young families. One- and two-foot de

School’s out for the summer and we can’t think of anything better to do on a hot, humid summer day than splashing with your kids in some of our local water parks. Here are our picks for some attractions to check out.

Seven outdoor water parks around Chicago

Seven outdoor water parks around Chicago

School’s out for the summer and we can’t think of anythingbetter to do on a hot, humid summer day than splashing with yourkids in some of our local water parks. Here are our picks for someattractions to check out.

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