When we lived in the city, summertime was great. We loved our farmer’s market, neighborhood bar, local park and weekly neighborhood events. We loved the energy, and even after we moved to the western suburbs four years ago, we kept going back every chance we could. Just because we lived in the suburbs, didn’t mean we had to play in the suburbs, we told ourselves.
But suddenly, something started to happen. Yes, the farmer’s markets in the city have full meals, delicious smoothies and picnic space, but sometimes they get so crowded it can be hard to enjoy with little ones (and navigate a double stroller). And either the neighborhood bar in River North started letting in 18-year-olds or I was really getting older.
So soon, instead of passing the Oak Park Farmer’s Market while heading east towards downtown, we stopped at it. Instead of walking under signs for Thursday Night Out and passing the children playing in the Marion Street fountain on our way to the Green Line, we sat and bought dinner.
Summer in the suburbs is not what I thought it was going to be when we moved here. It’s even better, and way more accessible. Here are four easy ways to swap your city routine for summer fun in Oak Park and River Forest.
Stop and smell the homemade donuts. Local non-profit organizations bake them fresh, early on Saturday mornings to make money for the church and its community efforts. Aside from the numerous bake sales, the produce is always fresh and local. Bluegrass Music plays live and the kids love watching the musicians play while sorting through our boxes of fresh fruit. The market is held in the Pilgrim Church Parking lot at 460 Lake Street, every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October.
Join the community at
During the summer, there are more than 20 Downtown Oak Park restaurants that offer special TNO menus including drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts to eat outside or to carry out. Admittedly, our first stop is always the beverage tent. Second stop? The balloon man for swords, balloon hats and more swords (I have three boys). There is energetic live music and a variety of local shopping to enjoy within the event. TNO runs every Thursday on Marion Street between Lake St. and North Blvd. from 5-9 p.m. through August.
for beer, donuts and coffee
You heard me. You can head to the bar in the morning for Dark Matter Coffee and West Side Bakery donuts. Did I mention it is extremely kid friendly? You can also catch a Sunday afternoon soccer game while sipping craft beers. They host a slew of special events, like the upcoming West Coast Beer + Cheese Social on July 24. They might even get to know your name.
Splash in the fountain on Marion Street
No, it’s not Buckingham Fountain at Millennium Park, but the cuteness factor is off the charts. I’ve strolled past there while babes in diapers sit and splash people walking by. It’s kind of amazing and you can’t get mad when you’re being splashed by a toddler with a diaper wedgie. I’ve sat with an iced coffee and a cookie while my kids enjoy soaking innocent bystanders.