My perfect summer Sunday: Lake County

In our home, Sunday is family day. With a full house of kids with different interests it can be easy to get overbooked and overwhelmed with things to do. As we tell our kids, “There is always something to do!” We started our tradition of keeping Sundays open on the calendar and reserved for family when our first two were little, and while it is harder now that the kids are older and have school, friends and opinions, we still stick to it!

A place to eat

In summer we throw out a lot of our rules and loosen up on the 80/20 rule we usually abide by. There is nothing as sweet as a perfect ice cream cone dipped in chocolate on a hot summer day. And summer wouldn’t be summer without a nightly campfire in the backyard and homemade s’mores. Our favorite grown up indulgence is to get homemade marshmallows and graham crackers from Cacao Sweets & Treats in Grayslake for an amazing treat you won’t want to share with the kids.

Don’t have a firepit? Check out the Old-Fashioned Campfire (registration required) at Heller Nature Center, Highland Park. The next one is Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. and costs $9 per parent/child pair. Or you can visit the Greenbelt Cultural Center’s FREE Community Campfire Friday Nights. No registration is necessary, just bring a blanket or chair and enjoy various activities and roasting marshmallows.

A place to play

Anywhere can be a place to play when you bring your own playmates! With four kids it’s not hard for us to find fun. We love visiting new-to-us playgrounds and exploring the neighborhood on family walks. My husband and I have been known to steal the kids scooters and take off! Currently, our favorite playgrounds are Bowen Park in Waukegan, Betty Russell in Gurnee and Heron Creek in Lake Zurich. They all provide plenty of fun for toddlers to big kids!

A place for a rainy day

The fun doesn’t end just because it rains! Our family loves to beat the weather blues with games at Pinstripes Bowling and Bocce. We visit the Northbrook location but they also have locations in South Barrington, Oakbrook and Chicago. On Sundays you can play Bocce all day for $5/person/hour. Bocce is an Italian lawn bowling game that is great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. On Sunday bowling is reserved for the evening hours, but never fear, you can enjoy your time with bottomless brunch served until 2 p.m. and kids 5 and younger are free with a paying adult.

A place for a treat

Since being diagnosed with high cholesterol (sad trombone) I’ve had to cut back on foods like ice cream, so when I do have a treat I like to do it in epic fashion. Brunch at The Chocolate Sanctuary is just that with amazing entrees and all the indulgences you could handle.

When the children are around, we head to Riverside Chocolate Factory, which is conveniently located on the way to Grandma’s house. The kids love choosing from the vintage candies and salt water taffy, but I go for the ice cream. Yep, I visit an amazing candy store for ice cream. It’s because they serve The Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, which is the best ice cream in the world and worth every ounce of cholesterol it has. I highly recommend Zanzibar or Peanut Butter Cup.

A place to get away

When we’re not in Lake County, our most perfect summer Sunday would be spent in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It’s our happy place with few to no electronics and lots of time spent outdoors. As this is our last week of summer vacation before school starts we are stretching it out and savoring every last drop of summer.

A place for one last splash

Before summer ends we will of course have to make one last big splash and there is no better place to do that then at Highland Park’s Rosewood Beach. Dare I say this may be the most beautiful beach in Illinois. The newly restored beach has won awards for restoration (which blends into the natural landscape) and for best facility. The beach is clean and features two guarded coves for swimming. It is Lake MIchigan so the water is a bit cold and the beach is rocky so your tender-footed kids may want water shoes. The beach also has a boardwalk, indoor and outdoor showers, and a fully shaded (covered) playground for when you little ones tire of water play. You can also visit the interpretive center on weekends or explore the nature trails and Rosewood Park. Parking rates apply for non-residents and vary based on location, see the Park District website for up to date information.

No go out and have a blast, there’s only eight more sleeps until school starts!

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