Chicagoland Family Summer & Fall Bucket List

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We tapped our brand new, amazing Chicagoland BCB Market Leaders, Lindsay Kaplan, Jill Badlotto, and Jacqueline Baird to help put together an awesome Top Family Summer and Fall Bucket List of hot spots, hidden gems & fun things to do with your kiddos as we finish out summer and head into the fall!  We have our Chicagoland community covered from the city to the Northshore to the Western burbs – scroll down to read some of our fave spots not to miss with your kiddos!

Do you have any to add to this list?  Comment below with your fave Chicagoland spots to hit with the fam!

Don’t forget to also keep checking our BCB site for monthly free events here — playdates, workouts + more to help you meet new mamas in your area!

 

Chicago North Shore 

SUMMER 

Ravinia Festival – This is a huge outdoor music festival with concerts all summer long. Most are catered to adults only, but they always have a few for kids! It’s always a lot of fun, you get a spot on the lawn, bring lots of snacks and drinks and enjoy! There are two great ones this summer: Laurie Berkner and Coco – Movie with live Orchestra.

July 4th Parade (every town has their own) filled with music, constantly passing out fun swag from local businesses, candy, entertainers.

Winnetka Family Campout – located at Tower Road Beach, a movie is shown, with a campfire and breakfast the next morning.

Chicago Botanic Gardens – My family could spend hours here every week. They have walking trails, a specific garden area with fun things for kids to do, music, a delicious café and events all summer long. One of my favorites is the Kite Festival – August 10-11, located on a large meadow on their property they have ice cream, beverages, lunch, music and plenty of entertainment. 

Highwood Evening Gourmet Market – Every Wednesday starting at 4:30 (pretty much my kids’ typical dinner time). This event is free, has tons of tables and chairs, lots of food options from local restaurants and food trucks, bounce houses ($5), playground, always end the night with the ice cream truck, and a different music entertainer every week with plenty of room for the kids to dance! Definitely our #1 favorite thing about summer up here!

Rosewood Beach in Highland Park – it’s private, recently renovated facilities, playground for kids, quiet and peaceful. Parking access is free to residents Non-residents – $10 per person (children under 3-years-old are FREE.

Six Flags Great America in Gurnee – just about a 20 minute drive from the North Shore. Hours of fun for the family. If you plan on going more than 1 time, makes sense to buy the season ticket pass. 1 time visit is $59, and a season ticket is $84. 

Deerfield Farmers Market – every Saturday morning from 7:00am-12:30pm, find wonderful locally grown fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, flowers, eggs, cheese, honey, syrups, fresh baked goods and much more. Music Performances and activities for kids, fun for the whole family (dogs included!). 

Lambs Farm – Libertyville. Lambs Farm is a hidden gem. It has so much, horses, llamas, pigs, sheep, goats, and much more. You can feed the horses, brush the goats and sheep, ride the carousel, buy lunch and snacks, get ice cream, play on multiple play structures, and just explore and walk the beautiful grounds. Not to mention it’s mission is inspirational: Helping people with developmental disabilities lead productive, happy lives, and connecting with the human spirit in all of us. 

Glenview Summer Art Fair– always a lovely day walking around looking at beautiful pieces of art while also having lots of wonderful and creative things to do with kids. Balloon sculptures, face painting, henna tattoos, snacks and music. 

FALL 

Didier Farms – located in Lincolnshire, IL. Pumpkinfest and farmstand, has all the fun fall activities, hayride, fresh donuts, pick out your own pumpkin, face painting, pony rides. #1 Fall activity for my family, we have been doing this every year since we have lived here!

Kohls Childrens Museum – Wonderful kid’s museum in Glenview, IL. Rooms and rooms of amazing activities that really stimulate and entertain kids for hours!

The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival – every year they attempt to beat the Guinness of World Records of the most pumpkins carved and lit all at once. Tons of family activities all weekend long. 

The Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire, IL – always has wonderful shows for kids. My kids love seeing live performances. 

Apple Holler Apple Orchard to go apple picking, has a restaurant, bakery and gift shop. Also has many different children’s activities and farm tours.  

Fall Bulb Fest at The Chicago Botanic Gardens – a whole weekend of activities for the family. There’s live music; a harvest market; cider, wine, and beer to purchase; and the amazing gourd mountain for selfies. Many local vendors will offer baked goods, honey, roasted nuts, fresh jams, and much more. children of all ages can admire the gourd mountain, find their way around the straw-bale maze, and participate in family activities. 

Weorbit  a wonderful, clean, happy with endlessly fun play space in Highland Park. Adults can relax on the couches while watching their kids play and sipping free coffee!  

Chicago Western Suburbs 

SUMMER 

Pyrce Park Spray Pool (Berwyn) — Beat the heat with water sprays and a fun slide at this free spray pool! The season runs June 9-September 1 and this activity is ideal for children 48 inches tall and under.

LEGO® Brick Play at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle) — What will nature inspire your kiddos to build?  Play and create LEGO® masterpieces in this self-guided hands-on discovery activity in the Children’s Garden. Available daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. May through September. 

Centennial Beach (Naperville) — The perfect place to cool down this summer! It’s not a swimming pool, it’s not a lake, but a swimming experience like no other. Bring the kids and enjoy swimming and catching some rays in Centennial Beach’s historic stone quarry. Their zero depth entry is perfect for the little ones and there’s a sandy play area to explore too! Pack lunches or enjoy snacks from the Centennial Grill and you’ve got the perfect afternoon with the fam. 

 95th Street Farmers Market (Naperville) — Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of all the local fresh fruits and veggies at the peak of their season, and kids will love being a part of the picking, planning, and preparing. Shop homegrown offerings, local breads and jams, and much more from a wide variety of local farmers and vendors. The market is held every Thursday June 6-September 26 from 3-7 pm in the 95th Street Library parking lot. 

Cantigny Park (Wheaton) — Family Kite Night, movies in the park, and outdoor concerts are just a few of the family-friendly activities you can enjoy at Cantigny! Admission is free. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. Picnics are welcome and concessions are available. 

Dupage Children’s Museum (Naperville) — Visit one of the Western Suburbs’ favorite places, where play allows kids to make new discoveries, explore new spaces, share experiences, and see themselves and their world in new and exciting ways. It’s the perfect activity for a raining day or when you want a break from the summer heat! h

Summer Nights Classic Car Show (Downers Grove) — Your older kids will get a kick out of seeing all the old cars as you stroll Main Street. Happening every Friday May 24-August 30 from 6-9 pm. Enjoy live music at the train station from 7-9 pm! 

Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield) — World-renowned, Brookfield Zoo is set within a 216-acre nature park, is home to 2,000+ animal residents, and is also an accredited arboretum. Open every day! 

Arlington International Racecourse (Arlington Heights) — Family Fun Days are offered every Sunday between May 26-September 1 and your kids will love watching the horses and cheering them on. Special activities like a free petting zoo, pony rides, bounce house, face painters, and more will complete this family-friendly day at the track!   

Jus-Fun Amusement (Oakbrook Terrace) — Affordable family fun in a safe and clean environment for all ages. Race your friends and family on their Go-Karts, battle each other in their double the fun WaterWars, swing for the fences in one of their four speeds of Batting Cages, and practice your putting on the Boulder Junction Mini-Golf course!  

FALL 

Garden Story Time at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle) — A perfect reason to get some fresh air with your little ones. Enjoy and explore all the Arboretum has to offer, then gather in the Children’s Garden for story time and fun! Story time happens every Friday at 11:00 am April-October (weather permitting). 

Pumpkin Daze at Abbey Farms (Aurora) — Great, ol’ fashioned family fun! Packed with activities, their 40-acre pumpkin farm has all the tools you need to make your family’s day at the farm memorable. Little ones will especially love the Tee-Pee town mini-maze, tractor rides, and weekend petting zoo. Complete your visit with a trip to their pumpkin field for the perfect photo op and to pick out a grown pumpkin ready for carving. September 21-October 27. 

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center (Willow Springs) — Educate and delight your family with live animals, exhibits and self-guided trails. You can explore the Little Red Schoolhouse grounds on three unpaved walking trails or the paved accessible garden trail. 

Waterfall Glen (Darien) — A popular hiking and biking destination! It offers families plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. There are plenty of smaller loops and tranquil rest spots that make it well worth the visit for families of all ages (and dogs!).

Oaktoberfest (Oak Park) — This free two-day fest takes your traditional Oktoberfest to the next level! The best part is that they have a Kids Root Beer Garden which offers kids the chance to create and race their own zucchini cars. It also features fun things like a ninja obstacle course, root beer floats, and games and obstacles sponsored by local organizations. 

Pumpkin Fest at Cosley Zoo (Wheaton) — Taking in the beautiful fall colors at Cosley Zoo is a must do! See the animals in the crisp fall air, listen to the squeals of excitement from the children conquering the straw pyramid and take in the thousands of pumpkins scattered on the zoo’s lawn. Children’s rides are also available. Apples, gourds, pumpkins, cider, cornstalks, and various sizes of straw bales are available to purchase too. 

Dupage Children’s Museum (Naperville) — Visit one of the Western Suburbs’ favorite places, where play allows kids to make new discoveries, explore new spaces, share experiences, and see themselves and their world in new and exciting ways. It’s the perfect activity for cool weather or a raining day! 

Bounce Around (Wheaton) — This 20,000 sf play space is filled with bounce houses, arcade games, a jungle gym, and an area designated for toddlers with a restaurant as well. Their open play pass is good for all day fun so the kiddos can bounce and explore for hours! 

Kuiper’s Family Farm (Maple Park) — The perfect weekend adventure for a family fall staple… apple picking! Admission includes ¼ peck bag of apples plus a hayride to the apple grove (children 2 and under are free). They also have a shop and bakery with apple cider doughnuts, caramel apples, and fresh-pressed pasteurized apple cider. Pumpkins are also available for buying and picking. 

Boo! At the Zoo (Brookfield) — Little ghosts and goblins of all ages are sure to have a howlin’ good time! Brookfield Zoo’s not-so-scary and fun-filled event has something for the entire family to enjoy — a costume parade, hayrides, crafts, pumpkin smashing, and giant pumpkin carving. Plus, there are times each day that the animals get pumpkins to eat and play with! 

Chicago (City) 

SUMMER 

Neon Summer: This pop-up adventure holds Chicago’s first outdoor go-kart track, along with a mini-golf course filled with surprises. Enjoy a rotating roster of some of the city’s best food trucks, and dozens of festival games! It’s family friendly until 7PM and only around for a limited time. 

Movies in the Parks: What better excuse to let your kids stay up late than a movie under the stars? From family-friendly favorites to childhood classics, the Chicago Park District hosts free movies at various parks throughout the city, beginning at dusk. Grab some snacks and your favorite picnic blanket and check out the upcoming schedule!

Wild Wednesdays at Garfield Park Conservatory: Every Wednesday the Conservatory hosts a free learning event for kids where they can explore and discover nature. During the summer, kids can play outdoors in the Play and Grow Garden where they can conduct experiments and tend to the plants! 

The Splash Pad at Adams Park: Cool off at one of the city’s best splash pads! Not only does Adams Park have a water feature (that many moms proclaim is their favorite), but kids can also play in a shaded sandbox – which is key during those hot days. It’s also situated in an area of Lincoln Park that is perfect for a summer stroll.

Grab a Cone at Cone: Cone Chicago is one of my favorite little ice cream shops in the city. With fun flavors and an outdoor patio, the store is located near some of the best restaurants in the city and right down the street from Mary Bartelme Park! 

Burgers at Mini Mott: This burger joint situated in Logan Square has delicious food and some of the best burgers in the city. Parents can enjoy different beers on tap while kids can enjoy soft serve ice cream. Afterwards you can stop by Play next door – a shop with toys, books, and gifts for kids!

Green City Market in Lincoln Park: One of the best farmers markets in the city, they have a various selection of vendors selling food, flowers, baked goods, and more. It’s not only a great way to support small businesses, but also a summer activity that family members with four legs can enjoy too! 

Bucktown Art Fest (August 25-26): Shop for unique art, enjoy live music, and help support local art education programs! The festival also has a kid’s tent, where children can create their own art! And don’t forget to Bring-your-own-headphones for baby ears. 

Navy Pier Fireworks: There’s a reason why you see cars stopped on Lakeshore Drive to watch this firework show. Get there early to enjoy the Ferris Wheel and various games and secure a good spot to watch the light show. 

Bixbee Imagination Station: Let their imaginations run wild! Inspired by the creative mind of a child, this experiential pop-up has surprises at every twist and turn (like a polka-dotted elephant and Technicolor monkeys). It’s a playground where a child’s creativity comes to life and where parents can let their inner kid come out! 

FALL 

Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo: No Chicago list would be complete without an event at the Lincoln Park Zoo! This family fest is filled with activities including live entertainment, professional pumpkin carvers, a Ferris wheel corn maze, and more. It runs from every Friday – Sunday from September 27 – October 27. 

Explore Millennium Park: From the beautiful Lurie Garden to the iconic Bean, Millennium Park is the perfect downtown spot to spend a warm fall day wandering with the family. It would be hard to find a better park in the city to see the foliage. Stop by the extravagant Maggie Daley Park, which serves as the perfect place for kids to burn some energy. 

Supper with Snakes: Yep, you read that right! Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum hosts a Halloween event where parents and kids can trick-or-treat through a museum of live snakes, partake in games, and end the night with a dance party. Don’t forget to show up in your costume! 

Arts in The Dark: This evening parade taking place on October 19th is unlike any other! Talented artists come together with unique floats, puppets, and creative performances to put on an extravagant show for attendees. This magical event begins at dusk on State Street and moves south from there! 

Open Play at Bubbles Academy: For those cold fall days when outdoor playgrounds are not an option, Bubbles Academy holds open play for ages 0-5 years. Hosted inside their carpeted Meadow Room, it’s stocked with balls, blocks, tunnels, and climbing toys that your kids are guaranteed to enjoy!

Go for a Stroller Run on the 606: Or if running isn’t your thing, you can bike, walk, or even skate the 2.7-mile trail as a family! What once was an abandoned rail line is now a multi-use recreational trail and park filled with art and greenery. With multiple access points that span various neighborhoods, there’s no better place to spend the last few warm days outside before it’s time to hibernate for winter. 

Fall Festival at Little Beans Café: Enjoy pumpkin painting, live music, art projects, a bounce house, and more on September 27th! Tickets for children are $30, but siblings get a discount of $15. 

Gallagher Way at Wrigleyville: There’s so much more to do in Wrigleyville than catch a game! Every Tuesday through September Old Town School’s acclaimed Wiggleworms program takes place at 10AM, where kids can enjoy music, dancing, and bubbles. 

Free Museum Days: This city has some of the most educational museums, so why not take advantage of some free admission days? Illinois residents can explore space at the Adler Planetarium for free on select days throughout the year. And before you go in, make sure to snap a family photo in front of the best skyline view of the city! 

 

Lindsay is our Chicago Northshore Market Leader.

 

 

 

We hope you enjoy this round-up of super fun activities and adventures to do with your kiddos in Chciagoland this summer!  Leave us a comment below & let us know what else we should add to the list. 

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