Living in Chicago during the summer can leave you feeling like you’re running a B&B, with all the house guests looking to use your pad as their Windy City vacation HQ. Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of fun to keep them on the move no matter how long they’re taking up residence. Read on for our ideas on showing off our great city to your friends and family.
photo: The Morton Arboretum
1. Fill those long summer days with exercise and smiles when you swap screen time for wide open spaces at The Morton Arboretum. Run through the mazes, conquer the gigantic tree house, hop from rock to rock in the creek, educate yourself in the Children’s Garden and snap pics of the Origami in the Garden temporary exhibit inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding. The Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rte 53, Lisle. More details.
2. There’s almost too many reasons to visit Brookfield Zoo for us to list, but we’ll give it a shot. Thru September 17, animatronic dinosaurs and their mythical dragon friends are calling the zoo home in the Dinos & Dragons Exhibit, schedule mingle time with giraffes and penguins in the new animal encounter offerings, and spend your summer nights surrounded by roaming entertainers, live music and a laser show. Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Rd., Brookfield. More details.
3. A trip to the bean is a must-do for any out-of-town folk, so stick around Millennium Park for Family Fun Fest daily thru August 24 (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) where you’ll find interactive activities, sing-a-longs, delightful story times and arts and crafts for kids of all ages. Millennium Park, Chase Promenade North, 201 E. Randolph Ave., Grant Park. More details.
photo: Bristol Renaissance Faire
4. Giant turkey legs, costumed characters around every corner, pirates and fairies flitting about, photo opps galore — you’ll find all of this and more when you party likes it’s 1599 at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Located off I-94 at the Illinois/Wisconsin border, Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m. thru Sept. 4. More details.
5. Show off the amazing Chicago architecture and grab a bite while you’re at it. Lawry’s The Prime Rib teamed up with the Chicago Architecture Foundation for an unforgettable cruise down Chicago’s famous river, offered now thru October 31. Experience the architectural highlights on both branches of the river and then enjoy a three-course meal of Lawry’s The Prime Rib classics. Southeast corner of Michigan Ave. and Wacker Dr., Near East Side. More details.
photo: Chicago Botanic Garden
6. Experience the delightful sights and sounds of miniature trains traversing high and low tunnels, across bridges and around buildings at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Model Railroad Garden now thru October 29. The exhibit features 18 garden-scale trains on 1,600 feet of track with vignettes of tiny people and animals that give it a storybook feel. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe. More details.
7. While you’re at Chicago Botanic Garden, fill your days with butterflies and blooms at the temporary exhibit where visitors can immerse themselves in a habitat filled with hundreds of winged beauties and pretty petals. You’ll find species native to South America, Asian, North America and Africa, as well as those native to Illinois. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe. More details.
photo: Disney’s Aladdin
8. Sprinkle a little magic into your visit with a trip to see Disney’s Aladdin, now thru September 10. This thrilling production is filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle. It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp + three wishes make the possibilities infinite! Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., The Loop. More details.
9. Park the car, sit in front of one of the nation’s largest outdoor movie screens and offer up a dose of yesteryear. One by one, drive-in theaters have disappeared in favor of their theater-style competitors. Cascade is still around, offering blockbuster double features under the stars. Bring your own food and charcoal to cook on one of the grills in the picnic area. Cascade operates March through November. Cascade Drive-In, 1100 E. North Ave., West Chicago. More details.
10. Let the spectacular LEGO®-built marvels of engineering inspire the builder within you. MSI’s Brick by Brick features more than a dozen giant constructions by LEGO® Certified Professional and Chicago native Adam Reed Tucker, including a 60-foot Golden Gate Bridge, the International Space Station and Roman Colosseum. These marvels are just the beginning, because you’ll soon be making some of your own with the help of hands-on building challenges. Museum Science + Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Hyde Park. More details.
photo: Shedd Aquarium
11. We have a pretty stellar aquarium, so why not show it off? Take a peek at Shedd from the perspective of their animal care staff during a 50-minute guided behind-the-scenes tour. Go behind the galleries to view the aquarium from a new angle, see where nutritious meals are prepared for over 32,000 animals and witness Shedd Aquarium at work. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus. More details.
12. Take a stroll around everyone’s favorite free zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, and take part in daily activities that involve everything from the birds to the seals. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park. More details.
photo: Naperville’s Centennial Beach
13. It can get pretty toasty in Chicago, so knowing a great spot to take a dip is a must. Try something a bit rugged or off the beaten path with our list of awesome watering holes near Chicago. More details.
14. If you’d rather keep your feet on solid ground while getting in your water play, we also have a great lineup of splash pads all over Chicagoland to keep things cool. More details.
15. If you’re still struggling to fill your agenda, check out our story on reoccuring weekday activities that’ll help you pack your days. More details.
What is your favorite thing to do with out of town guests? Share your secrets in the Comments below!
— Maria Chambers