On Memorial Day weekend, you get a bonus day to remember those who served in the military — and also have fun with the fam. Plan ahead with our list of must-do’s. You can be patriotic at the downtown parade, head to the all-new Chicago Dogs game, see butterflies flutter at Chicago Botanic Garden and more. Don’t forget a good, old-fashioned barbecue! Read on and march on into the holiday weekend.

photo: courtesy of U.S. Army via flickr

1. Catch the downtown Memorial Day Parade & Wreath Laying Ceremony. Lucky for us, one of the largest Memorial Day Parades in the country is right here in Sweet Home Chicago. You’ll tap your feet to high school marching bands, and drum and bugle corps, watch military vehicles pass by, and keep your eyes peeled for Gold Star Pins worn by family members of those lost while serving in the Armed Forces.

Randolph St. Kidsphoto: Randolph Street Market

2. Browse for hidden treasure at Randolph Street Market. Kick off the summer season with the opening of the outdoor portion of the monthly antiques market. This event is filled with lively activities for all ages. Kids under 12 are always free, but check out the family package to score a drink for you and your partner and snacks for the kiddos.

photo: courtesy of Scott L via flickr

3. Start off the season with a bang. Catch the fireworks at Navy Pier for the first time of the summer 2018 season. The dazzling show is the perfect way to end a fun-filled day at the recently updated Pier.

4. Cruise Lake Michigan. Whether you’re looking for brunch, lunch or dinner, Odyssey has all bases covered this Memorial Day weekend with 2 to 3 hour cruises on Lake Michigan, one that even includes front row seats to Navy Pier’s fireworks.

photo: Kline Creek Farm courtesy of Wendy Piersall via flickr

5. Go back in time at Kline Creek Farm. Whether your choose to check out the Life on the Farm tours, horse drawn carriage rides, or Memorial Day Remembered Ceremony, you and the kiddos will learn something new while you wander this recreated farm of the 1890s.

6. Sprinkle some Christmas into your Memorial Day. Part nostalgic theme park (hello, Tilt-a-Whirl) and part petting zoo (aww, look, it’s a baby deer), Santa’s Village Azoosment Park is open for the season and ready to dazzle with rides that looked ripped out of a retro movies and creatures galore.

photo: Chicago Botanic Garden courtesy of H. Michael Miley via flickr

7. Get your train, butterfly and flower fix. 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. While you’re there, immerse yourself in a habitat filled with hundreds of winged beautifies and pretty petals at the Butterflies and Blooms exhibit.

8. Pig out at the Red, White and BBQ fest. Nothing screams Memorial Day more than a BBQ, so why not go all out and head to this barbecue fest and competition in Westmont? You can chow down on the food, kids can have a blast at the carnival, and everyone can jam along with the live music.

photo: Chicago City Mini Golf

9. Fly through the sky on a zip line. Check out one of these playgrounds and be prepared for your kids to go on an adventure.  With zip lines throughout Chicagoland, your kiddos will be soaring in no time. Once you’re finished feeling the wind in your hair, stop by one of the many mini-golf courses to brush up on your putting skills and test your luck at getting past the amusing obstacles.  Don’t let your kids beat you!

10. Watch a bit of baseball. There’s a new baseball team in town and their paying homage to Chicago’s favorite street food, HOT DOGS! Welcome The Chicago Dogs for the inaugural season at the new and beautiful Impact Field in Rosemont. The weekend includes post-game fireworks on Friday and Saturday and Family Sunday activities, giveaways and food and drink specials.

What are you up to for Memorial Day weekend? Let us know in the Comments below!


— Maria Chambers & Lisa Snart

A Family Guide to the Best Summer Festivals
Day Trip: Santa’s Village Azoosment Park