Hopefully the weather gods will show us some love and give us a hot one this Labor Day weekend. Take advantage of this beautiful Chicago summer by living it up outdoors.  Read on to find where to cool down, find toe-tapping fun under the sun, take the kids clubbing and more!

Ty Warner Parkphoto: Ty Warner Splash Park

Beat the Heat at Ty Warner Park Spray Park
When a park is named after the king of the Beanie Babies empire, expect fun to be top priority. Watch the kiddies make a beeline for the soft-surface play area featuring water cannons, mushroom cap waterfalls, spraying anchors and dumping buckets. When they finally peel themselves away for a break, spread out snacks on the shaded picnic tables or, better yet, indulge in ice cream, pizza or corn dogs at the concession stand.

801 Blackhawk Dr.
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Cost: $3/Westmont residents; $5/non-residents
Online: wpd4fun.org

To find more low-key splash pads to use as a cool-down read, Water, Water Everywhere! Spraygrounds to Drive You Wild.

santas-village-balloonsphoto: Santa’s Village

Visit with Santa and Have a Blast at Santa’s Village Azoosement Park
Part nostalgic theme park and part petting zoo, this is a charming end-of-summer destination for little ones up to about age 8 — and especially adventuresome preschoolers. It’s also Santa’s summering destination, so be sure to meet up with him in his cozy cottage before he heads back to the North Pole to prep for the holidays.

601 Dundee Ave.
East Dundee
Hours: Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. & Mon., 11 p.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: $24.25/ages 3 & up & adults; free for ages 2 & under
Online: santasvillagedundee.com

For Soon-to-Be American Idols: Miss Jamie from the Farmphoto: Miss Jamie from the Farm

Tap Your Toes with Miss Jamie from the Farm
Head west and party in the streets at Naperville’s epic end-of-summer party, Last Fling.  Miss Jamie and her puppet friends will meet you there for a barnyard adventure sing-a-long, dance-a-long and show perfect for toddlers and preschool children.  Her sense of humor and energetic style will leave everyone stomping’ in their boots and hollerin’ for more.  Pop in and out all weekend long for the massive carnival, national headlining artists, family-friendly events and entertainment.

Naperville Last Fling
Main & Jackson Streets
Hours: Sept. 3, 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
Online: lastfling.org

three-oaksphoto: Three Oaks Recreation Area

Dig your Toes in the Sand at Three Oaks Recreation Area
With its pristine lakes, this paradise offers many amenities, including a beach, boat rentals, catch-and-release fishing, hiking/biking trails, a splash park with spray jets and buckets of water being poured from overhead, a playground with memory foam decking and scuba facility. Guests are welcome to bring their own food or enjoy a meal from the on-site Culver’s.

5517 Northwest Hwy.
Crystal Lake
Hours: Sat.-Mon., 10 a.m.-sunset
Cost: $10/adults; $6/ages 4-15; free for 3 & under
Online: crystallake.org

To find other local watering holes that make cooling off a little more rugged, read Take a Dip! Awesome Watering Holes Near Chicago.

starved-rockphoto: Starved Rock State Park via Maria Chambers

Take a Hike at Starved Rock State Park
No matter the age or abilities of your hiking buddies, Starved Rock is a uniquely beautiful destination that offers oodles of family fun. With just over 13 miles of well-marked trails to explore, fishing in the Illinois River and waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons, there’s enough to keep the family entertained for hours – or an entire weekend if you choose to bunk at the Starved Rock Lodge.

1010-1048 E. State Rte. 71
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Free
Online: starvedrockstatepark.org

For more spots to get your hike on, read 7 Summer Hikes That Even Toddlers Will Love.

park-king-mini-golfphoto: Par-King

Go Clubbing at Par-King
Salute Lady Liberty and Mount Rushmore, take the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower, visit Humpty Dumpty, gaze into the eyes of a crazy psychedelic pumpkin and make it back home by bedtime. For putters over the 48-inch height requirement, Park-King is a mini golf lover’s dream, thanks to challenging and imaginative holes. Each hole is custom-made, hand painted and meticulously maintained. The attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed when The Travel Channel deemed this spot “the most original course in America.” Once you’ve played through the 36 holes, stop by the arcade for video games, pinball and air hockey.

21711 Milwaukee Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: Daytime, $8 (weekdays), $8.50 (weekends); 6 p.m.-close, $8.50 (weekdays), $9 (weekends). Cash only.
Online: par-king.com

For more opportunities to chase that elusive hole-in-one, read Go Clubbing! Great Mini Golf Courses.

Travel to Africa Via Chicago
The annual African Festival of the Arts kicks off on Labor Day weekend, giving Chicago kids the chance to taste, hear and dance to the African beat. A lively bazaar pops up in Washington Park, bringing the best of Africa to Chicago: You’ll find colorful, handcrafted artwork, vibrant musical performances and authentic, mouthwatering bites from countries across the continent. Kids especially are invited to visit the Bernice Gardner Children’s & Family Pavilion from noon-4 p.m. for engaging activities that are fun (and educational, too!).

Washington Park
5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr.
Hours: Sept. 1-4; Fri., 1 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat.-Mon., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Cost: A family day pass (2 adults, 2 kids) is $40; General admission is $15/adults pre-sale, $20/adults at the door, $5/ages 5-12.
Online: aihafa.squarespace.com

photo: Origami in the Garden

Origami in the Garden
A stunning tower of white cranes ascending skyward. A glorious winged horse. A life boat suspended by bronze oars. Sounds like a dreamlike fantasy, but we can assure you it’s quite real. The Morton Arboretum’s newest temporary exhibit, Origami in the Garden, is inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding and is reams of wholesome fun.

Morton Arboretum
4100 IL Rte. 53
Hours: grounds open at 7 a.m. and close at sunset
Cost: $14/adults ($9 on Wednesdays), $9/ages 2-17
Online: mortonarb.org

To read more about the exhibit, read Bring Your Kiddos Into the Fold: Origami in the Garden


Butterflies & Blooms (and Trains, too!)
This your absolute last chance to see the Butterflies & Blooms temporary exhibit before it takes flight September 4 from Chicago Botanic Garden. 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.

If your littles prefer trains to to winged creatures, take them to experience the delightful sights and sounds of miniature trains traversing high and low tunnels, across bridges and around buildings at the Model Railroad Garden. 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.
Hours: Daily, 10 p.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $6/adults; $4/ages 3-12; free for ages 2 & under
Online: chicagobotanic.org

How does your family plan on soaking up the Chicago sun this weekend?  Share with us in the Comments below.

—Amy Bizzarri & Maria Chambers