Stars, stripes and so much fun. Soak it all up this Fourth of July, when our country turns 240 years old. The holiday falls on a Tuesday this year, and Chicago and the ‘burbs are taking advantage of the extra long weekend to pack in even more events and activities. Expect music, food and fireworks, plus offbeat amusements like turtle races and watermelon-eating contests. Here are our picks for nonstop family entertainment.

photo: Chicago History Museum


Chicago History Museum 58th Annual Fourth of July Celebration
While celebrating our nation’s history, take a moment to check out our city’s history. The Chicago History Museum’s July 4th celebration gives kids a chance to hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud, hear live patriotic music and see The World’s Tallest Uncle Sam lead a children’s costume parade. Spend some time in the museum, too; we love the Sensing Chicago exhibit where kids can explore the sights, sounds and smells of the city.

Jul. 4, 10 a.m.-noon (museum is open until 4:30 p.m.)
1601 N. Clark St.
Lincoln Park

Grant Park Music Fest Independence Day Salute
Grab your picnic blanket settle in for American classical favorites outside in Millennium Park. The Grant Park Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Bell, will treat guests to an evening full of American spirit and song, including the 1812 Overture and Stars and Stripes Forever. Have little ones who call it a night early? No problem — check out the open rehearsal in the afternoon.

Jul. 4, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. (open rehearsal is from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.)
Jay Prtizker Pavilion in Millennium Park

kids-checking-out-fireworks-fourth-of-julyphoto: Stu Dawson via Flickr

International Festival of Life
Show your pride in America, and other countries, too. This is a globe-trotting adventure that spans the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, Hispanic Latin American and the U.S.A. — all on the near west side of Chicago. It’s big, bright and bold in music, food and dance.

Jul. 1-4; noon-10 p.m.
Union Park
1501 W. Randolph St.
West Loop
$25 general admission; free ages 12 & under

Windy City Ribfest
Get the wet naps ready! This fest — happening the weekend before July 4th — is the messiest kind of fun. The area’s top rib cookers have sauced-up creations for sale. Kids will have fun playing in the family zone and casting their votes for best ribs. Transportation tip: Event parking for only $10 per day is available in the Aragon Ballroom parking lot. The parking lot is located on the southeast corner of Lawrence and Winthrop, one block east from the festival entrance.

Jun. 30-Jul. 2; Fri. & Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-9 p.m.
Lawrence Ave. & Broadway St.
Admission: $5 suggested donation

evanston-4th photo: Evanston Fourth of July Association


Evanston: Fourth of July Celebration
This blast began in 1922 and this year’s theme is Evanston’s Heroes are America’s Heroes: Our First Responders. An all-volunteer committee organizes a day of July 4th fun, starting with outdoor games at several local playgrounds (think three-legged races, pie eating contests, water balloon tosses and more). Afterward, join the kids’ fun run at Ackerman Park before the parade kicks off at 2 p.m. Then the party moves to Clark Street Beach for a lakefront concert followed by fireworks.

Jul. 4, games at 9 a.m., fun run at 12:45 p.m., parade at 2 p.m., concert at 7:30 p.m., fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
Events held throughout Evanston. Parade is on Central Street, from Central Park to Ashland avenues

Oak Forest: Oak Fest
For 30 years, Oak Forest residents have gathered over 4th of July weekend to celebrate independence. The fun includes bingo, carnival rides and fireworks. Come back on Saturday, July 2 (3 p.m.-6 p.m.) for Family Fun Day which features performances by children’s groups, a watermelon eating contest, a beanbag contest and live entertainment.

Jun. 29, 6-10 p.m.; Jul. 30, 6 p.m.-midnight; Jul. 1, 3 p.m.-midnight; Jul. 2, 11 a.m.-midnight; Jul. 3, 3 p.m.-10 p.m., Jul. 4, 3 p.m.-10 p.m. (fireworks at dusk)
159th Street & Central Street

arlington-clownsphoto: Arlington Park Racecourse

Arlington Park: Fireworks, Racing, & Music
If your kids are horse-crazy, then head to Arlington Park Racecourse for face painting, live music performances and roaming entertainment. The night will close with fireworks just after dusk.

Jul. 3, 2 p.m.
Arlington Park Racecourse
2200 W. Euclid Ave.
Admission: starting at $22 adults/ $4 kids 4-17; free for ages 4 & under

Hinsdale: Independence Day Celebration
A town parade starts at 10 a.m. followed by a family festival with food, crafts, inflatables, carnival games and face painting. What really sets this celebration apart from the rest are the turtle races! Come and compete or just watch the races.

Jul. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Burlington Park
19 E. Chicago Ave. (parade steps off at Sixth & Garfield)


Glen Ellyn: Fourth of July Celebration
Everyone loves a parade — especially one as cheerful and colorful as that in downtown Glen Ellyn. It’s followed by afternoon festivities at Lake Ellyn. Bounce in an inflatable moonwalk, tackle an obstacle course, play carnival games, dance to live music and get your face painted. When the tummies start growling, hit up their Food Truck Picnic in the Park for good eats. Stay at the lake for fireworks beginning at dusk.

Jul. 1, parade at noon; festivities from 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; fireworks at dusk
Downtown Glen Ellyn, Lake Ellyn & Lake Ellyn Park
Parade and fireworks are free; afternoon festivities are $3/person


Hoffman Estates: Northwest Fourth Fest
Put on by the Village of Hoffman Estates, the Hoffman Estates Park District and Hanover Township, this four-day festival lights up the grounds of the Sears Centre. Kids and adults can have a blast on more than 40 carnival rides, listen to live music, fill up on fest food and even cool off in the “cool zone” complete with water misters. The area’s largest fireworks display promises to be bigger and better this year. Don’t worry about parking — this fest has over 9,000 free parking spaces.

Jun. 30, 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Jul. 1, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Jul. 2, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (fireworks 9:30 p.m.); Jul. 3, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Jul. 5, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
5333 Prairie Stone Pkwy.
Admission is free; food, bingo, and rides an additional cost

Tinley Park: Day of Independence
They start the July 4th celebrating early in Tinley Park with an all-ages Stars and Stripes 5K Run/Walk at 8 a.m. The day keeps going with batting cages, miniature golf, bingo, a carnival, live music and clowns. If after all of that fun you and your kids can stay awake, fireworks complete the celebration.

Jul. 4, starting at 8 a.m.
McCarthy Park
16801 S. 80th Ave.
Admission is free; fee for Stars and Stripes 5K Run/Walk

Know of a great 4th of July celebration? Tell us about it in the Comments!

— Jen Peterson & Maria Chambers