Grab the sunglasses and sunscreen — festival season is about to begin and we have the scoop on the outdoor parties both kids and parents will love. In the city, you can have a blast with art, cars, animals and folk music. In the ‘burbs you can get up close with trains, fire eaters and sandcastles. That’s just the start! Scroll down and get ready for a summer of fun.
photo: Green Music Festival
The start of the festival season, Mayfest celebrates spring and all things outdoors. At Saturday’s Kids Day, kids will learn about health, safety and wellness while crafting or burning energy in one of the activity areas. On Sunday, families can dance together to live music.
May 19-21; Fri., 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat., noon-10 p.m., Sun., noon-10 p.m.
Ashland Ave. & Barry St.
Cost: Suggested donation $10
Green Music Festival
Want to be green and teach your kids to do the same? Check out this annual blast where your family can get eco-friendly living tips while grooving to local music. The Green Family Fun Fest is a fest-within-a-fest that provides lots of fun-filled and green children’s activities throughout the weekend, including mini-golf, arts and crafts, a kiddie play area and projects by Home Depot MSI, Chess Wizards and Bucktown Academy. Bring your pets for a charity dog wash, bandana-making and more!
Jun. 10 & 11, noon-10 p.m.
Damen, between North & Schiller
Cost: Suggested donation $10
photo: Logan Square Arts Festival / 1st Family Dental of Logan Square
Logan Square Arts Festival
Formerly the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, this event on the Square is an awesome art walk at the galleries and businesses throughout the neighborhood. Organizers will turn the whole community into one giant art gallery! At the family tent, budding artists can make buttons, toys and art pieces.
Jun. 23-25, noon-10 p.m.
Logan Blvd. & Milwaukee Ave.
Cost: Suggested donation $7
Square Roots Festival
This fest gives you lots of reasons to twist and shout. From singing along with Little Miss Ann to a drum circle, this fest is perfect for families that love tunes. The “instrument petting zoo” is always a hit with curious kids and parents love checking out some of the best craft beers in the area. Bring a bathing suit or a change of clothes so that your kiddo can enjoy the splash pad at nearby Wells Park.
Jul. 9 & 10; noon-5 p.m.
Lincoln Avenue, between Montrose & Wilson avenues
Cost: Suggested donation of $10 for adults, $5 for seniors/kids, $20 for families
photo: Summer on Southport / Raney Images
Southport Art Festival
A favorite of many families, Southport Art Festival brings old-fashioned fun to the Southport Corridor. When a street boasts about multiple kid-friendly restaurants and two ice cream shops, you know you’re in for a good time. Throughout the day, kids can enjoy interactive games and activities that make for an unforgettable time.
Jul. 15 & 16; Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Southport & Waveland avenues
Cost: Suggested donation of $5
Sheffield Music Festival & Garden Walk
Formerly known as the Sheffield Garden Walk, this fest expanded its focus from garden tours to music stages. The Kids’ Corner combines garden-inspired crafts with kid favorites like a petting zoo and rides. Admission to The Kids’ Corner, but each attraction is fee-based. Our tip: Leave the car at home and take the El; parking is at a premium at this fest.
Jul. 21-23; Kids Corner operating Sat. & Sun., noon-7 p.m.
Kenmore Street, between Webster Street & Belden Avenue
Cost: Suggested donation $7; $10 after 3 p.m.
photo: Taste of Lincoln Avenue
Taste of Lincoln Avenue
This popular fest sprawls over several city blocks in the heart of Lincoln Park and has so many attractions, including 250-plus vendors, food and more than 35 acts on three music stages. Afternoons feature a stand-alone free Kids’ Carnival on Altgeld Street, featuring art activities, pony rides and more.
Jul. 29 & 30, noon-10 p.m. (Kids Carnival hours)
Cost: Suggested donation $8 benefits the Wrightwood Neighbors Association; kids carnival is free if you enter on Halsted (rides cost extra)
Fiesta Del Sol
Get a taste of Mexico at the largest Latino Festival in the Midwest. Put together by the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, the fest draws people to the Pilsen neighborhood and raises money to provide scholarships to local youth. The children’s area encourages educational activities through read-aloud sessions, book sales and educational games. Face painting, art displays by local and national artists (including kids!) rounds out the fest and may inspire your little ones to get creative.
Jul. 27-30; Thurs., 5–10 p.m.: Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. (Sunday)
1400 W. Cermak Street
photo: Retro on Roscoe / Raney Images
Retro on Roscoe
A local favorite because of its family area, Retro on Roscoe fences off its kids’ area from the rest of the fest so that you can relax while your little ones rock out to bands on the family stage, bounce in inflatables or create artistic masterpieces. Car and motorcycle fanatics love the classic cars at every turn, and the ‘80s music from six stages is the perfect beat for taking in it all.
Aug. 11-13; Fri., 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Sat. & Sun., noon-10 p.m.
Roscoe St. & Damen Ave.
Cost: Suggested donation $10
photo: Albany Park World Fest
Albany Park World Fest
Explore a new neighborhood and have a summer adventure. The eclectic northwest side nabe celebrates its melting-pot diversity with food, world music, arts and crafts, and carnival rides. It all benefits Albany Park Neighbors.
Aug. 20 & 21; Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-9 p.m.
Lawrence & Kimball
Cost: Suggested donation $5
Chicago Food Social
Does your family have trouble agreeing on what to eat? Well, bring your little foodies to this fest and everyone will be happy. In past years, over 15 food trucks participated. After filling up on food truck yummies, everyone can dance off their food thanks to local music booked by nearby venue Thalia Hall.
Jun. 10 & 11; 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
On 18th St. at Allport
Cost: Suggested donation $5
IN THE ‘BURBS
Homewood Rail Fest
Hey train enthusiasts, “climb aboard” Lil Obie, a scale model of a Canadian National (CN) Safety Train locomotive and flatbed caboose, and check out the Homewood Rail Fest. This train-focused event has something for every rail lover. Check out a wide assortment of train collectibles and model train displays. Decode Hobo symbols, and visit the Kid’s Zone for train-themed story time. Explore the intricate train layouts. Watch the train traffic and hear conductors maneuver trains on one of the eight tracks servicing Amtrak, Metra and freight trains. Homewood Science Center celebrates Rail Fest with PopUP SCIENCE exploring railroads and coasters.
May 20; 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
H-F Park District Auditorium
2010 Chestnut Rd.
photo: Franklin Park Railroad Daze
Franklin Park Railroad Daze
Franklin Park Railroad Daze is one heck of a choo-choo extravaganza. Explore the interiors of over a dozen trains and check out some classic train memorabilia. Kids can take mini train rides and everyone can enjoy a carnival, live entertainment and food at this train-tastic fest.
Jun. 8-11; train viewing on Sat., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Calwagner St. & Franklin Ave. in Franklin Park
Cost: Free but ticket purchase required for rides
Evanston Custer Fair
The Piccolo Theatre leads the organization of this festival so it’s full of surprises at every turn . . . literally! In the past, there have been fire-eaters, comedy troupes and puppet shows throughout. Take the little ones to Eiden Park for the kids’ area with balloon art, story telling, face painting and more. Leave the car at home and take Metra or the El; both stop right at the entrance to the fest.
Jun. 17 & 18, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Custer Ave. & Main St. in Evanston
photo: Geneva Swedish Days
Geneva Swedish Days
This classic ode to summer has kid’s events for six straight days. Parades, ice cream eating contests, a “creation station,” dodge ball tournament and 5K are just a few of the can’t-miss activities at this Swedish-inspired fest.
Main & First streets in Geneva
Cost: Free (cost for some activities)
photo: Lisle Eyes to the Skies
Lisle Eyes to the Skies
Here’s your chance to see a hot air balloon up close — or even ride in one! Hot air balloons rise up daily, and tethered balloon rides are available in between. There’s also a carnival and a children’s area with LEGO building, martial arts and dance performances, storytelling, music, games and animal shows. Fireworks that end the festivities every night round out this spectacle.
Jun. 28-Jul. 2, 5:30 a.m. (balloon launch on July 1, 2 & 3) to 10 p.m. (fireworks end)
1825 Short Street in Lisle
Cost: $8 (children under 6 free); purchase tickets to ride carnival rides
There’s a reason why this annual, finger-licking extravaganza of BBQ is so popular: Grillers come from all over the country to dish their ‘cue and compete for the festival title. The Family Area is a fest unto itself with a petting zoo, magic shows, inflatables and more.
Jul. 30-Jul. 3, noon-10 p.m.
West Street & Martin Avenue in Naperville
Admission is $15 for a family fun carnival bracelet good for noon-3 p.m. daily
photo: courtesy of Tinley Park Caribbean Beach Party
Downtown Tinley Block Party: 125 Amplified
Tinley Park’s annual block party features live music, food and free family fun, including a sand sculptor, a bean bag tournament, rides and inflatables, KidZone activities and a classic car show. For extra fun, take a free trolley ride to the event from the 80th Ave. train station.
Jul. 16, noon-7 p.m.
Oak Park Avenue, from 171st Street to Hickory Street in Tinley Park
Port Clinton Art Festival/Taste of Highland Park
Little artists will love this fest where they can gaze at artistic wonders (some by budding artists in the dedicated kids’ gallery) and also create spin art, participate in an art scavenger hunt and catch “speed painting.” Sample food by some of the area’s best chefs at the Taste of Highland Park, too!
Aug. 26 & 27, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Port Clinton Square
1st & 2nd streets in Highland Park
Did we miss one of your favorite family festivals? Let us know in the Comments below!
— Maria Chambers & Jen Peterson