Yay, U.S.A.! This weekend is going to be one big star-spangled party, with lots to do around town … in between the barbecues you have planned. From the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park to the hot air balloon-filled fields of Lisle, family festivals will keep all ages happy. Plus, it’s opening weekend at Bristol Renaissance Faire, just over the Wisconsin border. Add a visit there — and the hotspots below — to your must list. Happy Fourth!


Lincoln Park

Fourth of July at Chicago History Museum
While celebrating our nation’s history, take a moment to check out our city’s history. This bash 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. Fri., 10 a.m.-noon. Free. All ages. Event details.


Grant Park Music Festival
Grab your picnic blanket and settle in for American classical favorites at Millennium Park. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Christopher Bell, perform an evening full of American spirit and song. Have little ones who call it a night early? No problem — check out the open rehearsal in the afternoon! Fri., 6:30-8:15 p.m. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. All ages. Event details.

Roscoe Village

Kidical Mass Family Bike Ride
With the help of Kidical Mass, a grassroots biking organization, you can enjoy about four miles of bike riding with your kiddos through the quiet residential streets of Chicago. These rides are workable for kids who use training wheels and those who are more advanced. Sun., 10 a.m. Meet at Audubon School. Free. All ages. Event details.

Museum Campus

Stingray Touch Exhibit
Are they soft, fluffy or rough? You’ll find out what a stingray feels like during a touch session. Along with learning about different species (including cownose and yellow stingrays) and their wild habitats, you’ll see just how docile and friendly these ocean swimmers can be. Thru Sept. 1. Shedd Aquarium. Add-on $5/non-members; $3/members; included in the Total Experience Pass (adult/$39.95 per adult; child ages 3-11/$30.95); free for children 0-2. All ages. Event details.


Eyes to the Sky Festival
Some cities celebrate the 4th of July once, but Lisle likes to live it up for five days. This fest has face painting, magic shows, and arts and crafts, as well as amazing hot air balloon launches (happening early morning and early evening), live concerts and fireworks shows on July 3, 4 and 5. Held Wed.-Sun.; hours vary. Lisle Community Park. $7 adults; free for children 7 and under; free for Lisle residents on July 4 until 3 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Arlington Heights

Fireworks, Racing & Music Celebration at Arlington Racecourse
If your kids are horse-crazy, then hoof it to the popular racecourse. The first 1,000 kids through the gate get a free Firecracker Popsicle, and the Marine Air Control Group-48 will perform the National Anthem. The evening closes with fireworks at dusk. Fri., 3 p.m. $16/adults; $2/kids 4-17; free for children under 4. All ages. Event details.


Grillers come from all over the country to dish their ‘cue and compete for the Naperville Ribfest title. To get the kiddos moving, the Family Fun Time area (open from noon-3 p.m. daily, except on July 3) has lots to explore, including a petting zoo, inflatables, balloon twisting, carnival rides and more. Thurs., 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., noon-10 p.m. Knoch Park. $12 online ($15 at the gate; $10 during family fun time, noon-3 p.m. daily); free for kids ages 11 and younger. All ages. Event details.

Kenosha, Wisc

Bristol Renaissance Faire Opening Weekend
Calling all lords and ladies: It’s time to party like it’s 1499. With complimentary children’s rides for kids of all ages, plus games and stages upon stages of live entertainment (we’re talking mud wrestling, jugglers and acrobats), this throwback to medieval times is a Ye Must! You’ve probably heard about the food, too, especially those huge turkey legs that you eat sans silverware. Held every Saturday, Sunday & Labor Day from 10 a.m.-7 p.m, through Sept. 1. Off I-90/94, just over the Wisconsin border. $23.95 adult; $11.50 child 5-12; free for children 4 & younger; $125 for a season pass. All ages. Event details.

How are you celebrating the holiday weekend? Let us know in the Comments below!

— Kelly Aiglon & Natasha Davis, with additional reporting by Jen Peterson

Photo: Chicago History Museum