Hopefully, the weather gods will show some love and drop some sun on us 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.

Beat the Heat at a Sprayground

Lazy summer days at the pool are the thing of summer memory-making for kids. But, mix things up by scheduling a raging day at a splash pad where you can cool off without taking a dunk or forking over too much dough. 

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See Butterflies & Blooms (and Trains, too!) at Chicago Botanic Garden

This is one of your last chances to see the Butterflies & Blooms exhibit before it takes flight Sep. 6. Visitors 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 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.

Walk In Awe at Morton Arboretum

Five massive outdoor sculptures created exclusively for Morton Arboretum by artist Daniel Popper rise above the natural landscapes in the Human + Nature exhibition. The 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures are installed across the 1,700-acre site and lead guests to areas they may not otherwise explore. Using thought-provoking human forms paired with elements of nature, each piece will bring attention to the deep connections between humans and nature.

Intro Your Kids to a Chicago Culinary Icon

Love 'em or leave 'em, hot dogs are foot-long big in Chicago, and if your kids haven't begged for one yet, they will soon. We love the on-the-go ease (no silverware!) and colorful condiments (kids get a pass on the sacrilege of using ketchup). Grab one at a legendary local hot dog spot and turn eating into an adventure. 

See Dinos Everywhere! at Brookfield Zoo

Nearly 45 animatronic dinosaurs that are BIGGER and BADDER than any dinos you've ever met are visiting Brookfield Zoo. Dinos Everywhere features acres of earth-shakers, including the largest—argentinosaurus—that was estimated to measure more than 100 feet in length and weigh up to 110 tons. Until Sept. 6, zoogoers will be able to search for these amazing life-like animatronics throughout the park.

Hit the (Mini-Golf) Clubs!

Mini-golf. Putt-putt. Goofy golf. Adventure golf. Shorties. No matter what you call it, you have a blast playing it. Most of Chicago’s mini-golf courses are pure, kitschy fun and are only open for a limited time each year. So grab a short pencil and head to one of our city and suburban favorites. 

Climb to New Heights at The Forge: Lemont Quarries

The Forge: Lemont Quarries (aka The Forge) opened its 300-acre adventure park, 22 miles from downtown Chicago. Not only does the park feature the largest aerial adventure course in North America, a day of adventuring gives you access to four over-water ziplines, 5 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, paddlesports, and a dedicated kids’ zone.

Experience a Thrilling New Ride at Raging Waves

Splish, Splash! Illinois’ largest waterpark dedicated to family fun for all ages, Raging Waves added a brand new addition last summer: Aussie Mat Dash. Riders race side-by-side on mats down the six-lane slide. You'll also find several family friendly attractions, including 32 water slides, a huge wave pool, three kiddie pool areas, a relaxing lazy river, 43 private cabanas and more.

Go Hiking at Starved Rock

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. For more spots to get your hike on, read Discover the Not-So-Obvious Spots to Hike, Camp & Fish Near Chicago.

Meander Through the North Shore Sculpture Park

Walk. Bike. Run. Skip. Gallop. However you make your way down this two-mile trail, you’re sure to enjoy the sights at the North Shore Sculpture Park. The paved path is lined with sculptures from artists across the world.

Take an Adventure Cruise

Experience it all — Chicago's glorious skyscrapers, historic buildings and modern marvels. Use our guide Ahoy, Captain! Explore Chicago’s Waterways on a Family Boat Cruise and pick a tour company that will have you looking at our city from brand new eyes. 

—Amy Bizzari & Maria Chambers

Featured photo: Frank McKenna via Unsplash

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