Happy birthday, America! Now go out there, kids, and celebrate. In between the fireworks, parades and Yankee Doodle-ing around, check out these can’t-miss events. You’ll have wild encounters at Brookfield Zoo, watch hot air balloons take flight in Lisle, dance in Millennium Park and more.



“Wild Encounters” Exhibit
The newest addition to Brookfield Zoo is wild, wonderful and brings you oh-so close to animals. Huddle up with goats, llamas, alpacas, wallabies, parakeets, red pandas and a rotating selection of animals brought in by animal ambassadors throughout the day. Ongoing. Included in general zoo admission. All ages. Event details.


Millennium Park Family Fun Fest
Yay! It’s back for a summer of interactive activities, sing-a-longs and circle dances from Old Town School of Folk, delightful story times, and arts and crafts for kids of all ages. There is new entertainment daily — so return often. Held thru Aug. 23 (10 a.m.-2 p.m. daily) at Chase Promenade North. Free. All ages. Event details.

Lincoln Park

4th of July Party at Chicago History Museum
Now in its 56th year, this is a bash with staying power. Go for patriotic music, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a keynote oration by civic leader Ronald J. Gidwitz, and a children’s costume parade led by the World’s Tallest Uncle Sam. Held Sat., 10 a.m.-noon. Free. All ages. Event details.

It’s a Bugs (& Bees!) Life at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Secrets of Bees is a highly interactive exhibit using live bees, costumes and props to allow families to role-play and peel back the mystery of bees. Once your pollen sacks are filled, buzz on over to Bugs: Outside the Box and be amazed by a butterfly with a 5-foot wingspan, a longhorn beetle with an antennae more than 12 feet across, and a virtual army of giant bugs to study. Held thru Oct. 1. $9/adults; $6/ages 3-12; free for 2 & under. All ages. Event details.

Navy Pier

“Boats” Exhibit at Chicago Children’s Museum
Climb aboard lifelike boats of all kinds and don your captain’s garb — it’s time for a little seafaring on Lake Michigan. Fill a bucket with fake night crawlers at the Bait & Tackle Shop then grab a fishing pole at the Dock. See how many faux fish you catch. Then head off to Ride-the-Wave Word Play, an afternoon event that blends story time and songs. Thru Nov. 1. $14/adults & kids; $13/seniors; CCM Members & children 1 & under free. All ages. Event details.


Pirate Adventure Island at LEGOLAND Discovery Center
All hands on deck! Be among the first lads and lassies to experience this new attraction. Dress in your best pirate attire and set sail on an seafaring adventure for hidden treasure. Discover hidden sea creatures, spar in a pirate battle or walk the plank. Held all summer long. $18/person. All ages. Event details.


Eyes to the Skies Festival
See hot air balloons up close or ride in tethered balloons. Catch the fireworks display at 9:45 p.m. each night from July 2-4. Check out the carnival rides and games. Visit the animal shows. Hear a story or music. See martial arts and dance performances. And that’s just the start. Wed., 5-11 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-7 p.m. at Lisle Community Park. $8/adults; children 6 & under free. All ages. Event details.

How are you spending Fourth of July weekend? Let us know in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon & Maria Chambers

photo: “Wild Encounters” at Brookfield Zoo / Maria Chambers