One of the best ways to embrace the Windy City is to harness that wind. In other words, go fly a kite! Chicago has a strong kite culture, with a full-service specialty store, kite-flying festivals and plenty of perfect spots for raising your own into the sky. Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about enjoying this fun hobby locally.

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photo: City of Chicago / Chicago Kids & Kites Festival

Where to Buy the Kite of Your Dreams
Norwood Park’s Chicago Kite/Kite Harbor (5445 N. Harlem Ave.; 773-467-1428) is the go-to place for kites of all shapes and sizes. You’ll find the largest selection in the area, including kites for flyers of all levels. Owner David Zavell recommends a triangular “delta”-style kite for first-time flyers and kids. Framed with fiberglass and carbon, these sturdy kites can adapt to a wide range of wind conditions making them especially easy to fly. If you think you have the right stuff for launching a more advanced kite into orbit, check out the awesome selection of power kites or fighter kites. Chicago Kite/Kite Harbor also carries a grand selection of other high-flying items, including authentic boomerangs and remote control planes and helicopters.

Geppetto’s Toy Box (730 Lake St., Oak Park; 708-445-9906) carries the Premier Kites line, including simpler delta-style kites to sport kites. HobbyTown USA in west suburban St. Charles (2061A Lincoln Highway; 630-587-1256) also has kites from five different suppliers on sale, from easy-to-fly to more elaborate, larger-scale kites. If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, look for the instructions for making your kite using supplies found in your kitchen on NationalGeographic.com.

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photo: City of Chicago / Chicago Kids & Kites Festival

Best Places to Fly a Kite
According to David Zavell, owner of Chicago Kite, the best times of year to fly a kite in Chicagoland are spring and fall, when the wind is traveling at 8 to 10 miles per hour. Cricket Hill in Montrose Harbor, located near the intersection of Lake Shore Drive and Montrose Avenue on the lakefront, has long been a popular spot for kite flyers, thanks to its relatively tree-free former cricket field and its gentle slope, perfect for catching wind. Busse Woods, a.k.a. Ned Brown Preserve, which lies in the southeast corner of the I-90 and I-290 in Elk Grove Village, features a 460-acre lake, bike paths and large fields that are popular with both kite and model airplane flying enthusiasts.

The Main Event: Chicago Kids and Kites Festival
Welcome to the big kahuna of local kite festivals. An annual tradition established by our former mayor and kite enthusiast, Richard M. Daley, this free festival is one of a kind. On Saturday, May 3, kids and their kites will ascend Cricket Hill in Montrose Harbor, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and set their colorful kites flying into the air. Chicago Kite/Kite Harbor staff will be on hand to demonstrate professional kite-flying skills and also offer a large range of kites for sale. Smaller kids who can’t yet man a kite on their own will enjoy face painting and reading aboard the Kohl’s Children Museum StoryBus. Bring a blanket, kick back and watch hundreds of colorful kites dancing in the sky. Admission is free; for more information, visit cityofchicago.org.

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photo: Chicago Kite Facebook page 

Suburban Kite Festivals
Smaller-scale kite festivals abound in Chicago, starting with Glenview Kite Day on May 31, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Head over to the “The Glen” of Glenview (at Attea Middle School, 2500 Chestnut Ave., Glenview), for a day full of high-flying fun. Bring your own kite, or make or buy one onsite. Experts will be on hand to give you tips and tricks.

Naperville hosting the annual Naperville Kite Fly Festival on Sunday, June 1, at Frontier Sports Complex (3380 Cedar Glade Dr., Naperville). Colorful kites of all shapes and sizes will soar overhead, including a giant 90-foot-wide kite. Learn-to-fly lessons will be offered, so even beginners can count on getting up, up and away. Musical entertainment, kite demos and candy drops will round out the fun.

West suburban Elmhurst celebrates kites on Sunday, August 10, from 11 a.m -4 p.m., at its annual Elmhurst Kite Festival. Enthusiasts gather at Berens Park (493 Oaklawn Ave., Elmhurst) to watch stunt kite demonstrations and fly kites of their own during open fly times. Supplies will also be on hand so you can make a kite of your very own.

Happy flying, everyone!

What do you think is the best spot to fly a kite? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Amy Bizzarri