By Megan Horst-Hatch
Chicago boasts a variety of activities that include boat rides, gardens, outdoor concerts and nature museums perfect for any family this summer. Whether you live in Winnetka, Wheaton or Wicker Park, Chicago and the suburbs offer a little bit of everything parents need to get the kids out of the house when school lets out.
1S151 Winfield Road
Wheaton, IL 60189
Price: $5 per car for parking
Part museum and part garden, Cantigny Park offers something for both green thumbs and history buffs alike. Visit the mansion of Robert McCormick, who was the editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune in the first half of the 20th century, and then immerse yourself in military history in Cantigny Park’s First Division Museum. Children will especially enjoy the Tank Park, where visitors are allowed and encouraged to climb on tanks dating as far back as World War I. Finally, take a stroll through Cantigny Park’s gardens, which include more than 1,200 roses and plants native to the Midwest.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
Price: $20 per car for parking
Despite its proximity to the Edens Expressway, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers a calming environment away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. Families with railroad enthusiasts will enjoy the garden’s model railroad, which winds its way through scale replicas of such famous landmarks as Wrigley Field and Mount Rushmore. Children may also get up close and personal with the Sensory Garden, which allows visitors to experience it through sight, touch, smell and sound. The garden features ramps on many of its paths, making it accessible for both wheelchairs and strollers. To beat the crowds, arrive early and have breakfast at the garden’s cafe overlooking the river.
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
From concerts to yoga classes, Millennium Park offers a variety of activities suitable for any age group. The Family Fun Festival runs every day between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. through Sept. 2 at the Family Fun Tent and features performances, story time and hands-on activities led by Chicago-area museums. Other events at Millennium Park include the Triple Crown of Yo-Yo competitions July 28 and Broadway in Chicago Aug. 6. On Saturday mornings, bring your mat and get ready to flex your muscles with the park’s yoga, Pilates, and tai chi classes which are geared toward participants of all experience levels.
Related: Guide to Millenium Park, Navy Pier
Oak Street Beach
1000 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
Located just steps from Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, Oak Street Beach offers families a place to unwind and play. Whether you want to take a dip in Lake Michigan, walk along the beach or take in a game of volleyball, Oak Street Beach offers beach-goers plenty of sun-soaked playtime. Stop in at Oak Street Beach Food & Drink for a quick bite after an afternoon swim. Public bathrooms are also available at this location.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Price: $9 for adults/$6 for children ages 3 to 12
Combine butterflies with waterplay, and you get The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The museum offers visitors a chance to see more than 75 species of exotic butterflies and learn about compost. The River Works exhibit, which describes Chicago’s waterways and lets visitors build dams and change the flow of a river, promises educational fun for the whole family. In addition, the Micole Birdwalk lets visitors see the variety of birds that live in the North Pond while also offering views of Chicago’s skyline.
Wendella Boat Tours
400 N. Michigan Ave.
Price: $26 for adults/$13 for children 11 and younger for the architecture tour
Whether you’re a life-long Chicago resident or new to the area, a boat tour of Chicago offers a glimpse of the city that can’t be seen by car. Wendella Boat Tours’ 75-minute architecture tour takes visitors past well-known sights such as the Trump Tower and Willis Tower, as well as all three branches of the Chicago River. The company’s 90-minute tour combines sights along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, complete with a trip through the Chicago Lock. Hold onto your hats, literally — the winds of Lake Michigan have been known to knock the hats and sunglasses off of many tour participants.
Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.