Family-Friendly Fourth Of July Ideas

June 30, 2011 1:00 PM

(Photo Credit: Shaun Heasley/Getty Images)

Celebrating the Fourth of July in Chicago as a family with small children is much different than the days of pre-kids fourth festivities. Traditional celebratory events like the Taste of Chicago and Navy Pier fireworks just may not seem feasible for families with little ones. Especially those who have early bedtimes and/or low tolerance for heat, crowds or being confined to a stroller or baby sling for long periods of time. The surrounding suburbs, however, do cater to parents who’d like to celebrate our beautiful country with their kiddos – and here are just a few ideas to help you get started making some family-friendly plans.

Lake Michigan Fireworks

(credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)


Families with older children {or little ones with late bedtimes} who want to catch spectacular fireworks without venturing to Navy Pier have many options in the suburbs, including firework displays hosted by their own communities. Mom or dad should check their local park district or village website for details regarding firework shows in their community. For families who would like to take in a large-scale firework show in the suburbs, Arlington Park in Arlington Heights hosts a phenomenal fireworks event that begins at dusk.

Arlington Park Fireworks Display
2200 W. Euclid Ave.
Arlington Heights, 60006-0007
(847) 385-7801

Celebrate the fourth with your family two days early at Arlington Park’s Racing, Music and Fireworks event! The celebration begins with an afternoon of horse races; as dusk sets over the park, a 30-minute firework display synchronized to patriotic and pop music overtake the entire infield of the racecourse. And if your little ones are among the first 1,000 kids to arrive, they’ll receive a complimentary patriotic popsicle. The first of 20,000 people to arrive will receive 3D glasses to enhance the display. Tickets are available for purchase in advance.

american flag Family Friendly Fourth Of July Ideas

(credit: CBS)


Several suburban communities host weekend-long Fourth of July celebrations geared toward the whole family. Here are a few stand-out festivities geared toward families:

Eyes to the Skies Balloon Festival in Lisle
Lisle Community Park
(Between Rt. 53 and Yackley Ave)
Lisle, 65600

Perfect for small and older children alike, the Eyes to the Skies festival plays home to a carnival, balloon launch, balloon glow and fireworks for the entire Fourth of July weekend.
The fest also homes an arts fair and has a special children’s area along and food court. The event is geared toward families, and the balloon glow is a spectacular site for both little and big eyes, delighting both little ones and parents alike.

Fourth Fest at Sunset Woods Park in Highland Park

Various locations in Highland Park
{Highland Park Park District}
(847) 831-3810

Fourth Fest has all of the makings for a family-friendly festival –a mid-morning parade around downtown Highland Park followed by carnival games, inflatables, live music and food at Sunset Woods Park. Animals lovers will want to be sure to take a pony ride and stop by the petting zoo, and parents of younger children won’t want to miss hoping on the train and taking a ride around the park.

Unique to Fourth Fest, families who want to stay cool while watching the fireworks are welcome to float in the Hidden Creek AquaPark pool during the grand display! The fireworks pool pass is $5 per person.

Grayslake Family Festival and Fireworks
Central Park (North of Center St. between Lake and Rt. 83)
Grayslake, IL 60030

So you don’t want to brave the crowds and transport the kids downtown for the actual Taste of Chicago, but you would like to get a taste of something? Take a peek at your suburb or neighboring town’s city calendars! Some communities, like Grayslake, offer mini tastes, featuring restaurants and cafes unique to their own towns. These mini tastes are often less crowded, less expensive and offer families the option to drive and park instead of relying on public transportation, which makes it easier to scoot out quickly if a small one’s patience is running thin.

The Grayslake festival is held in Central Park, which features plenty of space for families to spread out. An added bonus, the fest also boasts rides, face painting, obstacle courses and fireworks at dusk.

2027464 Family Friendly Fourth Of July Ideas

(credit: Shaun Heasley/Getty Images)

Fourth of July Parades

If you have preschoolers and toddlers who need daytime activities, consider finding and attending a parade! As a child, one of my favorite events all year long was attending the Fourth of July parade in a small community near my far-south suburban hometown. It doesn’t take much to get toddlers and preschoolers excited at a parade – the local school marching bands, police and fire trucks and myriad organizations tossing candy into the crowd and handing out tiny flags all thrills small ones. The Highland Park Fourth Fest, which was mentioned above, features a parade complete with floats and bands!

Parents can get the kiddos involved in the parade as spectators by having little ones help pack a picnic lunch and stake out a spot on the parade route. Check your city or park district’s community calendar to find a parade closest to your house.

Hyacynth Worth lives in the northern suburbs with her husband, two small boys and the family dog {also a boy}. She writes nearly daily at Undercover Mother about parenting, faith, living healthfully and keeping her sanity amid the constantly rising testosterone levels in her home.

4th Of July

(File Photo; Credit: AP)

For everything 4th of July in Chicago, view the CBS 4th of July Guide!

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