By Hyacynth Worth

As the countdown for school dwindles and the days of summer break dwindle, we parents have a few options as to how to pass the days including but not limited to:

– Tossing the kids into the backyard daily and curling up with your iced coffee and calendar to count down the days until school resumes

– Going to your local sports shop and picking up some referee stripes and a whistle; after all, if you’re going to be calling fouls all day long between squabbling children you might as well make it amusing

– Scheduling an impromptu visit to grandma and grandpa’s house in hopes that they might like your whistle and new ref ensemble

All kidding aside, these last few weeks of summer before school begins can get a little wearisome as both parents and kids alike begin to crave the routine of the school year amid the gradual changing of the season. But these weeks don’t have to drag on without respite; living in the Chicagoland area means we have plenty of activities in which to engage. Here’s a list of some that should make your end-of-the-summer bucket list.

Shakespeare! (credit: Thinkstock)

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks

Through August 19, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater is bringing the live performance of The Taming of the Shrew to parks around the city. Each performance is free to park patrons, making it a perfect opportunity to introduce children and tweens to Shakespeare for only the price of your time and transportation to the park. Like all CST productions, The Taming of the Shrew is a high-energy performance. This production is family friendly and runs 75 minutes.

For parks, dates and times, please visit

Butterflies and Blooms at Chicago Botanic Garden

Filled with more than 500 butterflies, each as beautiful as the many blooms on which they rest and feast, the exhibit is only open for a few more weeks, as it closes Monday, Sept. 3. During our visit with a preschooler and toddler, we saw hundreds of butterflies and spent a good half hour marveling over their wing patterns and the many colors of the plants in bloom. Older children who are interested in photography would especially enjoy the scenic exhibit.

For more information, please visit Chicago Botanic Gardens’ Butterflies and Blooms.

Related: Family Guide To Chicago Botanic Garden

Indiana Dunes State Park

If you’ve yet to get your fill of sand, sun and waves, the Indiana Dunes State Park certainly won’t disappoint. A crowd pleaser even for the family with small kids through teenagers, the Dunes are every bit as scenic and perfect for volleyball and beach lounging as they are for sand-castle building and wave jumping. Be sure everyone in the family brings sand-friendly shoes though, as the walk to the water on scorching summer sands can easily burn little and big feet alike. Take a cooler along and make a picnic day of your time spent enjoying the last rays of summer sun.

To plan a visit to the dunes, check out Indiana Dunes State Park.

(credit: Renaissance Faire/

Bristol Renaissance Fair

Take an entire day to flashback to Elizabethan England at the Bristol Renaissance Fair. Located at the Illinois/Wisconsin boarder just off of I-94, the fair features 30 acres worth of fun, boasting 16th century games, arts, food, music and characters like Queen Elizabeth and Robin Hood. Two hundred artisans including glass blowers, potters, jewelers and foragers go about their daily work and sell their creations to fair patrons. Labor Day weekend marks the last fair of the season, so time is of the essence if you want to party like its 1599.

To plan a visit to the fair, visit Bristol Renaissance Fair.

Hyacynth Worth writes daily about motherhood, faith, healthy living and the sometimes head-on collision that occurs when the three merge at Undercover Mother.