Craving culture outside of the city? Check out Chicago suburbs!
We get it—you love the Chicago arts and culture scene. We do, too.
The reality, though? Some of the best venues for music, dance, theater, and art are in the Chicago suburbs, in some sought-after and family-friendly towns. If your family craves an amazing cultural scene, start here. These suburban hotspots are all about artistic expression, live entertainment and ensuring your entire family has access to the best cultural experiences around.
No surprise here. This famed college town is packed live theater, music venues, galleries and plenty of other diverse cultural institutions. Just 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, Evanston benefits from being home to Northwestern University, itself a mecca for arts, entertainment, and culture.
So what to do when you’re exploring Evanston? Many locals love the art galleries—there are at least a dozen big and small, with new ones opening constantly. From there, scope out the local museums, countless public art installations, and spots dedicated to everything from film and history to culture and live performances. While we love it all, we’re huge fans of Evanston S.P.A.C.E., a small Chicago Avenue music venue known for its folk performances, a steady stream of music podcasts and lively café.
At first past, Glencoe looks like an idyllic small town—charming, brimming with historical real estate and primely positioned on Chicago’s North Shore. But even a quick drive through town and you’ll immediately sense the artistic fervor that’s ever-present in Glencoe.
Not only is Glencoe home to the Chicago Botanic Garden, Model Railroad Garden, William A. Glasner House and plenty of art and music venues, but throughout the year residents can take in plenty of live events, installations and exhibits at the town’s many festivals. Also generating some serious buzz is the iconic Writers Theater in downtown Glencoe. This 25-year-old incubator for arts and culture features every type of theater possible, making it a must-see once you get to Glencoe.
#3. Highland Park
Woodstock’s got nothing on Highland Park’s annual Ravinia Festival. One of the oldest outdoor music festivals in the country, this festival has been taking place in Highland Park’s popular Ravinia Park since 1904. Here, the festivities run all summer long, spanning more than 140 performances—recent performers included Yo-Yo Ma, New York Philharmonic, John Legend, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, among others.
And when it’s the “off-season?” Simply wander the streets and you’ll see and feel the culture in Highland Park. There are always plenty of public art installations and local artists exhibiting at the Art Center in Highland Park.
There are six dedicated theaters and concert halls in Naperville, housing everything from dance to opera to performance art, musicals, and other must-see shows. One of these theaters—the Magical Starlight Theatre—produces family-friendly performances. Recent productions include classics like The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Want a little culture off the stage? Check out the Naperville Fine Art Center & Gallery, check out the interactive Naper Settlement or hike up to the top of the Millennial Carillon. For the kids, Naperville even has the DuPage Children’s Museum, complete with a three-story discovery center and an interactive waterways exhibit.
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Ravinia Festival (image)