From beaches to waterparks to amazing botanical gardens, there a lot to do when the temperature rises.
By Danielle Braff
You’ve survived yet another Chicago winter, so you deserve the best Chicago summer ever. This means you need to head to the ‘burbs, stat. After all, the Chicago suburbs have the best beaches, waterparks and summer activities in Illinois.
Centennial Beach in Naperville
Can’t decide whether to go to the beach or to the pool? How about a mixture of both. Head to Centennial Beach, a man-made swimming hole for locals and visitors. It’s a mix between a lake, a beach and a pool: this is zero-entry up to 15 feet, there’s sand, diving boards and a slide.
Since the water is murky (it is supposed to be beach water, afterall), kids will have to take a relatively difficult swim test to go into the deeper section (my kid, who was on a swim team briefly, didn’t pass). If they don’t pass, they’re welcome to swim in the shallower areas. Once you’re done swimming and sunbathing, go to Cookie Dough Creations (22 W Chicago Ave.), where you can eat all the cookie dough you want without getting sick. Now that’s a perfect summer day.
Rainbow Falls Waterpark in Elk Grove Village
There are many reasons why this waterpark is a destination for people throughout the state. For older kids, it’s the four-way giant water slide (two are body slides and two are tube slides). Race with your friends or parents, or just do the same slides over and over again while your parents read a book and take a break.
There’s also the Coqui Frog Pond for the littles, where tiny tadpoles can race under the rainbow mist, squeal as they go down the tot slide and splash in the shallow water. The Dolphin Drop is for those who are truly daring, as it’s a drop slide and is terrifying. There are other rides, splash areas and fun spots in this waterpark, which is why you should reserve an entire day to spend here.
There are many reasons why locals live in Glencoe – but a major one is due to this gem of a beach. There could be films made about this beautiful beach sitting along the Northshore, ($14 for non-residents), which is peaceful and totally entertaining. You can rent a kayak, sailboat, Hobie or paddleboard, you can jump the waves and you can play in the beach playground. No need to drag all your gear to this beach: chairs and umbrellas are available for rent at a minimal daily price.
Pelican Harbor Waterpark in Bolingbrook
It’s magical because you can come here on rainy days as well as sunny days – and snow days. Yes, this waterpark is open year-round. It has a lap pool, a massive water slide, smaller water slides for younger kids, a tube slide and more. Also check out the Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm, which is filled with trout and catfish from May through September. Go fishing, take a hike and cycle the trails. It’s a nice, quiet getaway.
Chicago Botanic Garden in Highland Park
Make a day out of your visit to Highland Park: start with a bike ride through the Skokie Valley Bike Trail, which runs along Lake Shore Drive to Highland Park. Then, take a nice rest at the Chicago Botanic Garden (it’s free except for parking, but if you BYO bike, you’ll get in totally for free), where you can stroll, eat and chill out amongst the flowers and all the brides (during the summer months, the gardens are packed with couples here for their engagement and wedding photo opps). End the evening sitting in the lawn area of Ravinia to watch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. #perfectchicagosummer
Niche’s #1 place to raise a family in Cook County also makes our list for Chicago’s best suburbs for summer-ing. And, with top-rated schools, a cool downtown and – best of all—Wilmette’s prime location on Lake Michigan, this Chicago suburb is the place to be all year long, but especially when the temperatures rise.
Better still, in Wilmette you don’t have to choose between the beach and the pools—or the mountains, even. Gillson Park is set on 60 acres of pristine lakefront acreage, ideal for swimming, sunbathing on the beach, running, sailing, picnicking and more. Need a break from the lake? Check out the aquatic center at Centennial Recreation Complex, Wilmette Harbor Club, the town’s free summer concert series or hiking at Harms Woods.
Three beaches—Rosewood, Moraine and Park Avenue—offer something for everyone, including your four-legged family members. Plus the prestigious North Shore Yacht Club is brimming with summertime festivities.
Highland Park has the honor of being the summer landing spot of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and is home to North America’s oldest outdoor music festival, Ravinia Festival. The festival takes place from June through September and features 150+ unique events.
Pools, golf courses, lakes, parks… there’s never a dull moment when it’s summer in Libertyville. Adler and Riverside pools each have wonderful splash areas for toddlers, pools equipped with waterslides and swim teams, and Lake Minear, Butler Lake and Liberty Lake have beach areas, top-tier fishing and boating. In the evenings, head to Cook Park for the town’s free summer concert series.
Naperville is consistently ranked among the best places to live in the U.S. and it’s easy to see why—especially if you stop by in summer. First, there’s the “Crown Jewel,” a nearly two-mile riverwalk with bridges, fountains, trails, sculptures and amazing family-friendly attractions—the Paddleboat Quarry, Dandelion Fountain, Centennial Beach and Jaycee Playground get our votes!
There’s also a popular children’s museum, community gardening spots on West Street, mountain biking and frisbee golf at Knoch Knolls Park, 13-miles of trails at Springbrook Prairie, and four other sprawling forested parks filled with even more amenities. Summer is serious business in Naperville, and one visit is all it takes to see why.
Brookfield is home to the Brookfield Zoo! While that’s one attraction that’s well worth the seasonal pass, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to summer fun. At the heart of it all is Salt Creek, which offers a 25-mile trail and is scattered with areas for kayaking, canoeing and fishing, dozens of playgrounds and splash parks and wooded areas for nature walks and camping. Alternatively, join a local pool—public and private—and splash away all season long.
Make this your summer EVERY summer. Connect with a Suburban Jungle Strategist now and start mapping out your suburbs strategy. All services are 100% free from start to finish.