There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good field trip. Some are spontaneous, while others are meticulously planned. Some are close, while others involve a little travel. Thought it would be fun to share some destinations the Gaiettos are hoping to get out and enjoy this summer! Many will be familiar to you and some will be new adventures. We’ll be spending a lot of time with Mother Nature, but also making sure to take in some history lessons, enjoy the arts and attend some events we try to get to every summer.
Most of these ideas are FREE (42 out of 50)! For those that require an admission, I highly suggest you run the numbers. In some cases, with larger families, it makes more sense to purchase a year membership, than to pay for a one day visit.
I went ahead and put them in alphabetical order. Many of the descriptions and (some) pictures have been provided from various websites.
1. Air & Water Show – After two attempts to a weekend performance of the Chicago Air and Water Show, only to be cancelled on account of rain, we only attend the Friday practice. We park at the Lincoln Park Zoo and walk over to North Avenue Beach. We spend the day at the beach watching the practice, which is basically the entire show. It gets crowded, but nothing like the weekend. This year, practice day is on August 17th. FREE!
2. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool – Step through the Prairie-style Fullerton gate and enter a hidden garden of unmatched beauty. Only bird songs and the sound of a gentle waterfall break the restful silence. Follow the stone walk encircling the lily pool and discover a pavilion, council ring, and diverse native plantings. This is the vision of landscape architect Alfred Caldwell: a hidden garden for the people of Chicago designed to resemble a river meandering through a great Midwestern prairie. Located at 125 W Fullerton Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614. FREE!
3. Art Institute – One of the largest and oldest art museums in the United States. I am always amazed on the famous pieces of art that call the museum home. A few years ago, I did a scavenger hunt with the kids. I’m thinking we are due for another hunt. Located at 111 S. Michigan Ave. FREE on Thursday evenings from 5-8pm for Illinois residents! We’ll probably do what we did last time, visited the Art Institute and then headed to Millennium Park for a summer concert.
4. Artists of the Wall Festival – This festival took place on Father’s Day (celebrating 25 years), but the artwork remains for visitors to appreciate. This year’s theme on the 600 foot seawall is “Legends of the Wall.” We went a few years ago to admire the art. We’ll be back this summer to see the new masterpieces. Located in Loyola Park, Rogers Park, 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave. FREE!
5. Bahá’í House of Worship – There are only nine Bahá’í houses of worship in the world. All nine temples share certain design features, including domes and gardens. Each temple is nine-sided because Bahá’ís consider the number nine—the highest single number—a symbol of oneness, comprehensiveness and unity. In Wilmette, the temple includes nine entrances and nine verses above the doors and the alcoves. Of all the temples, the Wilmette house of worship is the oldest. It has been named a National Historic Landmark, one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois and is visited by 250,000 people a year. Today, it remains the only Bahá’í temple in the U.S. It is located at 100 Linden Ave., Wilmette. FREE!
6. Big Monster Toys – Established in May 1988, Big Monster Toys is a United States-based toy and game inventing and licensing company. It is located at 21 S. Racine, in the West Loop. The studio occupies roughly 18,000 square feet of space for over 25 designers. Big Monster Toys invents and engineers toys from concept to prototype. BMT licenses toys to companies throughout the world. Their clients include Mattel, Hasbro, Moose, Spin Master, Goliath, Playmates. Now, all that is great, but the real reason to go visit Big Monster Toys is to get a picture in front of the giant door. So, maybe plan to have lunch in the West Loop and swing by the door and snap a photo. FREE!
7. Bohemian National Cemetery – Founded in 1877 by immigrants of Bohemian, Moravian and Slovakian descent, to provide a place of burial free of religious restrictions for Bohemian-Americans. Today, the cemetery is available for people of all races, nationalities and religions. The land for the cemetery was purchased by Bohemian societies of Chicago in the spring of 1877. The first burial, a baby named N. Brada, took place on July 1, 1877. The cemetery officially opened in September, and the first public funeral was held on November 1, 1877. Some notable burials include, victims of the Eastland disaster and assassinated Chicago Mayor, Anton Cermak. The main goal of this visit will be to learn some Chicago and family history (we have some relatives buried at the cemetery). Located at 5255 N. Pulaski. FREE!
8. Buckingham Fountain & Grant Park – The Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, one of the largest in the world, is located at Columbus Drive (301 East) and Congress Parkway (500 South) in Grant Park and runs from 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. We never spent a significant amount of time at Buckingham Fountain, but usually tack it on to another stop along the way. We are past due for an evening visit. The lights are something to see. FREE!
9. Burnham Wildlife Corridor (BWC) – A 100-acre ribbon of urban wilderness running through Burnham Park. The corridor is composed of 5 natural areas including the 41st St. Bioretention, Burnham Centennial Prairie, Burnham West, Burnham Nature Sanctuary, and McCormick Bird Sanctuary. The corridor spans both sides of Lake Shore Drive, and is the largest stretch of natural area along Chicago’s lakefront. Its native prairie, savanna, and woodland ecosystems provide healthy, diverse habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, and offer opportunities for visitors to meaningfully connect to this revitalized public green space in ways that inspire nature exploration, enjoyment, and stewardship. The Wildlife Corridor runs from McCormick Place south to East 47th Street. FREE!
10. Cantigny Park – A 500-acre park in Wheaton, Illinois, 30 miles west of Chicago. It is the former estate of Joseph Medill and his grandson Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publishers of the Chicago Tribune, and is open to the public. Cantigny includes large formal and informal gardens, two museums, a 27-hole golf course, a picnic grove, a playground, hiking paths, restaurants and a gift shop. Lastly, it has some very fun water features. Located at 1 S 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. FREE, but there is a parking fee.
11. Chicago Botanic Garden -The Chicago Botanic Garden opened more than 40 years ago as a beautiful place to visit, and it has matured into one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers. In 2017, more than one million people visited the Garden’s 27 gardens and four natural areas, uniquely situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of lake shoreline. The Garden also has a renowned Bonsai Collection. In the summer, an evening visit to the gardens is always enjoyable (open until 9pm). You may even run into the Bubble Guy. Located at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. Free, but parking is $25 on the weekdays and $30 on the weekends.
12. Chicago History Tour – This will be a walking tour downtown, with stops at various historical landmarks along the Chicago River. I will be creating this tour myself and have not yet figured out all the stops, but we’ll definitely be learning about the Eastland Disaster, Fort Dearborn and the reversal of the river’s flow, amongst other very cool information. FREE!
13. Chinatown – Our first visit was a few years ago and we have talked about going back. Well, this is the year. When we visited, we took a water taxi down to China Town, where our first stop was at Ping Tom Memorial Park. We then headed to Chinatown Square. Finally, grabbed some lunch at the Phoenix Restaurant. Free to visit Chinatown, but the water taxi will be $9 for a roundtrip ticket.
14. Double Decker Bus Tour – Been wanting to do this trip for years. We’re definitely doing it this summer! I will be shopping around for a deal, because this little adventure could get expensive. I included the link to Chicago Trolley, but really don’t know who offers the best tours at the best rates. You’ll have to do a some homework. I will also be checking out Groupon.
15. Eli Cheesecake Tour – I just needed an excuse to eat cheesecake. You won’t be touring the behind the scenes, but there is FREE cheesecake. You’ll also learn a little history about the company and how those delicious desserts are made. Located at 6701 W. Forest Preserve Drive, Chicago.
16. Emily Oaks Nature Center – Find flying squirrels and turtles as you hike. Some trails are stroller friendly. The Woodland Wander Inn lets kids look for animal tracks, explore a giant tree and see how a squirrel lives.Check out the GPS Treasure Hunt-the nature center provides guidebooks, equipment rental and training. Located at 4650 Brummel St., Skokie, Illinois 60076. FREE!
17. Fermilab – A place many people enjoy for the science, lectures, music and art. Many of the neighbors also revel in the ample opportunity for outdoor recreation on the large 6,800 acre site. Just need a photo ID. Popular activities include: observing the bison herd, bird watching all year long, fishing in ponds and lakes, hiking the trail system, and photography of sculpture and nature. Places to Visit: Wilson Hall Exhibits, Viewing Areas and Ponds, Lederman Science Education Center and Outdoor Area, Margaret Pearson Interpretive Trail, Bison Pasture and Viewing and Lake Law and A.E. Sea Nature Area. Located on Pine Street in Batavia. FREE!
18. Foster Beach – There are many beaches to choose from in Chicago, but our favorite is Foster Beach. It’s never as crowded as North Avenue Beach and is one of the cleanest beaches in the city. Bringing a little something for dinner and a night swim is always a fun way to beat the heat. Located at 5200 N. Lake Shore Drive. FREE!
19. Garfield Park Conservatory – One of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the conservatory occupies approximately two acres inside, where thousands of plant species are on display throughout eight rooms in this magnificent facility. Traveling through the conservatory allows visitors to experience lush flora and tropical temperatures away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Don’t forget to visit the 12 acres of stunning outdoor gardens during the summer! Located at 300 N. Central Park Ave. FREE, though they do appreciate a donation.
20. Gompers Park – Located at the corner of Foster and Pulaski Avenues in the North Park community, Gompers Park covers nearly 39 acres. The park straddles the Chicago River and features rehabilitated wetlands and a lagoon with pier access that lends itself to many environmental activities.
21. Graceland Cemetery – One of Chicago’s finest hidden treasures. On the North Side, amongst the everyday hustle and bustle, lies a serene yet vibrant park-like cemetery. Located between two major Chicago cross streets, Clark & Irving Park, Graceland Cemetery is the final resting place to many prominent Chicago figures, including athletes, politicians, industrialists and many of the finest architects of the last century. Designed by visionary landscape architects, including O.C. Simonds, Graceland both serves as a glimpse into the past and a beautiful place for the future. Even with all of its 150 years of history, Graceland Cemetery is still an active cemetery and arboretum. You can bet there will be a ghost story or two. FREE!
22. Grosse Point Lighthouse – Following several shipping disasters near Evanston, residents successfully lobbied the federal government for a lighthouse. Construction was completed in 1873. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 8, 1976. On 20 January 1999, the lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark. Located at 2601 Sheridan Rd, Evanston. FREE! However, if you wanted to climb stairs in the lighthouse, the cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children (no one under 8 is permitted) and is only available on the weekends. Our visit will most likely be during the week, so we’ll be skipping the climb.
23. Hidden Gem Tour – This will also be a tour I create and still not sure what we’ll cover. It will most likely happen over a few days, since some stops will not be in close proximity to each other. Some of the stops will include: Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities -this morbid, delightful curiosity shop offers everything from animal bones to human teeth / Busy Beaver Button Company – the world’s only known button museum (not the ones that hold up your pants) / Wooden Block Alley – Only two remain in the city! The list goes on and on. Free!
24. Illinois Holocaust Museum – The mission of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center – Remember the Past, Transform the Future. The Museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference. The Museum fulfills its mission through the exhibition, preservation and interpretation of its collections and through education programs and initiatives that foster the promotion of human rights and the elimination of genocide. Located at 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie. Admission is $15 for adult, $8 for students (12-22) and $6 children (5-11).
25. LaBagh Woods – Winding through the center of LaBagh Woods, the North Branch of the Chicago River is the dominant feature of this Chicago forest preserve. Bridges and former railroad tracks (now converted to a gravel trail) mix with the quiet of the trees and wildflower-filled openings here. Located at 536 North Harlem Ave., River Forest. FREE!
26. Lighthouses on the Mag Mile – Come out this summer and view Lighthouses on The Mag Mile, a citywide free public art display celebrating the call to action of access and inclusion for people with disabilities. This will take place along Chicago’s famed North Michigan Avenue from June 19 through August 11. Sponsored by The Chicago Lighthouse in partnership with Huber Financial Advisors, LLC, and other visionary businesses and individuals, including The Magnificent Mile® Association. This world class event will feature 51 six-foot lighthouse sculptures, created by national and local Chicago artists, many with disabilities. FREE!
27. Lincoln Park Conservatory – Step inside and be transported to another place and time! Journey to the Lincoln Park Conservatory where you will find tropical palms and ancient ferns right in the heart of Lincoln Park. Designed both to showcase exotic plants and grow the thousands of plants needed for use in the parks, the Conservatory offers visitors a tropical experience within its four display houses: Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House, which is home to the annual flower shows. This historic facility continues to provide an escape to nature to the millions that live in and visit Chicago. No matter the time of year, Lincoln Park Conservatory is always green and lush. Admission is free. Located at 2391 N. Stockton Drive. FREE!
28. Lincoln Park Zoo – A 35-acre zoo located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The zoo was founded in 1868, making it among the oldest zoos in North America. It is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States. Always a favorite with our family. Located at 2001 N. Clark Street. FREE!
29. Millennium Park Concert Series – The 2018 Millennium Park Summer Music Series will offer an exciting lineup of FREE outdoor concerts on 10 dates between June 18 and August 16 (specific dates noted below) at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The music series features a wide variety of genre-defying music from top local, national and international artists—both established and emerging. Parking at the Millennium Parking lot is a breeze or taking the train down is a nice alternative. FREE! (except for parking)
30. Milton Lee Olive Park – A public park in the city of Chicago, Illinois. Designed by Dan Kiley. Open views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline can be appreciated from the park. There are a total of five concrete circular fountains connected by open grass and concrete pathways. These fountains are made to represent the five Great Lakes. The park was created in 1965 to commemorate Milton L. Olive, III, a Vietnam veteran and the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor, who grew up and lived in Chicago. Located at 511 N Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60611. FREE!
31. Morton Arboretum – Whether you seek a quiet hike in the woods or an active family day out, The Morton Arboretum offers a wide variety of fun activities, events, tours, and classes for all ages and interests. Here you’ll find an oasis of 16 miles of hiking trails and nine miles of paved roads, perfect for hiking, running, biking or just exploring. From a guided tour on an open-air tram to the award-winning Children’s Garden and Maze Garden, the Arboretum is a unique place to explore, discover, escape, and connect with trees and nature. This summer we will be hunting for trolls! Wednesdays are discount admission days, you’ll save $5 on adult tickets and $3 on children tickets.
32. Mural Outing – We’re on the look for more murals. We’ve done the Miles of Murals in Rogers Park, the Wasbash Arts Corridor and the Pilsen Murals. So, I’ll be doing some investigating to find us some more spectacular murals to enjoy and of course take some pictures with. Let me know if you know of any good ones, we should add to our list. FREE!
33. Museum of Contemporary Art – The MCA champions the provocative side of contemporary art and culture. Founded in 1967, the MCA is now one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to art since 1945. I have never been to this museum, so I am looking forward to exploring. Located at 220 E. Chicago Avenue. Tuesdays are FREE to Illinois residents!
34. Museum of Science & Industry – I have been to the Museum of Science & Industry countless times (mostly as a chaperone on a school field trip) and I always enjoy my visit. However, with so many other things to do this summer, MSI is usually not high on the priority list. Except for this summer! The special exhibit, The Science Behind Pixar is currently visiting and I love Pixar! This will be an expensive ticket and I will for sure be looking for any deals out there. Located at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive. Admission to the museum and the exhibit is $32 for adults and $20 for children (when purchased on-line).
35. Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo – The Boardwalk is so special all on its own that it needs a separate mention. This natural ecosystem offers a haven for native birds, frogs, fish, turtles, insects and more. Enjoy this outside classroom. Learn in a living laboratory. Located just south of the Lincoln Park Zoo. FREE!
36. North Avenue Beach – With great views of the city, we usually make our way over to North Avenue Beach after a trip to the zoo. Our visit usually consists of a few photo ops and then a simple request to put feet in the water. Which always results with soaking wet children. You might not think you’ll need it, but bring a few towels. Located at 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive. FREE!
37. Northerly Island – A 91- acre peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan at the heart of the Museum Campus. It is located just south of the Adler Planetarium and east of Soldier Field.The majority of this space is dedicated to nature! The nature area at Northerly Island features beautiful strolling paths, casual play areas and a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline. It is also home to some of the best fishing in Chicago. FREE!
38. North Park Village Nature Center – Features a 46-acre nature preserve and educational facility, which are situated within the 155-acre North Park Village campus. The nature preserve offers trails that wind through woodland, wetland, prairie, and savanna. A discovery room, a hands-on table of natural objects, and interactive displays are highlights of the Nature Center. Located at 5801 N. Pulaski Road. FREE!
39. North Pond Nature Sanctuary – In 1999, North Pond was rehabilitated by the Chicago Park District, with assistance from the Lincoln Park Conservancy, and renamed the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. What was once a landscape filled with Kentucky blue grass and lilac bushes, it soon became a thriving, natural ecosystem built around a diverse palette of native plants that provide food, shelter and breeding habitat to local and migrating wildlife. Today, over 150 plant species attract 220+ bird species and numerous small mammals, reptiles, insects and amphibians. The 15-acre sanctuary is located in Lincoln Park between Fullerton and Diversey Parkways, and Stockton and Cannon Drives in Chicago, IL 60614. FREE!
40. Osaka Garden (Garden of the Phoenix) – This authentic Japanese garden with pavilion, moon bridge, Shinto gate and traditional Japanese horticulture was a gift to Chicago from Japan for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Located 5900 S. Lake Shore Drive. FREE!
41. Palmisano Park – This is a dynamic park, with a fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, trails, an athletic field, a running track, and a hill that offers dramatic views. Over 1.7 miles of paths, including recycled timber boardwalks, concrete walks, a crushed stone running path, and metal grating walkways traverse the park. These trails allow for a variety of experiences along the quarry wall, across the terracing wetlands, and down to the pond. Scenic overlooks provide dramatic overviews of the pond and wetlands, and spectacular city views can be seen from the mound. Located at 2700 S. Halsted Street. FREE!
42. Promontory Point – A man-made peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. It is located in Chicago’s Burnham Park. The Point was constructed from landfill and by the late 1930s was protected by a seawall or revetment. The revetment was designed and constructed by Chicago Park District engineers and consists of limestone blocks arranged in a series of four steps leading to a promenade. Located at 55th Street in Chicago’s south side Hyde Park neighborhood, it was opened to the public in 1937. Alfred Caldwell designed the landscaping, following the Prairie School which uses native plants and stone. FREE!
43. Pullman Historic District – Pullman is a unique community on Chicago’s far, south side that blends the history from many different disciplines in a fascinating touring experience. Visiting this area today brings you into that history and also into a new sense of place, seeing the community as it is today. Pullman is not a museum locked in time, but an active, vibrant neighborhood that allows you to walk back into history. We will be going on a self-guided walking tour. Located at 11141 S. Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago. FREE!
44. Riverwalk – The Chicago Riverwalk is an open, pedestrian waterfront located on the south bank of the main branch of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago. It spans from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. We use the trip as an excuse to grab lunch and take in the amazing scenery. FREE!
45. Rosehill Cemetery – Founded 1864, it is an American Victorian-era cemetery on the North Side of Chicago, and at 350 acres is the largest cemetery in the City of Chicago. The name “Rosehill” resulted from a City Clerk’s error – the area was previously called “Roe’s Hill”, named for nearby farmer Hiram Roe. He refused to sell his land to the city until it was promised that the cemetery be named in his honor. Rosehill’s Joliet-limestone entrance gate was designed by William W. Boyington, the architect of the Chicago Water Tower and the Old University of Chicago, who is buried in Rosehill. The Rosehill Cemetery Administration Building and Entry Gate was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Like its sister cemetery Graceland, Rosehill is the burial place of many well-known Chicagoans. Located at 5800 N. Ravenswood Avenue. FREE!
46. Shedd Aquarium – The Shedd is a family favorite. Shedd Aquarium was the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. Located on Lake Michigan, it is located on the Museum Campus Chicago, which it shares with the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. The aquarium contains 1,500 species, including fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects. Over spring break we visited and waited in a very long line. While we waited we saw many people bypassing the line and heading right in, we quickly realized these were members. We quickly got on-line and checked out membership fees. It was not going to cost us much more for a year membership then it would for a family of 6 to visit for one day. Before I hit the ‘confirm purchase’ button a Shedd employee came by and was offering memberships even less expensive then found on-line. We immediately grabbed her attention and was escorted inside to finish up the membership process. It was a win-win! We skipped the line and ended up paying less for the year membership then a one time visit. If you don’t want to take advantage of a membership, then at least be aware that Chicago residents always receive 1/2 off admission everyday!
47. Skokie Sports Park – Rated one of the top 50 golf ranges in America, Sports Park features a year-round, two-tier, 40 station range with an automatic tee-up system. Instead of buying a bucket of balls, golfers purchase a debit card. Just insert the card and swing away! Sports Park is also home to two adventure golf courses, Traveler’s Quest and Kid’s Quest, as well as a batting cages. Located at 3459 Oakton Street, Skokie.
48. Starved Rock State Park – A wilderness area on the Illinois River. It’s known for its steep sandstone canyons formed by glacial meltwater. Several, including the St. Louis, French and Wildcat canyons, have waterfalls. A wooded trail leads to Lover’s Leap Overlook, with views of the river and Starved Rock Dam. Park wildlife includes white-tailed deer, bald eagles and migratory birds. Located 2668 E 875th Rd, Oglesby. FREE!
49. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve – The 2,503-acre Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien is one of the most ecologically impressive parcels of open space in the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, if not northern Illinois. It is also one of the District’s most popular forest preserves, known for its Rocky Glen waterfall, Sawmill Creek bluff overlook, and extensive trails. Located at the intersection of Cass and Northgate Roads, Darien. FREE!
50. West Ridge Nature Preserve – In 2015, the Chicago Park District and City of Chicago dedicated Park #568 which is known as the West Ridge Natural Area. The 21-acre site lies at the northwest corner of Rosehill Cemetery. One of Chicago’s oldest burial grounds, Rosehill Cemetery was dedicated in 1859. Through the cemetery’s history, the area at the northwest corner included a pond. Until its recent conversion to parkland, however, the 21-acre site remained an undeveloped part of the cemetery that had never been used for burials. That heavily wooded corner had been used as a dumping ground for excess dirt and debris. After acquiring the site in 2011, the Chicago Park District hired Hitchcock Design Group to create a plan that combines ecological restoration goals with park enhancements. Located at 5601 N. Western Ave. FREE!
Hopefully, this inspires you to get out this summer and really explore the city and the surrounding areas. There is so much to see and do, that it is practically impossible not to find something everyone will enjoy doing!
Please be sure to share some of your summer adventures with me on Facebook!