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7 Fun Ways to Make the Most of Your Favorite Parks and Natural Areas All Summer Long

There’s no better feeling than when the warm weather returns to Chicagoland. During the spring and summer months, the city and suburbs come alive with amazing things to see and do — including incredible opportunities in your local park!

Chicagoland is full of one-of-a-kind parks, greenspaces, and forest preserves, perfect for enjoying the fresh air. Even better, our area’s parks are bursting with fun activities and events perfect for making the most of the warmest and sunniest weeks of the year. 

Want to find a new way to enjoy your go-to Chicagoland park? Looking to shake up your outdoor living routine for 2021 by finding a brand new spot? We get you. Here are seven fun ways to make the most of your favorite parks and natural areas all season long:

1.) See a Movie or Performance In the Great Outdoors

Want to see a show and make memories that you’ll treasure forever? The Chicagoland area is full of remarkable opportunities for getting a little bit of culture, right in your own backyard. The Chicago Parks District, for instance, operates numerous events throughout the warmer months, including Movies in the Parks and Night Out in the Parks. You can also see amazing performances by Shakespeare in your local park courtesy of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, as well as outdoor shows from local performance troupes like First Folio Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, and Theatre-On-The-Hill. And don’t forget the annual opportunity to catch some tunes at the country’s oldest outdoor music festival, Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. 

2.) Pack a Picnic

What could be better than a tasty meal in the fresh air? The Chicagoland area is full of amazing spots for a quick picnic; you can also contact your local parks department for more information about renting a pavilion or hosting a large event in your favorite outdoor area. 

Looking for a little inspiration? Choose Chicago offers a list of prime picnic spots; TimeOut has a list of al fresco opportunities in the city, while Chicago Parent gives some great picnic options in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. 

Ready to pack the perfect meal for your day out? Chowhound has tips for packing the perfect picnic basket, and you can find new recipes to try courtesy of Taste of Home. 

3.) Get Up Close and Personal With Nature

Want to experience Chicagoland’s native flora and fauna for yourself? From the city to the suburbs, many local parks boast amazing nature centers, gardens, animal sanctuaries, and natural preservation areas — perfect for getting lost in nature and learning more about the remarkable ecosystem we call home. 

Start looking for your next expedition into the wilderness with Heller Nature Center, part of the Park District of Highland Park, or Emily Oaks Nature Center, part of the Skokie Park District. 

For more ideas, check out our list, “5 Chicagoland Neighborhoods for Nature Lovers.”

4.) Make a Splash

Looking for a way to stay cool and beat the heat during the dog days? The answer may be in your favorite nearby park! 

In the city and suburbs, many parks boast “water playgrounds” and water spray features; you can find guides to local parks with cooling options in Chicago here. The Chicago Parks District also operates dozens of swimming pools, perfect for taking a dip and staying out of the heat. 

Want to enjoy a water slide, obstacle course, or another action-packed water feature? There are many family-friendly water parks located across Chicagoland, including Splash Country in Aurora, Rainbow Falls Waterpark in Elk Grove Village, and Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park in Bolingbrook, to name just a few. 

Finally, remember that when you’re in Chicagoland, you’re never far from miles and miles of prime lakefront beach areas. To find a sandy spot near you, visit our article “Where Should Beach-Loving Chicagoans Live for Maximum Lake Michigan Access?”

5.) Play Your Favorite Sport In the Great Outdoors

Chicagoland’s many unique and scenic parks are the perfect place to get active and embrace your competitive side, with countless opportunities for enjoying your favorite sports and games — from working on your golf game in the Forest Preserves of Cook County or the River Trails Park District; to biking along one of the area’s many scenic paths; to enjoying one of the city’s best tennis courts; to embracing all things winter at a local sledding hill or snowshoeing path. And don’t forget about the dozens of soccer fields, volleyball courts, basketball courts, and baseball fields perfect for joining an organized league or playing pick-up with a few pals. 

6.) Snap a Picture or Video

Nature photography is a soothing pastime that doesn’t require much equipment to get started. It’s all about developing a few simple skills and best practices — and then finding inspiration out in the wild world around us. 

Fortunately, the Chicagoland area is full of spots perfect for capturing stunning natural scenes on camera. To get started, explore our list of “10 of the Best Outdoor Sights in Chicagoland.” You can also find some amazing vistas courtesy of PlanetWare, EnjoyIllinois, and the Forest Preserves of Cook County. 

7.) Let Your Pets Run Free

Sometimes, the fresh air feels best when you have your favorite furry and four-legged friends by your side. Fortunately, the Chicagoland area is full of wonderful dog parks and dog-friendly areas. You can find an interactive map of some of the area’s best dog parks on Curbed Chicago, or explore this list from NBC Chicago for a guide to dog-friendly parks in the city and suburbs. 

For more inspiration, check out our list of the area’s most notable neighborhoods for dog lovers. 

When Home Means More, You Need a Team With More to Offer

Is your home working for you? For many of us, the way we think about our homes has changed — and that might mean you’re ready to make a move to find one that better fits where you are now. After all, home is about so much more than just four walls. Sometimes, you need more of what’s outdoors. 

Buying or selling a home is a big deal, and with everything we experienced in 2020, our homes have never been more important. That’s why your local Baird & Warner agent is with you at every step of the way, with the tools and support you need to make your real estate journey easier — including in-house connections with local experts in mortgage and title.  

So whether you’re looking for more space to run and play or just enough for a seat in the sun, your Baird & Warner agent can help you through every part of the buying and selling process to find the place that’s just right.