Summer Fun 101 in Lake County

Looking for something different to do this summer? Lake County offers an abundance of great opportunities for family fun all summer long — both indoors and outside! Take advantage of all that Lake County has to offer. Get your Summer Fun 101 off to a great start with this list of places to go and things to do.

101 things to do in summer

101 Things to do this Summer in Lake County

Since summer is all about the weather, I’m separating the list into outdoor and indoor activities.

Outdoor Summer Fun in Lake County

bowen park, waukegan
© L. Thomas | | 2014
  • Beaches: There’s quite a variety of ’em in Lake County, and many are free!
  • Garage Sales: ‘Tis the season. Instead of heading to a store, walk to a nearby garage sale for a new game or book.
  • Bird Watching: Get up early and head to the woods with a pair of binoculars. Heather from the VAPLD has book suggestions to help you and the kids identify what you find.
  • Volo Bog, Volo: You actually walk across the bog on a platform—quite extraordinary! Bring binoculars and bug spray.
  • Pools: Are you looking to do water slides, relax poolside, or play with your little one at zero depth? Lake County has all!
  • Outdoor concerts: See if your library or town offers summer concerts. Often there are ones perfect for wiggly kids.
  • Fireworks: Many towns offer fireworks before July 4th.
  • Movies in the Park: What a fun night out with the family! Grab a blanket, some treats, (wear some bug spray), a relax.
  • Farmers Markets: They’re more than just produce. Enjoy music, lunch, face painting, and local vendors. Bring shopping bags with you as you’re bound to find more than you planned to get.
  • Splash Pads: They’re great for all ages, especially little ones.
  • Picnic: Either meet friends at a park or have an intimate picnic in your backyard. (Here are playgrounds that are fan favorites for a picnic playdate).
  • Bubbles: So simple, but so much fun. A trick I learned and love: tape the bubble container to the leg of a picnic table so it doesn’t spill over.
  • Kickball: Grab a ball and invite the neighborhood to meet you in the park.
  • Baby Pool: Still have one? Kids of all ages like to play with toy boats, mermaids, and whatever else their imagination can come up with.
  • Mini Golf: Fun for all ages. Take it up a notch by doing something different at each hole: use your non-dominate arm, stand on one foot… One of my favorite courses is Lighthouse Mini Golf in Waukegan. Here’s my review.
  • Lake Fun: Lakes are great for more than just swimming. Find out what else to do in our plethora of lakes.
  • Six Flags Great America, Gurnee: With such a variety of rides, shows, and water play, there is something for everyone. Here are some tips for going with kids and for dining there.
  • Stargaze: Find an open spot and set up camp.
  • Kite: Don’t own one? Make one! You just need a piece of string and a child’s imagination. Check out Little Lake County’s list of kite festivals.
  • Discovery Center, Lake Forest: Lots of wild animals to see up close and learn about.
  • Rain: Throw on some rain boots and enjoy!
  • Go on Tour, Playground Tour! Join us this summer at various parks around the county for playground fun, activities, and freebies.
  • Lake County Forest Preserves: So much to do throughout Lake County: hike, bike, bird watch, fish…I dare you to go to at least five different parks this summer.
  • Camps: Camps are offered throughout the summer—many spend most of the time outdoors (not all!). See our guides that meet your child’s interests.
  • Lunch in the Park, Libertyville: Every Friday in the summer, enjoy food from various local restaurants as well as live music. Bring a blanket and either buy or bring your lunch.
  • Mud Pies: Why not? Just send them out in old clothes.
  • Town Festivals: Many towns have a weekend festival with food, games, and rides. Try a new one this summer.
  • Hopscotch: All you need is a piece of chalk.
  • Ravinia, Highland Park: Have you ever been to a performance? Tickets are available in the pavilion or on the lawn. Make a fun family picnic out of it.
  • Garden: Buy some seeds and let your little ones create their own garden.
  • Boats: Don’t own a boat? Rent one.
  • The Tempel Lipizzans, Old Mill Creek: Enjoy the evening watching a Lipizzan horse performance. Here’s my review from last summer.
Tempel Lipizzans
  • Car Shows & Cruise Nights: Do you enjoy vintage cars? I know my son does. Many towns in Lake County have cruise nights.
  • Fish: Don’t know how? Independence Grove offers low-cost workshops for families (family members 16 and over who are fishing must have a valid IL fishing license).
  • Car Wash: Practical and fun! Grab a bucket, some suds, and a sponge, and you’re set. Don’t forget to wash the bikes as well!
  • Independence Grove Summer Concert Series, Libertyville:  Here are some tips for going with kids.
  • Bike: There are some great bike trails in Lake County.
  • Golf: Ready to try it with the kiddos this summer?
  • Waukegan Regional Airport: If you have a child who loves watching airplanes, head out to the airport to watch them take off and land.
  • Wheels: Rollerskates, skateboards, scooters, and strollers…all great fun. Run while they travel on wheels for a great workout. Check out this list of skateparks, too.
  • Read: Grab a book and a blanket and read under a tree with cooling shade.
  • Pedal Boat: Although the kids might be too short to reach the pedals, it’s a fun family experience. You can rent one at Independence Grove in Libertyville.
pedal boats, independence grove, libertyville, water sports, boating, boating with kids
  • Disc Golf: There’s a great disc golf course at Adler Park in Libertyville. Bring your own discs (you may want to bring spares and bug spray).
  • Geocaching: Never heard of it? It’s treasure hunting, and there are treasures all around Lake County!
  • Hose: Is it me, or do hoses not get used as a water toy the way they used to? Teach your kids how to play limbo with a hose. Or, attach a sprinkler and do the lawn a favor, too.
  • Ice Cream: Here are your favorite places for ice cream in Lake County.
  • Farm: Visit a local farm. There are programs at Bonner Heritage Farm in Lindenhurst through Lake County Forest Preserves.
  • Parades: Find out where to catch one. (And do some research before going: where to park, where to sit, etc.)
  • Fairy Garden: Create your own with odds and ends around the house as well as natural items such as flowers and twigs.
  • Lightning Bugs: See how many you can spot on a warm night.
  • Hula Hoop: Teach your kids (or have them teach you!), and see who can hold the record for hula hooping the longest.

Indoor Summer Fun in Lake County

  • Robothink, Lake Bluff: Have someone into robots? Find out about the robotic and coding classes they offer this summer at various locations throughout Lake County.
  • Yu Kids Island, Vernon Hills: Give your little ones a chance to run around indoors. This place is great! Located in Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills. Check out LLC’s review.
  • Taste Buds Kitchen, Bannockburn: Offers cooking classes for kids. Here’s LLC’s review.
  • The People’s Choice Family Fun Center, Waukegan: It includes an indoor mini-golf course, arcade games, and rides for little ones. Check out my review here.
people's choice family fun center
  • Just for Fun Roller Rink, Mundelein: Relive your rollerskating childhood with your own kiddos.
  • Children’s Neighborhood Museum, Round Lake: Located inside the Robert W. Rolek Community Center, it is a replica of a town made just for little ones.
  • Bowling: See if they have any summer specials for kids, find deals at Kids Bowl Free.
  • Dunn Museum, Libertyville: Newly opened, it offers information and artifacts on the natural and cultural history of Lake County.
  • Skate Parks: Even if you don’t have a skater, it’s fun to watch.
  • Ultimate Ninjas, Libertyville: Perfect for burning off energy, this facility has many courses similar to those on the tv show American Ninja Warrior. Here’s our review.
  • Apps: Here’s a list of some apps to keep them sharp this summer.
  • TreeHouse, Lake Zurich: It has slides, a basketball hoop, and tons of things to monkey around on. Coffee and snacks are available. (And lots of areas for parents to sit, watch, read, and visit.)
  • Baking: Find a cool, child-friendly, summer recipe, or create your own. Maybe a dip for fruit?
  • Deerfield Park District Tree House: Made for kids at least three years old but less than four-feet tall, it has a huge slide, a web crawl, and lots of things to climb and jump on.
  • Restaurant Family Nights: Too hot out to cook? Take advantage of Kids Eat Free days.
  • Tilt Studio Arcade, Gurnee: Located in Gurnee Mills, it includes laser tag, black light mini golf, an arcade-style laser maze, and a race car simulator.
  • Ice Skating: There’s Tilt Studio Ice Rink at Gurnee Mills, Barrington Ice ArenaCentennial Ice Arena in Highland Park, and Glacier Ice Arena in Vernon Hills. Check out their websites for public skate times.
  • Bookmobile: Find out whether your library has one, and stop in!
  • Train: Take a ride on the Metra. Here are some places to stop on the Milwaukee North Line and the Union Pacific Line.
  • Blanket Fort: This never gets old. Sheets and beach towels also work.
  • Camp LLC: Join the online camp for fun activities to do and places to go.
  • Popsicles: Make your own with what you have on hand: juice, fruit, yogurt…
  • Tacos: Want to kick up the heat? Visit one of these Taco Eateries.
  • Volunteer: Go to United Way to find ways your family can help others.
  • Gymnastics: Many gymnastics centers have open-gym hours where kids can jump on the trampoline, tumble on the big mats, and play in the sponge pit. Here are some around Lake County.
  • Train Restaurants: Do your kids like trains? Check out one of the train-themed restaurants.
  • Cafe: Take a day to just chill with the kiddos. Many cafes are kid-friendly and even have board games to play. Two I love are Somethings Brewing in Grayslake and Daisy’s Artish Cafe in Lake Villa.
  • Paper Airplane Contest: All you need is a piece of paper and a long hallway…
  • Movies: Some theaters offer discounted movies and snacks for kids during the week in the summer.
  • Obstacle Course: Use old boxes, a roll of tape, and some creativity to create a course to get the wiggles out on a rainy day.
field museum chicago elephants

Outside Lake County – Worth the Trip

Even if you want to get away this summer, you don’t have to go far.

  • Berry Picking. Did you know you can pick strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries in Illinois? Here’s where.
  • Elgin: As a former Elginite, I recommend checking this town out. Here are some of my favorite places (note: Gail Borden Library has a new exhibit this summer: Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss)
  • Arlington Park, Arlington Heights: Ever gone to the horse races? Learn more about Family Days here.
  • Zoos: We are surrounded by them—all about an hour away: Lincoln Park Zoo(Chicago), Brookfield Zoo (Brookfield), Racine Zoo (Racine, WI), and Milwaukee County Zoo (Milwaukee, WI).
  • Pirate’s Cove Children’s Theme Park, Elk Grove: This place is perfect for little ones with a [pleasantly short] train ride, a smaller climbing wall, a giant slide, boats you control with hand pedals, and more.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe: Enjoy the model railroad garden and the various gardens.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe: Enjoy the model railroad garden and the various gardens.
  • Morton Arboretum, Lisle: Besides hiking through the arboretum, you can take a tram. A must do is the Children’s Garden. Be sure to dress your kids to get wet and possibly muddy.
  • Kenosha, WI: There’s more than just the outlet mall across the border. Here are some ideas.
  • Deicke Park, Huntley: This park is designed just for little ones. Here is a post from a local blogger with pictures of the park. There is water play and sand, so bring a change of clothes.
  • Starved Rock State Park, Oglesby: About two hours away, you will be amazed at the sites. 
  • Maggie Daley Park, Chicago: It’s worth the traffic—the kids will be in awe. Located walking distance from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. (Note: it’s worth bringing water and snacks with, although there are also some vendors near the park.)

Still not sure what to do? Little Lake County is up on new events happening all summer long. If you don’t already subscribe, consider getting email posts or joining the Little Lake County’s Facebook page.

What’s your favorite summer activity to do with the kids in Lake County?

Summer Fun 101 in Lake County
About Natalie Rompella 37 Articles
Natalie is the mom of two humans and one nonhuman. She is the author of more than forty books and resources for kids, was a teacher and a museum educator, and will always be a Lake County native. Natalie enjoys insects, sled dog racing (observing!), crafting/experimenting with her kids, and forming a world safe from peanuts. Find out more about her and her books at

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