Summer break is coming and you know what that means? YOUR OFFSPRING WILL BE HOME AT ALL HOURS OF THE DAY. But it’s all good, see? I have you covered with 100 fun summer activities in Lake County! I wrote the winter list this year and thought it would be funny to copy and paste that list here and make adjustments as necessary but that is “frowned upon.” So I actually did some legwork (read: Google) and made you a list of 100 things to do this summer in Lake County.
100 Things to do this Summer
1. Summer concerts rock, pun intended and many Lake County villages offer free concerts all summer long. Check out Independence Grove’s summer concert series every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. starting June 13th and running through mid-August.
2. Six Flags Great America is only a few minutes drive from wherever you live in Lake County. Check out our review of the best places to eat at while you are there, and Tracy’s best Great America hacks.
3. Head to the local pool; our personal favorite is the Gurnee Park District Aquatic Center.
4. Strawberry picking. Head here for a list of all the local berry farms.
5. Summer bowling is a great idea for rainy days or when you just can’t take one more day in the sun. (I don’t understand that but you do you). Many Lake County lanes offer free bowling for kids in the summer which is a great way to see if bowling is something your child enjoys.
6. Festivals. If there is one thing great about living in Lake County, it is that there is usually a summer festival or fair going on in your town or a nearby one at least every weekend. Check the Little Lake County calendar for listings of many free, community festivals throughout the summer.
7. Many theaters in Lake County offer free or discount admission to matinée movies all throughout summer. See Little Lake County’s list of small movie theaters for the best deals.
8. Family Camp Out. Get your family and friends together for this fun summer sleepover under the stars offered through the Lindenhurst Park District.
9. Head to the zoo. Lake County doesn’t have its own zoo….yet; but head just over the border to one of our family’s favorite zoos in Racine.
10. Read. This is a HARD one in our home because as soon as school is out, neither child wants anything to do with the inside of a book. Libraries are keenly aware of this and have fun reading programs that motivate children with candy or toys. If they motivated me with money, I’d read too…WHAT??
11. Head to our favorite summertime ice cream place, Dairy Dream in Libertyville. Don’t forget the sprinkles! Check out Loralie’s list of fan favorite ice cream shops in Lake County here.
12. Grill out. My favorite thing to do in the summer is grill out although I don’t actually do any of the grilling. So I guess my favorite thing to do in the summer is to EAT grill food. Why not try something from Little Lake County’s favorite grill recipes here? Or in my case, maybe try a grilling class.
13. Go on a nature walk. With so many forest preserves, we have many places to do that in Lake County. Check out our list of forest preserves with playgrounds here and our list of the best hiking trails in Lake County.
14. Head to a museum. Read Jenna’s post about all the museums located right here in Lake County.
15. Gone fishing! The Round Lake Park District offers a fun family fishing event as well as summer-long fishing at Lakefront Park.
16. Eating outdoors is one more of our family’s favorite summertime activities. See my list of place to eat out-of-doors that rivals your backyard deck.
17. Visit a jaw-dropping park in Lake County. Here is a list of five to choose from.
18. Find a candy store and buy all the candy! Something Sweet in Antioch is a good start; here is a list of several others, too.
19. I love a parade and so do most of the kids I know. Find a local parade and get there early to get a good seat.
20. Shaving cream will save your life. Fill a baby pool with it, get a dollar store tablecloth and lay it on the driveway, have a friendly fight with it. Whatever you do, buy some now and your kids will smell clean and have fun while using it.
21. Volunteering is one of my nine-year-old’s favorite things to do in the summer. Our two favorites are Feed My Starving Children and Bernie’s Book Bank. Little Lake County also has a list. What are some of your family’s favorite places to volunteer?
23. Teach your kids to cook. You could sign up for a fancy class or you could teach them in your own kitchen. If you don’t know how to cook, I will gladly teach them and apparently you as well.
24. Day trip to Racine’s North Beach. It is like you are on the shores of the ocean, I kid you not. They also offer a snack bar and bathrooms. Make this a priority on your summer to-do list.
25. Have a bonfire in your driveway with your neighbors.
26. Make ice cream in a bag.
27. Plant a garden in your backyard, or on your patio or deck.
28. Vacation Bible School is a great idea for kids because it’s usually free and always fun. It’s also a great way for parents to check out new churches and see if it is a good fit for their family.
29. Take your pooch for a walk at one of the many dog parks Lake County has to offer.
30. Go resale store shopping for some new summer duds.
31. Explore a new town and there are so many in Lake County to do that!
32. Run a 5k with your child!
33. Go out for cupcakes.
35. Go camping. Or glamping. Whatever you need to do to not freak out at the sight of a snake.
36. Go to a drive-in movie theater. There used to be one in Grayslake but a Jewel-Osco was more important to all y’all so no more. But thankfully McHenry didn’t feel the same way, so head there for your outdoor movie fix.
37. Host a block party. Little Lake County writer Maureen gives you her best planning tips here.
38. Rollerskating was HUGE when I was a kid but today parents don’t want their kids to roll farther than 500 feet from their homes so we do it inside. There are lots of places in Lake County for kids to roll away safely from their parents. Here is one our favorites.
39. Get a baby pool at the Wal-Mart, put the hose in and fill it up. Then put a lawn chair at the edge, sit down and put your feet in. Talk to your kids as they swim/splash and reminisce about the old days of rolling away down the street, far, far from parental figures.
40. Get cheesecake in a cup. You won’t regret it.
41. Head to a local playground. If you ever need a suggestion for a playground in and around Lake County, I can tell you that we have it here. Little Lake County also hosts playground tours in the warmer month as well which is nothing like a concert tour, lesson learned.
42. Get a sno-cone. Or snow cone for the grammar police. I stumbled upon a shaved ice place in Lake Zurich called My Flavor It Place and it is MAGICAL.
43. Go mini-golfing or putt-putt as we affectionately called it where I grew up in Ohio.
44. Rent a pontoon boat for the day. There are a few places within a two-hour drive of Lake County where you can rent a pontoon. Spring Lake Marina in Antioch is a local marina that offers pontoon boat rentals.
45. Speaking of water, why not go on a lighthouse scavenger hunt? There are six known lighthouses on the Lake Michigan front in Illinois alone. Head here to check out where you can find lighthouses all over the United States.
46. I think it’s time for you to get a pet. We have had our goldfish Lucy for almost 11 years this summer and she is a huge part of our family. Fish are very inexpensive, easy to maintain and are loving. THEY ARE. Teaching your kids how to care for a pet should be equivalent to learning math or science, in my humble opinion.
47. Go to a local bakery. If you go to my all-time favorite, get the chocolate chip coffee cake.
48. Find a big hill and roll down it like you are a kid again. Do kids even roll down hills any more?
49. Go to Ravinia and listen to big name artists like Tony Bennett under the stars. If your kids don’t know who Tony Bennett is, take them now before it’s too late.
51. Eat breakfast outside. Finding a breakfast place that has outdoor seating can sometimes be tricky. My personal favorites are Egg Harbor Cafe or Wildberry both in Libertyville. Tell me yours so I don’t have to drive all the way to Libertyville.
52. Adopt-a-pet or just visit a shelter and give hugs to pets that don’t have a family yet. Save-A-Pet in Grayslake is an amazing place that does so much good for so many animals. Why not stop in and possibly find your furry friend today?
53. Walk to town. We live in a neighborhood that is very close to shopping and restaurants. So when the weather is nice, the kids love it when we walk to the movie theater or Wendy’s. It’s the little things for us that are big things to them.
54. Make some lemonade. My kids both loved and still love to host a lemonade stand even though we live on one of the least trafficked streets in our area. It’s more about sitting at a table drinking with friends then it is about making money; think of it as practice for being an adult. Give Heather’s recipe for Strawberry Lemonade a try — it’s delicious.
55. Volo Bog is a great place to see nature, take a quiet walk (depending on who you are with) as well as a great backdrop for pictures.
56. Head to the Lake County Fair the end of July. We love the fair for many reasons but the top two are farm animals and Hillery’s rib tips. See Melissa’s article from last summer for 10 reasons to visit the Lake County Fair for tips. Not rib tips but helpful tips.
57. Splash pads are pretty amazing because of the noncommitment factor that a pool does not have. See, the pool takes planning and packing and time spent at said pool to justify the cost. Splash pads are usually free or low-cost plus if your child gets bored after 15 minutes it’s all good! Also there aren’t nachos or Reese’s peanut butter cups at splash pads the last time I checked, so you are welcome! Check out our roundup of splash pads in Lake County here.
58. Day trip to Chicago. We live an hour from one of the biggest cities in the United States and that is a gift. Spend a day visiting our neighbor to the south with so many things to do. A perfect day for us is going to Maggie Daley Park then hitting Pizano’s for thin crust pizza on the way home. (Psst, the one in Glenview is easiest to get into).
59. Farmers Markets are perfect for many reasons: fresh fruit and veggies; food; fresh air; and sometimes they even have animals, depending on the market. See our list of Lake County Farmers Markets here.
60. Tempel Lippizan Farm is a great idea for your horse lovers. They offer daytime and evening shows depending on your schedule. Little Lake County Mom-in-Chief reports on her behind the scenes tour of Tempel Lippizan Farm.
61. Outdoor shopping is so much better than indoor shopping. Where else can you get a tan while shopping for foaming hand soap at Bath and Body Works? Deer Park Town Center is our family’s favorite place to get some rays as well as some Cucumber Melon Wallflowers.
62. Something about hot air balloons screams summer to me but so does 75 SPF sunscreen and bees. Fortunately, Grayslake has you covered with their annual Color Aloft Balloon Festival which is held in the evening typically at the end of August.
63. Go to a food truck for lunch. Loralie comprised a cool list of food trucks in Lake County here.
64. Go for a horse ride at Chain O’ Lakes Stable just outside of Antioch in Spring Grove.
65. Go garage sale-ing with your kids. You would be AMAZED at what treasures (aka junk) they can find for 25 cents.
66. Have them get rid of energy at a bouncy house indoor play place. Try something new-to-you from Little Lake County’s list.
67. Ice cream for a dinner is a summertime tradition in our house. Pick up some ice cream at Twisted Cow in Lindenhurst or eat there if you want to be crazy.
68. Take an art class. Artist at Heart in Libertyville offers classes, parties and even a drop in art studio five days a week which is great if you don’t want the commitment of a class or camp.
69. Speaking of your little artist, why not get some chalk and stencils at the dollar store and create a masterpiece in your driveway?
71. The Family day at the Farm event at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest includes ice cream, snacks and farm activities.
72. Bike riding with your family is fun and counts as exercise. Which you are going to need with all that ice cream you are eating. Here is a list of the best trails for bike riding in Lake County.
73. Paddle boarding, canoeing, bike riding, swimming and so much more can be had at one centrally located place in Lake County: Independence Grove in Libertyville. Take advantage of this local jewel this summer.
74. Indoor go-kart racing is the new wave. Tell your kids to eat your dust at K1 Speed in Buffalo Grove this summer.
75. Hold a family photo shoot at one of the many forest preserves Lake County has to offer. Free backdrops and some even have playgrounds so the kids can let loose after saying cheese. Check out Little Lake County’s best spots for outdoor photos for locations.
76. Go for a pony ride at Patch 22 in Wadsworth. (They are open on Sundays only, so plan accordingly)
77. Chicago Botanic Gardens is a great place to see lots of beautiful and exotic plants as well as take a train ride. There are events planned weekly throughout summer, and you won’t want to miss the Children’s Play Garden or the Regenstein Learning Center.
78. Host a chocolate making party at Uniquely Sweet in Grayslake and do not forget to invite me!
79. Day trip to Milwaukee, WI. Our big city to the north has a huge amount of fun places to visit. Loralie has great suggestions for a Gas Tank Getaway to Milwaukee. A family favorite of ours in the Milwaukee Public Market. Tip — go hungry.
80. Take a Metra train ride. Read my list of kid-friendly places along the Milwaukee North Metra Line here.
82. Make s’mores. Celebrate National S’Mores Day on August 10.
83. Go fishing on Lake Michigan. We live close to one of the largest lakes in the United States, so why not take advantage of all it has to offer. Bear King Fishing off of the Waukegan Harbor offers fishing on their fleet of boats. Suitable for older kids, this would be an experience they won’t soon forget.
84. Lay in the grass and look at the stars. I shouldn’t have to tell you where to do this. But if you need ideas, the Lake County Astronomical Society holds periodic astronomy events that are open to the public and suitable for children.
85. After all of that laying in the grass, you need to shower. Or head to a water park. I AM KIDDING. We have a list of all the cool water parks in Lake County here. But seriously, bathe before you go.
86. We love picnics when the weather is nice. We have a little place in Lake Villa that we go to that is off the beaten path but with so many parks in Lake County, there are so many options. Head here for a list of picnic shelters within the Lake County Forest Preserves many parks, or head to one of Little Lake County’s recommendations for mostly-shaded parks.
87. Host a make-your-own pizza party. For kids, adults or even your pets. What? It’s summer!
88. National Night Out is usually held around the end of July, beginning of August. It’s a fun way to get to know the people in your community and there is always free food and entertainment. Here is our list of communities from last year.
89. We are so close to Lake Michigan, why not enjoy the free beach that comes along with it? Illinois State Beach is huge but get there early if you want to grab a grill and have a picnic.
90. Host a DIY backyard movie night for your family and friends.
91. Pool noodles are a dollar at the Dollar Tree. Head here to learn 16 new ways to play with them.
92. Sometimes it rains in the summer in Illinois. Or gets cold. Or too windy. Sometimes it hails. Or there is lightning. Why do we live here again?? What was I talking about? Oh yes! We have you covered until you buy your bungalow on the Gulf of Mexico.
93. I need a cup of coffee right now and so do you. Sneak out and sit in coffee house silence with your triple shot because you deserve it, gosh darnit. Check out our list of can’t miss coffee houses in Lake County.
94. By now you’re probably tired and definitely broke. I feel you, boo. Let’s go to the McDonald’s playland, commiserate and get 99 cent fries for the kids while they work it out over a net walkway.
95. Day trip to Madison, WI. We went there for a day trip a few years ago and it was magical. The zoo, the downtown shopping, and Ella’s Deli. You need to go if you haven’t been. Also for the farmers market every weekend, but definitely Ella’s Deli. Melissa shares her ideas for a Gas Tank Getaway to Madison, and you know I think a visit to the carousel at Ella’s Deli is definitely worth the trip!
96. Host an outdoor party in your own yard and we have some expert tips just for you!
97. Visit the Garoon Gateway to Science in Lake Zurich.
98. Head over the county line and go to lunch or dinner at some of the outdoor restaurants in McHenry County.
99. Catch a girls’ professional sporting event.
100. Have an early riser? We have a list of places just for you, too.
What are some of your favorite Lake County summer activities?